Size Matters: Solving The Micro-Sized EcoBoost Intercooler Dilemma

Size Matters: Solving The Micro-Sized EcoBoost Intercooler Dilemma

Ford’s line of EcoBoost engines comes from the factory with forced induction already applied. However, they are ill-equipped in one department. That department is not related to horsepower, spool time, or any other opinionated part of the forced induction system. The department in question is directly related to its measurable cooling abilities, or lack thereof. It seems that while Ford created a well-engineered engine and turbo setup, budget cuts came as a properly sized intercooler was in the midst of being designed.

EcoBoost

The Whipple Intercooler for both the 2.3 and 3.0-liter EcoBoost provide over 200-percent more volume than stock.

In these cases, Ford either decided to use a smaller intercooler that had a higher production run to be integrated, or produced one that was barely acceptable for cooling the stock turbo’s air. The factory turbo cars might not show signs of high intake air temperatures with just one wide open pull from a cold start, but give it to an enthusiast who wants to see back-to-back performance while driving and you’ll quickly notice the need for a larger intercooler. Even worse, try and crank the boost up on these mod-friendly EcoBoost engines and the intercooler is now bus-lengths behind in being able to do its job. This is labeled as “heat soaked.’

So what happens when the factory intercooler gets heat soaked? Well, for one its inability to cool the air means a skyrocketing intake air temperature. In return, the ECU will start to reduce boost and spark advance as a means to protect the engine. If you remember the cold air intake marketing programs from the past few decades, you’ll recognize engines love cool air. While those ads were aimed at naturally aspirated setups, in forced-induction applications the air temperature coming from the turbocharger is much higher than ambient. That requires a lot more cooling capacity than just drawing air from elsewhere on the vehicle. As the boost level increases, so will the charge temperatures. Even more so, if you decide to make a few hot laps, the intercooler’s decreasing ability to dissipate heat will become much more apparent.

Opening up the intake path with a proper filter is all part of the Stage 1 Package.

At this point you might be thinking, “well, I’m just going to keep my EcoBoost stock, is upgrading my intercooler really necessary?” It’s a fair question, as sometimes we can recognize our inability to not go overboard with our builds, thus resulting in having to purchase yet another daily driver. In the case of the EcoBoost intercooling abilities, the factory boost settings combined with regular driving can create enough heat soak to actually trigger the ECU to trim back the performance. This can prove to be extremely frustrating as you try to accelerate in traffic frequently.

While universal intercoolers are abundant on the marketplace, few are actually tested and even fewer provide the proper engine calibration tool and filtration needed to make it work in conjunction with the vehicle. This is where Whipple Superchargers comes in.

Whipple has been known for supplying superchargers for the aftermarket and OEM segment for years, but as of late, it’s been making extremely well-packaged kits that provide EcoBoost owners everything to cool the inlet air, post-turbo. The Stage 1 kits include a much larger Whipple intercooler, engine calibrator, and a high-performance air filter. In recent tests by Steeda, this combination has seen some impressive 0-60 mph times in the Ford Ranger and Ford Explorer ST.

The Steeda testing provided the wow-factor most are looking for in a product review, but we knew the Whipple Stage 1 package had to offer more than just stoplight-to-stoplight fun. We reached out to Whipple to see if they had data logs that would showcase the cooling abilities of its package compared to the OEM intercooler. Product Line Director Nick Purciello got back to us and gave some insight into some recent testing from an Explorer ST.

EcoBoost

The Whipple kit allows you to skip learning to be a fabricator during install, as the package is complete and made specifically for each vehicle application.

“One of the EcoBoost-powered vehicles we took out to test was the Ford Explorer ST. We used the manifold charge temperature (MCT) as the value to compare since that is the temperature of the air right before it enters the combustion chambers,” Purciello explains. 

Purciello provided data showing manifold charge temperature at a variety of speeds to display the effectiveness of the Stage 1 Package.

Stock Intercooler and Tune Wide Open Throttle

  • MCT at 0 mph: 150° F
  • MCT at 60 mph: 156°
  • MCT at ¼-Mile: 170°

“At the temperatures above, the PCM will reduce boost and spark advance to protect the engine. The stock intercooler performance greatly varies depending on conditions, so not only is there a loss of power in extreme conditions, peak engine performance can be inconsistent run-to-run due to heat soak.”

Whipple Stage 1 Package Wide Open Throttle

  • MCT at 0 mph: 100° F
    MCT at 60 mph: 85°

“At these temperatures, there will be no limiting of boost or spark,” Purciello says. “Even at the 1/4-mile, we do not see manifold charge temperatures stray too far from ambient conditions. Performance will be much more consistent as there is no heat soak, and temperatures drop rapidly and stay down once you are moving.”

This was just one example and used a Ford Explorer ST as the test mule. Whipple Superchargers didn’t just hone in on the Explorer ST, but has packages for almost all EcoBoost-powered vehicles including the Bronco, F-150, Expedition, Raptor, and Mustang. If you have already started piecing together an assortment of parts, you can even purchase a Whipple intercooler a la carte. These massive intercoolers range from 43 to 220-percent more volume than the stock intercooler. They are also a direct fit and only require basic tools and knowledge to install, eliminating the need to become a fabricator at the time of the install.

EcoBoost

The Stage 1 package does more than just lower 0-60 mph times and intake air temperatures. On the dyno, a 2017 EcoBoost F-150 gained 86.75 horsepower and 72.67 lb-ft of torque via the extra 3.46 psi of boost the kit allows.

As the majority of stock intercoolers fail to provide adequate cooling, Whipple Superchargers has produced a kit that can help in any scenario. So, regardless if you plan on leaving the engine stock, slightly modifying it, or creating a 600-horsepower beast, the Whipple Superchargers Stage 1 kit has proven to be the most needed modification any EcoBoost engine could ever see.

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About the author

James Elkins

Born into a household of motorsport lovers, James learned that wrenching takes priority over broken skin and damaged nerves. Passions include fixing previous owners’ mistakes, writing, and driving.
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