Tech: EcoBoost Mustang Turbo Upgrade

0 2015+ Mustang EcoBoost Turbo Upgrade

Giant Slayer

With a turbo upgrade, Lethal Performance’s 2.3-liter puts down over 425 hp

By Steve Turner
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of Lethal Performance

If you’ve been following the saga of Lethal Performance’s EcoBoost Mustang project here on the Front Page, you know the company has been taking a steadier—dare we say, more sensible—approach to building up its turbocharged four-banger. We kid, of course, because Lethal always starts with the basic bolt-ons just like its customers would, but its V-8 projects have tended to jump straight from mild directly to wild.

Rolling on Race Star wheels and M&H drag tires and sporting the signature skull and crossbones logo on its flanks, the Lethal EcoBoost is looking pretty badass these days. Thanks to a turbo upgrade, a custom tune, and lots of bolt-ons, this car definitely packs the performance to back up this look.
Rolling on Race Star wheels and M&H drag tires and sporting the signature skull and crossbones logo on its flanks, the Lethal EcoBoost is looking pretty badass these days. Thanks to a turbo upgrade, a custom tune, and lots of bolt-ons, this car definitely packs the performance to back up this look.

In this case, that steady approach has made for an informative series of stories. In the first installment, we covered the traditional bolt-ons, including a JLT cold-air intake, a Lethal high-flow downpipe, and a custom calibration from Lund Racing. The results were quite good, but as we have found heat-soaking is the next hurdle to over come when you are ramping up an EcoBoost-powered Ford. As such, the Lethal team worked with RareFab in developing an intercooler upgrade for the 2015 and newer 2.3 Mustangs. With revised tuning and the intercooler in place, the car definitely picked up some power.

We hope you checked out our previous story on installing the Lethal/Rarefab intercooler upgrade on this car. This unit provides far better charge cooling than the stock unit, and it bolts right in, as Will Barnette of RareFab is showing us in this shot.
We hope you checked out our previous story on installing the Lethal/Rarefab intercooler upgrade on this car. This unit provides far better charge cooling than the stock unit, and it bolts right in, as Will Barnette of RareFab is showing us in this shot.

So that brings us back to Power by the Hour in Boynton Beach, Florida, to document the testing of the latest collaboration from Lethal Performance and RareFab—a turbocharger upgrade kit. But first, we stopped by Rarefab to see the kit installed.

“I’ve known Will at Rarefab for a while now and have seen plenty of his work. He’s a true enthusiast and is very, I mean very good at what he does,” Jared Rosen of Lethal Performance said. “That’s exactly why we chose him to do our turbo kit. Just take a peek at the downpipe he made for the car. That should be enough for anyone to see the level of quality this kit holds.”

The resulting kit allows for an easy, bolt-on installation of a larger Borg-Warner EFR 7163 turbo, and it is fully compatible with the Lethal/Rarefab intercooler that’s already on the car.

You will likely want the intercooler first but you will definitely need it if you upgrade the turbo on your EcoBoost Mustang. As such, the Lethal/Rarefab system is designed for scalability. “Our kit setup comes with everything to make the process easy and bolt on,” Will said. “It comes with a new polished aluminum pipe that is a direct fit from the turbo to our upgraded intercooler, so there’s no need to buy parts twice!”
You will likely want the intercooler first but you will definitely need it if you upgrade the turbo on your EcoBoost Mustang. As such, the Lethal/Rarefab system is designed for scalability. “Our kit setup comes with everything to make the process easy and bolt on,” Will said. “It comes with a new polished aluminum pipe that is a direct fit from the turbo to our upgraded intercooler, so there’s no need to buy parts twice!”

“We always strive to deliver the best in quality and performance so it was very easy to go with the Borg Warner EFR series turbo. They have unsurpassed build quality with an amazing amount of built in features giving them great performance in one bolt-on package,” Will Barnette of RareFab in Boynton Beach, Florida, explained. “The EFR series are available with a built-in 50mm wastegate that saves the cost of designing and fabricating a wastegate into the manifold. This turbo also comes with a built-in recirculation valve, a water-cooled center housing, robust ceramic-ball-bearings, and even a port for compressor wheel speed sensor. So after finding the right product for our setup it was just a matter of figuring out the correct sizing to maximize power and quick spooling.”

Combined with a new custom calibration the results of this bolt-on kit are pretty impressive. It boosted the peak output of the Lethal EcoBoost Mustang by over 100 horsepower and 57 lb-ft of torque. One facet of that new calibration makes the idle behave like the 2.3 is equipped with the choppier aftermarket camshaft. You can listen to it right here…

“We were all very impressed with the results we got with this kit. To up the power by 200-plus rear-wheel horsepower over stock with a bolt-on turbo upgrade is fantastic,” Jared said. “The car drives just like it did before. Super smooth and wicked easy to drive around town. However once you get into that throttle it’s an entirely different car. That turbo sound is much more noticeable and the car just keeps on pulling to redline.”

Before he can begin installing the upgraded snail, Will removes the factory turbo. These small but spunky turbos provide great low-end response, but tend to waver on the top end. From this view you get a look at the unique exhaust configuration that feeds the stock twin-scroll turbo.
Before he can begin installing the upgraded snail, Will removes the factory turbo. These small but spunky turbos provide great low-end response, but tend to waver on the top end. From this view you get a look at the unique exhaust configuration that feeds the stock twin-scroll turbo.

As you might imagine, the arc of this build is about to take a turn from the gradual to the more aggressive. So far the Lethal EcoBoost Mustang has run an 11.85 at 115.20 mph with hot shoe Jeremy Martorella banging gears. To prep it for the drag strip the company also added a lot of drivetrain and suspension upgrades. Stay tuned, as we’ll cover the installation of that gear in the near future. Likewise, the future surely holds much lower e.t.’s for this giant slayer.

“Our next step is going to be a piggyback fuel system as we believe the direct injection is the biggest challenge we have in supporting big power,” Jared added. “The fuel system will consist of the CP-E secondary fuel rail, fuel cell with fuel pump, additional fuel injectors and an injector-controller box. Once we’ve got the extra fuel behind us we’re gonna turn it up and try to get this six-speed into the 10s.”

Will at Rarefab designed a really slick turbo adapter for the stock exhaust manifold. It allows a simple installation of a larger turbo kit. It allows mounting the turbo with a V-band clamp. This not only allows you to adjust the turbo for clearance, but it offers and easy upgrade path for the future.
Will at Rarefab designed a really slick turbo adapter for the stock exhaust manifold. It allows a simple installation of a larger turbo kit. It allows mounting the turbo with a V-band clamp. This not only allows you to adjust the turbo for clearance, but it offers an easy upgrade path for the future.
Will maneuvers the larger Borg-Warner turbo into place and tightens the V-band clamp. “…The manufacturers are actually casting the four exhaust ports into the heads that then merge into a two port exit design. That leaves us with making a short and sweet tapered adapter to bolt to the head and then bolt the turbo to,” Will explained. “All of the exhaust gets smoothly channeled into the versatile V-band connection on the EFR 7163 and we have the quickest direct line for the exhaust to flow from the head straight into the turbo for insane factory-like responsiveness with the easiest bolt-on you could ask for!”
Will maneuvers the larger Borg-Warner turbo into place and tightens the V-band clamp. “…The manufacturers are actually casting the four exhaust ports into the heads that then merge into a two port exit design. That leaves us with making a short and sweet tapered adapter to bolt to the head and then bolt the turbo to,” Will explained. “All of the exhaust gets smoothly channeled into the versatile V-band connection on the EFR 7163 and we have the quickest direct line for the exhaust to flow from the head straight into the turbo for insane factory-like responsiveness with the easiest bolt-on you could ask for!”
With the turbo in place, Will snakes the new, high-flow downpipe up to the turbocharger. It too installs with a V-band clamp.
With the turbo in place, Will snakes the new, high-flow downpipe up to the turbocharger. It too installs with a V-band clamp.
The Borg-Warner EFR turbos are such popular upgrades for EcoBoost because they offer a water-cooled housing and an integral wastegate just like the stock unit. With the turbo adjusted and clamped into place, Will makes all the necessary connections.
The Borg-Warner EFR turbos are such popular upgrades for EcoBoost because they offer a water-cooled housing and an integral wastegate just like the stock unit. With the turbo adjusted and clamped into place, Will makes all the necessary connections.
One of those connections is the new inlet tube. Because the turbo inducer is in different location than the stock unit, Will created a new inlet that mates with the turbo an places the conical filter inside the extant JLT heat shield.
One of those connections is the new inlet tube. Because the turbo inducer is in different location than the stock unit, Will created a new inlet that mates with the turbo an places the conical filter inside the extant JLT heat shield.
If it weren’t for the shiny inlet tube, the uninitiated might not realize this car is wearing the Lethal/Rarefab turbo upgrade. Of course, if you are familiar with the small stock turbo, you know this unit is much larger.
If it weren’t for the shiny inlet tube, the uninitiated might not realize this car is wearing the Lethal/Rarefab turbo upgrade. Of course, if you are familiar with the small stock turbo, you know this unit is much larger.
When we last left off we thought the Lethal Performance EcoBoost Mustang was already putting down impressive numbers thanks to the addition of a JLT cold-air intake, a Lethal downpipe, a Lethal/Rarefab intercooler, and a custom Lund Racing tune. However, with the addition of this turbo upgrade and a revised calibration, the car picked up peak-to-peak gains of 100 horsepower and 57 lb-ft. Yes, it put down over 427 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque. Considering that your author’s stock 2008 Shelby GT500 produced 437.92 hp and 434.81 lb-ft of torque, we’d have to say this is an impressive combination.
When we last left off we thought the Lethal Performance EcoBoost Mustang was already putting down impressive numbers thanks to the addition of a JLT cold-air intake, a Lethal downpipe, a Lethal/Rarefab intercooler, and a custom Lund Racing tune. However, with the addition of this turbo upgrade and a revised calibration, the car picked up peak-to-peak gains of 100 horsepower and 57 lb-ft. Yes, it put down over 427 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque. Considering that your author’s stock 2008 Shelby GT500 produced 437.92 hp and 434.81 lb-ft of torque, we’d have to say this is an impressive combination.
As with adding most any larger turbocharger, you tend to give up a bit of bottom-end performance in exchange for more top-end pull. Once the new combo gets into the boost, you can see it is superior, and the power just keeps swelling with rpm. There are no real surprises under the curve, but up top you can see the new turbo keeps going long after the stock unit signs off.
As with adding most any larger turbocharger, you tend to give up a bit of bottom-end performance in exchange for more top-end pull. Once the new combo gets into the boost, you can see it is superior, and the power just keeps swelling with rpm. There are no real surprises under the curve, but up top the new turbo keeps going long after the stock unit signs off.

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