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How to Improve Throttle Response

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Matching up a throttle body to your Mustang's build, can optimize air flow into your engine. Better throttle response and more power! Two bonuses in one mod.

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Late model EcoBoost and GT Mustangs have done away with a conventional cable operated throttle body and instead have followed the likes of the aviation industry – implementing a fly-by-wire throttle system. Like modern airliners, S550 ‘stangs rely on a digitial signal, to be processed by a central computer, in order to open and close the throttle body.

American Muscle

Throttle Facts

  • Larger throttle body allows for more air to pass through, supporting horsepower down the road
  • Better finish eliminates restrictions, allowing air to move faster and improve response
  • Increasing throttle sensitivity allows smaller movements to be detected, increasing throttle precision and control

Electronics and Air

What came first, electronic music or electronic cars? The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter. Both are here and we have to deal with it. In the case of the latter, electronic cars, with all their gadgetry, are certainly more confusing than they used to be. However, despite all of these digital tricks, many fundamentals still apply to these new ages motors as did to their older pushrod brethren.

In this case, just like ye old times, swapping the stock throttle body for a larger aftermarket unit on an EcoBoost or GT Mustang will enhance throttle response. Throttle response is a delicate game between air volume and air velocity. Increasing air velocity simply by diminishing the size of the inlet would definitely work, but may not provide enough volume. On the other hand, increasing the diameter of inlet allows for more volume, but may decrease velocity.

2015 Mustang GT with a JLT Performance Air Intake

Aftermarket Throttle Bodies

Aftermarket throttle bodies attempt to increase both volume and velocity. More air volume and velocity at any given RPM is a surefire way to increase horsepower and throttle response. Achieving this at high RPM is easy, when the engine will be sucking significant amounts of air down on its own. Coming off idle, however, is a different story. Better materials, larger diameter openings and less restriction is the key to success for these aftermarket throttle bodies. Larger diameter allows for greater volume and typically featuring a polished finish, provides less resistance such that the air can keep its speed up. As soon as you step on the gas, there is enough volume moving at enough great enough speed that throttle response is quicker than stock.

2011-2016 Mustang BBK 73mm Throttle Body

Electronic Tuning - Throttle Maps

What is a throttle map, you ask? Well, a throttle map is what the computer uses to compute how much to open or close the throttle body based on your foot position. As you press or lift your foot, an input signal is sent to the ECU, is processed, and is then converted to an output signal to move the throttle solenoid in the required direction and by the required amount. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?

Truth of the matter is, yes, this process is definitely more involved. But what is actually amazing, is that all of this processing goes on in such a small amount of time that a fly-by-wire throttle system actually is faster than a cable system! Depending on the sensitivity of the setup, the fly-by-wire throttle system can provide near instantaneous response for your EcoBoost or GT Mustang.

2015 Mustang ECU Location

Utilizing a Tune to Optimize Power

How can we get more out of this system? Easy, we retune it. Ford programmed this throttle system to appeal to the masses. It is quick enough to react for a sports car, but not overly sensitive that the average Joe places their Mustang into the trunk of the car in front with a light blip of the throttle (a la Toyota, if you will…).

Aftermarket tuners will feature settings that allow you to play with the throttle sensitivity. These tuning devises store improved or revised versions of the throttle programming, and once selected, will overwrite the stock throttle map. That is literally all it takes. A few programming changes and your EcoBoost or GT can react as soon as you think about touching the throttle. It is pretty impressive.

Furthermore, these tuners can adjust other settings of the engine that can free up power, calibrate the speedometer for different sized tires or a gear change, change how the transmission operates (shift points, shift firmness for automatics) etc. It truly is a matter of work smarter, not harder.

Mixing New and Old

If you’re looking for the knockout punch, combine the new with the old. Adding an aftermarket throttle body and topping it off with a new tune to fully take advantage of it is guaranteed to rock your socks off.

BAMA Performance Tuner Plugged into a Mustang