Stage-Tuning the 6.4L Power Stroke

Stage 1: Picking Up Where Ford Left Off

Published in the June 2010 Issue June 2010 Ryan Harris

It's enough to drive you mad.

With advances in modern technology, you'd think that anything relatively new would be perfect in nearly every way, shape and form. Like buying a new diesel pickup, for example. You would expect great power, excellent fuel economy, infallible reliability and clean, low-cost operation.

Bzzzzzzzz. Sorry, wrong again.

We picked up a 2008 Ford F350 with the 6.4L sequential-turbo Power Stroke and had the same high hopes. Don't get us wrong-this is an awesome truck. Everything aside from the crappy fuel mileage and Disney-Channel-sitcom-annoying DPF filter is awesome. The truck rides great for a 1-ton, has a great interior and body design and has decent power and spool-up despite being choked like a blonde caught up in a congressional scandal.

But like any self-respecting diesel fanatic, decent power doesn't cut it. We wanted more. So we picked out three products to encompass our Stage 1 build: Edge CTS programmer/display; MBRP filter-back exhaust; and BD Power's Boost Scoop system.


CTS: Color Touch Screen

The Edge CTS is an all-in-one programmer, gauge display and diagnostic tool that does the job that used to take several parts. You can tune your truck with different tunes, from mild towing tunes to hotter racing programs. The CTS also displays virtually every parameter of information that is fed to the truck's ECU, from engine load to transmission fluid temperature. You can set it to display from two to eight data parameters at one time. And you can run quarter-mile and 0-60 tests using the CTS, which we'll cover again later. One other cool feature to the CTS is the ability to upload any photo to use as a background on the display and you can customize the colors and gauge arcs any way you like.

The CTS plugs into the truck's OBDII port and mounts in place with either the included window suction cup arm or an optional dash pod mounting system like the one we used. Once the CTS is plugged in, it's simply a matter of following the on-screen prompts to complete setup.


Filter-Back Flows Better

We opted for the new black finish MBRP 4-inch filter-back exhaust system for the Power Stroke. The system attaches downstream of the pesky DPF, getting rid of the factory muffler and the double-tip exhaust outlet. While the particulate filter stays in place, catching black matter and doing its job of plugging up every 250 miles, there are some improvements to the filter-back system. First, the factory muffler is just another air flow restrictor, though at that point, the exhaust pressure is less of a stream and more like a burp. But the motor likes anything that decreases backpressure. Second, the MBRP system gives the truck a better exhaust tone, one that sounds more like a V8 diesel and less like a Volkswagen TDI. The difference is subtle, but it's there.


It's Not The Air, But Where You Pull It From

The final component (and the one with the longest sub-title) is the BD Power 6.4L Boost Scoop. The Boost Scoop is not your run-of-the-mill drop-in intake replacement. In fact, when the system is installed, there's no visible difference under the hood, since the Boost Scoop uses the factory air box canister and turbo inlet tube. But what is noticeable outside of the engine compartment is the scoop that replaces the passenger side emblem. While the Boost Scoop took the most time to install, its benefits show why it was given the SEMA New Product award when it was first introduced.


SAT: Saturday Afternoon Tests

Our testing was less than scientific. We used the CTS' built-in 0-60 test feature, which records the time and distance it takes the truck to accelerate from 0-60. We ran all of our tests this way, starting from idle (as opposed to power braking to build boost like you would at a drag strip). We run each test several times, throw out the high and low outliers and average the remaining runs. Anyone can replicate our tests. We did however confirm the accuracy of the CTS settings with our Racepak G2X GPS-based accelerometer to ensure accurate speed and distance stats with the aftermarket tires.

With the truck completely stock aside from the 325R50/22 tires on 22x9.5-inch Mamba wheels, it ran from zero to 60 in 14 seconds over a distance of 710 feet. Our first test was to run through the first three power levels of the CTS. Level one of the CTS cut half a second off the 0-60 times and did it in 685 feet. Level two on the CTS cut another half-second off the 0-60 time or a full second quicker than stock, at a distance of 655 feet. Level three really showed a jump in performance, covering 0-60 in 466 feet at 10.3 seconds flat. That's 3.5 seconds quicker than stock and 10 truck lengths ahead of the stock run.

We pulled the truck into the shop and swapped out the back-half of the exhaust system for the MBRP filter-back Black Series exhaust. This is a relatively simple process that most any do-it-yourself mechanic can handle. There are two band clamps and three hangars that hold the rear section of the factory exhaust in place. Once the band clamps are loosened and the pipe separated from the DPF filter outlet, you can either cut the tail section with a sawzall for easy removal or wiggle it out in one piece.

The MBRP system comes with a cut-to-length center pipe and the correct measurements for different cab/chassis variations are in the installation manual. You put the center pipe on the DPF outlet, install the clamp, put the tail section in place on the hangars, connect it to the center pipe and install the second clamp. When everything is in place, tighten the clamps and install the tip (included with all MBRP systems).

Back on our regular, mile-long section of back road that we use for tests, the truck responded better than anticipated for a filter-back system. Leaving the CTS on level three, the 0-60 time dropped by four-tenths of a second and made it to 60 mph one truck-length quicker. It reinforces the fact of just how choked down these new clean diesels are.

Now it was back to the shop for the BD Power Boost Scoop install. And we mean install in the deepest definition of the word. The Boost Scoop replaces the factory intake's inlet tubing that is tucked inside the passenger-side fender with a new inlet tube that draws air through the side emblem grille and feeds to a washable high-flow filter that sits inside the factory air box. To access the factory inlet tube, the front wheel, fender liner, passenger-side battery, battery cage and windshield washer fluid reservoir all have to come out, along with the factory air box and the passenger-side fender side emblem (the red grille and F350 badge). It sounds a little more intensive than it actually is. Again, most DIY mechanics can handle this install.

Once the Boost Scoop was installed and the lug nuts torqued, we went back to the test strip for more acceleration runs. Now that the truck could take a big breath of fresh air and exhale a little easier through the exhaust, the 0-60 time dropped to 9.5 seconds in 450 feet (with the CTS on level three).


Stage 1 Analysis

Our stock truck took 14 seconds and 710 feet to go from a stand-still to 60 mph. Our stage 1 build now takes 9.5 seconds and 450 feet to do the same thing. We've successfully shaved 4.5 seconds-or 32 percent-off of this truck's acceleration time. And it gets to 60 mph in 450 feet-a distance that's 36 percent shorter than the stock truck's distance. If you lined up this stage 1 build with its stock counterpart, it would hit 60 mph 22 truck lengths ahead of the stocker. That's impressive.

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