Best Ford Mustang 2.3L EcoBoost Bolt-on Performance Mods

How To Build A 350+HP Mustang EcoBoost

It was only a matter of time before the muscle car segment became dominated by smaller turbocharged engines. Ford accomplished this feat in 2015 with the 2.3L inline four turbocharged engine found in the S550 Mustang EcoBoost.

The base models are equipped with an impressive 310 horsepower. However, the appeal of turbo engines is their ease of tuning and modification for increased power.

There is no doubt that the 2.3L EB has some untapped potential that can be unlocked with a few simple bolt-on performance mods. Though there are always risks associated with deviating from an engine’s intended design. We’ll look at basic bolt-on mods and discuss the risks associated with modding the 2.3L S550 Mustang EcoBoost.

Mustang EcoBoost 2.3L Bolt-On Mods

Among the 2.3L EcoBoost performance mods discussed in this post are the following:

  1. Tune
  2. Intake
  3. Downpipe
  4. Intercooler
  5. Charge pipes

These modifications are referred to as full bolt-on or “FBO” for the Mustang. Some may consider a complete exhaust system, an upgraded turbo, and other modifications to be truly FBO. In the future, we’ll write more about those mods.

However, in this article, we’ll discuss the best performance mods for the money. The five bolt-ons listed above are capable of taking your Mustang EcoBoost to the next level. Let us begin by discussing some of the dangers. Then, one by one, we’ll dissect each of these bolt-on mods.

2.3L EcoBoost AKA “EcoBoom”

2.3L EcoBoost AKA EcoBoom

Well. The 2.3L EcoBoost engine does not have the best moniker – some call it the “EcoBoom.” However, we do not entirely concur. Of course, the internet has a tendency to exaggerate things. Ford would not include the 2.3 EcoBoost in so many flagship vehicles unless they believe it is a reliable engine.

Having said that, the engine performs admirably for the purpose for which it was designed. Increase the power applied to it, as you would with any other engine, and the risks increase. Every engine has a limit, and the 2.3L EcoBoost engine in the Mustang is no exception.

The Stock Turbo Is Inefficient 

We apologize for starting on such a negative note, but the 2.3L EcoBoost engine has poor flow characteristics. We’ve spent a significant amount of time writing about various automobiles, and the dyno chart above is one of the worst we’ve ever seen. We will concede that the low-end torque is impressive.

However, take a look at the torque curve, particularly at speeds greater than 5,000 RPM. It’s atrocious. This is typically a sign that the turbo is being pushed beyond its maximum efficiency range. It is simply an insufficiently powerful turbo.

This is to tie into our upcoming discussion about the 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost’s stock block and internals limitations. A small, inefficient turbo generates enormous amounts of backpressure, which can be detrimental to the engine’s performance. 350 horsepower with the stock turbo is not the same as 350 horsepower with a larger, higher-flowing turbo.

2.3L EcoBoost Stock Engine Limits

In this post, we’re going to disregard an upgraded turbo as a bolt-on mod. However, the preceding section serves a purpose. It is impossible to impose a maximum capacity on an engine. If only it were as straightforward as, “Yes, the motor is perfectly fine at 350whp, but there is a 90% chance you will blow it at 370whp.” Numerous variables are at work.

Torque is also a more accurate measure of an engine’s upper limits. Having said that, it appears as though 420-450 lb-ft of torque is the safe operating range for the 2.3 Mustang EcoBoost.

Any numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. However, certain factors can be controlled to reduce the likelihood of engine failure. Proper tuning is high on that list. Additionally, having adequate supporting mods helps a great deal. Intakes assist the engine in breathing. Downpipes help to alleviate back pressure.

Intercoolers maintain the temperature of the charge air. Finally, proper data logging and monitoring can make a significant difference. You should avoid driving aggressively if your engine is running lean or if you are experiencing excessive engine knocks.

In summary, 420-450 lb-ft of torque is an acceptable range for the 2.3L EcoBoost. Ascertain that you have the necessary supporting mods, that your engine is tuned properly, and that you monitor the engine’s parameters.

Even then, keep in mind that things can go wrong. This is not intended to discourage anyone from customizing their EcoBoost Mustangs. It’s simply something that everyone should understand before proceeding. After that, we’ll break down each of the five bolt-on performance upgrades below.

1) 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost Tunes

2.3L Mustang EcoBoost Tunes

If we had to choose just one performance mod, a tune would be our first choice. On the 2.3L Mustang, a tune alone can result in power gains of 30-50whp and 60-80wtq. Impressive gains for a single mod that typically costs between $500 and $1,000.

Additionally, 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost tunes enable you to maximize the benefits of subsequent modifications. Without a proper tune, performance mods simply do not live up to their full potential.

There are numerous options available, and it’s difficult to go wrong with the majority of 2.3L EcoBoost tunes. Ascertain that you are purchasing the tuning device from a reputable source. Otherwise, much of it is a matter of personal preference.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to consider which tunes have strong support for future tune switching. As you continue to modify your 2.3L EcoBoost, you’ll almost certainly require updated tunes to accommodate the new modifications.

Best Mustang EcoBoost Tunes

Among the best tunes for the 2.3L EcoBoost are the following:

  • Burger Motorsports JB4
  • Lund Racing N-Gauge
  • Cobb Access Port
  • SCT GTX Tuner

Again, there are a plethora of excellent options on the market, and the list above is by no means exhaustive. However, those are some of the best tunes available for the 2.3L EcoBoost engine. They are all reputable companies with tunes that have been thoroughly tested and proven.

As a side note, we come from the BMW world, where the JB4 piggyback tune is quite popular. However, piggyback tunes may be unfamiliar territory for many Mustang enthusiasts. We adore the JB4, but strongly advise you to conduct additional research on flash vs piggyback tunes if you’re considering the JB4.

2) EcoBoost 2.3L Performance Intake Upgrade

Intakes are another popular and cost-effective Mustang EcoBoost upgrade. The factory intake is efficient at both stock and boost power levels. However, as boost and horsepower increase, the intake becomes less efficient.

It’s an excellent mod to pair with the tune, and there are numerous tune + intake bundles available. On the 2.3L EcoBoost, intakes typically add between 5 and 10 wheel horsepower. Gains, on the other hand, may be greater with heavy mods.

Finding the optimal intake can be perplexing. There are a plethora of different names and terms available. S550 Mustang EcoBoost cold air intakes are referred to by a variety of names, including performance intakes, performance cold air intakes, and intake kits. What is the distinction?

EcoBoost Open vs Closed Intakes

To keep things simple, we refer to intakes as open air intakes or closed air intakes. While an open intake is visible from the engine bay, a closed system conceals the filter and draws in colder air. On a turbocharged, intercooled engine, the difference is negligible. The air is forced through the filter and into an extremely hot turbo.

The intercooler then cools it. It has been established that intake temperatures at the filter have little effect on the ability of the intercooler to cool the charge air. We prefer open admissions for a variety of reasons:

  • Better flow
  • More sounds

An open intake has fewer restrictions than a closed intake because the filter is exposed to the surrounding air. Additionally, by removing the restrictive air boxes, more EcoBoost induction and turbo sounds are produced.

Despite the fact that open intakes flow better, closed intake designs retain the same performance, especially with the stock turbo. It’s difficult to go wrong with either of these options. It’s entirely up to personal preference and whether or not you desire increased induction and turbo noise.

Best S550 EcoBoost Performance Intakes

A few of the best 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost intakes include:

  • JLT Performance Intake
  • Roush Cold Air Intake Kit
  • K&N Air Intake System

These are just a few of the numerous excellent options available. Finally, if you want a louder intake sound, we recommend going with an open intake design. Otherwise, it’s a matter of personal preference when it comes to appearance, design, and price. The majority of 2.3L EcoBoost intake upgrades offer nearly identical performance.

3) Mustang EcoBoost Upgraded Downpipe

Mustang EcoBoost Upgraded Downpipe

After a tune, an upgraded downpipe is arguably the second best 2.3L EcoBoost performance mod. Choosing between an intercooler and a downpipe is almost certainly a toss-up. We are strong proponents of downpipe upgrades because they provide numerous benefits in addition to horsepower gains. Several advantages of Mustang EcoBoost downpipe upgrades include the following:

  • 10-20whp gains
  • Faster turbo spool
  • Lower back-pressure
  • Slightly louder exhaust

The power gains from an upgraded downpipe are quite impressive. It’s worth noting, however, that not all of those gains come from the downpipe. Rather than that, the horsepower gains are a result of the ability to run a couple of PSI higher. This is because they aid in the efficient removal of air from the engine by reducing back-pressure.

The pressure drop from the manifold to the downpipe is critical to a turbo’s ability to spool and build boost. As a result, an upgraded downpipe will result in a reduction in turbo spool time.

Additionally, improved sound quality is a benefit. Mustang EcoBoost catless downpipes add a little more bark but are unobtrusive when driving on a daily basis.

2.3L EcoBoost Catless vs High-Flow Catted DP’s

A downpipe upgrade is intended to alleviate back pressure. A catless downpipe is the most effective because it results in the greatest pressure drop. Catless downpipes, on the other hand, raise concerns about emissions testing. This is where catted downpipes with a high flow rate come into play.

They’ll provide the performance benefits mentioned previously, but to a slightly lesser extent. If performance is the primary objective, catless is the way to go. Catted downpipes, on the other hand, are an excellent solution for EcoBoost Mustang owners concerned about emissions.

Best 2.3L EcoBoost Downpipes

Several of our preferred downpipe upgrades for the 2.3L EcoBoost include the following:

  • Corsa 3″ Catted Downpipe
  • CVF 3″ Catless Downpipe
  • BBK Catted Downpipe

You’ll notice that catless downpipes are typically about half the price of cat-equipped downpipes for the Mustang. Cats are not inexpensive to produce, which is why cat-free options are preferable. If emissions are not a concern, we strongly recommend catless options.

4) 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost Upgraded Intercooler

2.3L Mustang EcoBoost Upgraded Intercooler

FMICs are one of the best bolt-on mods for any tuned 2.3L EcoBoost engine. For stock boost, the factory intercooler is sufficient. Increasing boost, on the other hand, quickly overwhelms the stock Mustang EcoBoost intercooler. This eventually results in heat soak. The turbo and air become so hot in this situation that the intercooler is unable to effectively cool the charge air.

A simple solution to this problem is to upgrade the intercooler. Naturally, cooler air results in increased horsepower. However, there are additional significant benefits:

  • 10-20whp gains
  • Consistency
  • Reduced chance of knock

When it comes to intercoolers, consistency is critical. An upgraded EcoBoost Mustang FMIC will help prevent overheating during extended periods of “aggressive” driving. Have you ever noticed that your Mustang produces more power the first couple of times you floor it, but then feels slower and slower?

That is heat soak in action. Perhaps the time has come to consider an FMIC upgrade. Additionally, cooler air entering the cylinders decreases the possibility of engine knock.

Best 2.3L EcoBoost Intercoolers

Several of the best FMICs for the EcoBoost Mustang include the following:

  • Mishimoto Performance Intercooler
  • Wagner Tuning EVO1 Intercooler
  • Injen Intercooler

As with the previous bolt-ons discussed, there are a plethora of high-quality options available. You should be fine if you obtain an FMIC from a reputable company.

5) 2.3L EcoBoost Charge Pipe Upgrades

Charge pipes are the final performance mod we’ll discuss for the EcoBoost. The term “charge pipe” refers to any intake piping that carries charge air. We’re looking at the charge pipes that connect to the intercooler in particular. Most kits will include both a hot-side (following the turbo and prior to the FMIC) and a cold-side (after FMIC).

Additionally, the factory diverter valve is housed in these charge pipes. Additionally, depending on the charge pipes you select, you can upgrade to a blow-off valve. Charge pipes are not truly a form of power modification. However, a few horsepower may be obtained.

The true benefit is in upgrading from a low-quality rubber hot-side pipe to a high-quality metal pipe. The cold-side upgrade alleviates some flow restrictions and also provides an opportunity to upgrade to a BOV.

Best 2.3L Mustang EcoBoost Charge Pipes

Several excellent charge pipe options include the following:

  • CVF Aluminum Intercooler Charge Pipe Kit
  • SR Performance Intercooler Charge Pipe Kit
  • Mishimoto Intercooler Pipe Kit

Because this is fairly straightforward piping, it’s extremely difficult to go wrong with the majority of options. Consider something with a high-quality finish and installation. Otherwise, the most critical factor is selecting a high-quality BOV if you’re upgrading.

Mustang EcoBoost Bolt-Ons Summary

As is the case with many turbocharged vehicles, the Ford Mustang 2.3L EcoBoost squanders considerable power. A few simple bolt-on modifications unlock the true potential of the S550 Mustang.

Increasing boost and power, on the other hand, carries some risks. It is widely accepted that the EcoBoost is capable of producing between 420 and 450 lb-ft of torque. Ascertain that you are running a good, conservative tune with the necessary supporting mods and monitoring.

For the majority, a tune is likely the best place to begin. Not only does it provide the most immediate gains, but it also enables you to get the most out of bolt-on mods.

An intake is an excellent mod to pair with a tune that allows for increased airflow. Downpipes and intercoolers provide numerous benefits for the Mustang EcoBoost in addition to power gains.

Finally, charge pipes are an excellent way to ensure reliability and make the transition to a BOV simple. These five simple bolt-on upgrades can boost the Mustang EcoBoost’s horsepower to well over 350.

What modifications have you made to your EcoBoost Mustang? Which one are you contemplating?

Up Next: 5 Best Ford 3.5 EcoBoost Bolt-On Performance Upgrades

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