Ford F-150 3.5L vs 5.0L: Performance, Reliability, & More
Ford’s 3.5L EcoBoost and 5.0L Coyote engines both made their debut on the 12th gen F-150. They remained in the 13th generation F-150 and will even be carried over to the newest 14th gen. Both engines offer similar power, torque, and performance from the factory. However, the engines do so in very different ways. In this guide, we will compare to two engines including performance, tuning, reliability, towing, and fuel efficiency.
*13th Generation Ford F-150 pictured above
F-150 3.5L V6 EcoBoost (EB) Engine
Ford’s 3.5L EcoBoost engine is commonly referred to as the 3.5 EB. The EcoBoost V6 utilizes twin turbos and direct injection which help the engine punch well above its weight class while improving fuel efficiency. The F-150 EB turbos are sourced from BorgWarner and provide up to 15 pounds of boost. It’s also important to note there are two generations of the 3.5L EcoBoost.
The first generation (2011-2016) 3.5 EB engine produces 365 horsepower and 420 torque. Already pretty impressive numbers for a relatively small 3.5L V6 engine. The second gen 3.5 EcoBoost (2017+) receives a small bump in horsepower up to 375hp while torque jumps to 470.
3.5L EcoBoost – 1st vs 2nd Generation
Aside from increased power and torque, the second gen 3.5 EB also receives the following updates:
- 10-speed auto
- Port fuel injection
- Electronic wastegates
- Revised turbos
- 10.5:1 compression
- Updated timing chain
This isn’t an exhaustive list of all of the updates. However, the above are a few of the important updates we want to focus on. 2017+ F-150’s equipped with the second gen 3.5 EcoBoost receive a 10-speed automatic transmission. Port fuel injection is added alongside the direct injection. This helps prevent carbon build-up on intake valves. Electronically actuated wastegates allow for greater boost precision. The turbos also receive an update. This includes lighter turbine wheels for quicker response. Higher compressions assists the second gen EcoBoost engine in making more torque. Finally, the timing chain update addresses a common problem on the first gen engines.
F-150 5.0L Coyote V8 Engine
The 5.0L Coyote engine is the same base engine design as found in the 2011+ Mustang GT. It’s a 5.0L NA V8 engine. However, the F-150 receives a different variant of the Coyote. The F-150 design focuses on improving low-end torque. Although, it trades off some power compared to the Mustang GT 5.0 Coyote variant.
As with the EcoBoost, the 5.0 Coyote receives some updates through its life. There are currently 3 generations of the 5.0L found in the F-150. The output is as follows:
- 1st Gen 5.0 (2011-2014): 360hp / 380tq
- 2nd Gen 5.0 (2015-2017): 385hp / 387tq
- 3rd Gen 5.0 (2018+): 395hp / 400tq
We’ll spare the trouble of writing and exhaustingly long portion on the updates. We wrote about the Coyote 5.0 generations in this post. While the Mustang GT and F-150 5.0 variants are slightly different many of the updates were similar. We’ll also expand on this in another post in the future and add the link. For now, let’s dive into the actual comparison of the 3.5 EcoBoost and 5.0 Coyote.
Performance: 3.5L EcoBoost vs 5.0L Coyote
There’s a lot to discuss here, so we’ll shorthand a few things in an effort to not bore anyone to death. First, we want to isolate performance to the engines themselves. However, it’s important to add a few notes. The 3.5L and 5.0L engines have lived through the 12th, 13th, and 14th generation F-150’s. Non-engine related changes impact performance across the generations. For example, the 10-speed automatic transmission will generally outperform the older 6-speed auto by a pretty significant margin.
Straight out of the factory the 3.5L EcoBoost is a better performing engine for daily driving and towing. The 3.5 EcoBoost twin turbos allow for low-end and mid-range torque that the NA 5.0 simply can’t keep up with. However, the nature of smaller turbos means they struggle to breath well on the top-end. Above 5,500 RPM’s the 5.0 Coyote F-150 becomes the more powerful engine. It may be appealing to some. That said, most aren’t stringing their F-150’s out to 5,500+ RPM’s constantly. Even if you are, the 3.5L EcoBoost is still a close match on the top-end and destroys the 5.0 Coyote in the mid-range.
The 5.0 Coyote isn’t a bad engine at all. That’s not what we’re getting at here. Both engines make very similar power and it’s likely more than enough for a vast majority of F-150 owners. However, the 3.5 EcoBoost is our preference for performance, daily driving, and towing. It will do everything just as well if not better than the 5.0L engine.
F-150 3.5 EcoBoost Tuning Potential
If you’re looking for even more power out of you’re F-150 then you’ll definitely want to consider the 3.5L EcoBoost for its impressive tuning capabilities. Aftermarket mods are where the 3.5 EB really shines. The below dyno chart is a good example:
Keep in mind – dynos read numbers to the wheels and not the crank. The above dyno shows a 2017 F-150 with a tune-only. With 93 octane this truck manages an impressive 390whp and 497wtq. Assuming a pretty standard 15% drive-train loss that works out to about 460hp and 585tq. You can also see how quickly the 3.5L EcoBoost is able to deliver that torque.
Again, that’s a tune-only 3.5L EcoBoost engine. With additional modifications and better fuel it’s capable of reaching beyond 600 horsepower. The mods to achieve that power are also relatively cheap. While not everyone cares to spend $3,000 on an F-150 to make 600+ horsepower it’s still cool. It’s also very cheap to make that kind of power compared to NA engines, like the 5.0 Coyote.
5.0L Coyote Tuning Potential
If you’re looking for tuning potential, power, and torque above all else then we highly recommend sticking with the 3.5L EcoBoost. The 5.0L still responds pretty well to mods for being a naturally aspirated engine. However, it’s going to take forced induction to get beyond the 500 horsepower mark. That can add up to quite a bit of money.
Reliability: F-150 3.5 EB vs 5.0L Coyote
Before we lay out reliability we’ll mention both of these engines, including all of their generations are reliable overall. The F-150 is built to be tough and take on whatever you throw at it. They do pretty well at their jobs. Of course, no engine is perfect so we’ll discuss some of the common problems and reliability below.
3.5L EcoBoost Reliability & Common Problems
Turbocharged engines used to often received negative feedback for maintenance and reliability problems. Even today, some associate turbos with endless common problems and headaches. However, turbocharging technology has come a long way in the last couple decades. Ford’s 3.5L EcoBoost is a great example of that as it’s a reliable engine overall with few common issues. Those few common problems include:
- Timing chain
- Carbon build-up on intake valves
These issues are primarily isolated to the first generation EcoBoost engine found in 2011-2016 models. The timing chain is prone to developing issues and failing prematurely. Ford did recall some F-150’s for the timing chain issue. Additionally, the 3.5 EcoBoost carbon build-up isn’t something we consider a true problem. It’s simply the nature of directed injected engines since fuel is sprayed directly into the cylinders. There is no fuel washing over the intake valves to wash away natural oil blow-by. Over time, that oil gunks up the 3.5 liter EcoBoost’s intake valves and restricts air-flow. Walnut blasting is a popular method to remove carbon deposits from the 3.5 EcoBoost valves.
The second iteration of the 3.5L EcoBoost starting in 2017 addressed these two problems. The timing chain went through a re-design to improve reliability. It also receives port fuel injection in addition to the direct injection. This helps the 3.5 EB avoid carbon build-up problems. Ultimately, that eliminates the primary issues with the engine. The concepts we discuss below still hold, though.
5.0L Coyote Reliability & Common Problems
Well, we don’t really have too much to say regarding F-150 5.0 problems. That’s a great thing. However, it’s also a great time to diverge to general reliability concepts. Again, no engine is perfect and the 5.0 Coyote isn’t an exception. We won’t bother mentioning any common problems for the 5.0 Coyote in this post. There really aren’t any issues that appear more common than any others.
However, problems can happen and chances are you’ll run into at least a problem or two over the length of owning a 5.0 F150. This is especially true with the early 5.0 engines now nearing a decade old. The engine internals shouldn’t have any trouble reaching 200,000+ miles. However, age and high mileage do put a lot of stress on wear and tear components. This includes stuff like gaskets, belts, hoses, etc. It’s not fair to call anything like that a common problem on the 5.0 Coyote. It’s simply the nature of engines as they age. Of course, proper maintenance is also important in reliability.
All of these concepts may be applied to the 3.5L EcoBoost, too. Point is – the 5.0 Coyote in the F-150 really doesn’t have any serious common faults. Problems can and do happen. F-150 5.0 reliability comes down partially to the luck of the draw and maintenance history. Nonetheless, most should expect to have a pretty trouble free experience with this engine.
Overall Thoughts on F-150 Reliability
When it comes to 3.5L EcoBoost vs 5.0L Coyote reliability there really isn’t a clear winner. Both engines are reliable overall. The earlier 2011-2016 EcoBoost engines have a few well documented problems that Ford addressed in the 2017+ engine. They’re still pretty minor issues for an engine that is otherwise very reliable. The 2017+ 3.5 and all 5.0’s are in a pretty similar ballpark. There aren’t any common problems that indicate design flaws. Rather, most failures are random luck of the draw, due to poor maintenance, etc.
One final thing worth mentioning – Ford’s in general seem to experience quite a few transmission problems. Quite a few as in more than many other manufacturers. It’s not an engine problem, but still worth mentioning. It may not be a huge percent of F-150’s, but transmission are a very real possibility. This applies to both the 3.5 EcoBoost and 5.0 Coyote.
Towing: 3.5 EcoBoost vs 5.0 Coyote
Part of towing capacity comes down to the specific configuration of the truck. For example, 2WD vs 4WD models. It will also vary depending upon the exact generation of the truck. Point is – rather than providing a huge list of towing capacities we’ll discuss the general stuff. We’ll also keep this section pretty short.
The 3.5L EcoBoost is the better engine for towing. All else equal, the EcoBoost has a better towing capacity. It’s also a better engine for towing in general, regardless of exact weights. This ties into what we discussed above with performance and torque. The 3.5 EcoBoost is simply a better engine in the low-end and mid-range of the rev range. That’s often where it matters for towing and the twin turbo design gives it an advantage.
Of course, the 5.0L engine is still very capable of towing. Both F-150 engines with the proper configuration should be able to tow most boats, campers, etc. Anyone looking for heavy duty towing capacity is likely in the market for an F-250 or F-350, anyways. The 3.5L and 5.0L F-150’s should get the job done for most who aren’t looking to tow anything too extreme.
Fuel Economy: F-150 3.5L vs 5.0L
We’ll take a similar approach to the above. Exact fuel economy depends on transmission, generation, driving style, towing or not towing etc. While you can look-up the numbers online quickly we’ll discuss the more interesting part. It’s the information you otherwise need to dig for.
The 3.5 EB is rated as having better fuel economy. It’s surely true for those with a relatively gentle foot. However, here’s the problem with turbo engine fuel economy ratings. They’re typically rated for gentle driving. Start using the turbochargers power and torque then things go down quickly. Very quickly. One of our older 335i twin turbo 6 cylinder BMW’s is rated for 20mpg city. We have heavy feet around here and in reality our city mileage is more like 14mpg. Most probably aren’t driving their EcoBoost F-150 like we drive our BMW. Nonetheless, the concept remains. Turbo engines can guzzle gas when called upon.
In summary, the 3.5L EcoBoost is more fuel efficient than the 5.0L Coyote. However, a lead foot will cause the 3.5L EcoBoost to look more in line with the Coyote. Neither are the most fuel efficient, but they’re also trucks with fairly powerful engines. Their fuel efficiency is pretty respectable all things considered.
F-150 3.5L EcoBoost vs 5.0L Coyote Summary
The 3.5L EcoBoost and 5.0L Coyote powered F-150’s are both awesome trucks all around. From the factory, the performance is similar between the engines. However, the EcoBoost has quite a bit more torque on tap. The nature of the 3.5 EB twin turbos also allows for incredibly high potential with basic mods. 600+ horsepower is possible with a tune and basic bolt on parts. Ford’s F-150 5.0 Coyote also responds well to basic mods, but doesn’t have the same potential without the addition of forced induction.
Importantly, both the 3.5 and 5.0 are reliable engines overall. The early 3.5 EcoBoost suffers from a couple common problems, but they’re minor in the grand scheme. Otherwise, 2017+ 3.5’s and all 5.0’s are about as reliable as they come. Problems can and will happen, especially with age and mileage. Otherwise, the 3.5L EB engine has a slight advantage with fuel economy and towing capacity.
We really hate to say this because the F-150 5.0L Coyote is an awesome engine all around. However, we have to say it. The 3.5L EcoBoost is a better engine all around compared to the 5.0 Coyote. It has the advantage in torque, tuning potential, fuel economy, and towing capacity. We believe the power-band and lower-end torque also make it a better daily driver. The two engines also come very close in terms of reliability. Again, both are awesome engines but our pick is the 3.5L EcoBoost.
Which do you own? What has your experience been? Leave a comment and let us know!