By 2010, the V8 heart of the Ford Mustang was beginning to show its age. First introduced in 1990, the 4.6-litre V8 litre was the first of the so-called Foord modular engines (referring to the manufacturing process). In the base 2010 Mustang, the engine made 315 hp which in reality wasn’t shabby compared to its rivals like the Camaro or the Challenger.
However, the issue here was not all about engine output. There was also a push in the automobile industry for engines that were not only powerful but also more efficient and economical. It was apparent that Ford had to respond and move away from the traditional small-block V8. Luckily, the carmaker was not unaware of the situation and had been working on a successor for the 4.6-litre V8 powerplant. That replacement was the 5.0-litre Coyote V8 engine.
History of the Coyote V8 engine
Ford built the first Coyote engine in 2010 using the now-familiar modular manufacturing process. It had a displacement of 5.0 litres, a modest increase over the previous engine. However, the use of Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (a first for Ford) allowed the engine to crank out an impressive 412 hp.
The name ‘Coyote’ is connected to a section of Ford’s history from the ’60s. Ford had just built its first 4-cylinder V8. Indy 500 Champion Driver AJ Foyt drove his race car, named the Coyote and powered by the 4-cylinder engine, to victory in both the 1967 and 1977 editions of the race. In all, the engine helped Foyt win 25 of 141 races.
The 5.0-litre Coyote V8 was designed to take on rival offerings like the Camaro’s LS3 (more on that later). As such, it was initially meant for the Mustang muscle cars and was first fitted in the 2011 Mustang. However, the Coyote engine is now available for other Ford models like the F-150 pickup and, in modified form, the Shelby GTs.
The strong relationship between the Coyote and the Mustang
When it was first developed in 2010, there was little question about the Coyote’s suitability for Ford’s halo car. With 412 hp on tap, it was a pretty formidable engine, but more than the power, there was a lot of technology behind it as well. The 5.0-litre Coyote V8 boasted Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing, a distinct improvement on the original VCT technology earlier developed by Ford.
VCT allowed for greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions. It relied on an electronic system to vary the camshaft’s timing by speeding it up or decreasing the speed as required depending on engine load and RPM. The twin-independent system went further by allowing the dual camshafts to operate independently, improving power and torque outputs – just perfect for a hulking muscle car like the Mustang.
From 2011 to date, the Mustangs have been powered by the Coyote. The V8 engine has now evolved through three generations (2011 to 2014, 2015 to 2017 and 2018 till present), with incremental improvements along the way. The Coyote has remained an engine of choice for the Mustang; power is abundant while the car retains the easy drivability for daily use. Reliability is also top-notch, with very few recalls relative to how long the engine has been in existence.
Another reason why the Coyote is popular with the Mustang is the depth of aftermarket support. The engine is relatively easy to modify and upgrade – a consequence of its modular nature. Coyote engine swaps into classic Mustangs and other cars are not uncommon. With a few extra parts, the power from the stock engine can be boosted significantly (an advantage even Ford has exploited to create several Coyote variants).
One of the biggest Coyote challengers at launch was the 6.2-litre LS3 V8 that powered the Camaro SS, and the debate about the better option has continued to swirl around the car community. Back in 2011, the Coyote, with its fancy Ti-VCT technology, was more advanced than the push-rod LS3. However, this did not mean that the Chevy engine was a push-over. Far from it. In fact, the LS3 V8 was more powerful with 426 hp (400 hp for automatic transmission) and 420 lb-ft of torque compared to 412 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque for the Mustang’s Coyote.
The 6.2-litre LS3 replaced the 6.0-litre LS2 and is a highly acclaimed grouping of small-block V8 engines, part of GM’s Gen IV engine family. Compared to the LS2, the LS3 had strengthened casting and larger bores, ideal for use in GM’s high-performance cars like the Camaro, Corvette Grand Sport and Pontiac G8 GXP.
Like the Coyote, GM has also steadily worked on its small-block V8. The LS3 has now given way to an even more potent powerplant, the 6.2-litre LT1 (part of the Gen V engine family). It was first used in the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, where it generated a thumping 455 hp at 6,000 rpm and 460 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. The LT1 later found its way to the Camaro SS model in 2016, and it continues to power GM’s premier muscle car to date.
Both camps have their own group of ardent loyalists. On the one hand, you have those who will swear by the 5.0-litre or 5.2-litre Coyote V8 engine, while on the flip side, others will argue that Chevy’s LS/LT group is a better deal. In the past, drag strip meets or illegal street races often had both categories of people present, pitting their Mustangs and Chevys against each other as they battled for supremacy.
These days, there is bench racing all over the place when comparing the Chevrolet LS vs the Ford Coyote. In fact, with gas priced where it is, there’s more bench racing than actual racing between these two storied American icons. Therefore, looking at it from that angle and with stats on paper, it would appear that both cars are quite evenly matched. According to Motortrend, the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS (the last year the Camaro had the LS3 engine) with 426 hp can accelerate to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
That’s the same time as the 2015 Mustang GT, with a 435 hp iteration of the Coyote V8. The Mustang had the slight edge in the quarter-mile run, though with a time of 12.8 seconds at 112.2 mph, compared to 12.9 seconds at 110.5 mph for the Camaro SS.
The numbers remain closely matched even when you consider the latest iteration of both cars. The 2022 Mustang GT and Camaro SS will hit 60 mph in about 4.0 seconds and blast through the quarter-mile within milliseconds of each other, again with the Mustang slightly ahead. Of course, it may not always be the same in real-world racing as other factors – such as the driver’s reaction time – are at play.
The results are impressive, to say the least. Ford engines lagged behind their GM counterparts back in the day. However, the playing field was levelled somewhat with the arrival of the Coyote. Looking at the current-generation engines, the Coyote does have the advantage of horsepower per litre, but GM’s LT unit edge ahead with the ability to add more cubic inches and a choice between an engine block made from iron or aluminum. The Coyote also enjoys robust aftermarket options: the ease of modding makes it a darling for tuners.
Ultimately, picking a clear winner is tricky as both engines offer distinct advantages. It will all come down to the side of the fence where you belong, with brand loyalty playing a key role here. One thing is clear, though, the Coyote and its GM rival are among the best engines to have come out of America. That in itself is worth celebrating.