KJ Jones
Brand Manager, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
October 6, 2010
Photos By: KJ Jones

As changes to late-model Mustangs go, Ford made a big-time change for V-8-powered Ponies back in 1996, when their tried-and-true, 5.0-liter engines were discontinued. The engines were replaced with single-overhead-camshaft, 4.6-liter bullets that came to be known as modular engines for their shared tooling with other-displacement versions of the same family on the assembly line.

After a shaky first few years of existence-which included die-hard, 5.0-loving 'Stangbangers' reluctance to accept modular technology-the new engines eventually earned our respect with their performance. Advancements in engine blocks, cylinder heads, camshaft profiles, rotating assemblies, and such helped spawn widespread acceptance of Two-, Three-, and Four-Valve modulars. We also learned that improved performance is easily achieved using bolt-on pieces or power adders, just as it was with the 5.0s that powered '86-to-'95 EFI 'Stangs.

Change once again brings us a new, immediately exciting V-8 powerplant for 2011 and future Mustangs. The engine, code-named Coyote, mates 5.0-liter displacement with modern-day, double-overhead-camshaft technology. This improvement, along with many other modular-originated tricks, results in what already is being considered the best production engine that has ever occupied the space between a Pony's front fenders.

This new engine created an exciting air of mystery in the modern Mustang scene. With horsepower listed as 412 at the flywheel, a previously unimaginable 11.0:1 compression ratio, a 7,000-rpm redline, and Copperhead PCM logic that features Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing, the new mill opens an incredible can of worms in regard to how the engine will respond to upgrades. What, exactly, will be the best recipe for big steam?

Several popular Mustang shops are off to the races, pushing the '11 5.0 Mustang GT's performance envelope and each other, to determine just how bad the cars and engines really are. We're hooked up with the boys at Evolution Performance in Aston, Pennsylvania, who, thanks to virally spread Internet-video clips, now are '11 Mustang GT sensations. Shortly after taking delivery of a Kona Blue Metallic coupe, the boys at Evolution started chronicling its steady improvement on their Mustang Dyno chassis dynamometer and the quarter-mile proving ground at Atco Raceway (see "Street Feat," Sept. '10, pgs. 38-46).

By making only minimal hardware changes, such as relieving the car of its interior and any other non-essential components, and through stealth PCM tweaks that came at the mind and fingers of tuning guru Jon Lund the manual-six-speed Kona currently makes 465 at the feet and is oh-so-close to eclipsing the 9-second barrier.

While Evo's flagship 5.0 Pony is awesome by anyone's standards, we're more intrigued with finding out how good a new 'Stang can be when it doesn't take the path toward becoming a drag-specific race car. Evolution shares our interest in learning more about '11 'Stangs that are destined for the street. To conduct this research, the shop owns a second '11 (a Grabber Blue GT with a six-speed automatic transmission), with which Jon has been making serious inroads in manipulating the 5.0's Copperhead PCM to unleash what appears to be tons of additional performance from Ford's latest V-8.

The more things change, the more they are the same indeed. Evolution's entry-level performance theories for the new GT are no different from those of Mustangs from years past: Maximizing the efficiency of air (intake and exhaust), fuel and spark will improve a 'Stang's performance. To see how effective those methods are, your tech editor recently parlayed a trip from SoCal (coverage of the NMRA event in Milan, Michigan) and continued further east to participate in the massive bolt-on dyno-and-track test with Evolution's street 5.0.

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While Evo's flagship 5.0 Pony is awesome by anyone's standards, we're more intrigued with finding out how good a new 'Stang can be when it doesn't take the path toward becoming a drag-specific race car. Evolution shares our interest in learning more about '11 'Stangs that are destined for the street. To conduct this research, the shop owns a second '11 (a Grabber Blue GT with a six-speed automatic transmission), with which Jon has been making serious inroads in manipulating the 5.0's Copperhead PCM to unleash what appears to be tons of additional performance from Ford's latest V-8.

The more things change, the more they are the same indeed. Evolution's entry-level performance theories for the new GT are no different from those of Mustangs from years past: Maximizing the efficiency of air (intake and exhaust), fuel and spark will improve a 'Stang's performance. To see how effective those methods are, your tech editor recently parlayed a trip from SoCal (coverage of the NMRA event in Milan, Michigan) and continued further east to participate in the massive bolt-on dyno-and-track test with Evolution's street 5.0.

We took Grabber and installed the first basic aftermarket products (and tuning) that are available for '11 GTs-a Magnaflow after-axle exhaust system, C&L Products' CAI, and American Racing Headers long-tubes. This stuff is so new, it wasn't even part-numbered as of this writing. Along the way, we discovered a few interesting things about power, weight, and the all-important dragstrip e.t., which are detailed in the following smorgasbord of photos, captions, charts and graphs.

Props to Evolution's owner Nelson Whitlock, shop manager Fred Cook, tuner extraordinaire Jon Lund, and Evo's head wrench, Chuck "Broadway Show" Wrzesniewski, for accommodating our tight time schedule and giving us this landmark first look at some cool 5.0 Mustang tech concepts.

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On The Dyno

BaselineGearsExhaust7,000 RpmTune
RPMHPTQHPTQHPTQHPTQHPTQ
3,500219323209304202294205298210305
4,500292337281322274313276316287328
5,500336318320302320301321302334314
6,500351290333280333280338270352283
7,000n/an/an/an/an/an/a339262353274

CAI7,000 RPMTuneTune 2HeadersGears vs. Headers
RPMHPTQHPTQHPTQHPTQHPTQHPTQ
3,5002062992052982103052123082313362232
4,5002793202783182873282913333123563119
5,5003253063243043383173403203583373835
6,5003422873432753582873612903722983918
7,000n/an/a346268361280363282369286n/an/a

A gear swap was our first upgrade. Automatic-equipped '11 GTs receive a freeway-friendly 3.15 rear end gearset at the factory, which does absolutely nothing for the quick acceleration most enthusiasts want from their rev-happy, street-prowling 5.0 'Stangs. Making a change to 4.10s is recommended, but keep in mind that the lower gear ratio does lower rear-wheel horsepower. We saw a 20-horse drop, which comes in addition to the 20-fewer ponies that the automatic trans brings.

After-cat exhausts typically are among the first bolt-on upgrades that are added to late-model Mustangs of any heritage. Magnaflow has jumped to the front of the pack for Coyote-powered '11 'Stangs, and we didn't waste any time installing its new 3-inch setup on Evo's Grabber Pony. Dyno testing was performed in three modes (6,500-rpm limit, 7,000-rpm limit, and 7,000-rpm limit with a custom tune), with only slight gains showing after rev limits were increased to the new 5.0's maximum and Jon massaging the processor. From a sound perspective, the free-flow design of the kit's Competition mufflers gives the Coyote a nice growl at idle, and a deep, deep bark when the hammer drops to wide open.

Cold-air induction systems top the list of easy first mods for EFI 'Stangs. Thinking back to how well they worked on pushrod 5.0 engines, we approached our exclusive opportunity to try C&L Performance's brand-new CAI with confidence that we would see significant increases in power and torque (over the previous mods). Again, our dyno procedure included tests with the PCM calibration returned to factory stock and a 6,500-rpm rev cap, then increasing the rev limit to 7,000 rpm, creating a custom tune with the no-tune reducer sleeve still installed (Tune), and then removing the tube altogether and dialing-in a final calibration (Tune 2). Jon's custom tune (basically a fuel increase to compensate for a lean air/fuel ratio with the reducer sleeve removed) brought on the normal gains we've seen with such systems, and really ramped our excitement about making big steam when the long-tube headers were installed.

In our opinion, long-tube headers have always been a necessary evil for late-model Mustangs. The bigger, smoother-routed tubes are necessary because as a system, they allow exhaust to exit an engine more efficiently. This helps bring up rear-wheel-torque levels. With almost all of the bolt-on products we're testing being "firsts" for '11 'Stangs (with the exception of the gears), we closed out the project with American Racing Headers' 1 7/8-inch long-tubes. Installing long-tube pipes is the heavy-lifting portion of this exercise, but the result definitely is well worth the work. With tuning (richening fuel), which is mandatory with this upgrade because of huge scavenging effect of the headers, Evo's Grabber '11 put nearly 375 ponies down at the feet, which we consider to be remarkable all-motor horsepower when you consider the fact that approximately 20 horses were gone at the outset of our experiment (due to the automatic trans and 4.10 gears).

Dyno Tuning
Dyno testing Mustangs is one of the most exciting aspects of our work. Since "the dyno doesn't lie," it's an important tool for us. We count on the chassis dyno to officially validate or dispel individual parts, or combinations, that are intended to improve 'Stangs' performance, and no matter what the outcome is, the numbers are presented for your review.

While we've had opportunities to dyno test stock '11 GTs for power/torque, the work we put in on the rollers of Evolution Performance's Mustang Dyno dynamometer gave us a chance to really see what the 5.0-liter powerplant and Copperhead PCM in the new 'Stang are all about.

Our evaluation procedure included recording performance gains and losses when parts were added with the factory-stock PCM calibration in place, and of course, with tuning changes. Naturally, the new 5.0 responds to tuning in a big way, and calibration ace Jon Lund is responsible for bringing the best out of Evo's new Pony.

"Copperhead is an extremely quick processor that is able to sample faster than any other PCM that Ford has used in a Mustang," says Jon. "It has a built-in wideband oxygen sensor on both banks, ability for targeting air/fuel ... and there are so many strategies that we haven't even enabled yet (built-in boost-a-pump-style fueling, ability to increase voltage to 16.5 volts, and inferred MAP strategy."

"Ford needed PCM accuracy more than it ever has, which is why Copperhead is so dynamic. I think we're going to see that quite a bit of impressive street power will be possible with this high-compression engine before power adders even need to be considered."

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On The Dragstrip
Although we count on the chassis dyno for performance data, the dragstrip has long been thought of as the ultimate proving ground for late-model Mustangs.

After bolting-on parts and dyno testing ad nauseum, we also spent a day testing Evolution Performance's street-driven '11 Pony on the quarter-mile at Atco Raceway. As Internet-video fans know, Atco has been the official track for Evolution's '11 tests. Prior to our trip, the Grabber 'Stang was taken to the track and baseline runs were made with the car on stock tires, with factory 3.15 gearing (12.93/113.43), and in the same trim with a custom tune (12.61/114.78).

Since "what did it run" data is the thing most of you crave, here are the numbers with the car in its bolt-ons/custom-tune/drag-radial setup. This data comes directly from the timeslip of what officially is the "first in the 11s" run for a naturally aspirated '11 5.0 Mustang with an automatic tranny:

R/T 0.219
60-foot 1.870
330 5.102
1/8-mile 7.754
MPH 92.450
1,000 10.053
1/4-mile 11.985
MPH 117.300

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