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The Best Mustang Engines Ever

Samuel Weber
January 11, 2022

2011-2014 mustang coyote v8

With any muscle car or performance car, the heart and soul of the car is the engine. Whether that means the rumbling V8 of a Mustang, the V12 from a Lamborghini, or even the high-revving inline 6 from an older Skyline. The engine of the car makes it have the personality and character that the car takes on in addition to the actual performance of the car. The engine of a car can be the deciding factor in a purchase often, especially with cars like the Mustang which offers a variety of engines to suit different budgets, performance brackets, and market niches.

The Mustang has a rich history filled with many incredible motors powering America’s favorite sports car. From its humble beginnings with an inline-6 that put out 120 horsepower to today’s Shelby GT500 with a staggering 760 horsepower, the Mustang has always been about the motor in the platform to ensure the best driving experience at any power output. There have been motors that stand out in the Mustang’s history though, which all have been impressive even among competition from other engines in different ways.

Top 5 Motors Boss 429 SVO 2.3L 1993 Cobra R 5.0 High Output 2000 Cobra R 5.4L V8 2003-2004 Cobra Modular 5.4L Coyote 5.8L Trinity 5.2 Voodoo 5.2 Predator Cobra Jet 1400

Top 5 Late Model Mustang Motors

mustang boss 429

1969 Mustang Boss 429

The Boss 429 was designed as a higher-performance version of the already impressive Boss 302 in the late 1960s and has become one of the rarest mass-produced muscle cars to ever come from Ford. The 429 was an evolution over the Ford 385 engine and found its way into under 1,400 total cars. The 429 was a massive 7 liter V8 with a maximum horsepower output of 375 horsepower, and the sheer size of the engine required the car to have upgraded shocks and bracing to contain and control it. While 375 horsepower may not seem like much by today’s standards, that was only what Ford told the public it made while it was actually over 400 horsepower. This made it one of the most powerful cars in the world at the time, with the most powerful car being the Camaro ZL1 at over 500 horsepower at the time. Additionally, Ford built an even higher performance version of the 429 called the Super Cobra Jet which gained an additional 15 horsepower for what at the time was $500 which is just around $3,800 today.

mustang svo turbo

1985 Mustang SVO

While the Mustang is known to be a V8 muscle car, one model and engine that deserve major recognition is the SVO. The 2.3 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder motor was rated to the same horsepower as the V8 at the time. The SVO had up to 205 horsepower, competitive with today’s horsepower figures in some cars even. Designed as a lightweight and more handing-oriented car, the SVO used its turbocharged motor to compete with European and Japanese rivals as they came to the market in greater numbers. The SVO Mustang became a cult classic for the motor’s performance, ease of upgrading, and simply for being different from the normal Mustang.

mustang cobra r

1993 Mustang Cobra R

For years, there were no truly powerful Mustangs as a result of the oil crisis in the 1970s but at the beginning of the 1980s, the big 5.0L V8 made its return to the Mustang. However, the one that truly stood out came in 1993 in the form of the race-bred Cobra R. Fitted without options like the radio, air conditioning, power windows or seats, and more, the Cobra R was only available to buy if you had an SCCA or NHRA membership. While not as powerful as the older V8 motors, the 235 horsepower was more than enough to rocket this lightweight track special into the history books as one of the most desirable Mustangs ever.

mustang cobra r

2000 Mustang Cobra R 5.4L

The Cobra R returned for its third time in 2000 with the most ridiculous build yet. Fitted with side-exit exhaust, a massive front splitter, and rear wing, and ultralight wheels, the Cobra R was as close to a purpose-built race car for the road that the Mustang had ever been. Ford chose to downsize from the 5.8L engine from the 1995 Mustang Cobra R to a 5.4L engine which screamed to the tune of 385 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful Mustangs built at the time. The motor was simple and straightforward but was more than effective at pushing the Cobra R to modern performance specs including a 12-second quarter-mile time. The Cobra R has not returned since the 2000 model year to the Mustang market.

mustang cobra r

2003-2004 Cobra

While the Mustang has always had performance in its DNA, the 03-04 Cobra Mustang brought it out in a very different way. These cars came with independent rear suspension, a powerful Tremec, and most importantly a supercharged 4 valve motor. This meant that the car could rev higher and make more power which came to just shy of 400 horsepower. The car was nicknamed “Terminator” for a reason - these cars absolutely walked over their competition to the point of allegedly killing off the Firebird and Camaro; terminating them. These cars and specifically their engines have gotten much more expensive as the performance community has continued to modify them since the block is very durable and capable of holding tons of power.

2007 gt500

07-12 GT500 5.4L Supercharged Modular V8

The 5.4L supercharged V8 found in the 2007 Shelby GT500 was a welcome surprise for the Mustang community since the normal GT was only holding at 300 horsepower as its rivals kept improving further. The GT500 put out 500 horsepower which brought it up into a new class of performance car. This was the first major horsepower jump for the Mustang in decades outside of the 2000 Cobra R over the normal Cobra. The 5.4 proved itself to be tough with its iron construction which was eventually replaced when the engine was upgraded later on.

mustang boss 302

Coyote and Roadrunner 5.0

The Coyote V8 and Roadrunner siblings were incredibly impressive from a technological standpoint. The dual overhead camshaft design and twin independent variable camshaft timing both helped the Coyote motor win awards when it was new for technological advancement. These allowed the car to rev higher, put out more power, and get better fuel economy at the same time. While companies like Chevy and Dodge continued running larger displacement engines in order to get power, this new technology from Ford allowed a 5.0 liter to put out the same power as the 5.7L Hemi and the 6.2L LS3 motors. The Roadrunner, which was designed as a more racing-oriented version of the Coyote, was fitted in the Boss 302 with forged connector rods, short runner intake manifold, ported heads, larger camshafts, and stiffer valve springs. The end result was essentially a road-legal road racing engine for mass production.

2014 gt500

5.8L Trinity GT500

The largest motor to grace the Mustang in recent history, the 5.8 liter Trinity V8 was fitted in the 2013 and 2014 Shelby GT500 and was a powerhouse of an engine even compared to today. With a maximum output of 662 horsepower, the supercharged 5.8 liter V8 was enough to propel the car to 60 miles per hour in about 4 seconds, faster than any of the rivaling vehicles at the time. With an aluminum block, the 5.8 was fairly lightweight compared to similarly-sized engines and punched well above its weight class. Like the Terminator, Cobra R, and 5.4L, the 5.8L motor was only available with a manual 6-speed gearbox.


5.2L Voodoo

The Voodoo motor is a unique one in the Mustang’s history as it is the only flat-plane crank motor to be in the car. The Voodoo was designed in the same vein as the Roadrunner - as a roadgoing racing engine for the masses to be able to enjoy. The GT350 and GT350R which house this motor were designed to be track cars and rev up to 8,250 rpm, further than any Mustang outside of actual racing vehicles. These cars also have a very distinct exhaust note because of the flat-plane crank and displacement, making them sound more similar to exotic cars than the Mustang.

2020 gt500

5.2L Predator

Built off of the bones of the Voodoo, the Predator motor is the next step from the 5.8L supercharged Trinity motor in the GT500. There are two main differences between the Voodoo and Predator motors; one of which is the supercharger found on the Predator, while the other is the lack of the flat-plane crank which makes the Predator sound more like a Mustang than the GT350 does. With 760 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque, the GT500 is the most powerful and fastest Mustang on the road from the factory. The S550 GT500 also receives a Mustang first - a dual-clutch gearbox that provides lightning-fast shifting.

2020 gt500

Cobra Jet 1400

The Cobra Jet 1400 is an odd-one-out for the Mustang and especially for the name “Cobra Jet”. The original Cobra Jet was an incredibly powerful V8 Mustang and afterward became the order-only factory dragster that would pull wheelies and run the quarter-mile in the 8-second range at over 150 miles per hour. The new Cobra Jet 1400 however is a 1,400 horsepower fully electric dragster that will run the same time with the added weight of the four electric motors. While the idea of an electric Mustang is one that many of us can’t stomach, you can’t deny the performance figures with a vehicle like this.

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