Sometimes, when a new product comes to the market and you have a chance to review it, you let your emotions cloud your judgment. It's kind of like dating someone new, being intoxicated with infatuation. As soon as the pink mist fades, you see the picture more clearly. I've been using the BNR since April 16th with the intention to review it, but wanted to give this product and Jerry some ability to flex their muscles and show me what they can do. My calculated thoughts are at last complete, and I can provide a clear and honest review.
EFI Live & BNR: Me Boosta
First things first: BNR doesn't sell a tune. I'm sure many of you are sitting there wondering how the BNR Tune compares to Trifecta and Diablosport. Don't. There is no comparison, because you're not getting a tune here. Instead, you're getting a tuner. You are buying a license with EFI Live (or optionally, HPTuners), and as much of Jerry's time as you need to make the tune exactly what you want it to be. The end product is customized for each individual and each vehicle (with or without modifications), but not advertised in any way at the time of purchase. What you are buying is far more valuable than a "tangible" tune.
To begin, I'll just say Jerry knows what he's doing. I have what I'd like to consider a very good understanding of automotive principles and mechanics, and other Gearheads tend to agree. I have experience tuning with HPTuners on other platforms, and have engaged in technical discussions with Jerry regarding this platform. Jerry has over a hundred hours of tuning and development here, and the result of that shows. Because this PCM is fundamentally different than other automotive PCMs do, an intimate and proficient understanding is required. I've told many people; this isn't an L67 or LS1. A thousand hours of tuning an LS1 doesn't make you a good 1.4T tuner. Jerry specialization in this platform is something I cannot stress enough.
The Hardware: 1990s Nostalgia
The EFI Live tuning autocal is about the most no-frills, industrial tuning handheld I've ever seen. It's a simple backlit dot matrix display, a meager 8MB of storage capacity, and a bulky feel to it. There are three buttons, a data port for the OBD2 cable, and a USB port. Holding this thing brings a sense of 1990s computing nostalgia. I'd wager you could use it as a hockey puck and it would still work. That said, it did impress me.
Load times are about as long as it takes for you to blink. It starts automatically when plugged in, and in under 5 seconds, you're ready to rock. There are two tuning modes; a full flash and a program flash. The full flash is your initial flash, which takes under 5 minutes to complete start to finish, and the program flash is what you use to upload tuning adjustments thereafter. The program flash takes all of 30 seconds, which makes it very special. This is where this no-frills device shines. It allows you to get down to business without theatrics. The interface is simple and intuitive. It can hold 5 program tunes, and about 10 minutes of datalogging, depending on how much storage is used up by the tunes. Should you decide that 10 minutes of datalogging is insufficient, you can hook this up to your laptop and vehicle simultaneously and tune for as long as you need to.
Now, I said that the 30 second flash makes this very special. The reality is that people do things that are convenient. To briefly contrast, Trifecta and Diablosport's tunes take forever to update, and the Diablosport device itself takes 2 minutes to boot. A 30 second flash and a nonexistent device boot time means you can store whatever flavor of tune you want and swap them wherever, whenever, without wasting time. You can have a daily power tune, a race tune, and eco tune, a "I'm letting my son borrow my car to go out with friends and I don't want him revving past 4000rpm" tune, and a "my wife has a lead foot" tune.
Connecting the device to your laptop involves downloading EFI Live Scan and Tune from the website, and opening the file browser, where you can copy files to and from the device.
The BNR Tuning Service:
Now that I've introduced the duo and the hardware, let's get to the tuning. When Jerry sent me this handheld, first thing he did was have me load up a baseline tune. Limited in power, this tune provides slightly more power with complete safety, like letting your daughter go out on a first date but with a GPS tracking device hidden inside her phone. The purpose of this tune is to allow you to datalog to make adjustments, which is when the fun starts. Once you get the first datalog, you start making adjustments and as a result, more power. There are a few areas that need to be carefully observed in this car, such as an inconsistent wastegate adjustment that can easily cause you to overboost the turbo. It is assumed, of course, that you're getting the tune because you want more power, or you'd otherwise just stick with the factory tune. After a few datalogs and adjustments, you start having some fun. At this point, Jerry's services are at your disposal for any changes you may wish to make. I'll describe my experience so you can get an idea.
At 19PSI, Jerry's tune made more power than Trifecta's did with 21psi. Don't ask me how. Jerry mentioned 21psi would be safe, so we stuck to that, and I datalogged 209lb-ft to the wheels and a calculated ~170whp. This datalog has been proven to be dyno-accurate within a margin of error of about 5lb-ft. A week later on a cold and damp night, I felt my clutch slip for the first time, but I asked for it. Since it went away after I parked my car and ran my errand, I decided the clutch doesn't like cold and damp conditions and that it would be fine the rest of the time. One thing that bugged me was that Jerry's initial tune had a bit too much throttle response, so I messaged Jerry and asked him to make it more linear. I told him, I want my throttle to feel mechanical, and he did just that. The more throttle I apply, the more power I get, and it eliminated the runaway boost "problem" I had with RPM climbs at part throttle. On the same token, a reverse of this adjustment could have been made if I needed an auto-x tune. After this, I decided I wanted a shorter DFCO delay. DFCO is deceleration fuel cut-off, which shuts off fuel injectors when decelerating. The car engages this feature at a delay of 1.1 seconds, which I had shortened to 0.4 seconds. This means that, for my specific driving habits, I could improve my fuel economy. One point I want to drive home is that Jerry did exactly what I asked him to because I knew what I wanted, but I could have just as easily said "I want better fuel economy, how can we accomplish that," and he would have implemented this as one of the features.
Next, I decided to work on an ECO tune. I told Jerry I wanted to cut boost to Prius power levels to keep AFR high at higher throttle levels, force the car into a 93 octane spark advance profile, cut DFCO delay to 0.2 seconds, and make the throttle as lazy as reasonably possible. In other words, I didn't want to get higher power levels unless I literally mashed the throttle. With a few other implemented features and several datalogs, I got an ECO tune that I can now flash whenever I go on a road trip that makes the car feel like 1.6L N/A engine.
As for my power tune, let's just say my car has never made this much power before. I'll let other happy customers share their colorful impressions of the kind of power their cars are now making.
As for fuel economy, my mileage has been unaffected with the power tune, and I estimate a 2-3mpg improvement over stock with the eco tune I had Jerry make for me given the features implemented, particularly in city driving. I won't comment on actual fuel economy gains as there are far too many non-repeatable conditions that affect fuel economy, making it impossible to accurately measure any differences.
Service: No ticket needed
At this point, you're starting to realize what I meant earlier. You're not paying for a pre-fabricated tune, but for a custom service that produces whatever tune you want. Ah, but there's one last, but definitely not least, point I need to make. Service. Let me paint a picture to drive this home.
Say you work in Accounts Receivable at a small company, and you have a computer problem. Your company employs one IT guy. You give him a call, explain your problem, and he says "Linda has a an issue I need to work on real quick, but I'll be right there as soon as I'm done." 1 hour later, he shows up and fixed your computer in 30 seconds. Fast forward one month. Your small company has been acquired by a large company, and your IT guy has been integrated into their IT department. You manage to break a computer again, and you give him a call. He answers, "please create a ticket."
The only ticket you'll be seeing with BNR Tuning is the one you get when you go too fast.
Is it Safe?
You need to come to terms with the fact that making power will produce additional wear on your engine and/or turbo to an exponentially increasing degree. Within a certain range, no appreciable problems will arise, but a point of diminishing returns will be met. If you're not comfortable with the prospect of potential
of accelerated long-term well, however minor it may be, consider whether you want any tune on your vehicle. That said, in the time I've had this tune, my car went into limp mode 3 times. All 3 times were because of a strict overboost protection. Jerry is able to make power in this PCM while keeping all factory safeguards and strengthening some. He monitors things like catalytic converter temp, which will cut power if the cats get too hot. The ability to make power while keeping all factory safeguards demonstrates an ability to make power in this PCM by coaxing it to give you more power instead of forcing it to do what you want it to. This is not
a scorched earth, "engine safety be damned" tune.
I've tried the Diablosport tune, three different Trifecta tunes (including one custom tune), and the tune that I wanted with Jerry's finishing touches. Jerry's is the one that's staying on the car. It's not that those were terrible tunes, but that I got exactly what I was looking for. Some may ask, "but how can you be objective if you have nothing bad to say about the tune?" It may have taken me 26 datalogs to get there but it's hard to say something bad about the tune you customized for yourself. Question is, what do you want out of your
Order your BNR tune here: Bad News Racing Website