+ Tuner Takes
*Given the 335i's potential, we spoke with a few key industry players regarding product development. Our thinking is this: if a simple black box can provide a significant power boost, what would happen if you access the entire computer? Answer: even more power and responsiveness.
"We acquired a 335i development car and have just now started probing the ECU," says Garrett Lim. "The 335's computer is an entirely new processor, very fast and capable but also somewhat sensitive to heat and stability issues. In any case, it is a significant upgrade and will allow us even more control. We'll let you know the moment we have anything concrete."
"We're going through 'stages' with the 335i, deciding what the best improvements are and what the mandatory improvements are," says TMS founder Will Turner. "Right now, our car has been fitted with software, a limited-slip diff, cat-back exhaust, larger intercooler and oil cooler, coilover suspension and Hartge aerodynamics. We're going to shake it down on the track, see what breaks and fix them so they don't."
As usual, the crew at Dinan had little to say about its intended 335 development. However, given Steve Dinan's extensive experience with BMW turbocharging, one can safely assume great things will come out of its Northern California operation. Dinan will make us wait until it's perfect... which is exactly what we'd expect.
Aaron Neumann of Neuspeed has been a busy, busy man. Apparently, more than a few of his distributors have been begging for 335i upgrades, developments Neumann is 95 percent close to realizing. At this point, Neumann has been able to access the code via BDM (backdoor debugging management) and found what amounts to the Holy Grail in terms of access and tunability. By the time the magazine hits the newsstands Neuspeed will most likely have software capable of wringing great gobs of power from the 335i. Like all Neuspeed products, it will be solid and yet safe. It's where we'd take our own 335i for tuning.
+ Voodoo Tuning
How that little black box makes its magic*Anyone who's tuned a car in the past 10 or 15 years is familiar with the infamous 'chip.' Chip tuning really came into its own with the proliferation of turbo cars. It suddenly became easy for tuners to turn up the boost and make big power gains for minimal monetary outlay. Hard mods like intakes and exhausts suddenly looked like a rip-off when compared to a chip or ECU reflash.
As you can imagine, vehicle manufacturers aren't that excited about tuners having such easy access to turning their conservatively tuned and warranty-friendly machines into what they consider ticking time bombs. OEs are now trying everything they can to stop or at least slow down the development of chips and aftermarket software.
BMW has really thrown down the gauntlet with its new twin turbo 335i. The engineers clearly spent extra hours trying to make this ECU extra tough to crack. Lucky for us there are computer nerds like Vishnu's Shiv Pathak. While many looked at the 335i and claimed it couldn't be reprogrammed, Pathak knew from experience it would just require a different angle of attack.
A piggyback computer allows the tuner to intercept all the data going between the car and the ECU in both directions. Working between the car's sensors and the ECU allows the tuner to leave some data alone, allowing the car to make changes to operating parameters as needed, while other data is modified to values the ECU is comfortable with. When asked why he prefers this system over a flash Shiv replies: "We knew this engine was going to be used in the 5 Series, 1 Series, etc. We wanted a product that can be moved from one car to another. We also wanted to implement additional functionality such as launch control, user customization, on-the-fly mapping and other things that aren't all possible with a reflashed ECU."