Quarter Mile Magazine

Tuning box comparison

Tuning boxes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are simple resistances in expensive looking plastic boxes while others have multiple settings, their manufacturers call ‘maps’ and most of them claim up to 25 percent more power and torque. Although none of them are as good as a well written remap, we love their plug and play nature and the fact that you can transfer them to another car with the same engine. There is a lot of hype surrounding them, we had to do a full fledged comparison.

How do tuning boxes work? 

Almost every diesel engine sold in India is detuned. Manufacturers do this in the interest of fuel economy and also to suit the quality of fuels, the variety of climate conditions and also to take care of the emissions. Tuning boxes inject more fuel and produce more power.

Tuning boxes come with OEM connectors that let them tap into the ECU feedback from the rail pressure sensor. It modifies the reading from the rail pressure sensor and when the rail pressure is at, say 1600bar, the tuning box tells the ECU it is only 1400bar and that makes the ECU increase the rail pressure to say 1700bar. With this higher rail pressure, when the injector nozzles open, more fuel gets sprayed into the cylinders and consequently you get more power.

Now the manufacturers of these tuning boxes say, the operational range of these boxes is still within the tolerance limits and most engines can easily handle the extra load.

The test process

To test and compare the tuning boxes, we had to have a base. We chose the Swift the most common car diesel car we could find and one with the most popular diesel engine of them all- the 1.3Multijet. As standard, the Swift comes with 75bhp of power and 190N-m torque. Now, we could compare the performance of different cars fitted with each of these boxes, but then, not all cars are mechanically the same and that could affect the results. So instead, we went box-swapping on our Swift until we arrived at our performance data.

Here is how our stock Swift performed as recorded by our vbox. At the time of testing, the car had grippier 205 section tyres and very stiff suspension.

0-60kmph: 5.37sec

0-100kmph: 13.58sec

20-80kmph in 3rd gear: 12.71sec

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Unichip

This one offers great throttle responses with minimal turbo lag. It offers great performance in the midrange and the turbo gets a bump in boost. This one doesn’t offer the performance advantages of some others, but it offers great refinement and a very smooth power delivery making it very good for everyday driving. It is quite expensive and doesn’t feel like you did much to the factory tune.

0-60kmph: 5.40sec

0-100kmph: 13.17sec

20-80kmph in 3rd gear: 12.63sec

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Tunit

This box is clearly focused towards performance. There is a lot of turbo lag and once you get it spooling, the rush is addictive. It feels the quickest of the lot, thanks to the sudden rush of torque and power stays on for longer too. But the initial lag means it didn’t do very well in out performance timings.

0-60kmph: 5.31sec

0-100kmph: 12.83sec

20-80kmph in 3rd gear: 12.94sec

 

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Pete’s

Made by PSI of Belgium, the blue box comes with quality packaging but no mounting options. Performance gains are impressive, with the car shaving nearly a second and half from the stock car’s 0-100kmph timing. Even more impressive is the drivability and despite the turbo taking longer to spool up, there is sufficient torque low down to drive at slow speeds. On the flip side, the engine isn’t very refined when revved and sometimes there is a whiff of smoke, indicating very rich fuelling.

0-60kmph: 4.90sec

0-100kmph: 11.98sec

20-80kmph in 3rd gear: 11.43sec

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Race Dynamics

This one, the dieselTRONIC, comes with a remote control and has four remotely switchable settings on it. ‘P2’ is the setting with most amount of power and there is the next one ‘P1’ offering a good balance. The difference between the two is perceptible and in P2, it offers the best performance of all boxes. There is a hint of lag, but when the turbo comes on a song, it is quite rewarding. It also comes with an Economy mode ‘E’ which cuts off the turbo boost to an extent and this should result in improved fuel efficiency. The fourth setting ‘S’ turns off the box and provides the stock performance.

0-60kmph: 5.02sec

0-100kmph: 11.88sec

20-80kmph in 3rd gear: 12.64sec

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Spider Tuning Box

This claims to be the most advanced box of the lot, with carbon fibre looks and an adaptive scan that changes the fuel mapping to suit each load application. The universal nature of the box means, it is also transferable by swapping the microprocessor with one that is designed for your next car. When connected, it takes a while to make its presence felt, but once in, if offers an adequate improvement in low end performance and a decent spike in the turbo’s punch. Performance improvements are not as some of the best boxes here, but it scores well on refinement.

0-60kmph: 5.40sec

0-100kmph: 13.03sec

20-80kmph in 3rd gear: 12.82sec

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Verdict

All these tuning boxes set out to do the same thing, but there are some differences in the way they perform.  Tunit is strictly inclined towards power and lacks finesse in every other area. It suffers from weak throttle responses and too much turbo-lag and is best left for highways. The Unichip which was the most responsive of the lot, turns out to be very linear in its nature. While that is very good in theory, for a performance mod, it doesn’t feel like a very big difference.

If you want maximum performance, the Race Dynamics DieselTRONIC is the one to go for. The remotely switchable settings make it more fun, but it leaves you with a tough choice as to what mode you should select. We had a lot of expectations with the Spider tuning box but it turned out to be quite average in our test. It is not the fastest, nor is it verygood in terms of refinement or drivability.

We quite loved the Race Dynamics box for its performance, but for all-round goodness, it is hard to beat the Pete’s box. It is the very genesis of diesel tuning boxes in the country and is still your best bet, if you’re looking for the best balance between performance and drivability.  It is on the expensive side, but strong sales network and reliable service support make it worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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