The Coyote is a powerhouse. There simply is no debating this. It’s fact. Since the announcement of the new engine in 2010, the Mustang world has rejoiced and basked in the glory of all the LS-killing horsepower that has flowed through turbo, supercharged, and nitrous versions of this badass. But a lot has changed in the nearly 10 years that it’s been available. We thought it was time to document the evolution and illustrate the changes and updates Ford has made along the way. Without further ado, we bring you the Coyote!
In 2010, the Mustang was released with a new look, but the same powerplant that had lived between the fenders since 2005. While the outgoing Three-Valve 4.6L had served the Mustang world well, its lunch money was about to be snatched away in the middle of the playground.
The return of the 5.0L ushered in the resurrection of one of the most iconic engine platforms in automotive history, but almost none of us were prepared for just how significant this would be. The Coyote featured an all-new design, with some key features that kept it in the Modular family. Let’s start with the basics.
Over its life span, the Coyote engine platform has seen many improvements, upgrades, and special-edition versions. From the outside, these improvements are largely not visible. The Gen 1 and Gen 2 Coyotes are nearly identical to the naked eye.
The Coyote utilized a cast aluminum block and cylinder head design, with a composite intake manifold (no different than the outgoing Three-Valve). Internally, some components remained the same, whiles others changed. A bore and stroke combo of 92.7mm x 92.2mm respectively, yield a total displacement of 302.1ci. The bore spacing (100mm, 3.937-inches) and deck height (227mm, 8.937-inches) from the 4.6L was carried over to the Coyote, which unfortunately, limits bore size, but makes the engine easier to package. The compression ratio was 11.0:1, which left some enthusiast scratching their heads. After all, at the time this was an extremely high compression ratio for any kind of boosted application on pump gas. But in application, this is one of the Coyote’s most significant advantages.
Some of the major differences between the Gen 1 and 2 Coyotes are improved airflow thanks to larger valves, increased camshaft lift, and cylinder head port revisions. Ford also added charge motion control valves to help with idle quality and low-speed torque for Gen 2.
When the Coyote was designed, it featured an entirely new cylinder head. The outgoing Three-Valve featured a single overhead cam design. While it did have variable cam timing, the intake and exhaust lobes of the camshaft moved together, so it was limited in what it could accomplish for dynamic power production and efficiency. But all that soon changed. The Coyote’s entirely new cylinder head is the magic that gives the engine its incredible abilities and unmatched versatility. It was the first all-new dual overhead camshaft cylinder head since the Four-Valve 4.6L. The fact that the valves are actuated by separate intake and exhaust camshafts constitutes the majority of the similarities between the two. The Coyote’s secret weapon is Ti-VCT or Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing. Although not new to Ford in 2011, it was new to the American V8, and it is one of the most significant aspects of the Coyote platform. If you don’t understand how it works, let’s break it down.
Both the intake and exhaust camshafts have a swing of 50-degrees (crankshaft rotation), allowing the cams to advance and retard for dynamic horsepower and torque production depending on how the car is being driven. This also allows for increased fuel economy with lower emissions. The most significant part of this system is that the intake and exhaust camshafts can move independently of each other, making the lobe separation angle (LSA) dynamic. Why is this important? Because you now have the ability change the amount of time the intake and exhaust valves are simultaneously open in the combustion chamber. In the past, this was a fixed aspect of the camshafts. If the cams were installed with a wide LSA, your power curve was shifted to a lower RPM. If the LSA was narrow, the power curve was shifted to a higher RPM. There was always a sacrifice. With Ford’s Ti-VCT, you get the best of both as the LSA changes as the RPM changes on the engine (controlled by the engine strategy). This change in LSA directly relates to cylinder pressure, which is directly related to horsepower and torque production. Add boost to the mix, and this is an engine builder and tuner’s dream!
The bare blocks between the Gen 1 and 2 are subtle. The big changes came for the third generation. Ford went to a semi-closed deck design, which added strength for high-rpm and boosted applications when used in stock form. Four knock sensors were used, and headbolt size was increased to 12mm. There are also slight oil and cooling upgrades made to both systems.
The first generation of Coyote engines was in production from 2011-2014. The engine was available in the Mustang GT and the F150 pickup truck (but there are differences between the car and truck versions). Given our limited space, we will not cover the specifics of the truck version here but will cover it more in the engine swap portion of part 2 of this story.
The first-generation Coyote (2011-2014) was a potent engine, and it attacked the competition with lots of technology in a relatively small (displacement) package. Like we mentioned earlier, the Ti-VCT is a huge part of the technology we are referring to but being able to move the camshafts dynamically is only part of the equation. The Gen 1 Coyotes features a fairly basic port fuel injection design, not dissimilar to earlier Modular engines. The intake manifold was a composite manifold to keep weight down, while minimizing heat absorption. The runner length and plenum volume offered a fantastic blend of low-end torque and high rpm horsepower. The Gen 1 Coyotes were rated at 420 horsepower at 6,500 rpm, with 390 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm.
The tab on the far right of the Coyote head gasket is an unrestricted oil passage in the Gen 2 version. This oil passage’s sole purpose is to supply oil to the VCT system.
The camshafts in the earliest rendition of the Coyote measured 12mm on both the intake and exhaust cams, with 37mm and 31mm intake and exhaust valves respectively. The combination of parts coupled with its advanced technology gave you an engine package that made incredible power without sacrificing drivability. But it was only the beginning.
The engine received some updates and upgrades to coincide with the all-new S550 chassis. The changes for the second-generation Coyote (2015-2017) were widely focused on airflow and high rpm operation. The Gen 2 cylinder heads features larger intake and exhaust valves (37mm IN, 31mm EX for Gen 1, 37.3mm IN, 31.8mm EX in Gen 2) and increased lobe lift on both the intake and exhaust camshafts (12mm IN/EX in Gen 1, 13mm IN/EX in Gen 2). The VCT system was also revised to limit camshaft movement (50-degrees of crankshaft rotation to 25-degrees of crankshaft rotation.) This was done to improve cold-start emission with the Gen 2’s larger camshafts. The pistons received larger valve reliefs to accommodate the increase in valve diameter. The valvetrain also received stiffer valve springs to reduce the potential of valve float at high rpm. A revised cylinder head casting provided a straighter, less-restrictive path from the intake runner to the combustion chamber. This allowed for freer airflow with the larger valves. The head bolts were also changed to 11mm versions, which increased the amount of material in this critical area. The head bolts were also upgraded to 11mm versions for added clamping force. The sinter-forged connecting rods used in the Boss 302 engines became the connecting rods used in the production engines. The added strength of these rods allowed for more durability at higher rpm. The factory forged crankshaft was also rebalanced to offer increased high rpm stability.
The Gen 2 blocks also received an addition oil return passage from the filter adapter. This means oil filter adapters are not interchangeable between Gen 1 and 2 engines.
The intake manifold received a substantial update in 2015 in the addition of charge motion control valves (CMCV). These are similar to the CMCV from the earlier Four-Valve 4.6L engines, but a much more advanced system. The CMCV partially close at low rpm operation, increasing the air charge tumble and swirl. This results in improved air/fuel mixture, which provides better fuel economy, idle stability, and lower emissions.
Power production for the Gen 2 Coyotes saw a bump. Horsepower went from 420 in the Gen 1 to 435 in the Gen 2, both at 6,500 rpm. Torque output also saw an increase going from 390 to 400 lb-ft, both at 4,250 rpm.
Coolant passages were upgrades from Gen 2 to Gen 3. The Gen 3 head gasket (bottom) features additional coolant passages that were not present in Gen 1 and 2.
The 2018 model year brought the most significant changes to the engine platform (Gen 3, 2018+). One of the biggest changes was the addition of direct injection. Unlike many of the DI engine from other manufacturers, the Coyote combines the high-pressure direct injection with the low-pressure port injection from the previous generations. The dual fuel system also helped support the increase in compression (11.0:1 in Gen 1 and 2 to 12.0:1 in Gen 3). The fuel system is designed to help increase performance and fuel efficiency.
For the first time in the Coyote’s run, it saw an increase in bore diameter. The bore was expanded from 92.7mm (Gen 1 and 2) to 93mm for Gen 3. Ford also went away from the inserted steel sleeves and moved to the Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) cylinder walls used on the 5.2L GT350 engines. This also helped reduce the weight of the engine package. The cylinder heads were also revised again for Gen 3. The castings were made stronger than the Gen 2 versions, and more airflow improvements were made. Ford also brought back the 12mm headbolts for added strength. The Gen 3 cylinder heads featured larger intake and exhaust valves (37.3mm IN, 31.8mm EX for Gen 2, 37.7mm IN, 32mm EX in Gen 3) and increased lobe lift on both the intake and exhaust camshafts (13mm IN/EX in Gen 2, 14mm IN/EX in Gen 3). These changes to the cylinder head design brought flow characteristics close to those of the CNC-ported heads used on the 5.2L GT350 engines. Lastly, the VCT system saw a major revision, as the cam phaser on the exhaust camshaft is new for Gen 3. The exhaust phaser is not actuated from the rear, unlike the intake phaser, which is still actuated on the front side.
Power production was again bumped for the Gen 3 Coyotes. Horsepower went from 435 in the Gen 2 to 460 in the Gen 3, at the same 6,500 rpm. Torque output also saw an increase going from 400 to 420 lb-ft, both at 4,250 rpm.
In addition to the mechanical changes of each generation, there have been calibrations changes to go along with each. The ECU strategy for the Coyote has always fairly complex, but there is a lot to control. The addition of direct injection and CMCV add complexity to the strategy, but each generation became more dependent on torque management. This has made aftermarket tuning tricky and complicated, but we’ll get into that more in the next installment of this story.
The first of the special edition Coyote engines was the Roadrunner. This was the engine found in the Boss 302 Mustangs. It was designed to be a high rpm, naturally aspirated powerhouse, and it succeeded with flying colors!
There have also been a few special edition Coyote engines along the way. The first came in the Gen 1 era, and was the OE engine in the Boss 302 Mustangs; known as the Roadrunner. The Boss engine was a fortified version of the Coyote that gave the wanting public a small taste of having a naturally aspirated road race engine. The Boss engine features Sinter-forged connecting rods, CNC-ported cylinder heads, and a Boss-specific short-runner intake manifold. The Roadrunner also utilized larger camshafts and stiffer valve springs, which help give the engine its high-rpm capabilities. At the time, it became the highest horsepower naturally aspirated engine to roll off the Ford assembly line, cranking out 444 horsepower with a staggering 7,500 rpm redline. This engine solidified Ford’s place in the road race (Trans-AM, IMSA Continental Tire Challenge Series) market.
The Gen 2 Coyote also found itself with a naturally aspirated powerhouse, but this time Ford changed the game. The Shelby GT350 and GT350R production cars needed an engine that carried the reverence and significance of the nameplate. This was found in the Voodoo engine. Checking in at 5.2L, this variant of the Coyote was revolutionary and exotic by American V8 standards. First and foremost, Ford engineers put aside the traditional cross-plane crankshaft in favor of a flat-plane crankshaft. While this may not seem significant to some, it was the first time a flat-plane crankshaft was used successfully in a larger displacement late-model V8 configuration. Unlike the cross-plane crankshafts, the flat-plane crankshaft uses a 180-degree configuration where opposing rod journals are opposite of each other, as opposed to 90-degrees from each other. When one piston is at top dead center, its opposing piston is at bottom dead center. This design usually results in a lighter rotating assembly, as less counterweight is needed to balance the crankshaft. This directly leads to the ability reach a higher rpm limit (8,250 rpm redline). A flat-plane crankshaft also requires a different firing order than a cross-plane crankshaft, which by the nature of the design means cylinders fire in an alternating pattern between cylinder banks. This gives you increased exhaust scavenging and creates the unique exhaust note specific to a flat-plane crank engine.
The second of the Coyote’s three generations saw the most radical special edition. The Voodoo engine was a massive departure from the Coyotes produced to this point. It utilized a flat-plane crankshaft, ported cylinder heads, and a slew of Voodoo Specific parts. Displacement also saw a bump, bringing it from 302 to 315ci.
In addition to the less-than-tradition crankshaft, the displacement has been bumped to 5.2L (315ci). This came by way of an increase in bore diameter (94mm bore x 93mm stroke). The Voodoo engine also has its own dedicated cylinder head. While still a Coyote-based casting, the ports have been enlarged for increased airflow, the valve diameters have been increased, and the Voodoo-specific camshafts have larger-lift lobes, all in the name of high rpm power. The engine is topped with a specific Voodoo intake manifold. While it doesn’t appear all that different from the factory Coyote intake manifold, the plenum is larger and the runners are longer than the Gen 1 and 2 intake manifolds, giving you a great blend of low-end torque (which traditionally is not a strong point of a flat-plane crank engine) and high-rpm horsepower. All totaled, the Voodoo Coyote cranks out a stout 526 horsepower at 7,500 rpm, with 429 lb-ft of torque at 4,750.
The crown jewel of the Coyote family is the upcoming Predator engine. This supercharged 5.2L will find its home between the frame rails of the 2020 GT500. It is based on the Voodoo engine but uses a cross-plane crankshaft along with a wide array of boost-friendly components. The engine cranks out an Earth-rotating 760 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque.
The Gen 3 Coyote is not left out in the cold. The 2020 model year will usher in the most extreme rendition in the engine’s existence. The Predator will be the OE engine the 2020 GT500s. This direct injection, supercharged Coyote will give owners 760 ways to destroy the competition. The 5.2L engine is a close relative of the Voodoo engine, but with some very obvious differences, the most critical being the crankshaft. The Predator uses a cross-plane crankshaft instead of the flat-plane version from the Voodoo. The compression ratio is a boost-friendly 9.5:1 (as opposed to the 12:1 ratio in the Voodoo), and boost checks in at 12 psi from the factory. Speaking of boost, the positive manifold pressure comes from a 2.65L Eaton TVS supercharger. The additional airflow comes with a slew of additional upgrades to help power production. The cylinder heads are a CNC-ported version of the Voodoo castings and feature heavier valve springs and larger diameter valves. The engine produces 760 horsepower at 7,300 rpm and 625 lb-ft of torque from 3,000 rpm to redline. The rpm ceiling for this incredible piece of automotive engineering is 7,500 rpm.
There is no questioning the authority of the Coyote. It is an extremely powerful, versatile, and drivable engine. This is a combination few OEM’s can truly claim. One of the Coyote’s greatest strengths is the aftermarket that supports it. Thought the production versions live in the mid-400 horsepower range, aftermarket versions routinely produce well north of 1,000 horsepower.