Is 310 horsepower really enough? Let me answer that for you; no, it is not. In the world of muscle cars, more is always better. Where do we start? Under the hood, of course!
Cold Air Intakes – Feeding Air into the Engine
Cold air intakes have been on the market for ages, which, in our opinion, is proof of their effectiveness. The lineage continues with the EcoBoost Mustang, and is actually better than before. Take a C&L Racer cold air intake, for instance. Replacing the restrictive stock air box and filter with this higher, freer flowing unit will net us a few ponies, as is normal. It is a simple concept. Reduce the effort required for the motor to breathe, and it will reward you with horsepower. Now, combo this with an X4 tuner programmed by Bama Tuning and we have an entirely different ball game. Once programmed, the ECU will now recognize the superior intake and will adapt its own parameters to account for it. In fact, on these digital age cars, some cold air intakes cannot be used properly without an accompanying tune! Expect a very noticeable increase in engine performance and responsiveness as well as a more linear torque curve that will hit sooner.
Intercoolers – Your Inner Chill
Next up is a little piece that we consider a double-edged sword – the intercooler. The stock air-to-air unit does an okay job when your EcoBoost is stock and doesn’t see a lot of hard driving. Substituting for a larger, more efficient intercooler will drop the intake charge temperature, which is definitively beneficial (increased oxygen density means more power). A Mishimoto performance intercooler ups the core size by 58%, internal volume by 25% and a 165% increase in overall exterior fin surface area, resulting in a 35F (18C) reduction in air intake temperature. This is a huge drop in temperature and signifies we can safely up the boost with less risk of detonation. It isn’t often we can have our pie and eat it too (take that, Dad!). The black version looks pretty sinister to boot and perfect for either close to stock rides or modded monsters, giving improved performance during normal cruising as well as during your hot laps at the local autocross.
Charge Piping – A Building Block for Power
Continuing with the turbo related components, both the hot and cold side of the turbo could use some massaging. cp-e has done the R&D and come up with a really cool kit. Their satin black 2.5” HOTcharge hot side pipe is mandrel bent for minimal flow restriction and eliminates the flange for the factory by-pass valve (BPV).
To allow the elimination of the BPV, cp-e developed the Exhale 2.75” cold side kit, which incorporates an HKS SSQV blow-off valve (BOV) and an additional 1/8” bung to be used for a boost gauge or meth injection. The BOV is mechanically actuated (vacuum, instead of electronic) and utilizes a pull-type relief valve to maintain stable operation whether under high or low boost levels.
Finally, due to the triple-fin housing design, the HKS SSQV makes a very distinct, pleasing “whoosh” when excess pressure is vented. This is a necessary part in any build as it goes from being a mild bolt-on car to a more serious, yet street legal, ‘Stang.
Down Pipes – The Key to Turbo Performance
Moving further aft and into the exhaust stream, the next piece to look at is the downpipe. Factory-fitted with an integrated catalytic converter, the stock downpipe is restrictive due to emissions and cost of production. Luckily, aftermarket manufacturers needn’t concern themselves with either limitation, and thus we have pieces like the BBK 3” off-road downpipe on the market.
Starting at 3” and tapering down to 2.25” (a step down like this accelerates exhaust flow helping the turbo to spool) the BBK pipe foregoes the bottleneck catalytic converter all together. The lack of a cat is good for a noticeable power gain, however the ECU will need to be re-tuned to accommodate for the missing emissions piece (see Bama X4 tuner). You can expect to hear slightly more rumble, as well.
Exhausts – Performance You can Hear
So far, the above has mostly concentrated on horsepower. Going fast is good. Sounding fast is good. Going fast and sounding fast, together, is great. Rolling out of the factory, the 2.3L up front is a little too muted to sound like a true muscle car (granted the 4-banger doesn’t quite have the same presence as a V8, but it still as the power to put on its place).
How can we make the mini 2.3L sound mighty? The Magnaflow Competition exhaust system. 2.5” diameter mandrel-bent aluminized steel routes the exhaust from the downpipe, past two single-chamber (straight through) mufflers and out two massive 4.5” stainless steel tips. Smoothing the contours of the piping allows for less resistance to flow, but the biggest difference will be audible.
Replacing the baffled multi-chambered original mufflers, the Magnaflow straight-through units do little to impede flow or sound. There might be only 2.3L churning up front, but it is going to sound like there is a lot more coming out the back!