Mazda MZR L Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Mazda MZR L engine!"

Our aim here is to review MZR L tuning and provide tips on the best mods that work. Mazda MZR L are popular tuning projects and with the right sports parts like a remap, turbo kits and camshafts you will noticeably maximise your driving opportunities.

This engine was used extensively by Ford and appeared in the Volvo line up under different guises, and we get asked quite a bit about improving, tuning and uprating it.

The engine came in a variety of engine sizes, with many similarities, and we've seen head swaps, piston and crank swaps etc making this a very versatile tuning project platform.

History of the MZR L Engine

1.8 L (L8-DE, L8-VE) Ford direct injection petrol engine

  • 2002-2012 Mazda6 for Europe
  • 2004-2018 Mazda Premacy/Mazda5
  • 2005-2015 Mazda MX-5 for Europe
  • 2000-2007 Ford Mondeo
  • 2005-2010 Ford Focus
  • 2006-2009 Morgan 4/4 1800

2.0 L (LF-DE, LF-VE, LF-VD)

  • 107 kW (143 hp; 145 PS) of power at 6000 rpm and 185 Nm (136 lbft) of torque at 4500 rpm Ford unit
  • 160 hp (119 kW; 162 PS) at 6000 rpm and 146 lbft (198 Nm) of torque at 4250 rpm
  • 148 hp (110 kW; 150 PS) at 6500 rpm and 187 Nm (138 lbft) of torque at 4000 rpm Mazda unit

Also used by Volvo and badged B4204S3 S4 and by Ford as the Duratec 20

  • 2004–2008 Mazda Axela/Mazda3
  • 2002–2008 Mazda6 for Europe
  • 2006–2007 Mazda Premacy/Mazda5
  • 2006–2015 Mazda MX-5/Roadster
  • 2008–2018 Mazda Biante
  • 2007–2010 Ford C-Max
  • 2006–2010 Volvo C30
  • 2007–2010 Volvo S40
  • 2007–2010 Volvo V50
  • 2008–2010 Volvo V70
  • 2007–2010 Volvo S80
  • 2006–2012 Caterham 7 Superlight R300/400/500
  • 2008–2014 Caterham 7 Roadsport 175/200
  • 2009–2015 Caterham 7 CSR 175
  • 2012–present Caterham 7 420/620R/S (supercharged)
  • 2014–present Caterham 7 335/360/420/480/485
  • 2012–2016 Caterham 7 Supersport R
  • 2011–present Caterham-Lola SP/300.R (supercharged)

2.3L (L3-VE,L3-NS,L3-DE) 

  • 122 kW (164 hp; 166 PS) at 6000 rpm and 195 Nm (144 lbft) between 4000–4500 rpm
  • 135 hp (101 kW; 137 PS) at 5050 rpm 153 lbft (207 Nm) at 3750 rpm
  • 143 hp (107 kW; 145 PS) at 5250 rpm 154 lbft (209 Nm) at 3750 rpm
  • 178 hp (133 kW; 180 PS) at 6500 rpm and 159 lbft (215 Nm) at 4000 rpm

Also badge Duratec 23E by Ford.

  • 2001–2010 Mazda B-Series
  • 2002–2005 Mazda MPV
  • 2003–2008 Mazda Atenza/Mazda6
  • 2004–2007 Mazda Axela/Mazda3
  • 2006–2010 Mazda Premacy/Mazda5
  • 2008–2018 Mazda Biante
  • 2001–2011 Ford Ranger
  • 2003–2007 Ford Focus
  • 2005–2008 Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute/Mercury Mariner
  • 2006–2009 Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan

2.3L DISI Turbo (L3-VDT)

263 hp (196 kW; 267 PS) at 5,500 rpm and 280 lbft (380 Nm) at 3,000 rpm

  • 2005–2007 Mazda Atenza MPS/Mazda6 MPS/Mazdaspeed6
  • 2006–2010 Mazda MPV (JDM only)
  • 2006–2012 Mazda CX-7
  • 2006–2012 Mazda Axela MPS/Mazdaspeed3

2.5 L (L5-VE) 

  • 2008–2012 Mazda Atenza/Mazda6 (non-North America)
  • 2009–2013 Mazda6 (North America)
  • 2009-2012 Mazda CX-7 (North America & Austrailia)
  • 2009–2011 Mazda Tribute
  • 2010–2013 Mazda Axela/Mazda3
  • 2009–2019 Ford Escape
  • 2010–2020 Ford Fusion
  • 2014–2018 Ford Transit Connect

Tuning the Mazda MZR L and best MZR L performance parts.

Best MZR L upgrades

When talking about the top modifications for your MZR L engine, we are going to concentrate on the parts that give the best power gain for you money.

Altering your MZR L cam will make a dramatic difference to the engine torque. Choosing a higher performance cam profile raises the torque accordingly.

Fast road camshafts commonly push up the power over the rev band, you could drop a little low down torque but the top end will be lifted.

Competition camshafts, push up the top end band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

A Motorsport and race camshaft makes it harder when driving in heavy traffic.

You should ideally match your bhp range to your cars usage so for a car used daily stick with a shorter duration MZR L camshaft

Different MZR L engines respond better to more or less aggressive camshaft durations so view each engine as unique.

The ECU mapping and injectors and fuel pump also will say much on the bhp gains you'll make.

Altering valve durations can alter the bhp band and on most engines the exhaust and intake durations do not need to match, although most cams and tuners use matched pairs there are some advantages to extending the intake or exhaust durations.

Typical stage 1 mods often include:
Intake headers, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Panel air filters, drilled & smoothed airbox, Sports exhaust manifold, Fast road camshaft.

Typical stage 2 mods often include:
Sports catalyst & performance exhaust, Ported and polished head, Fast road cam, induction kit, fuel pump upgrades, high flow fuel injectors.

Typical stage 3 mods often include:
Crank and Piston upgrades to alter compression, Competition cam, Internal engine upgrades (head flowing porting/bigger valves), Adding or Upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Twin charging conversions, Engine balancing & blueprinting.

The MZR L engines make great tuning projects and we're pleased to see that there is an increase of mods and tuning parts out there.

A remap allows a tuner to unlock the full potential of all the upgrades you've done to your MZR L.

It will usually give around 30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and you can expect to see around 15% on NASP engines, but your results usually depend much on the upgrades you've done and the condition of your engine.

Pushing air into each cylinder is the aim to any engine modification job.

The intake plenum carry the air from the air cleaner and allow it to be sucked into the engine cylinders.

The bore size, shape and flow rate of the Intake can make a noticeable effect on to fuel mixing and power on the MZR L.

On popular production engines intake headers are in dire need of a performance upgrade, although some manufacturers provide reasonably well designed intake headers.

Fitting big valve kits, doing some port matching and head flowing will also lift bhp and torque, the fantastic side effect is it will allow you to get raising the bhp and torque increase on other parts.

MZR L Turbo upgrades

NASP engines need quite a lot of work when you add a turbo, so we have a separate guide to help you take into account the pros and cons of going this route on your MZR L

The more air you can get into an engine, the more fuel it can burn and uprating the induction with a turbocharger upgrade makes impressive power gains.

If the engine has forced induction upgrades are giving better power gains and we find turbocharged engines are built with many forged and stronger components.

However you will find engines will need better parts at higher power limits.We recommend you find these restrictions and install higher quality crank and pistons to survive the power.

There are many guys spending a loads of money on turbo upgrades on the MZR L only to see the car explode when it's first rolling road session.

Bigger capacity turbochargers tend to experience no power at low rpm, and small turbochargers spool up quickly but won't have the high rpm torque gains.

In the last 10 years the choice of turbo chargers is always improving and we are seeing variable vane turbo chargers, permitting the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end performance.

Twin scroll turbo chargers divert the exhaust flow into two channels and direct these at differently profiled vanes in the turbo charger. They also increase the scavenging effect of the engine.

It is not unusual that there's a limitation in the air flow sensor (AFM/MAF/MAP) on the MZR L when loads more air is being pulled into the engine.

Going up you'll find 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor was restricting performance at a much lower level.

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large power gains, although more complex to get working. We have this feature on twinchargers if you want to read more.

Fuelling

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will have to uprate the fuelling when you start exceeding 20% of a bhp and torque increase. We strongly recommend you to over specify your flow rate on the injectors.

The rule of thumb is to add another 20% when fitting an injector, this allows for injector deterioration and provides a little spare capacity should the engine require more fuel.

We think this one is common sense, but you'll need to match your fuel injector to the type of fuel your car uses as well.

MZR L Performance Exhausts

You only need to to replace your exhaust if the existing exhaust is actually creating a flow problem.

On most factory exhausts you should find that the flow rate is fine even on modest power gains, but when you start pushing up the power levels you will need to get a better flowing exhaust.

Sports exhausts can help increase the flow of air through the engine.

But if your exhaust pipe is too big, ie: over 2.5 inches bore, you will lose much of the flow rate and end up lacking power and torque.

Common exhaust restrictions are traced to the catalysts installed, so adding a higher flowing performance aftermarket catalyst such as a sports catalyst pretty much removes this restriction, thanks to it's larger size and surface area, and will effectively raise the performance to levels you would expect without having a catalyst installed, but keeps the car road legal.

Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the MZR L

The MZR L engines are generally reliable and solid units, as long as you follow the manufacturers service schedules, and use a good quality oil to ensure longevity. Few problems should happen as long as they are regularly serviced and maintained.

Regular oil changes are vital on the MZR L, especially when tuned and will help extend the life and reliability of the engine.

If you want to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your MZR L engine please join us in our car forums where you can discussMZR L tuning options in more detail with our MZR L owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Mazda tuning articles to get insights into each modification and how effective they will be.

Please help us improve these tips by sending us your feedback in the comments box below.

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