With about 40 percent of the Ford F-150's sales these days coming from EcoBoost-powered models, it's safe to say the Blue Oval boys have struck a chord with truck customers. Hard-core performance enthusiasts, however, may not be ready to swap their V-8 for a twin-turbo V-6. This story might just make a few converts out of the faithful, much like the Buick Grand National did with the old-school muscle car crowd back in the '80s.

Let's do a quick comparison of the 3.5L EcoBoost and the F-150's 5.0L naturally aspirated V-8: The 5.0L is rated at 360 hp at 5,500 rpm, while the EcoBoost is rated at 365 hp at 5,000 rpm. Five horsepower doesn't sound like much in a 5,500-plus-pound truck, but then there's the torque. The 5.0L is good for 380 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm, while the EcoBoost cranks out an impressive 420 lb-ft at a super-low 2,500 rpm—and under boost the peak torque remains flat across the rpm range. Still not convinced? There's also a weight advantage of roughly 20 pounds over a comparable 5.0L-equipped truck.

More power, especially torque, in a lighter package makes it hard not to like, right? We're definitely on board with the EcoBoost, but as card-carrying members of that fraternity of performance enthusiasts, we cannot help but scratch deeper to see if even more power can be coaxed from the as-delivered powertrain. And just about the time that "more power" itch was starting to bug us, Livernois Motorsports came along with a carbon-fiber, liquid-cooled backscratcher.

Dan Millen, the head honcho at the Dearborn Heights–based tuning shop, was already experimenting with a couple of EcoBoost trucks and we asked about his results. "Surprising," he told us. "With nothing more than an easily uploadable tune, we picked up about 60 rear-wheel horsepower and a stunning 80 lb-ft of torque."

That sent the output of the EcoBoost well into the 400hp range, surpassing even Ford's biggest truck V-8, the 6.2L and its 411 hp and 438 lb-ft ratings. Along with fuel mapping changes, requiring premium fuel, Millen's electronic tweaks firmed up the shifting, and he removed the speed limiter. We asked about other changes beyond the controller, such as the exhaust system. "Don't know," Millen told us. "Get us one and we'll find out."

That's exactly what we did, ordering a new after-cat system from CORSA Performance. We liked what we saw when we opened the box, too. Even if the exhaust system didn't uncork a zillion pent-up ponies, its twin, polished stainless tips certainly looked richer than the bargain-rack stock exhaust outlet. At about $900 for the complete system, it wasn't the most inexpensive bolt-on we ever added, but on the street, image counts for a lot —and this system has it. It performed, too, adding about 12 hp and 11 lb-ft over stock. Indeed, the CORSA exhaust was a definite contributor to the performance of our SuperCrew test vehicle, and the exhaust sounded great, making the V-6 ultra-quiet on the highway, yet with a Power Stroke-like rumble when accelerating.

What makes this experiment even more impressive is the ease in which it can be duplicated. Livernois sells the tune on a preloaded programmer and the CORSA exhaust is easily installed at home, although a lift sure makes the job easier. When you consider a supercharger might cost thousands to buy and install for a 100hp gain, for the roughly $1,950 this package cost (programmer/tune, exhaust system and installation), the bang-for-the-buck quotient just blew the bell curve. Millen tells us his guys are already working on performance packages for the EcoBoost that involve more than the basic exhaust and tune, but for now, we're thrilled with the return on investment for this simple pair of upgrades.

Dyno Results* RWHP RWTQ
 
Stock tune and exhaust 300.45 353.96
Stock tune with CORSA exhaust 312.58 366.56
Livernois Motorsports tune with stock exhaust 361.43 430.10
Livernois Motorsports tune with CORSA exhaust 372.98 427.14
 
DynoJet chassis dyno with SAE correction factory