Road Test of the Ford Mustang GT Power Pack 3:
Press the start button and the engine fires up to a high cold start idle that mellows down to a low and smooth 650rpm idle, almost identical to stock. There’s no surprise that this 50-state legal CARB certified calibration acts just like a factory calibration. Because it is.
Pulling on to the highway, Ford’s new Power Pack 3 calibration sharpens the throttle response but also makes it more linear and not overly ‘twitchy’ or ‘jumpy’ like the factory tune is in “Sport” driving mode. Sport mode essentially narrows the range of pedal travel operation since the last 1/3 to ¼ of pedal travel does not do anything since it is already at full throttle. This is a trick that most manufacturers do to drive-by-wire throttles to make cars feel like they’re more powerful -simply by making the car go full throttle very soon. Meanwhile, the new calibration’s throttle response in Sport mode is also quickened, but the range of operation feels broader and more linear than stock.
Overall throttle tip-in and part-throttle behavior (rolling in and out of the throttle) is just as natural, smooth, and linear as a stock car, because it was calibrated by the same guys who do the factory tune. PP3 exhibited none of the tip-in or part throttle jerkiness and surging that plagues many aftermarket tunes when trying to use the GT350 throttle body.
|Disclaimer: There was admittedly an oversight with the initial release calibration in Power Packs 1-3 that caused rev-hanging and a jerky throttle response. This issue was corrected in 6/2017 and from my testing, the current tune has none of those drivability issues. Anyone who downloads the Power Pack 1-3 files will get the new corrected calibration, even if they were an early adopter. Simply plug in the ProCal tool and re-dowload the tune is all that it takes to fix the problem if you had the pre-June file.|
|Ken from Palm Beach Dyno said the factory torque demand tables for the S550 are a lot more complex than the Gen 1 Coyote, so it takes far more knowledge and understanding how the factory parameters and tables interact to make a car have good drivability when using the larger GT350 throttle body. Keep in mind that drivability makes up 90% of the tune, and most tuners just work on the 10% full throttle maps for dyno bragging rights and ignore the real time-consuming work that actually matters (part-throttle tuning). They bank on the customer’s lack of knowledge and ability to give feedback to save them the time from doing a proper, inclusive tune. |
Most tuners try to plug and play the stock tables to the larger throttle body and it just doesn’t work, so it’s much easier to just use the stock throttle body even if it costs power for the sake of drivability, since they don’t know how to work around the factory programming. Apparently, that’s why you sometimes hear the GT350 throttle body “doesn’t work” -not because it doesn’t work, but because they don’t know how to make it work.
Despite only a 5hp increase at 2,250rpm, Power Pack 3 makes the engine feel far more responsive and powerful than stock. This is a big improvement for daily drivability and enjoyment at low RPMs on the highway.
Power Pack 3 is happiest when revving the engine out. Taking the tach to the new 7,500rpm redline, you realize the engine has transformed from the run of the mill 5.0L V8 that has a mid-range pull similar in character but not as torquey as it’s pushrod-Camaro competitor, into something special that’s high revving and more exotic. Something LS and LT powered cars can only dream of.
When lifting off the throttle, the new calibration gives the engine far more character with slight over-run burbles and pops that don’t feel programmed in or artificial. Having thousands of street and track miles developing the GT350/R under my belt, it’s pretty impressive that the combination of the Ford Performance by Borla cat-back and GT350 Lower Valence and PP3 can make a Mustang GT stir the soul and feel so emotionally and aurally similar to the GT350.
The stock (and PP2 to a greater degree) mid-rpm rush of torque from 3,000-5,500 rpm is now gone, but so is the anemic feeling above 6,500 rpm from the restrictive stock intake manifold. Instead, the power delivery of PP3 feels more exhilarating, pulling hard all the way to redline like Ford’s more exotic BOSS 302 and Shelby GT350. The engine’s linear character is now more in line with high revving engines like the M3, (original) NSX, S2000 (other than the aggressive VTEC crossover), Audi R8 V10, and Ferrari 458.
The No-Lift-Shift (NLS) system is a neat feature in the way rev-matching manuals are a neat feature. To activate NLS, once you’re above 5,000rpm, keep the throttle down, push in the clutch and the revs immediately fall while you shift. Once you release the clutch, the engine matches the revs and off you go in the next gear.
While this is a cool addition, the novelty quickly wore off (for me) since it’s not really any faster and it takes away some control of the driver who can match revs and the quickness (or harshness) of the shift based off their inputs.
When it comes to outright performance, PP3 shows a clear advantage over PP2. However, for most street driving where redline isn’t a common occurrence and 2,000-5,000rpm pulls are the norm, PP2 would be a better choice.
Overall, we were very impressed with Ford Performance’s Mustang GT Power Packs 1-3. Each package is a great value and step-up in power delivering a great bang for the buck that beats the typical $100/HP for NA power increases. The new calibration’s improved throttle response and off-throttle sound and character gives the Mustang a more emotional and entertaining driving experience, while retaining OEM smoothness and drivability.
Power Pack 2 offers huge value and would be great for a daily driver meanwhile Power Pack 3 offers objectively better performance and acceleration for reduced lap times on track, while completely transforming the engine which now screams to redline like a high revving BOSS 302, GT350, or M3.
We learned that the GT350 intake manifold does not make less torque than stock, but it does sacrifice some midrange torque (compared to the stock manifold with a tune) for a higher redline, more power, and more area under the curve to deliver better acceleration. We also learned that everything from stock through PP3 will benefit from a higher redline.
With PP3 installed, our 435hp 5.0L Mustang GT is now rated by Ford at 472hp. That is more than the direct/port injected 2018 Mustang GT’s 460hp, which has an identical 7,500rpm redline. In actuality, our gains of 37-wheel horsepower equates to 43-crank HP (15% drivetrain loss) and would realistically put us at 479hp at the crank. Add in the power from the exhaust and our 414whp pull puts our car at 487 crank hp. That’s not too shabby.
It’s pretty impressive that Ford offers these amazing calibrations from the factory that will not affect your warranty*. It really goes to show how much they care about their performance oriented customers. We highly recommend any of these packages due to the confidence they inspire for reliability and performance they deliver.
Measured: 7.37whp & 7.28lb-ft
$/HP = $7.46 per HP
Claim: 13HP & 16lb-ft gains over stock
Measured: 19.12whp & 23.74lb-ft = +6hp & 7lb-ft more than advertised
$/HP = $31.33 per HP
Claim: 21hp & 24lb-ft peak gains over stock
Measured: 26.07whp & 30.78lb-ft = +5hp & 6lb-ft more than advertised
$/HP = $37.18 per HP
Claim: 37hp & 5lb-ft peak gains over stock
Measured: 37.3whp & 6.83lb-ft = +1.83lb-ft more than advertised
$/HP = $65.49 per HP
For more S550 Mustang-related product reviews, check out:
Page 1 – Power Packs
Page 2 – Baseline Dyno
Page 3 – K&N and Power Pack 1 Dynos
Page 4 – Power Pack 2 Install
Page 5 – Power Pack 2 Dynos
Page 6 – GT350 Intake Manifold Analysis
Page 7 – GT350 Intake Manifold Analysis & Install
Page 8 – Power Pack 3 Dynos
Page 9 – Thrust Analysis of PP3 vs PP2, and Bonus Dynos (M3 & GT350R)
Page 10 – Road Test Review and Overview