Ford Mustang Coyote Engines

Ford Mustang Coyote Engines

Last Updated September 2, 2021 | Meghan Drummond

Ford's Coyote engine is a modular V8 engine with a 5.0L displacement. Despite its relatively small displacement, it's able to create 412 horsepower by using Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing and Cam torque actuation. But to Mustang enthusiasts, the Coyote engine is much more than that. Though we’re currently on the third generation of these curiously strong powerhouses, they’ve been the beating heart of the Mustang GT since 2011.

From its history, to its name, to the engineering components that allow the Coyote engine to produce so much power with a relatively small displacement, people have a lot of questions about the Coyote engine, and the answers are remarkably satisfying.

History of the Coyote Engine

Ford’s first Coyote engine was built in 2010. With an increased push for engines that had more power and more economy, it was clear that that technology needed to improve dramatically, and that wasn’t going to be possible if Ford chose to stay with a traditional small-block engine.

Ford had been making modular engines since the early ’90s. Modular engines allowed a flexibility not possible with small blocks. Very easily, Ford could change the tooling in mere hours to create variants of engines to serve different purposes.

A yellow Mustang with the hood open.

The modular engine had improved dramatically since the first iteration was used in a Lincoln Town Car back in 1990. Also, Ford had some exciting new technology that they couldn’t wait to add to the modular designs. 2010 was the first year that Ford added Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing to some of its engines.

Though eventually Coyote engines would be added to F-150s as well, initially they were developed with the Mustang GT’s in mind, and the 2011 GT was the first car with a Coyote. The Coyote engine was designed to compete with the Charger’s Hemi and the Camaro’s LS3.

Since 2011, a Coyote engine has been in all Mustang GTs and has been available as an option in upgraded F-150s. There are a fair number of differences between the Mustang and F-150 Coyotes. The Coyote was also used in the Ford Falcon, one of Ford’s Australian cars.

The Coyote Name

Like with many projects, Ford asked for naming suggestions. One of the V8 engineers found a part of Ford history that he thought was special enough that Ford should name their newest engine after it.

The first four-valve V8 that Ford made was manufactured in the 1960s for a race car. Driver AJ Foyt drove his car, the Coyote, to victory in both the 1967 and 1977 Indy 500’s. In total, he won 25 times out of the 141 races he participated in.

The response to the Coyote name was immediately positive and it stuck.

Engineering Power

Variable Camshaft Timing (VCT) is a technology developed by Ford that allows for greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Variable, or changing, camshaft timing is achieved through electronically changing the camshaft’s timing by speeding it up or decreasing the speed as needed based on engine load and RPM.

A red Mustang with the hood open and engine exposed.

VCT typically was used on either the exhaust camshaft, which allowed for better emissions or the intake camshaft, which allowed for greater power. Naturally though, most people want power and better emissions. So, the question became how to allow for variable timing on both the intake and the exhaust valves, and allow them to function independently of one another.

The Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (TI-VCT) improved on VCT’s technology by allowing camshafts to act independently. The result was improved power and torque.

In 2010, Ford finally had the opportunity to put all of this technology into a V8, and the first 5.0L Coyote engine was born. The first generation of Coyote engine was capable of sustaining 412 horsepower and 390 pounds of torque. It was so powerful they had to figure out how to improve the engine’s walls. Instead of increasing the thickness of the engine’s walls, webbing was built into the walls in order to allow the block to handle the increased power output of the stronger engine. The Coyote differs from other Ti-VCT engines put out in the same period in that it also utilizes Borg-Warner's Cam Torque Actuation (CTA) to use torsional energy to rotate the camshaft instead of oil pressure driven cam phasing, like Hondas have.

What the technical details boil down to is that the first Coyote engine was incredibly powerful for its size based on some really neat engineering ideas. The first-generation 5.0L Coyote engine was able to create as much power as a 6.4L Hemi with a significantly smaller displacement.

Third Generation Coyote Engine

The most recent update to the Coyote Engine was made in 2018. The third generation of Coyote is still a compact 5.0L engine, but now it reports 460 horsepower and 420 pounds of torque and is frequently tuned beyond that. Though any generation of Coyote is powerful, the third generation also added some smart features that allow the engine to be efficient even when it’s moving at lower RPM. Additionally with the extra power the third generation Coyote has it can maintain an RPM of 7500, a full 500 RPM higher than its predecessor.

Despite all of its performance modifications and the addition of port fuel injection, the Coyote engine doesn’t require high octane fuel and can be run on regular 87 octane fuel with no pinging.

Coyote Variants

Through the years, Ford has created several specialized builds of the Coyote.

The Roadrunner

The new 2012 and 2013 Boss 302 models demanded something special due to the associations people have with the Boss nameplate. Using Daytona prototypes to find something new that could be added to the Coyote engine to make it have the feel of a Boss.

The Daytona race cars used an intake method that eliminated lag when the throttle was opened. This allows the engine to "breathe" more efficiently at higher RPM, allowing the Boss to exceed the GT’s 7000 RPM redline and actually gain power at higher RPM. The engine is sometimes referred to as Road Runner.

The Voodoo

Out of all the Coyote variants, the Voodoo may be the most unique. It has a 5.2L displacement, but unlike other modular V8 engines, the Voodoo uses a flat-plane crank. Flat-plane cranks are crankshafts that have a 180-degree angle between throws. This does cause the engine to vibrate more and be louder than other V8 engines, but that’s kinda the point. Flat-plane cranks also allow engines to rev more quickly, making it a popular choice in racing engines.

Ford used the Voodoo engine in the Shelby GT350 and GT350R.

The Aluminator

The Aluminator is another Coyote development. Ford wanted to ensure that the Voodoo engine was reserved specifically for the Shelby GT350R, but they also wanted a more powerful variant of the Coyote engine that they could add to the Ford Performance lineup. Hence, the Aluminator.

The Aluminator has a cross-plane crankshaft instead of a flat-plane crankshaft. Capable of reaching 580 horsepower and 445 pounds of torque, it’s certainly a worthy addition to Ford’s performance lineup.

The Predator

The most recent addition to the Coyote Variant line-up, The Predator is a Voodoo with a cross-plane crankshaft and some other goodies that pump it up to be worthy of the most powerful production Mustang ever, the 2020 GT500.

The Predator has 760 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque, which is truly outrageous.

Coyote Swapping

The Coyote Engine has become a fan favorite, and "Coyote Swaps" are a popular modification for restoration fans. Coyote swaps simply involve slipping the high-powered crate engine into older Mustang body styles, like the ever-popular Fox Body Mustang. In the lighter bodies, the engine can really fly. Coyote Swaps are popular with a wide range of Mustang enthusiasts. Fox Body Coyote swaps are amazing, but we're also big fans of SN95 Coyote Swaps, which tend to be a little easier since you're swapping between similar engines.

Another popular use of the Coyote engine is participating in Coyote Stock events. In these drag races, participants drop an OEM sealed Ford Coyote crate engine into their ride. It’s a way of getting a ton of power and having fun while also keeping the cost of drag racing under control.

In addition to being a powerful and unique engine, the Coyote is also a modifiable one. Coyote modifications are a popular way to improve on an already very good engine. With even a few basic bolt-on components it’s easy to drive the Coyote engine even further. Even something as simple as adding a cold air intake can increase your horsepower.

Coyote Engine Comparisons
Engine Horsepower Torque Displacement Max RPM
Coyote Generation 1 412 hp 390 lb-ft 4.95L 7,000 RPM
Coyote Generation 3 460 hp 420 lb-ft 5.03L 7,500 RPM
Voodoo 526 hp 429 lb-ft 5.2L 8,250 RPM
Roadrunner 444 hp 380 lb-ft 5.0L 7,500 RPM
Aluminator 580 hp 445 lb-ft 5.2L 7,200 RPM
Predator 760 hp 625 lb-ft 5.2L 7,500 RPM

The Coyote Engine has managed to warm the car community to the at first controversial overhead cam design, mostly by being incredibly powerful and efficient. This engine is loud and proud.

The Coyote wins best engine awards and Mustang owners lucky enough to have a Coyote under the hood brag about their engine’s power and reliability. Even better, as Ford updates the engine they haven’t chosen to sacrifice power for fuel efficiency or vice versa. Instead, both attributes keep ticking upwards as the outer limits of this technology's possibilities are explored.

Meghan Author Photo

About the Author

Meghan is a Classic Mustang geek with a soft spot for four-eyed Foxes. She has over 300 in-depth articles to her credit that have been cited by some of the top news sites in the US. Read full bio →

Ford Mustang Coyote Engines

The Coyote engine is a modular 5.0L engine that has powered the Mustang GT since 2011. This impressively good engine required some innovations and quickly became a fan favorite. Find out what makes it so curiously strong and why exactly it’s called a Coyote.