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Plug & Play—Bully Dog and SCT show us just how easy it is to upload big performance gains

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In spite of the rain, we were able to sample a variety of vehicles, including this EcoBoost Mustang, in stock and tuned form. While Bulldog specializes in the truck market, SCT concentrates on the sports and muscle car markets. However, the devices from both divisions can tune any vehicle in the two companies’ two libraries of calibrations.

Written By Steve Turner

Photography by the author and courtesy of the manufacturers

For any of our readers, tuning is part of the common vernacular. If you are modding a vehicle and hitting the racetrack in a computer-controlled vehicle, you need to recalibrate its programming to maximize performance. In some cases, you may even need to change the tuning to make the most of the track or weather conditions.

During the event we attended, the vehicles were tuned using the BDX device, which supports the latest vehicles under a single part number. This WiFi-capable device can receive tunes from the cloud and upload datalogs to a tuner via the cloud as well. It can hold store as many as 20 tunes onboard for those times when you don’t have connectivity. If displaying your OBD-II data is important, the GTX offers the same features paired with a 5-inch capacitive touchscreen display.

If you aren’t racing competitively, you might think that the benefits of tuning are beyond your reach or capabilities, but that just isn’t the case. Aftermarket companies put enormous research, development, and engineering efforts into simplifying the tuning process such that anyone can reflash their fuel-injected machines with a hotter tune.

To serve as reminder of just how simplicity and efficacy of this process, the teams at sister companies Bully Dog and SCT invite a select group of media to Palm Beach International Raceway to experience the process and savor the fruits of their labor.

“We are having everyone out at the media day today because it is hard for you to experience what our products do. Tuning tends to have some negative connotation to it. It’s a little black box that you plug in and it magically works,” Jill Hepp, Marketing Director at Bully Dog and SCT parent company Derive Systems, said. What we would like to do here is unveil things for you to show you how the tuning works, how easy it is, and what the difference is between stock and tuned—at least within the preloaded parameters. There is a lot we can do with custom tuning, but you get a taste of before and after from something an everyday person can do. On their daily drivers, they can add fuel economy, more horsepower, and more torque, just by using the plug and play.”

While all the vehicles showed a noticeable improvement, it was the new Ford Ranger that impressed us the most. Within minutes the BDX device flashed the new calibration into the Ranger’s PCM.

To that end, the Bully Dog and SCT teams were set up to run us through a number of vehicles in stock and tuned form. However, the weather wasn’t cooperating with the strategy to take the cars down the drag strip. They shifted gears and put us on the road course, where we could use the long straight for some spirited acceleration runs.

We began by experiencing the vehicles in stock form. Most were Ford trucks, along with a Dodge truck and an EcoBoost Mustang. With the popularity of trucks, that is no surprise, but the process of tuning the vehicles is consistent no matter what vehicle you are tuning. After making a run in the stock rides, the vehicles were flashed with fastidiously developed preloaded calibrations from the Bully Dog and SCT libraries.

Running wide open, the stock Ranger generated 18 pounds of boost and modest acceleration.

“You got to see the demonstration of how simple it is. It doesn’t take hours. It doesn’t take a laptop, and it doesn’t take all the things that tuning used to require. Now it is a simplified process,” Hepp said.

In practice, the vehicles accelerated noticeably faster with the calibrations in place, but that only tells part of the story of the benefits, as driveability, fuel economy, and other aspects of the vehicles are improved from a hotter calibration. Being current vehicles, these calibrations were applied using the company’s latest handheld programmers.

“We are working on working on a lot of new things, mainly focused on the GTX and BDX, which are our cloud-tuning platforms,” Hepp said. “That gives us the ability to deliver tunes a lot more quickly than with our legacy devices. With the cloud-tuning devices, they are able to pull up just what is available for that specific vehicle.”

The lighter truck really made the most of its additional 48 horsepower and 64 lb-ft of torque. We observed a gain of nearly 4.5 psi and the tuned truck really pushed us back in the seat with the surprising four-wheel drive traction on the wet pavement. We experienced improved acceleration in all the vehicles, but the Ranger gave us the biggest smile.

As far as applications, the company continues to develop calibrations for new vehicles as quickly as they can develop them. And, of course, these preloaded calibrations are not crafted for individual needs, which is why Bully Dog and SCT dealers can create custom calibrations to suit more combinations well beyond stock.

“We have a lot that has come out for 2019 vehicles. We have 2019 F-150s, EcoBoost Mustangs, 5.0 Mustangs. Ford has been our top 2019 coverage and they are working on GM for 2019, but for something like the Silverado/Sierra series, we already have 2010-2018. The markets are a little different,” Hepp explained. “For the Fords, we are working on gains, and for the GM we are working on drivability, as they are not looking for as much of a gain. They are looking for better throttle response, disabling displacement on demand, and just better drivability overall.”

Though we didn’t observe the runs ourselves, the prior day the Bully Dog/SCT crew ran the truck down the quarter mile. In stock form it ran 15.59 at 89.28 mph and with the new tune it dropped to 14.90 at 89.53 mph. Of course, as we noted previously, the tuning offers benefits beyond quicker elapsed times, but the numbers are a simple way to show how effective these calibrations can be.

And, while high-performance is obviously a draw for FSC readers, many of you also own vehicles used to tow your race cars to the track. In fact, SCT dealer Johnny “Lightning” Wiker was on hand at the event. He is the proud owner of a 2018 Ford F-350, 6.7L Ford Power Stroke diesel truck that tows his race trailer. His truck is all stock, save for an SCT preloaded tune, which improved the truck’s quarter-mile performance by lowering its elapsed time from 15.13 at 89.90 mph to 14.42 at 96.22 mph. He says it tows like a dream with the tune in place.

“Tow vehicles tend to be forgotten because they are just a means to get race vehicles from Point A to Point B. Really something as easy as adding a tune can add better fuel economy or change its capabilities while towing a load,” Hepp added. “Something as simple as loading a tune could save significant money down the road because they have better fuel economy and that’s more money that they can put into modifying or working on their race cars. It is simple that you can have better fuel economy and towing capability with something as simple as tune.”

If you ever needed a reason for tuning, more money to spend on your race car seems like the best one over to pick up one of the company’s devices.

Sources

Bully Dog

866 | 637 | 1672

Bullydog.com

 

SCT Performance

866 | 637 | 1672

SCTFlash.com


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