History of the Coyote Engine
What’s a Ford Mustang GT without its engine? For today’s S550 ‘Stang, that means the Coyote. Let’s take a look at this potent powerplant. We’ll explore the Coyote’s origins, its use in various Mustang models, and how this engine has grown to take on its LS and Hemi competitors.
1980: The Coyote Engine Began (Technically)
Let’s hop into the time machine and head back to 1980. Facing competitive pressures from Chevrolet and Dodge, Ford realized it needs a new flagship powerplant. At the same time, the company was dealing with stricter emissions standards from the federal government. With this challenge at hand, Ford engineers researched V-8 designs from Europe and Japan in search of improved performance while keeping reliability requirements in mind.
Seven years and $4 billion later, Ford committed to its first modular V-8 engine, a single-overhead-cam setup. Retooling the Romeo, Michigan engine plant began in 1987, and the first Ford product to receive the all-new modular 4.6L engine was the 1991 Lincoln Town Car. Despite the new engine’s design allowing for relatively easy reconfiguration into new powerplant variants, the “Modular” name really refers to the factory’s ability to retool for the production of engine variants readily.
1996: Ford Mustang Receives First Modular Engine
1996 was a pivotal year for the Mustang as Ford said bye-bye to the venerable pushrod small-block 5.0L V-8 and welcomed an all-new top-end powerplant. GTs received a two-valve SOHC 4.6L modular V-8, and the Cobra was powered with a four-valve DOHC version of the same engine. While some enthusiasts embraced the change, skeptics mourned the loss of the iconic “5.0” moniker that traced its roots to the Fox Body generation. Realizing the power and potential of the modular engine approach, many doubters came around. Although, there are still pushrod fans out there. They’re called Chevy owners. OK, we're just kidding!
In 1997, a modular engine variant launched in the F-150 as the Triton V-8. This 5.4L engine embraced a two-valve SOHC configuration. Through its SVT team, a hand-built four-valve DOHC version of the modular 5.4L would see its way into the 2000 SVT Cobra R and, eventually, the 2007 Shelby GT500. Ford even offered a modular V-10 in the E-series van, F-250, and Excursion SUV. It’s easy to see that Ford was committed to its modular engine undertaking, and at the very least, wanted to recoup its massive research investment.
The Coyote engine backstory continues into 2010 and the launch of the refreshed S197 Mustang. Curiously, the Coyote didn’t see daylight until the following model year for 2011. There’s no official information about the engine’s delay. You would think that a new Mustang would be the perfect opportunity to introduce an all-new powerplant. It might have been that the engine just wasn’t ready yet or that Ford marketers didn’t want the redesigned body to be overshadowed by a new engine. We may never know, but later on, we’ll cover Ford’s better timing with Mustang and the Coyote.
Interestingly, the Coyote name comes from the chassis that A.J. Foyt used during his Indy career. Ford applied Coyote as a code name for the engine development project to keep suppliers and competitors in the dark.
2011: Launch of Gen 1 Coyote Engine
With the Coyote engine, the release of the 2011 Mustang GT marks the return of the storied “5.0” tag. Thanks to savvy Ford marketing and popular culture (looking at you, Vanilla Ice), the 5.0 term was just another way of saying Mustang that dates back to the 80s.
This new modular V-8 couldn’t have come at a better time. The resurrected Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger were beginning to nip at the Mustang’s heels. In a 2009 Car and Driver comparo, a 2010 Mustang GT (with the modular 4.6L V-8) barely beats out a 2010 Camaro with a 6.2L LS3 and a 5.7L Hemi-equipped 2009 Challenger.
In developing the four-valve DOHC 5.0 Coyote, Ford was constrained by the earlier 4.6L and 5.4L modular engines’ size. In other words, the Coyote had to fit into the engine bays of vehicles already built around these older V-8s. At the same time. The Mustang GT had to be competitive, if not excelling, in the horsepower wars. Engineers got creative by adding extra block support without thickening the walls and keeping the intake plenum low. A cast aluminum block and cylinder head helped with the weight.
Arguably, the Coyote’s most important feature is the twin independent variable cam timing (Ti-VCT in Ford speak) and its ability to control the opening time of the intake and exhaust valves. This technology provided Ford with a winning trifecta: more power, improved fuel economy, and reduced emissions. Replacing the 5.4L Triton, the F-150 received its own version of the Coyote focused less on horsepower and more on low-end grunt.
2012: Coyote 5.0 Gets Beefed Up: Boss 302
2011 Mustang GTs rolled out of the showroom with 412 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. For 2012, the GT continued as-is. However, Ford released the Mustang Boss 302 slotted above the GT and featuring an upgraded Coyote engine, coined the “Road Runner.” Using an improved intake, lightened valvetrain, and new heads, the naturally-aspirated Boss 302 Coyote variant pushed out 444 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. This Mustang included an enhanced suspension with higher-rate coil springs and a bigger rear stabilizer bar. The Boss carried over for 2013 while the GT received an 8 hp power bump to 420 horsepower. For 2014, Ford dropped the Boss, and the GT remained the only Coyote-powered Mustang.
2015: Better Timing With The Gen 2 Coyote Mustang Engine
Perhaps learning its lesson from the mistimed launch of the S197 Mustang and the Gen 1 Coyote, Ford’s release of the all-new S550 Mustang coincides with the debut of the reworked Gen 2 Coyote engine.
The Gen 2’s major change was the addition of charge motion control valves (CMCV) with the intake manifold. More advanced than previous Ford CMCV systems, the new setup offered a better air-to-fuel mixture allowing for more stable idle control, improved fuel economy, and lower emissions. For 2015-2017, the GT was the only Coyote-based Mustang and enjoyed an output boost to 435 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.
2018: Mustang Gets Gen 3 Ford Coyote
For 2018, Ford introduced the Gen 3 Coyote engine, which reflected several changes. A new high-pressure direct-injection system combined with the existing low-pressure port injection increased compression and performance. Ford engineers also increased the Coyote’s bore diameter while introducing Plasma Transferred Wire Arc cylinder walls instead of steel sleeves. Other changes included reworked and more robust cylinder heads that helped with airflow.
The somewhat lighter weight Gen 3 engine, along with the new architecture, could now produce 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque in GT form. This is the output for all Mustang GTs produced since 2018. Taking a page from its nostalgia playbook, Ford reintroduced the special edition Bullitt for 2019-2020. Thanks to a performance exhaust system, intake manifold, and throttle body from the Shelby GT350, and other improvements, the Coyote-powered Bullitt enjoyed 480 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. The Bullitt could hit a top speed of 163 mph: five more than the GT. And, today, we see that same Bullitt powerplant under the hood of the 2021 Mustang Mach 1.
Ford Coyote Engine Stats
|2011-2012||412 hp / 390 lb-ft|
|2012-2013||Boss 302: 440 hp / 380 lb-ft|
|2013-2014||420 hp / 390 lb-ft|
|2015-2017||435 hp / 400 lb-ft|
|2018-2021||460 hp / 420 lb-ft|
|2019-2020||Bullitt: 480 hp / 420 lb-ft|
|2021-||Mach 1: 480 hp / 420 lb-ft|