The 2.3L inline-4 turbo engine made its debut in the 2015 S550 Mustang EcoBoost. It delivers an already impressive 310 horsepower and 320-350 lb-ft of torque. As with most turbo engines, the 2.3 EcoBoost leaves a lot of potential on the table. A few simple bolt-on mods can easily push the Mustang beyond 350 horsepower. Of course, Ford Mustang EcoBoost tunes are front and center when it comes to adding power.
For one, tuning is likely the single best bang for your buck mod. That’s far from the only benefit of EcoBoost tunes, though. Tunes also help extract the maximum potential from other mods like a downpipe, intake, intercooler, etc. In this guide, we discuss some of the best Ford Mustang EcoBoost tunes, benefits, hp gains, risks, costs, and more.
Mustang EcoBoost Tuning Basics
Tunes are among the most common performance mods for many engines. That’s especially true for turbo engines like the Ford Mustang EcoBoost. A simple tune can unlock a lot of power while maximizing the benefits of other upgrades.
The basic idea of tuning is to simply re-write the parameters in the powertrain control module (PCM). Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost tunes essentially increase turbo boost pressure (PSI). To account for the increase in air-flow a tune also modifies ignition timing, AFR’s, fuel delivery, etc.
Generally, the primary goal when tuning a turbo engine is to increase turbocharger PSI. That’s where the bulk of power gains come from. However, other tuning parameters like ignition timing, fueling, AFR’s also help with power and ensure the engine remains safe and healthy with higher boost.
Mustang 2.3 I4 Piggyback vs Flash Tunes
Not all tunes go about things in the same way. The two main types of Mustang EcoBoost tunes include flash tuning and piggyback tunes. A flash tune actually re-writes the engine parameters on the PCM. These types of tunes allow for very precise control over all engine parameters. A tuner can dial things in to their exact liking. Flash tunes require a tuner device to actually load or ‘flash’ the tune to the PCM.
Piggyback tunes are less common, but they offer some great benefits of their own. The Mustang EcoBoost JB4 is a great example of a piggyback tune. These tunes don’t change the factory 2.3 EcoBoost tuning, and do not modify any data on the PCM. Instead, they manipulate certain signals and data before being sent back to the Powertrain Control Module.
Both types of tunes effectively accomplish the same end goal – increase boost, power, and torque. 2.3 EcoBoost flash tunes are a good overall option, especially if you want custom tuning. Custom tunes can help maximize power gains and can accommodate bigger upgrades such as a larger turbo. Piggyback tunes are easy to install, offer easy tuning changes, and plenty of other benefits and overall simplicity. However, they do have their limits and aren’t a viable option for things like turbo upgrades.
Anyways, there isn’t a perfect answer as to whether Mustang EcoBoost flash or piggyback tunes are better. It often just comes down to preference and goals. Below we will discuss a few of the best 2.3 EcoBoost tunes and include at least one of each option. There we will expand on the benefits and downsides of each.
2.3 EcoBoost Tune vs Tuner
Alright one quick topic before diving into the bulk of this article. Tune vs tuner is a pretty basic topic. However, often these words are thrown around and it can be a bit confusing if you’re newer to the world of tuning. The difference is as follows:
- Tune – the actual software/file that re-writes data on the PCM
- Tuner – refers to a tuner device to load the software to the PCM. A tuner may also refer to a person/company that creates the software or tunes engines
That’s pretty much it. A tune is the software that you flash to the PCM and a tuner may either refer to a device to flash tunes or someone that tunes engines.
Ford Mustang Tune Benefits
Of course, horsepower gains are one of the biggest benefits to tuning the Mustang EcoBoost 2.3 I4 engine. There are a number of other benefits of Ford Mustang EcoBoost tunes, though:
- Better overall power band (not just about peak output)
- Improve gains from other upgrades
- Fuel economy improvements*
- Better throttle response
- Other features (data-logging, read/clear DTC’s, etc)
With a tune only the 2.3L EcoBoost can see gains in the ballpark of 30-60whp and 40-80wtq. Higher gains may be possible with quality fueling like E85 mixtures, race gas, or 93+ octane. That’s a lot of performance for a single upgrade that costs about $400-600. It’s also not just about peak power and torque gains. You’ll notice drastic improvements throughout much of the power band.
When adding additional mods you may be changing the air-flow or fueling requirements. A tune is essential to maximizing 2.3 EcoBoost hp gains from other upgrades. Point is – Mustang EcoBoost tunes are a great starting point before adding extra mods.
Top that off with better throttle response and other useful features, and it’s clear a tune offers a lot of benefits. You can read and clear troubleshooting codes. Most tunes also include data-logging and real time engine data so you can keep an eye on things like AFR, ignition timing, etc.
*Tunes can increase fuel economy. However, if you’re tuning your Mustang for power and actually using that power then your fuel economy will likely take a hit.
Mustang EcoBoost Tune Risks
Increasing boost, power, and torque does come with some inherent risks. All of this leads to more heat and more stress on the engine and some ancillary components. Manufacturers do usually build in plenty of headroom so the engine isn’t running on the verge of its breaking point.
The Mustang EcoBoost 2.3 turbo engine has earned the nickname by some as the “EcoBoom”. The breaking point seems to be somewhere beyond 420-450 torque. Keep in mind – that’s still a lot of torque for a small 2.3L inline-4 engine. Risks are still there even if you stay below 420-450 torque.
However, with proper tuning and supporting mods the Mustang EcoBoost should be OK below those levels. An aggressive tune with an E85 mixture can push the 2.3 EcoBoost pretty close to 420wtq with no other mods. We would advise sticking with more conservative tunes unless you’re planning on other mods. Downpipes help reduce back-pressure and remove excess heat. Intercooler upgrades help keep the charge air cooler and reduce the risk of detonation. Quality fueling is also very important if you intend to push the limits.
Best Ford Mustang EcoBoost Tuners
With the basic tuning info, benefits, and risks out of the way it’s time to look at some of the best Mustang EcoBoost tunes. Please note – this is far from an exhaustive list. There are tons of great Mustang tunes around, and there simply isn’t time or space to cover every single one.
There also isn’t one tune that’s the best choice for every Mustang EcoBoost owner. Some if it comes down to goals, preference, ease of install, and other factors. Anyways, below we will list a few Ford Mustang EcoBoost tunes that we believe offer a good balance of price, features, quality, and performance.
As a final note – always make sure you work with an experienced, professional tuning company or person. Tuning an engine can be very risky if it is not done correctly. It’s not something you want to leave to your neighbor or old friend
1) Mustang 2.3L JB4 Piggyback Tune
We might be a little biased when it comes to the JB4 piggyback tunes. Burger Motorsports began producing JB4 tunes following the release of the BMW N54 engine in 2007. They’ve since expanded into many different brands and models including the Mustang EcoBoost 2.3 turbo engine. Anyways, we’ve been running these JB4 tunes on a few of our BMW’s for nearly a decade with great success.
The Mustang EcoBoost JB4 tunes are very easy to install. It simply plugs into two sensors in the engine bay, and they are both easily accessible. There are 7 standard tuning maps available, which you can change in a matter of seconds on-the-fly. No need to shut off the engine and flash the updated software, as is standard for flash tunes.
There are also some E85 compatible maps that you can run mixtures up to about E30 fueling. You can set boost limits by gear, data-log, read and delete codes, and much more. The JB4 Mustang EcoBoost tunes offer so much in such a simple package.
Another benefit of piggyback tunes is that they’re really hard to detect during dealer visits. Remember, this tune doesn’t actually modify the PCM data (once the software is changed the dealer can always tell). If you’re looking for a tune-only or tune with basic bolt-ons (intake, exhaust, FMIC, etc) then look no further. Those who are planning to upgrade the turbo or do other major upgrades should consider flash tunes instead.
Buy Here: Ford Mustang EcoBoost JB4 Tune
2) Mustang EcoBoost SCT X4 Flash Tunes
SCT is without question one of the most common tuning options for Ford EcoBoost engines. The tuner device starts at $399 and includes a few base flash maps. These base maps are a good starting point, but they’re not the best long-term options. Base maps are designed to work for any Mustang EcoBoost engine, and are not specifically dialed into your car, conditions, etc.
You can continue to run the base maps but you’ll generally get the best gains when opting for custom tunes (we’ll discuss custom tuning in a couple sections). Anyways, the SCT X4 is a popular tuner device for good reason. It has a nice backlit screen and provides all the standard features like reading/deleting codes, data-logging, and more.
Ultimately, the Mustang EcoBoost SCT X4 tunes are highly tested and proven. The $400 price for the device and base maps is a very fair deal for a quality product. If you’re looking to go the flash tuning route instead of piggyback’s then it’s hard to go wrong with SCT.
Buy Here: SCT X4 Mustang EcoBoost
3) 2.3 EcoBoost COBB Accessport
COBB is another good choice when it comes to flash tuner devices. They’re a big brand in the tuning world, and they’ve been around for a long time. You are also paying a bit of a premium for their proven products and history. The Mustang EcoBoost tunes from COBB start at $595 for the device and base maps.
The Accessport V3 features are much the same as the SCT X4 tuner discussed above. You’ll get the basics like code reading and data-logging. Certain year Mustang EcoBoost’s also get other features like adjustable traction control, launch control, flat-foot shift, and more. Again, the price point is a bit of a premium given COBB’s brand history and image. It’s still a worthy option if you’re willing to spend a bit more for quality, proven products.
Buy Here: EcoBoost COBB Accessport V3 Tuners
4) Ford Mustang EcoBoost Custom Tunes
Rather than discussing specific custom tunes we will instead focus on some general info regarding custom Mustang EcoBoost tunes. With flash tuner devices like the COBB Accessport or SCT X4 you have the option to go the custom tuning route. You simply need a tuner device like these to get a custom tune.
Again, base tuning maps are designed to work effectively on any Mustang EcoBoost. Not all 2.3 EcoBoost engines respond the same to tuning, though. There are also notable differences in tuning for different altitudes, conditions, extra mods, etc. Basically, these base flash maps are NOT dialed into your specific car.
Enter custom tuning. You’ll work with a tuner to dial in a tune that is specific to your Mustang, conditions, goals, other upgrades, and more. This leaves opportunities to dial in a tune to your liking. You can shoot for more power, request less aggressive tuning for better engine safety, or whatever you’re looking for.
Don’t opt for custom tuning too soon, though. Each time you want to make significant changes or add more mods you’ll likely need to get a new custom tune. That means working with the tuner again and probably spending more money for the new tune(s). Mustang EcoBoost custom tunes are typically the last piece of the puzzle once you have all of your other desired mods.
Ford Mustang EcoBoost Tuning Summary
Ford 2.3 EcoBoost engines deliver excellent performance from the factory, especially considering the small 2.3L displacement. Despite the great power and torque there’s still plenty more left on the table. Look no further than Mustang EcoBoost tunes if you’re looking to take things to the next level.
Power gains in the ballpark of 30-60+whp and 40-80+wtq are possible with a tune only. Add in better fuel like race gas or E85 and even more power is possible. A Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost tune also helps maximize gains from other mods, and provides several other benefits.
Tons of great EcoBoost tunes exist, but a few of our favorites include the JB4, SCT X4, and COBB Accessport. The JB4 piggyback tune is a great option for many looking to stick with the stock turbo. If you want to go the flash tune route then check out the SCT X4 and COBB tuner devices. Eventually, you may consider custom tuning to help unlock even more power and potential.
What’s your experience with Mustang EcoBoost tunes? Are you considering one?
Leave a comment and let us know!