The Ford Mustang GT 5.0 Coyote Bolt-On Performance Mods

5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Bolt-on Mods

The 5.0 Coyote engine in the Ford Mustang GT has earned a reputation for being a strong factory motor that responds well to simple bolt-on modifications. This guide will cover several popular power mods for the 5.0 Coyote.

Without the addition of forced induction, these modifications alone are capable of pushing the 5.0 engine into the 500RWHP range. Continue reading to learn how to upgrade your Mustang GT with these basic bolt-on performance parts.

Coyote 5.0 Engine Generations

To begin, the performance mods are similar across generations of Ford Coyote engines. However, certain generations may be more receptive to various mods. Additionally, we’re concentrating on the Mustang GT’s Coyote engines.

While the F150 utilizes a Coyote variant, performance modifications and power gains may vary. Consider the three distinct generations of the 5.0 Coyote.

Gen 1 Coyote Engine (2011-2014)

The first generation Coyote 5.0 produced a respectable 412 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. This is already a significant increase over the 300 horsepower offered by the previous 4.6L Mustang GT.

Ford accomplished this with a compression ratio of 11.0:1, an aluminum block, variable cam timing, and high flow heads. The 2013 and 2014 Mustang GTs received an 8-horsepower boost and utilize coated pistons and piston rings from the Boss 302 engine.

Gen 2 Coyote Engine (2015-2017)

2015 models were replaced by the sixth generation Mustang, dubbed the S550. Along with the new generation and chassis, the Coyote 5.0’s second generation received a number of updates. Among the 5.0 gen 2 updates are the following:

  • Larger intake & exhaust valves
  • Revised intake & exhaust camshafts
  • Sinter forged rods
  • Re-balanced forged crank
  • New intake manifold

This is just a sampling of the numerous updates to the generation 2 Coyote 5.0. These enhancements help the 2015 Mustang GT achieve 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. However, the updates extend beyond the paper-based power numbers.

Improved valve flow assists the engine in producing more power at the top; it also helps squeeze out a bit more power mod for mod when compared to the first generation Coyote.

Finally, the stronger rods and crank are unlikely to make a significant difference to Mustang owners who wish to keep their GTs naturally aspirated. However, those looking to take things to the next level with forced induction will find the stronger internals appealing.

Gen 3 Coyote Engine (2018+)

The generation 2 Coyote is an excellent engine, but it was quickly eclipsed by the generation 3’s introduction in 2018. Ford’s third-generation Coyote gains 460 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. This accomplishment may be credited to the following Coyote 5.0 gen 3 updates:

  • Larger bore (5.035L compared to 4.951L for gen 1 and 2)
  • Further improved head, valves, and cams
  • 7,500 RPM redline
  • 12.0:1 compression (up from 11.0:1)
  • Direct & port injection

Again, these are just a few of the numerous updates available for the third generation 5L Coyote. Notably, the engine now has a larger bore, increasing the engine’s displacement from 4.951L to 5.035L. This enables the use of larger valves, which increases the engine’s efficiency and airflow, particularly at higher RPMs.

As a result, the gen 3 Coyote 5.0’s redline is increased to 7,500 revs. Along with port injection, high-pressure direct injection is used to increase the compression ratio to 12.0:1.

We could go on and on about how fantastic these updates are for 2018+ S550 Mustang GT’s. It’s an all-around excellent engine. Additionally, the gen 3 responds extremely well to simple performance modifications.

That is not to say that the previous generation Coyotes are in any way inferior or that they do not respond well to mods. However, performance and power enthusiasts should find the 3rd generation engine to be the most enjoyable and capable.

Mustang GT Coyote 5.0 Bolt-On Mods

The following bolt-on performance modifications are recommended for naturally aspirated 5L Coyote engines:

  • Tune (& E85)
  • Cold Air Intake
  • Long tube headers
  • Exhaust

The remainder of this article will discuss the aforementioned Mustang GT bolt-on mods. To emphasize, we will devote a separate section to E85 in order to go into greater detail. It is not a bolt-on, but rather a different type of fuel available at certain pumps. However, the debate is worthwhile due to the massive performance gains enabled by E85.

1) 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Tunes

When it comes to unlocking additional horsepower, tunes are frequently at the forefront of discussion. This is not the case with the 5.0 Coyote engine. Tunes do provide horsepower gains on their own. However, and perhaps more importantly, tunes enable you to maximize the performance of other bolt-on mods.

There are numerous tuning techniques available, depending on the mods installed and the specific goals for your Mustang GT 5.0. Below, we’ll discuss some of the fundamentals and reference a few popular 5.0 Coyote tuning options.

Mustang GT 5.0 Coyote Tuning Devices

The first step is to acquire a device, such as the SCT X4, that enables you to load tunes directly into the Mustang GT’s ECU/PCM. Both the SCT X4 and nGauge performance programmers are widely used.

These tuning devices enable direct connection to the OBDII port for the purpose of loading flash tunes to the computer. Additionally, they include features such as data logging, displays, and user-adjustable parameters.

Depending on the tuning device you select, it may or may not come pre-programmed with a tune. This type of music is frequently referred to as canned or off-the-shelf (OTS) music. Expect to pay between $300 and $500 for a high-quality tuning device, with base maps likely offering gains of 5-15 horsepower.

OTS tunes are excellent starting points for those new to bolt-ons and those unfamiliar with tuning intricacies. However, because they are base tunes, they frequently lack the precision associated with true custom tunes.

Additionally, they are typically incapable of supporting modifications such as E85 fueling, fuel injector upgrades, manifold upgrades, or forced induction on the 5.0 Coyote. This is where the 5.0 Coyote’s custom tuning comes into play.

5.0 Coyote Custom Tuning

Custom tuning options are available for those looking to take their Mustang GT 5.0 to the next level. To be clear, a separate tuning device will still be required to load custom flash tunes. These tunes are tailored to your car specifically, as opposed to generic GT maps. Even with a 5.0 Coyote tune, this precision allows for increased power. Expect power gains of around 10-20hp.

However, a custom tune will almost certainly cost you an additional $300 in addition to the tuning device. For $629, Lund Racing offers a custom tune in addition to the nGauge tuning device. However, the minor gains may be insignificant for those seeking only a tune and no other modifications.

The true benefits of custom tuning become apparent for those looking to truly elevate their Mustang GT. We’ll discuss E85 in greater detail below, but the Coyote 5.0 achieves impressive gains with just an E85 tune. Owners of pre-2018 generation 1 and generation 2 Coyote engines may wish to consider upgrading their intake manifolds.

Additionally, some will attempt to increase power through forced induction. In conjunction with those mods, a custom tune for the 5.0 Coyote is required. Even if you’re not looking to go completely insane, there are numerous advantages to custom tuning. Notably, custom tunes maximize the performance of other basic bolt-on components such as intakes, headers, and exhaust.

1.5) 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT E85 Fuel

Ethanol fuel, also known as E85 or flex fuel, is a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. It has long been touted as one of the best fuels for forced induction engines, if not the best. E85, on the other hand, is gaining popularity for naturally aspirated engines.

This is particularly true since the release of the third-generation Coyote, which features direct and port injection. The benefits of E85 are truly remarkable.

E85 Fueling Benefits

  • Knock suppression
  • Cooler internal cylinder temps
  • More efficient burn at lower lambda
  • 108+ octane rating

Due to E85’s knock suppression, it is possible to tune the 5.0 Coyote for more aggressive ignition timing. The sooner the air/fuel mixture can be safely ignited, the more torque and power will be produced.

Additionally, E85 has a higher latent heat of evaporation than gasoline. Simply put, when E85 transforms from a liquid to a gas, it becomes more efficient at absorbing heat in the combustion chamber.

Furthermore, ethanol burns much more efficiently at lower lambda values (higher AFR values). We could go into greater detail about each of these benefits, but we’ll end with one final observation about them.

Essentially, when properly tuned, E85 not only produces more power, but it also produces it in a much safer manner than gasoline does.

What’s the Catch?

As mentioned previously, E85 has a lower energy potential per unit than gasoline. This means that you must increase the flow of fuel to compensate for the energy loss per unit. 100% E85 has a stoich ratio of approximately 9.8:1, compared to 14.7:1 for gasoline. In essence, E85 requires one part fuel to 9.8 parts air, while gasoline requires only one part fuel to 14.7 parts air.

E85 requires approximately 30% more fuel flow for the same amount of air. As a result, you should see a similar 30% reduction in fuel economy. Above all, your fuel system must be capable of meeting that demand. As a result, a proper tune is required to fully utilize E85 without excessive leaning out.

The demanding fuel flow is no problem for the 2018+ generation 3 Coyote 5.0, which features an impressive direct and port injection system. However, older generation Coyotes will almost certainly require upgraded injectors to meet the increased fuel demands. Finally, there is the issue of E85 availability. It may be difficult to locate in certain towns and states throughout the United States.

2) 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Cold Air Intake

Moving on to another popular power mod for the 5.0 Coyote – performance intakes with “cold air.” This is fairly straightforward information, and many people are probably familiar with performance intakes.

There are numerous options available for the 5.0L Mustang GT. For the purposes of this article, however, we will concentrate on the JLT cold air intake. Overall, it’s an excellent intake and one of the most popular options for the 5.0 Coyote.

Mustang GT Performance Intake Benefits

  • Improved airflow
  • Horsepower increase

To begin, the intake’s “cold air” feature is largely ineffective. A primary benefit of performance intakes is increased airflow, particularly at the top end. The factory 5.0 Coyote intake is efficient in the mid-range but restricts airflow significantly at the top end.

The massive performance intake on the JLT enables the engine to breathe much more efficiently near the top of the power curve. Ultimately, this improves the engine’s ability to carry torque and increases horsepower.

Additionally, the open intake design will undoubtedly liberate some engine noises that have been masked by the factory airbox. Vendors frequently report gains of 20+ horsepower. However, it’s critical to keep in mind that they’re generally obtaining baseline data and then adding a tune to the intake.

Expect gains of 5-10 horsepower from the intake alone. Though larger gains are undoubtedly possible with an increasing number of mods, particularly forced induction.

3) 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Long Tube Headers

We’re debating headers prior to discussing the remainder of the exhaust system for a reason. A set of high-flow or catless headers will deliver significantly better performance than a cat-back or axle-back system.

Additionally, we’ll discuss this further throughout, but for some, headers and an exhaust may be too loud. If your primary objective is increased power, you’ll probably want to consider headers before anything else exhaust related. This is going to be one of the best power mods for a NA 5.0 Coyote after an E85 tune.

Long Tube Headers Benefits

  • Increased power
  • Reduced back-pressure
  • Improved sound

The horsepower and performance gains associated with 5.0 Coyote headers are due to a variety of factors. To begin, the majority of aftermarket headers replace restrictive, bulky catalytic converters (cats) with high-flow cats. Some even eliminate the cats entirely. The increased diameter further reduces back pressure and aids in the efficient removal of air from the cylinders.

We will avoid becoming too technical in order to keep things moving. It is critical to note, however, that headers aid in reducing exhaust reversion. This is a phenomenon that occurs when exhaust gases are forced backward by low pressure in the intake manifold and excessive backpressure in the exhaust manifold.

That concludes the technical section. What matters is that headers aid the engine in extracting air more efficiently, which is critical for horsepower. NA 5.0 Coyotes can expect to gain between 20-30 horsepower from headers alone.

Naturally, tuning is critical to realizing that full potential. Additionally, when a supercharger is added, power gains become even more impressive.

Finally, headers will undoubtedly contribute some enticing sounds. However, those seeking a more subdued sound may wish to avoid additional exhaust mods.

4) 5.0 Coyote Mustang GT Exhaust Mods

Without a great-sounding, loud exhaust, an American muscle car is simply not the same. Even with the stock exhaust, the stock 5.0 Mustang GT produces some impressive sounds. Many, however, opt for cat-backs or axle-backs to enhance sound and add a little bark. The one disadvantage is that the horsepower gains are quite modest in comparison to the price. We’ll keep this brief and expand on it in a future exhaust-only article.

Cat-back Exhaust

As the name implies, a 5.0 Coyote cat-back exhaust system replaces the factory exhaust from the catalytic converter (cat). Gains in horsepower are typically between 3-5 horsepower when using a cat-back exhaust. That, too, may be optimistic. As previously stated, the gain is quite minimal for such an expensive exhaust.

That is one of the reasons we are attempting to keep this section brief. We would not recommend an exhaust solely for performance gains. Rather than that, it’s a pleasant side effect of unleashing the 5.0 Coyote’s sound. Choose your favorite exhaust tone and run with it.

We should, however, briefly mention that a cat-back exhaust system will assist in reducing the GT’s weight. The hefty resonator and mufflers are quite substantial.

Cat-back exhaust systems may help you lose a significant amount of weight, between 20 and 30 pounds. While this is not a bad thing for performance, it is quite negligible in comparison to the power gains. Additionally, the weight is very low to the ground, implying that it will have little effect on handling.

Axle-back Exhaust

For the Coyote 5.0, an axle-back exhaust system replaces the mufflers and exhaust tips. As the name implies, it is intended to replace the exhaust system after the rear axle. This maintains the factory resonator and mid-pipe. It’s essentially a substitute for the cat-back that offers slightly different sounds at a slightly lower price (of course, dependent upon brands).

Honorable Mentions – Additional Bolt-Ons

We omitted a few other excellent bolt-ons from this list. In the future, we’ll write more detailed guides for each of the 5.0 Coyote engine’s basic bolt-on components. Several other common modifications include the following:

  • Intake Manifold
  • Forced induction (superchargers & turbos)

An intake manifold is an excellent modification for the 2011-2014 S197 Mustang GT and the 2015-2017 S550 GT. Because 2018+ models feature a significantly improved intake manifold, this is not a very common upgrade. However, intake manifolds come in a variety of configurations. Again, we’ll address this in a separate post in the future.

While forced induction could be considered an afterthought, it is clearly a significant commitment. Supercharger and turbocharger kits can cost upwards of $10,000 for the basic components and installation. When you add in the other necessary supporting mods, it becomes impossible to cover everything in this post. We’ll be releasing some standalone guides in the near future.

Mustang GT Performance Mods Summary

Not to beat a dead horse, but in the near future, we’ll expand on each of the individual mods in their own posts. We wanted to highlight the four primary fundamental mods that are consistent across all three generations of the 5.0 Coyote in this post.

Tuning, intakes, headers, and exhaust systems are among the most popular bolt-on modifications for the S197 and S550 Mustang GT. Each of these mods has a number of advantages, and a few have some disadvantages that you should consider before proceeding.

Tunes are an excellent way to add a little extra power to an otherwise stock vehicle. However, they also contribute to the full potential of other bolt-on mods. Cold air intakes improve the Coyote’s top-end flow and result in respectable gains for the price.

Headers provide incredible sound and performance gains, but at the expense of potential emissions complications. Finally, cat-backs and axle-backs add incredible sound but do not provide significant performance benefits to justify their cost.

Nonetheless, these simple bolt-on mods have the potential to boost the 5.0 Coyote’s wheel horsepower to 400-500+. Gains are a little easier on the 2018+ 3rd generation Coyote. That is not to diminish the older generation Coyotes.

However, complete bolt-on gen 1 Coyotes will likely be closer to 400whp for gen 2 examples and 450whp for gen 1 examples. With these basic mods, the gen 3 Coyote easily achieves 480-500whp.

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