Evan J. Smith
July 13, 2015

Over the last 50 years, Ford has done amazing things with the Mustang. America’s favorite pony car has evolved from a simple 2+2 fun machine to a world-class performance car that’s sold globally. It has styling, power, handling, safety, and technology. At the heart of every Mustang is the engine, and owners take great pride in what’s under the long hood. To provide options, Ford has offered many different engines in the Mustang; some more powerful than others, while others are packing a lethal punch.

Muscle Mustang & Fast Fords magazine understands the pride owners have and we know in most cases it starts under the hood. Our magazine was created in the late 1980s, just as the Fox-body Mustang was gaining momentum, and owners were looking for more power. During this time, the Fox Stangs were dubbed “late-model performance cars,” mainly due to the electronic fuel-injection. Ford first introduced CFI (central fuel injection) but quickly changed to a port fuel-injection system in 1986 (for the Mustang).

The 5.0 H.O. was an instant hit, even though it had a mere 200hp. The long-runner intake gave the engine excellent mid-range torque and great tip-in power. Owners loved the little pony and the aftermarket started jumping in, even though we were still trying to crack into the electronic fuel-injection system. Roughly 30 years later, engineers at Ford Motor Company have figured a way to extract an additional 235 horsepower from the same 5.0 liters of displacement.

Of course there are more than 10 cool late-model Ford engines, but this list illustrates some of the best Ford Production engines ever built. So take a look, and let’s hear your top 10 favorites.

10. 1993-1995 SVT Cobra 5.0 (235-240 hp)

The 5.0L small-block can be credited for keeping the Mustang movement alive, as the venerable 5.0 H.O. was the engine to have if you owned a Fox-body or SN-95 Stang. It was easily modified and to this day has a massive aftermarket and enthusiasts following. The last, and best version of the 302 was found in the 1993-1995 Cobra, where it produced 235 (and then 240) hp with the use of Crane roller rockers, iron GT-40 heads and the Cobra intake. Amazingly, the “three-bar” GT-40 heads and two-piece Cobra intakes are still highly desirable.

9. 2003-2004 Mach 1 4.6L (305 hp)

While the DOHC craze started in 1996 with the SVT Cobra, the Mach 1 version packed a nifty punch. It produced 305 hp, 320 lb-ft of torque and revved nicely to 7,000 rpm. It utilized many of the best DOHC parts, plus the functional Shaker scoop and many called it the SVT Cobra engine without the blower. Of course that’s not entirely true. We liked that the Mach 1 could be mated to an automatic, but with the stick it could muster very low 13-second elapsed time.

8. 2000 SVT Cobra R 5.4L (385 hp)

When it comes to rare late-model Mustangs, it’s hard to beat the 2000 SVT Cobra R. It also happens to have a 385 horsepower 5.4L engine that looks and sounds amazing. Cool factor comes from the huge, Cobra R-specific intake and loud side exhausts. The R engine screamed to 7,000 rpm, could produce mid-to-low 12s with a skilled driver. Naturally, it eats up much more expensive performance cars in the corners. The downside is Ford only built 300 of them.

7. 2015 EcoBoost 2.3L (310 hp)

The 2015 EcoBoost Mustang is not the first to get a turbocharged four banger, but it’s certainly the best non-V8 Mustang ever built. With 310 hp, it can put a smile on your face and knock down respectable fuel economy. The reduced weight makes it a blast for corner carving or straight line blasts and it’s relatively easy to get more power from the engine with a tune and a few mods. It’s got raw performance and gets props for energizing the hobby by giving enthusiasts a new approach to performance.

6. 1999-2004 SVT Lightning 5.4L (360-380 hp)

SVT hit on a winning combination with the supercharged F-150 Lighting. Engineers essentially hot rodded a standard Ford F-150 pick-up with an intercooled supercharger, sporty body cladding, side exhaust, a stylish interior and a performance suspension, including racy wheels and tires. Polarizing performance (at least for a truck) came from the 5.4L engine that produced 380 hp, but an Earth moving, 450 lb-ft of torque. Enthusiasts pushed those numbers way up, with some reaching 800-plus horsepower from the Two-Valve engine. Even 10 years after production, they carry a huge following, and the SVT Lightnings remain one of the vehicles Ford owners lust after.

5. 2011-2015 Coyote 5.0

The return of the 5.0 Mustang came in 2011, and motivation came from a new engine called “Coyote.” Technically, the Coyote is not a “modular” engine, even though it shares architecture with the traditional modular engines. This latest version of the Ford Mustang DOHC powerplant featured all-aluminum construction, amazing airflow capabilities and variable camshafts. The result was 412 horsepower in the 2011 version, which was bumped to 420, and most recently 435 horsepower. The Coyote engine gave the Mustang true 12-second performance, even with automatic models. Other features include a composite intake with front/center-mounted throttle body, TiVCT variable cam timing, and tuned tubular exhaust headers. There is an endless list of aftermarket parts for the Coyote that make it a favorite amongst enthusiasts. The basic package is so strong, that Ford’s supercharged Cobra Jet version produces roughly 1,000 hp using factory block and ported heads.

4. 2012-13 Boss 302 5.0

Once again, Ford turned to classic hot-rodding tricks to extract 444 horsepower from the naturally aspirated 2012 Boss 302 engine. Inspired by the 1969 and 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302, Ford got down to business and gave the Coyote 5.0 ported heads, big cams, improved bearings, and a short-runner intake manifold. The high-revving beast is one of the best sounding engines we’ve ever heard, and it looks really sharp with the tall Boss 302 intake. Amazingly, the Boss engine makes 1.47 horsepower-per-cubic inch (or 88 horsepower per liter).

3. 2015 Shelby GT350 5.2L

Dubbed Voodoo, the 5.2L Shelby GT350 powerplant is the meanest “all-motor” engine Dearborn has ever built. Producing 526 horsepower, it makes 1.65 horsepower per cubic inch (101 hp per liter) and can be revved past 8,000 rpm. While it maintains similar Coyote architecture, it utilizes 12:1 compression, a flat-plane crankshaft, revised large-port cylinder heads, a unique intake manifold and huge throttle-body designed to support extra airflow. The exhaust is also unique, it’s designed to take advantage of the odd firing order created by the flat-plane crank, and it has a sound that is simply amazing.

2. 2003 – 2004 SVT Cobra

Making the list at number two is the 2003 – 2004 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra 4.6L Terminator. Simply stated, it was designed to leave no doubt as to what the SVT Mustang could do, which was over-achieve and mop up the competition. To ensure class-leading performance, SVT installed an intercooled Eaton supercharger, and it fortified the bottom-end with a steel block filled with a steel crank, Manley connecting rods and forged pistons. Essentially a race engine from the factory, the Cobra powerplant was rated at 390 horsepower, but in reality it produced upwards of 425 hp and equal torque. Not only did it perform on track in stock trim, the long-block provided the foundation for enthusiasts to ramp up the power, giving it instant cool factor.

1. 2013-2014 Shelby GT500 5.8L

Let’s face it, horsepower rules the roost, and nothing tops the 5.8L Shelby GT500. The Engineers pulled out all the stops to produce an engine kicking out 662 horsepower and 631 lb-ft of torque. In a world of economy and downsizing, it’s amazing the thing ever got built. The 5.8L SVT engine represents the ultimate in displacement and power from the modular lineup. Built around an aluminum block designed to save weight, the GT500 engine received high-flow heads, intercooled supercharging from the Eaton blower system and the bore was enlarged to add cubic inches. Like the 2003-2004 SVT Cobra, the GT500 provides the platform for immense power upgrades. For instance, the Shelby Super Snake, with an aftermarket blower, air inlet, and Shelby Automotive tune, produced over 770 rwhp on the dynojet at MM&FF headquarters.