In our 5.0 Coyote performance modification guide, we discussed the benefit of upgrading to a performance intake. This guide will expand on the benefits and performance improvements from upgraded intake systems as well as lay out a few of our favorite intake options for the 5.0 Coyote.
Generally speaking, making more horsepower requires more airflow. The stock intake system on the 5.0 Coyote is restrictive and can limit power gains from other modifications due to its restrictive nature. We think of upgraded intakes as the foundation or support for additional modifications.
While an intake alone will provide some small power gains, the real benefit of a cold air intake comes when you combine it with additional modifications. Before we dig into product recommendations, we’ll start with the benefits of an upgraded intake and cover some basic information on intake design.
Mustang GT Cold Air Intakes
When you think of an upgraded intake, “cold air intake” is probably what comes to mind. Nowadays, intake systems have dozens of different names. You’ll see cold air intake, ram air intake, performance intake, etc. etc. At the end of the day, they all do the same thing.
The main benefit of an upgraded intake is in the additional air flow, not necessarily its ability to reduce intake air temperatures. While IATs are more important on naturally-aspirated engines such as the 5.0 Coyote, since they don’t have intercoolers, virtually all of these intake systems are designed the same way.
With that being said, the IAT difference from one intake to another is pretty minimal. Therefore, we want to focus on air flow. Systems that offer the most increase in airflow will offer the best performance benefits and support for additional modifications.
Intake Design: Open vs. Closed Intake Systems
While “cold air” being in the name of the intake system doesn’t matter, the design of the system does to an extent. Intakes for the GT 5.0 come in two different styles: open and closed. An open intake system is where the air filter is directly exposed to the engine bay air. Alternatively, on a closed system the air filter usually sits within some form of enclosed hosing within the engine bay.
Open systems will flow more air since they aren’t restricted by a closed box. The tradeoff is that IATs might be a few degrees higher since the filter is directly exposed to engine heat. However, all of the open systems for the GT 5.0 have heat shields to partially shield the air filter.
Closed intake systems are more restrictive since the air filter can only suck air in as fast as it can get into the enclosed box. While they are more restrictive than open systems they are still less restrictive than the stock intake. Despite flowing less air closed systems have two benefits. First, the air filter is not exposed to direct engine heat which helps IATs. Secondly, the air that gets sent into the engine is slightly more compressed due to the enclosed box.
Overall, on a lightly modified 5.0 Coyote, open or closed doesn’t really have any material difference in performance. We prefer open intake systems due to the increased air flow. However, unless you are planning on running forced induction via a turbocharger or supercharger then the increased air flow from the open system won’t really matter.
Do Intakes Require a Tune?
When you look at performance intake options you will notice some say “tune required”. A lot of performance intakes, such as the JLT intake below, increase the diameter of the intake piping. The diameter is increased to provide more air flow but also to be compatible with upgraded intake manifolds and throttle bodies.
The 5.0 Coyote ECM and mass airflow sensor is programmed for the stock sized intake piping. When the diameter of the piping is increased, the MAF and ECM become confused which can result in the engine running too lean. An engine running lean for extended periods of time can cause significant engine damage, which is why a tune is required.
The other benefit of adding a tune with the intake is the additional performance benefits. While you will still see performance increases and other benefits from a no-tune-required intake, they will not be as significant. However, the tradeoff is ease of installation and not having to worry about modifying your engines computer.
Mustang GT 5.0 Coyote Upgraded Intake Benefits
- 5-10 horsepower gains
- 5-10 torque gains
- 20%+ air flow increase
- Cool engine sound
- Improved throttle response
- Small MPG improvement
A lot of aftermarket providers claim 20hp+ from their intake systems. While this is achievable with supporting modifications, a cold air intake by itself on a stock Mustang GT 5.0 is not going to produce 20hp. As mentioned above, the best gains come with additional modifications. So the benefit of an upgraded intake increases with the more modifications you add.
The only other note I will make is that open intake systems create an awesome engine noise. You will be able to hear the “whooshing” sound of the engine sucking in air. Not a deciding factor, but if you want a bit more engine noise and a cool intake sound, open is the way to go.
1) LT Cold Air Intake – Tune Required
JLT’s cold air intake is an open design coupled with a heat shield to protect the air filter from engine block heat. The air filter is a 5×7 S&B cone filter with a bellmouth/powerstack design for increased air flow. The size of the filter on the JLT intake is significantly larger than the stock intake which can be attributed to the significant improvement in air flow.
The intake piping is 5″ at the inlet and 4.5″ at the throttle body (for 2018+ models) for plug and play compatibility with upgraded throttle bodies. Earlier model 5.0’s have a 4″ throttle body connection which is also bolt-on compatible with upgraded throttle bodies.
The JLT upgraded intake does require the addition of a tune.
2) Roush Performance Intake – No Tune Required
If you are looking for a no-tune required, closed air intake then Roush is a fantastic option. Additionally, the Roush intake doesn’t void factory warranty. Due to its closed box design it does provide slightly less airflow than the JLT intake. Additionally, it maintains the stock intake piping diameter. While these prevents the need for a tune it does limit air flow and require upgraded piping if you were ever to upgrade the intake manifold or throttle body.
The Roush intake actually varies depending on what version 5.0 you have. The 2018+ models have a closed box design whereas 2011-2017 models have an open air design. The 2015-2017 models come with a removable MAF insert that will increase diameter from 85mm to 105mm for people looking to run a custom tune and larger intake piping. This makes the system easily compatible with aftermarket manifolds and throttle bodies.
Overall, the Roush intake does provide improved flow over the stock 5.0 Mustang air intake. It’s a great option for someone looking for a bit of a performance increase without voiding factory warranty or having to add a tune.
Mustang GT 5.0 Coyote Upgraded Intake Summary
To bring it all together, there are two important intake decision factors:
- Open vs. Closed
- Tune Required vs. No Tune Required
Open intakes flow more air but will generally have IATs a few degrees higher. We recommend an open intake for anyone looking to push serious power. If you are just dropping an intake and exhaust on your Mustang, go with whichever you want.
We recommend adding a tune with your intake if you are looking for additional power. If you plan on adding a tune anyways, get the JLT intake. It will provide flexibility down the road if you want to upgrade additional intake components. If you don’t want to run a tune, then get the Roush or aFe intakes. You can still run a tune with the Roush and aFe intakes but the smaller diameter piping slightly reduces air flow and doesn’t provide upgrade flexibility.
Overall, the right intake depends on your power and modification goals. All of the systems we mentioned are generally the same. Choosing to upgrade your intake is more important than which intake you choose (unless you are planning on forced induction). All options will provide better flow and more power than the stock intake system which is what matters most.