Ford turned the pickup world on its side when it first installed the 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 in the ’11 F-150. While it wasn’t particularly odd to find a V-6 in a ½-ton truck, having one as the premium engine was an entirely new concept. At launch, the 3.5L EcoBoost churned out 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. By comparison, the 5.0L V-8 engine also offered that year only produced 360 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque, while the previous-generation 5.4L V-8 ended life with a maximum of 320 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque.
Over the years, Ford has continued to upgrade the 3.5L EcoBoost. Now in its second generation, the spunky V-6 placed into service in ’17 grunts out 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque in a standard-issue F-150, with 450 hp with 510 lb-ft of torque in Raptor.
Enthusiasts for decades have attempted to squeeze every last drop of performance out of their vehicles, and luckily for owners of EcoBoost-equipped Fords, there was a lot left on the table. To exact every ounce of performance out of our ’15 F-150, we turned to experts at Gale Banks Engineering. Known mostly for diesel performance these days, Gale Banks began his performance empire turbocharging gasoline engines, so to say he knows a thing or two would be quite the understatement.
Our goal was to improve driveability and performance while remaining legal and warranty-friendly. To do this, we chose the combination of a Monster Exhaust, which requires no CARB exemption since it doesn’t modify emissions equipment, and a Ram-Air Intake, which is CARB-approved. Both vastly increase flow over the factory equipment and give the truck a nice sound. To bump power, we selected Banks’ new Derringer tuner, which leaves no footprint on the factory computer, keeping warranties fully intact. The Derringer is currently pending CARB approval.
The installation at the Banks’ Powerhouse in Azusa, California, was completed in roughly four hours. Everything we did here can be done at home in the driveway with basic handtools and knowledge.
| We shouldn’t even need to mention it, but the new exhaust installation began by removing the old components. Depending on the truck’s age and location, a hammer and penetrating oil may be necessary. Fortunately, our California truck’s exhaust came off with little effort.
| If you don’t plan on saving the factory unit, cutting it into pieces makes the removal much quicker. However, if you do plan to keep it for future use, the stock exhaust can be removed in one piece with a little wiggling and an extra set of hands.
| Detaching the frame-mounted exhaust hangers can prove helpful while removing the factory exhaust. Ford F-150s used two of these at the muffler from ’15 on, but the new Banks system will only use one of them, so the forward mount can be put aside at this point.
| The Banks Monster Exhaust system is made from mandrel-bent stainless steel and is designed to virtually eliminate backpressure, reduce exhaust gas temperatures, and dramatically improve flow. As a bonus, it looks pretty stellar as well.
| Installing the intermediate pipe, which connects the new Banks system to the factory catalytic converter outlet, gives a great visual of just how much larger the new system’s pipes are. Don’t misplace the factory hardware, as it’ll be necessary for this step.
| Next up is the muffler, which replaces the large factory-baffled unit with Banks straight-through design. This helps to increase flow and creates a wonderful and unique sound. Sorry, V-6 EcoBoost engines will never sound like a V-8, no matter what muffler is installed.
| With all the pieces loosely in place, the fasteners can all be tightened and then torqued to spec. Leaving everything loose makes the install much easier and allows the pieces to be properly aligned.
| A large 6x5-inch chrome tip wraps up the exhaust install; black is also available, if that’s more your taste. Start to finish, the exhaust job took us about an hour with an experienced technician and a vehicle hoist. We suspect less than two hours for a driveway install is reasonable.
| Ford’s 3.5L EcoBoost engine has a fairly unique air-intake system. Because of the engine’s twin-turbo design, air is routed from the filter to each of the turbochargers through a Y-pipe.
| Before installing the Banks intake, we first needed to remove the factory unit. First the filter cover and piping was removed, followed by the filter housing and intake scoop. For this intake, the factory turbocharger piping was all left in place.
| Banks Ford F150 EcoBoost Intake Exhaust Programmer Factory Unit Removal
| One look at the Banks system and you can tell that it means business. Every aspect of the system has been upsized and designed for maximum flow, from the filter to the intake scoop.
| Before dropping the system into the engine bay, we first connected the filter and Y-pipe subassembly. We also slipped on the needed silicone boots and hose clamps.
| Next, the filter was placed into the housing and the whole unit lowered into place. Prior to this step, the factory air-intake temperature sensor needs to be installed along with a new grommet. Care should be taken not to push the grommet too far into the filter assembly.
| Once the system is in place, all of the hose clamps can be tightened. New plastic push-type retainers are supplied to hold the scoop in place.
| A fancy clear plastic window is provided to add a fun touch of flair to the otherwise dull underhood area.
| This bolt, sleeve, and bushing are the only factory fasteners that are retained. It’s important to remove them from the factory airbox before recycling it.
| Install time was again right at about an hour, and the difficulty was such that anyone with a screwdriver and basic ratchet set can install the intake. Best of all, the intake is CARB-approved and won’t cause any grief come emissions-testing time.
Derringer Tuner & iDash 1.8
PN 66577 (Derringer) PN 66560-DL (iDash)
MSRP $432 (Derringer) $366 (iDash)
| In the quest for more usable power at the wheels, an intake and exhaust are but mere supporting actors. The real star of the show is the new Banks Derringer tuner, which we installed in conjunction with the company’s iDash gauge system.
| The Derringer taps into the factory throttle inlet pressure (TIP)…
| … and manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensors.
| Banks Ford F150 EcoBoost Intake Exhaust Programmer MAP Sensors
| Once attached to the TIP and MAP sensors, follow the directions to safely route the harness to the Derringer’s mounting location. With this complete, the engine’s decorative cover can be reinstalled.
| The Derringer hardware is designed with the ability to daisy-chain multiple units together, each serving a different function, in eligible applications. Thus a terminator cap needs to be installed before use. The Derringer ships with the gray terminator cap in place for use with the supplied switch hardware. Since we were planning to control the Derringer with an iDash unit, we needed to replace the gray cap with the provided black one.
| Banks Ford F150 EcoBoost Intake Exhaust Programmer Derringer Hardware
| The previously installed wire harness plugs into the Derringer on the side opposite the terminator plug. Ensure the retaining clips are secure before mounting the Derringer unit to the firewall or fender.
| Banks Ford F150 EcoBoost Intake Exhaust Programmer Derringer
| With the Derringer in place, it’s time to plug the unit’s harness into the intermediate harness…
| … and pass this cable through the firewall.
| Inside the vehicle, a patch cable is used to connect the Derringer and intermediate cable to the truck’s OBD II port. It also connects everything to the provided Derringer switch—or in our case, the iDash.
| The Banks iDash 1.8 Super Gauge is an incredible piece of technology. The iDash functions as a gauge displaying two to five parameters at a time, as a data logger, and as a controller for the Derringer tuner. The iDash has the ability to monitor more than 300 different vehicle functions, though the reality of that number is significantly lower based on specific applications. If you want more gauges, up to five units can be linked together. They fit in a standard 2-1/16-inch gauge pod, so any of the common aftermarket mounts can be used.
It’s known around the performance industry that EcoBoost F-150s can be quite a chore to dyno consistently. There are a lot of factors that contribute to the struggle, but it takes patience and understanding to get these trucks to cooperate. Fortunately for us, Banks has its own in-house chassis dyno and a staff that knows how to make it dance.
We first ran a series of three baseline tests, prior to installing any parts, and came away with a peak of 331 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels. Not too bad for a truck that’s rated 365/420 at the crank. With the speed parts installed, horsepower raised to 355 and torque increased to 435 lb-ft at the rear wheels. That’s a net gain at peak of 24 hp and 95 lb-ft of torque. Impressive as it might be, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Seeing as most people don’t drive at wide-open throttle all the time, we need to look lower in the rpm range. At 4,100 rpm, we noted a 67hp increase over stock, and in other testing (with different trucks), Banks has recorded as high as 90 additional horsepower at the same rpm. This is real power that can be felt and used every day. Torque increases by as much 116 lb-ft at a similar 4,070 rpm.
| Banks Ford F150 EcoBoost Intake Exhaust Programmer Dyno