Tech: 2015 Mustang EcoBoost Bolt-Ons

0 2015 Mustang EcoBoost Bolt-Ons

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VMP Tuning improves its 2015 Mustang project with bolt-on mods

By Steve Turner

You know how it is when you finally get that new project car. There’s already a pile of parts waiting in the garage for you to install. Whether you are looking to give it a signature look or step up its performance, it’s hard to resist opening up your toolbox and tearing right into it. Fortunately for us, VMP Tuning’s BJ McCarty was patient enough to wait until we arrived with our camera to document a full complement of bolt-ons as they were installed on his new EcoBoost Mustang.

In addition to a Gibson Performance exhaust, VMP Tuning’s BJ McCarty selected several other mods for his EcoBoost Mustang, including a JLT Performance cold-air intake, a JLT coolant tank, a set of MRT hood struts, and a Levels Performance intercooler.
In addition to a Gibson Performance exhaust, VMP Tuning’s BJ McCarty selected several other mods for his EcoBoost Mustang, including a JLT Performance cold-air intake, a JLT coolant tank, a set of MRT hood struts, and a Levels Performance intercooler.

“I considered both the Focus and Fiesta STs but the money was so close to the base Eco that I opted for another Mustang,” BJ said of his new project. “We already had a 2.0-liter Eco in a ’13 Fusion so I had a good idea of what to expect. The best deal was a base car with performance pack and auto. Light(ish) weight, great looks, and it really is a 180 from the GT500. Perfect fit.”

It will never provide the pure excitement of his VMP Gen2 TVS-boosted, 700-plus-horsepower Shelby GT500, but BJ just could get by with a stock EcoBoost Mustang. As such, he put together a carefully selected group of bolt-on enhancements to improve the cars underhood looks and rear-wheel performance. The list of gear included a set of MRT hood struts, a JLT Performance coolant tank, a JLT cold-air intake, a Gibson Performance cat-back exhaust, and a Levels Performance intercooler.

VMP Tuning’s Joe Goodnough and BJ start by removing all the pesky clips and fasteners that retain the front fascia. Then they popped off the nose and stored it safely out of the way.
VMP Tuning’s Joe Goodnough and BJ start by removing all the pesky clips and fasteners that retain the front fascia. Then they popped off the nose and stored it safely out of the way.

“It was clear that just the minimum was done to combat heat. In our performance simulations we’d see downstream temps in the 170-180 range after a warm up and one WOT pull on the dyno. The complaints of the car ‘hitting a wall’ up top seem to have stemmed greatly from those and flange-temp protection,” BJ explained. “Solve the problem by keeping it from happening. Nik Levels of Levels Performance had already entered the ST aftermarket and he paid us a visit with a unit he designed for the S550 Eco. We mounted it up and saw a dramatic 60-plus-degree drop on the dyno! Heat soak from the high downstreams were virtually eliminated.”

BJ unplugged the wiring from the Active Grille Shutters and removed the fasteners holding it to the front bumper. As is the case with most intercooler upgrades on EcoBoost Fords, the AGS must be removed to make way for the larger intercooler. These shutters are designed to close off the front fascia at the opportune time to improve fuel mileage.
BJ unplugged the wiring from the Active Grille Shutters and removed the fasteners holding it to the front bumper. As is the case with most intercooler upgrades on EcoBoost Fords, the AGS must be removed to make way for the larger intercooler. These shutters are designed to close off the front fascia at the opportune time to improve fuel mileage.

Naturally, the hardware is only one part of the equation, but calibrating the PCM to work with the new hardware is crucial. That said, the factory calibration is dialed in well, so it takes adding some freer-flowing hardware into the mix to allow the car to make more power. It just takes some tuning to make it work.

“When you look up ‘pig rich’ in the dictionary, there’s a picture of my factory air/fuel gauge. It literally read high 9:1s at WOT, which was the result of flange and cat protection at work,” BJ said. “Justin went to work on dialing in the air/fuel and added a little fire.”

“I opened up a lot of the limits, including the boost limits… I re-mapped all the timing curves and re-mapped the boost curves,” VMP main man Justin Starkey explained. “This car has a torque-request-type system and it also has a lot of torque limits built in, so opening those up is crucial to making power… You command more VE, you get more VE, which is more boost.”

Watch the car run on the dyno right here…

With the new mods in place and a generous dose of Justin’s tuning acumen with the SCT software and hardware, BJ’s car responded nicely, putting down over 300 horsepower and 350 lb-ft to the rear wheels However, it’s what the car feels like on the street that has BJ really loving his new daily driver.

Joe and BJ unbolted the stock intercooler and freed it from its mounting hooks. The stock unit is compact and features plastic end tanks. After just two pulls on the dyno, the stock intercooler had heat-soaked and the inlet temps swelled past 180 degrees.
Joe and BJ unbolted the stock intercooler and freed it from its mounting hooks. The stock unit is compact and features plastic end tanks. After just two pulls on the dyno, the stock intercooler had heat-soaked and the inlet temps swelled past 180 degrees.

“At the end of the day, I have a car that picked up about 70 rwhp and 80 lb-ft of torque, all through an auto! Oh, and it gets 31 mpg on the highway…,” BJ enthused. “I love the look of the JLT goodies, and the cleaner look with the MRT struts. It’s a shame that the full Gibson exhaust and the Levels Performance intercooler are 99-percent hidden because they, too make a huge difference in the performance and enjoyment of my 2015 EcoBoost Mustang.”

If that kind of performance sounds good to you, keep reading and see how the VMP crew transformed the performance of his EcoBoost ’Stang.

The Levels Performance intercooler is physically larger than the stock unit, and it features aluminum end tanks, so it clocks in at about 12 pounds heavier than the 8-pound stocker. However, when you factory in the 5-pound Active Grille Shutters and 1-pound lower chassis brace that it supplants, the net weight gain is inconsequential.
The Levels Performance intercooler is physically larger than the stock unit, and it features aluminum end tanks, so it clocks in at about 12 pounds heavier than the 8-pound stocker. However, when you factory in the 5-pound Active Grille Shutters and 1-pound lower chassis brace that it supplants, the net weight gain is inconsequential.
You will need to swap the factory pressure sensor from the stock unit into the Levels Performance intercooler. It mounts near the stock location and is secured using a new Allen-head fastener, which is supplied with the new ’cooler.
You will need to swap the factory pressure sensor from the stock unit into the Levels Performance intercooler. It mounts near the stock location and is secured using a new Allen-head fastener, which is supplied with the new ’cooler.
Joe and BJ hoist the Levels intercooler into its new home. This hand-tig-welded unit features a 20x11x3.5-inch core, CNC-cut aluminum end tanks.
Joe and BJ hoist the Levels intercooler into its new home. This hand-tig-welded unit features a 20x11x3.5-inch core, CNC-cut aluminum end tanks.
Joe bolts in the Levels cooler using the attachment points once used by the lower core support brace.
Joe bolts in the Levels cooler using the attachment points once used by the lower core support brace.
Clearly the Levels unit is much larger than the stock unit, and during VMP’s dyno testing, it proved far more effective. During six back-to-back pulls the discharge temps were only 100-116 degrees, where the stock unit heat-soaked at over 180 degrees after only two pulls.
Clearly the Levels unit is much larger than the stock unit, and during VMP’s dyno testing, it proved far more effective. During six back-to-back pulls the discharge temps were only 100-116 degrees, where the stock unit heat-soaked at over 180 degrees after only two pulls.
BJ loosens the clamps holding the cat-back to the exhaust.
BJ loosens the clamps holding the cat-back to the exhaust.
With the clamps loose, Joe and BJ got a workout removing the entire stock exhaust in one piece.
With the clamps loose, Joe and BJ got a workout removing the entire stock exhaust in one piece.
The full factory cat-back exhaust clocked in at just over 50 pounds, while the Gibson Performance system clocked in at about 35 pounds, so BJ’s Mustang ended up shaving off a little weight despite all the new upgrades.
The full factory cat-back exhaust clocked in at just over 50 pounds, while the Gibson Performance system clocked in at about 35 pounds, so BJ’s Mustang ended up shaving off a little weight despite all the new upgrades.
After removing the stock cat-back, Joe installs the prototype Gibson Performance exhaust by sliding the mid-pipe on and loosely attaching it with the stock clamps. You will notice that the Gibson system employs and single muffler that features one inlet and two outlets that feed an X-shape crossover. Moving the muffler closer to the engine helps deepen the tone, and this is one of the best-sounding EcoBoost systems we have heard.
After removing the stock cat-back, Joe installs the prototype Gibson Performance exhaust by sliding the mid-pipe on and loosely attaching it with the stock clamps. You will notice that the Gibson system employs and single muffler that features one inlet and two outlets that feed an X-shape crossover. Moving the muffler closer to the engine helps deepen the tone, and this is one of the best-sounding EcoBoost systems we have heard.
Next Joe and BK slipped on the factory hangers that they removed with the stock exhaust, then the loosely clamped on the pipes and hung the pipes.
Next Joe and BK slipped on the factory hangers that they removed with the stock exhaust, then the loosely clamped on the pipes and hung the pipes.
The Gibson system employs clamp-on tips, which is great for getting your tip-to-valance ratio lined up properly. Once the system was adjusted to BJ’s liking, the duo tightened the clamps to complete the install. “It’s deep and mellow, with no raspiness and no drone in the cabin, yet it’s always audible from cruise to WOT,” BJ enthused. “Oh, and the tips! Good Lord, what a difference. They take up all the space in that valance and really look great.”
The Gibson system employs clamp-on tips, which is great for getting your tip-to-valance ratio lined up properly. Once the system was adjusted to BJ’s liking, the duo tightened the clamps to complete the install. “It’s deep and mellow, with no raspiness and no drone in the cabin, yet it’s always audible from cruise to WOT,” BJ enthused. “Oh, and the tips! Good Lord, what a difference. They take up all the space in that valance and really look great.”
Moving back to the front of the car, Joe tidied up the bare AGS connector by sealing it off with electrical tape to keep water out.
Moving back to the front of the car, Joe tidied up the bare AGS connector by sealing it off with electrical tape to keep water out.
With the intercooler in place, Joe then tightened the clamps joining the intercooler to the charge pipes and started the installation of the JLT inlet by installing the silicone coupler on the turbo inlet.
With the intercooler in place, Joe then tightened the clamps joining the intercooler to the charge pipes and started the installation of the JLT inlet by installing the silicone coupler on the turbo inlet.
Joe then bolted in the JLT airbox, which uses the same mounting tabs as the factory unit. With the box in place, he pushed the JLT duct through the opening in the box until it mated with the factory fresh-air scoop behind the grille.
Joe then bolted in the JLT airbox, which uses the same mounting tabs as the factory unit. With the box in place, he pushed the JLT duct through the opening in the box until it mated with the factory fresh-air scoop behind the grille.
We can all agree that the factory coolant tank is not the most attractive facet of the latest Mustang’s engine compartment. BJ instantly improved the underhood looks of his EcoBoost Mustang with one of JLT’s replacement tanks. To install it with minimal mess, Joe clamped off the hoses and drained the tank into a clean reservoir. After bolting the new tank on, he re-attached the hoses and re-filled the tank.
We can all agree that the factory coolant tank is not the most attractive facet of the latest Mustang’s engine compartment. BJ instantly improved the underhood looks of his EcoBoost Mustang with one of JLT’s replacement tanks. To install it with minimal mess, Joe clamped off the hoses and drained the tank into a clean reservoir. After bolting the new tank on, he re-attached the hoses and re-filled the tank.
Joe snaked the JLT inlet tube into place. This tube is built to flow, as its 5-inch filter radius transitions to a 4-inch tube, which necks down to 2.25 inches to mate with the turbo inlet. “Seemed logical to me that a big, open-air element was going to deliver a lot more volume with far less restriction than the beastly factory unit,” BJ said. “JLT’s offering was great; simple to install,  it’s plastic, so there’s no metal to heat up; and the fit was perfect.”
Joe snaked the JLT inlet tube into place. This tube is built to flow, as its 5-inch filter radius transitions to a 4-inch tube, which necks down to 2.25 inches to mate with the turbo inlet. “Seemed logical to me that a big, open-air element was going to deliver a lot more volume with far less restriction than the beastly factory unit,” BJ said. “JLT’s offering was great; simple to install, it’s plastic, so there’s no metal to heat up; and the fit was perfect.”
Yes, the factory turbo is small, but if you do ever upgrade to a larger turbo, you can cut the tube here and use a larger silicone coupler so you can still retain the JLT inlet.
Yes, the factory turbo is small, but if you do ever upgrade to a larger turbo, you can cut the tube here and use a larger silicone coupler so you can still retain the JLT inlet.
With all the gear installed, BJ’s car was on the dyno and ready to run. The engine compartment definitely looks better with a generous dose of JLT hardware in place of the factory bits. ““Prop rods should be at least a misdemeanor in every state,” BJ joked. “The MRTs are quick and easy to install.”
With all the gear installed, BJ’s car was on the dyno and ready to run. The engine compartment definitely looks better with a generous dose of JLT hardware in place of the factory bits. ““Prop rods should be at least a misdemeanor in every state,” BJ joked. “The MRTs are quick and easy to install.”
VMP Tuning main man Justin Starkey worked his magic using SCT tuning software and uploaded his new tune with one of SCT’s X4 handheld tuners.
VMP Tuning main man Justin Starkey worked his magic using SCT tuning software and uploaded his new tune with one of SCT’s X4 handheld tuners.
With the addition of the JLT intake, the prototype Gibson exhaust, the Levels Performance intercooler, and Justin’s custom tune, BJ’s car responded by putting down over 300 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. Better yet, the new intercooler did not heat-soak on the dyno like the stocker did. In fact, just the intercooler was good for a 20-horsepower gain before the tuning just because it reduced the inlet temps.
With the addition of the JLT intake, the prototype Gibson exhaust, the Levels Performance intercooler, and Justin’s custom tune, BJ’s car responded by putting down over 300 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. Better yet, the new intercooler did not heat-soak on the dyno like the stocker did. In fact, just the intercooler was good for a 20-horsepower gain before the tuning just because it reduced the inlet temps.
In stock form BJ’s 2015 EcoBoost Mustang baselined at 226.19 horsepower and 255.06 lb-ft of torque. With the addition of a JLT cold air intake, a prototype Gibson cat-back exhaust, a Levels Performance intercooler, and a custom calibration from VMP Tuning’s Justin Starkey, the car really responded with peak-to-peak gains of 76.34 horsepower and 80.73 lb-ft of torque.
In stock form BJ’s 2015 EcoBoost Mustang baselined at 226.19 horsepower and 255.06 lb-ft of torque. With the addition of a JLT cold air intake, a prototype Gibson cat-back exhaust, a Levels Performance intercooler, and a custom calibration from VMP Tuning’s Justin Starkey, the car really responded with peak-to-peak gains of 76.34 horsepower and 80.73 lb-ft of torque.
Taking a deeper look at a sampling of the numbers reveals the story beyond the peak numbers. The combination of carefully chose bolt-ons combined with Justin’s tuning acumen delivered fat gains across the entire powerband with only a modest increase in boost. This car must be a lot more fun to drive now.
Taking a deeper look at a sampling of the numbers reveals the story beyond the peak numbers. The combination of carefully chose bolt-ons combined with Justin’s tuning acumen delivered fat gains across the entire powerband with only a modest increase in boost. This car must be a lot more fun to drive now.

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