To the Core
Lethal Performance powers-up its EcoBoost Mustang with an intercooler
By Steve Turner
When we last left off with Lethal Performance’s EcoBoost 2015 Mustang, the car had received the company’s Power Pack, which included a JLT Performance cold-air intake, a Lethal Performance downpipe, and a custom Lund Racing calibration, which added some impressive rear-wheel performance gains. However, we knew that was just the beginning.
“The EcoBoost market is strong and definitely growing. Every day we see more and more parts orders for these cars coming in; The most popular of them being JLT intakes, tuners, exhaust kits and intercoolers,” Jared Rosen of Lethal Performance said. “The way these cars react to simple mods like that is pretty amazing which makes the EcoStang very attractive to many people.”
This time we are back to document the installation and testing of the company’s new intercooler kit for the EcoBoost Mustang. It’s a beautiful unit that offers numerous advantages over the small factory unit, which has a three-piece design that wears glued-on plastic endtanks and a small core. Conversely the Lethal Intercooler built by RareFab features a larger, more efficient core that only gives up 1 psi of pressure drop at 500 horsepower and is fed by high-flow endtanks
“I’ve known Will at RareFab for quite some time now and I’m very familiar with the type of work he does,” Jared explained. “He’s an amazing fabricator and knows just what we want. So it was an easy decision to partner up with him on the Lethal Performance EcoBoost products.”
Will Barnette is a car enthusiast that put his fabrication acumen to good use modifying his own 2003 Mustang Cobra, and that hobby eventually blossomed into a new business.
“After a while I pretty much used my car for product R&D and developed some cutting-edge, dry-ice air intercooler setups on my car. Eventually three years ago I took my skills as a high-end metal working fabricator and opened my own shop dedicated to the highest quality fabrication and customer service,” Will added. “Working with a few large local companies on various projects we have proven our knowledge and skill. Specializing in custom fabrication, prototyping, R&D, production, and repairs. If you dream it we can build it.”
What Lethal Performance dreamed up was a better intercooler for the EcoBoost 2015 Mustang. Will created such a unit, and we were on hand to see him install one of the first units on the Team Lethal project car.
“The factory intercooler is a small, three-piece, plastic-end-tank design that starts to lose efficiency once you start turning up the power. Essentially the factory core becomes a choke point and that is never good because turbo systems want to breath! We wanted to design a stronger better flowing intercooler that could support 500 horsepower. Why only 500? Realistically that would be the max of 80 percent of car owners just bolting on mods,” Will explained. “The biggest reason is because the smaller core takes far less time for the turbo to fill resulting in quicker spooling and much better power & torque curves than a oversized core. We’re all about best performance. Couple that key design feature with rugged, 100-percent-aluminum, TIG-welded construction with the highest flowing fabricated end-tank design and you have a product that will not just perform amazingly but also last the life of the car.”
Of course, with a modern Mustang, the hardware is only part of the equation. Re-calibrating the factory PCM software to account for the new hardware and maximize its performance is a must. Fortunately, Lethal Performance has a long-standing relationship with the team at Lund Racing.
“Tuning the Ecoboost platform isn’t a new thing for us since we’ve already been calibrating the EcoBoost platform for a few years now with the 2013-and-newer Explorer Sports, F-150s, SHO, and Focus ST to name a few. But, in tuning those combinations we’ve had to set aside certain tuning strategies to calibrate them,” Jon Lund II of Lund Racing explained. “You have to reset your brain from what you know with tuning a port-injection, OE-supercharged GT500, for example, and wrap your head around the calibration as a whole to tune them properly. If you can’t do that then you might as well stop while you’re ahead and not waste your time playing with the EcoBoost fire. It’s a whole different beast with the EcoBoost platform and the 2015 Mustang EcoBoost is an evolution of that beast.”
Adding the more efficient intercooler allowed Jon to push the tuning envelope, but it also meant the learning curve was a bit steeper.
“‘Allow’ isn’t really a good word for it. More like ‘Forced!’ It forced us to understand how the control systems were functioning. You can’t tune these properly unless you understand the complex control systems for fuel control (direct injection), boost control, and torque modulation. The intercooler makes the turbocharger system more efficient, so it will make more power. You have to gain control of the systems to control the power safely and efficiently,” Jon said. “Outside of those added complexities with increasing turbocharger efficiency, the intercooler gets charge temps down enough that the engine can handle more ignition timing just like any blown application. This helps increase power further without risk of detonation.”
In the end, the combination of the more efficient intercooler and the new custom tuning produced some impressive results on the Dynojet at Power by the Hour in Boynton Beach, Florida.
“I’m actually really happy that it broke 300 to the tire with the boost we’re commanding and with the stock turbo,” Jon enthused. “Plus, the fact that it got 320 to the tire on pump gas makes me even happier. I can’t wait to see what it does when we throw some more octane at it and turn it up a little bit.”
“We’re definitely impressed with results we got. To make more power than a Three-Valve V8 does and make an insane amount of torque with just a bolt-on four-cylinder is awesome,” Jared added. “We’re talking about making power like this with under $2,000 in mods.”
We rode in the Lethal EcoBoost Mustang shortly after these mods were installed, and we have to say that the car felt great. Once the boost rolls in, you quickly forget that you are in a four-cylinder Mustang and start enjoying the car for what it is.
“The car feels like a beast. Not only does it drive just as smooth and as good as it did when it was stock once you mash the pedal down you get thrown into the seat and really feel like you’re driving a V-8,” Jared enthused. “Once we did the intake, tune, off-road pipe and hardpipe kit the car sounded completely different. You now can hear the turbo whistle and the intake gasping for air which is music to most car enthusiasts’ ears—especially mine.”
For some this combo would be the ideal setup for a fun, fuel-efficient daily driver. However, the crew at Team Lethal is only happy if they keep pushing the company’s projects so they will know what works best on a wide-range of combinations.