Tech: 2015 Mustang EcoBoost Intercooler

0 2015 Mustang EcoBoost Intercooler Featured

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 centerpiece of Lethal Performance’s top-tier package for the EcoBoost Mustang is this tig-welded aluminum intercooler built by RareFab and sold under the Lethal Performance banner. It is said to support over 550 horsepower with minimal pressure drop across its high-flow core. And, while it is larger than the stock unit, its sizing and endtank design is said to reduce turbo lag.
The centerpiece of Lethal Performance’s top-tier package for the EcoBoost Mustang is this tig-welded aluminum intercooler built by RareFab and sold under the Lethal Performance banner. It is said to support over 550 horsepower with minimal pressure drop across its high-flow core. And, while it is larger than the stock unit, its sizing and endtank design is said to reduce turbo lag.

“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

Part of the Lethal Performance/RareFab intercooler is this high-flow hardpipe kit. It is built from mandrel-bent, polished 6061 aluminum piping, silicone couplers, and T-bolt hose clams. Compatible with the stock or Lethal intercooler, this piping kit incorporates a Turbosmart blow-off valve
Part of the Lethal Performance/RareFab intercooler is this high-flow hardpipe kit. It is built from mandrel-bent, polished 6061 aluminum piping, silicone couplers, and T-bolt hose clams. Compatible with the stock or Lethal intercooler, this piping kit incorporates a Turbosmart blow-off valve

“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.”

We have followed the progression of the Lethal Performance EcoBoost Mustang with the company’s Power Pack bolt-ons, which included a JLT Performance CAI, a Lethal Performance high-flow downpipe, and a Lund Racing custom tune.
We have followed the progression of the Lethal Performance EcoBoost Mustang with the company’s Power Pack bolt-ons, which included a JLT Performance CAI, a Lethal Performance high-flow downpipe, and a Lund Racing custom tune.

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.

After removing the army of fasteners that retain it, Will Barnette of RareFab in Boynton Beach, Florida, removes the front fascia from the Lethal Performance EcoBoost Mustang. Be sure you don’t forget those pesky bolts that retains the upper corners of the fascia that hidden behind the wheel liner. If you try to yank the corners of the fascia while these are in place, you will break the retain clips.
After removing the army of fasteners that retain it, Will Barnette of RareFab in Boynton Beach, Florida, removes the front fascia from the Lethal Performance EcoBoost Mustang. Be sure you don’t forget those pesky bolts that retains the upper corners of the fascia that hidden behind the wheel liner. If you try to yank the corners of the fascia while these are in place, you will break the retain clips.

“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.

With the fascia and the Active Grille shutters out of the way, there is plenty of room behind the bumper for a larger intercooler.
With the fascia and the Active Grille shutters out of the way, there is plenty of room behind the bumper for a larger intercooler.

“‘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.”

Next, Will removed the factory charge pipes, starting with the discharge pipe from the turbo and moving to the pipe the feeds the intercooler discharge to the throttle body.
Next, Will removed the factory charge pipes, starting with the discharge pipe from the turbo and moving to the pipe the feeds the intercooler discharge to the throttle body.

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.”

The Lethal intercooler includes high-quality silicone couplers and robust T-bolt clamps, because you don’t want your charge pipes blowing off. Here Will starts by installing the coupler on the turbo outlet. And, yeah these EcoBoost turbos are small.
The Lethal intercooler includes high-quality silicone couplers and robust T-bolt clamps, because you don’t want your charge pipes blowing off. Here Will starts by installing the coupler on the turbo outlet. And, yeah these EcoBoost turbos are small.

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.

Because the Lethal intercooler setup includes a Turbosmart blow-of valve, it is necessary to tap into a vacuum/boost source to actuate the BOV. The fittings and hoses necessary to complete this transition.
Because the Lethal intercooler setup includes a TurboSmart blow-of valve, it is necessary to tap into a vacuum/boost source to actuate the BOV. The fittings and hoses necessary to complete this transition.
The aforementioned TurboSmart blow-off valve is one of the company’s Vee Port Pro (PN TS-0205-1131) units, which vent unwanted boost to atmosphere when the throttle closes. We have to say it also sounds pretty awesome when the Lethal EcoBoost Mustang is ripping around the streets of South Florida.
The aforementioned TurboSmart blow-off valve is one of the company’s Vee Port Pro (PN TS-0205-1131) units, which vents unwanted boost to atmosphere when the throttle closes. We have to say it also sounds pretty awesome when the Lethal EcoBoost Mustang is ripping around the streets of South Florida.
Free from the factory charge pipes, the petite factory intercooler could be released from its fasteners and retaining clips by will. As you can see, the stocky cooler mounts right under the stock radiator.
Free from the factory charge pipes, the petite factory intercooler could be released from its fasteners and retaining clips by Will. As you can see, the stocky cooler mounts right under the stock radiator.
Similar in shape to the factory intercooler, the Lethal Performance unit is larger in every dimension. It’s slightly wider, much thicker, and features longer inlet and outlet tubing to compensate for its more forward mounting location.
Similar in shape to the factory intercooler, the Lethal Performance unit is larger in every dimension. It’s slightly wider, much thicker, and features longer inlet and outlet tubing to compensate for its more forward mounting location.
Naturally, you will have to swap the factory pressure sensor from the stock intercooler to the Lethal unit. It installs using a new fastener supplied in the Lethal kit.
Naturally, you will have to swap the factory pressure sensor from the stock intercooler to the Lethal unit. It installs using a new fastener supplied in the Lethal kit.
The Lethal intercooler installs using the factory mounting locations for he stock lower support bar. Here Will is bolting it up, and you can see it fits nicely in front of the radiator.
The Lethal intercooler installs using the factory mounting locations for he stock lower support bar. Here Will is bolting it up, and you can see it fits nicely in front of the radiator.
The longer inlet and outlet tubes on the Lethal intercooler curve gently at 135 degrees under the stock radiator to joint with the Lethal hard-pipe kit.
The longer inlet and outlet tubes on the Lethal intercooler curve gently at 135 degrees under the stock radiator to joint with the Lethal hard-pipe kit.
Though it is larger than the factory intercooler the Lethal intercooler’s core is fully exposed in the air stream as it sits below the bumper.
Though it is larger than the factory intercooler the Lethal intercooler’s core is fully exposed in the air stream as it sits below the bumper.
With cooler inlet temps and a tune that could make the most of the denser charge, the Lethal EcoBoost Mustang picked up peak-to-peak gains of 84.1 horsepower and 116.18 lb-ft of torque over the stock combo and 24.34 horsepower and 33.78 lb-ft of torque over what the car picked up with the CAI, downpipe, and previous tune.
With cooler inlet temps and a tune that could make the most of the denser charge, the Lethal EcoBoost Mustang picked up peak-to-peak gains of 84.1 horsepower and 116.18 lb-ft of torque over the stock combo with this package, and 24.34 horsepower and 33.78 lb-ft of torque over what the car picked up with the CAI, downpipe, and previous tune.
Clearly the stock intercooler created a bit of back pressure when the boost was ramped up in the tuning. With the freer flowing Lethal intercooler in place, the discharge temps were not only lower, but it the combo produced consistent boost throughout the pull. We like to look at the data in chart form to point out any under-the-curve gains that might not be noticed on the graph. However, in the case of this upgrade the gains are everywhere. It definitely pulls harder down low, but it picks up big on the top end to.
Clearly the stock intercooler created a bit of back pressure. With the freer flowing Lethal intercooler in place, the discharge temps were not only lower, but it the combo produced consistent boost throughout the pull. We like to look at the data in chart form to point out any under-the-curve gains that might not be noticed on the graph. However, in the case of this upgrade the gains are everywhere. It definitely pulls harder down low, but it picks up big on the top end too.

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