Ford F-150 3.5L vs 5.0L: Performance, Reliability, & More
Ford introduced the 3.5L EcoBoost and 5.0L Coyote engines on the 12th generation F-150. They were retained in the thirteenth generation F-150 and will be carried over to the fourteenth generation. Both engines come equipped with comparable power, torque, and performance.
However, the engines accomplish this in significantly different ways. We will compare two engines in this guide, focusing on performance, tuning, reliability, towing, and fuel efficiency.
13th Generation Ford F-150 pictured above
F-150 3.5L V6 EcoBoost (EB) Engine
The 3.5L EcoBoost engine from Ford is frequently referred to as the 3.5 EB. The EcoBoost V6 engine features twin turbochargers and direct injection, allowing it to perform well above its weight class while increasing fuel efficiency.
The turbochargers for the F-150 EB are manufactured by BorgWarner and deliver up to 15 pounds of boost. It’s also worth noting that the 3.5L EcoBoost engine comes in two generations.
The 3.5 EB engine from the first generation (2011–2016) produces 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Already quite impressive numbers for a 3.5L V6 engine of this size. The second generation 3.5 EcoBoost (2017+) gains a small boost in horsepower to 375hp and torque to 470lb-ft.
3.5L EcoBoost – 1st vs 2nd Generation
Apart from increased power and torque, the second generation 3.5 EB gains the following enhancements:
- 10-speed auto
- Port fuel injection
- Electronic wastegates
- Revised turbos
- 10.5:1 compression
- Updated timing chain
This is not a comprehensive list of all updates. However, the foregoing are just a few of the critical updates we want to highlight. A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard on 2017+ F-150s equipped with the second-generation 3.5 EcoBoost engine.
Along with direct injection, port fuel injection is used. This contributes to the prevention of carbon build-up on intake valves.
Increased boost precision is possible with electronically actuated wastegates. Additionally, the turbos receive an update. This includes lighter turbine wheels that respond more quickly.
Increased compression ratios aid the second-generation EcoBoost engine in producing more torque. Finally, the timing chain update addresses an issue that plagued first-generation engines.
F-150 5.0L Coyote V8 Engine
The 5.0L Coyote engine shares its basic design with the 2011+ Mustang GT. It is powered by a 5.0L NA V8 engine. The F-150, on the other hand, receives a variant of the Coyote. The F-150’s design prioritizes low-end torque. Although it sacrifices some power in comparison to the Mustang GT 5.0 Coyote.
As with the EcoBoost, the 5.0 Coyote receives periodic updates. The F-150 currently offers three generations of the 5.0L engine. The following is the output:
- 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 save you the trouble of writing a lengthy section on the updates. In this post, we discussed the Coyote 5.0 generations. While the Mustang GT and F-150 5.0 variants differ slightly, many of the updates were identical.
We’ll also expand on this in a future post and include a link. For the time being, let’s compare the 3.5 EcoBoost and the 5.0 Coyote directly.
Performance: 3.5L EcoBoost vs 5.0L Coyote
There is a lot to discuss here, so we’ll summarize a few points to avoid boring anyone to death. To begin, we want to isolate engine performance. However, it is necessary to include a few notes. The 3.5L and 5.0L engines have been used in the F-150s of the 12th, 13th, and 14th generations.
Changes not related to the engine have an effect on performance across generations. For instance, the 10-speed automatic transmission outperforms the older 6-speed automatic transmission by a significant margin.
The 3.5L EcoBoost engine is a superior performing engine for daily driving and towing right out of the factory. The 3.5 EcoBoost twin turbochargers deliver low- and mid-range torque that the NA 5.0 cannot match.
However, due to the nature of smaller turbos, they have difficulty breathing well at the top end. Above 5,500 RPM, the 5.0 Coyote Ford F-150 engine becomes more powerful. It might be enticing to some.
That said, the majority of owners are not constantly revving their F-150s to 5,500+ RPMs. Even if you are, the 3.5L EcoBoost is a close match for the 5.0 Coyote on the top end and completely destroys it in the mid-range.
The 5.0 Coyote is far from a bad engine. That is not our point here. Both engines produce roughly the same amount of power, which is likely more than enough for the vast majority of F-150 owners.
However, we prefer the 3.5 EcoBoost for performance, daily driving, and towing. It will perform as well as, if not better than, the 5.0L engine in every way.
F-150 3.5 EcoBoost Tuning Potential
If you’re looking to squeeze even more power from your F-150, the 3.5L EcoBoost engine is a must-consider due to its impressive tuning capabilities. The 3.5 EB truly shines with aftermarket modifications. The dyno chart below is an excellent illustration:
Bear in mind that dynos read data from the wheels, not the crank. The dyno image above depicts a 2017 F-150 with a tune-only. With 93 octane, this truck produces an impressive 390 horsepower and 497 pound-feet of torque.
Assuming a fairly standard 15% drive-train loss, that equates to approximately 460hp and 585tq. Additionally, you can see how quickly the 3.5L EcoBoost engine can deliver that torque.
Again, this is a 3.5L EcoBoost engine that has been tuned only. It is capable of exceeding 600 horsepower with additional modifications and improved fuel.
Additionally, the mods required to achieve that power are relatively inexpensive. While not everyone is interested in spending $3,000 on an F-150 capable of producing 600+ horsepower, it is still cool. Additionally, it is very inexpensive to produce that much power in comparison to NA engines such as the 5.0 Coyote.
5.0L Coyote Tuning Potential
If you’re most concerned with tuning potential, power, and torque, we strongly advise you to stick with the 3.5L EcoBoost. For a naturally aspirated engine, the 5.0L still responds fairly well to modifications. However, forced induction will be required to exceed the 500 horsepower mark. This can add up to a substantial sum of money.
Reliability: F-150 3.5 EB vs 5.0L Coyote
Before we discuss reliability, it’s worth noting that both of these engines, across all of their generations, are extremely reliable. The F-150 is designed to be rugged and capable of withstanding whatever you throw at it.
They perform admirably in their jobs. Naturally, no engine is perfect, which is why we’ll discuss some of the more common issues and reliability below.
3.5L EcoBoost Reliability & Common Problems
Turbocharged engines previously received a lot of negative feedback regarding maintenance and reliability issues. Even today, some people associate turbochargers with an infinite number of common problems and headaches.
However, turbocharging technology has advanced significantly over the last two decades. Ford’s 3.5L EcoBoost engine is an excellent example of this, as it is a generally reliable engine with few common issues. Among the few common issues are the following:
- Timing chain
- Carbon build-up on intake valves
These issues are primarily limited to models equipped with the first generation EcoBoost engine from 2011 to 2016. The timing chain is prone to developing problems and prematurely failing. Ford did recall a limited number of F-150s due to the timing chain issue. Additionally, we do not consider the 3.5 EcoBoost carbon build-up to be a significant issue.
This is inherent in directed injected engines due to the fact that fuel is sprayed directly into the cylinders. No fuel is sprayed over the intake valves to remove natural oil blow-by.
Over time, this oil clogs the intake valves of the 3.5 liter EcoBoost and restricts airflow. Walnut blasting is a popular method for cleaning the 3.5 EcoBoost valves of carbon deposits.
Beginning in 2017, the second generation of the 3.5L EcoBoost addressed these two issues. The timing chain was redesigned to increase reliability. Additionally to direct injection, it receives port fuel injection. This assists the 3.5 EB in avoiding carbon build-up issues. Ultimately, this resolves the engine’s primary issues. However, the concepts discussed below remain valid.
5.0L Coyote Reliability & Common Problems
To be honest, we don’t have much to say about the F-150 5.0 problems. That is an excellent thing. However, this is an excellent time to diverge into more general concepts of reliability.
As previously stated, no engine is perfect, and the 5.0 Coyote is no exception. We won’t bother mentioning any of the 5.0 Coyote’s common issues in this post. There are no issues that appear to be more prevalent than others.
However, problems do occur, and chances are you’ll encounter at least one during the course of owning a 5.0 F150. This is especially true for the early 5.0 engines, which are now approaching a decade in age. The engine’s internals should easily exceed 200,000 miles.
However, aging and high mileage place a significant amount of strain on wear and tear components. This includes gaskets, belts, and hoses, among other things. It is not accurate to refer to anything like that as a common issue with the 5.0 Coyote. This is simply the way engines age. Naturally, proper maintenance is also critical for reliability.
All of these concepts apply equally well to the 3.5L EcoBoost. The point is that the 5.0 Coyote engine in the F-150 is truly faultless. Issues can and do arise. The reliability of the F-150 5.0 is partially determined by luck of the draw and maintenance history. Nonetheless, the majority of users should anticipate a relatively trouble-free experience with this engine.
Overall Thoughts on F-150 Reliability
When it comes to reliability, there is no clear winner between the 3.5L EcoBoost and the 5.0L Coyote. Both engines are generally reliable. Ford addressed a few well-documented issues with the 2011-2016 EcoBoost engines in the 2017+ engine.
They are still relatively minor issues for an otherwise extremely reliable engine. The 2017+ 3.5 and all 5.0 models are very similar. There are no widespread issues that indicate design flaws. Rather than that, the majority of failures are due to random chance, poor maintenance, or other factors.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Fords in general appear to have a high rate of transmission failures. Quite a few, in fact, more than a good deal of other manufacturers. Although this is not an engine issue, it is worth noting.
While transmissions are unlikely to be installed on a large percentage of F-150s, they are a very real possibility. This is true for both the 3.5 EcoBoost and the 5.0 Coyote engines.
Towing: 3.5 EcoBoost vs 5.0 Coyote
A portion of towing capacity is determined by the truck’s configuration. For instance, 2WD versus 4WD models. Additionally, it will vary depending on the truck’s generation. The point is that rather than providing a comprehensive list of towing capacities, we’ll focus on the broad strokes. Additionally, we’ll keep this section brief.
The 3.5L EcoBoost engine is superior for towing. When all other factors are equal, the EcoBoost has a higher towing capacity. Additionally, regardless of the exact weights, it is a superior engine for towing in general.
This relates to what we discussed previously regarding performance and torque. The 3.5 EcoBoost engine is simply a better engine at low and mid-range revs. That is frequently critical for towing, and the twin turbo design provides an advantage.
Naturally, the 5.0L engine remains quite capable of towing. Both F-150 engines, when configured properly, should be capable of towing the majority of boats, campers, and other trailers.
Anyone looking for heavy-duty towing capacity is almost certainly looking at an F-250 or F-350. The 3.5L and 5.0L F-150 engines should suffice for the majority of drivers who aren’t looking to tow anything extreme.
Fuel Economy: F-150 3.5L vs 5.0L
We’ll proceed in a similar fashion to the preceding. The precise fuel economy varies according to transmission, generation, driving style, towing or not towing, and other factors. While you can quickly look up the numbers online, we’ll focus on the more intriguing portion. That is the information that you would otherwise have to dig for.
The 3.5 EB is more fuel efficient. This is undoubtedly true for those who walk with a relatively light foot. However, there is a problem with the fuel economy ratings for turbocharged engines. Typically, they are rated for gentle driving. When you start utilizing the turbocharger’s power and torque, things quickly deteriorate.
Extremely quickly. One of our older 335i twin turbo six-cylinder BMWs is rated at 20 miles per gallon in the city. Around here, we have heavy feet, and our city mileage is closer to 14mpg.
Most likely, they are not driving their EcoBoost F-150 in the manner in which we drive our BMW. Regardless, the concept endures. Turbo engines are capable of guzzling gas when required.
In summary, the 3.5L EcoBoost engine consumes less fuel than the 5.0L Coyote engine. A lead foot, on the other hand, will make the 3.5L EcoBoost look more like the Coyote. Neither is the most fuel efficient truck, but it is a truck with a reasonably powerful engine. Their fuel economy is quite respectable when all factors are considered.
F-150 3.5L EcoBoost vs 5.0L Coyote Summary
Both the 3.5L EcoBoost and 5.0L Coyote-powered F-150s are fantastic trucks in every way. From the factory, the engines perform similarly. However, the EcoBoost engine produces significantly more torque. Additionally, the nature of the 3.5 EB twin turbos allows for incredible potential with minimal modifications.
With a tune and some basic bolt-on parts, 600+ horsepower is possible. Ford’s F-150 5.0 Coyote also responds well to basic modifications, but lacks the potential of the 5.0 Coyote without forced induction.
Notably, both the 3.5 and 5.0 engines are extremely reliable in general. The early 3.5 EcoBoost has a couple of common issues, but they’re minor in comparison. Otherwise, 2017+ 3.5’s and all 5.0’s are extremely reliable.
Problems can and will occur, especially as the vehicle ages and mileage increases. The 3.5L EB engine, on the other hand, has a slight advantage in terms of fuel economy and towing capacity.
We hate to say this because the F-150 5.0L Coyote engine is an incredible engine in every way. However, we must state it. The 3.5L EcoBoost engine outperforms the 5.0 Coyote in every way. It outperforms the competition in terms of torque, tuning capability, fuel economy, and towing capacity.
We believe that the wider powerband and lower-end torque make it a more capable daily driver. Additionally, the two engines are very similar in terms of reliability. Again, both engines are fantastic, but our recommendation is the 3.5L EcoBoost.
Which of these do you own? What has been your experience? Leave a comment and inform us!
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