Just a few years ago, ECU tuning was unheard of. Today, it's widely acknowledged that the ECU - the Electronic Control Unit - is the key to automotive performance and tuning. This applies to domestics and imports, cars and trucks, and even to the luxury segment of the market. My own Acura has a programmable ECU that allows me to monitor over 40 sensors and data points in real time. I can tweak and upload ECU calibrations from a laptop computer connected to the ECU via a USB cable. I still use conventional instruments like a boost display to provide me with important data, but I know that it's really the modified ECU that runs the show, making sure that my supercharged engine gets the proper amount of fuel at the proper ignition advance and cam angle, allowing the engine in my car to make 70% more power than stock safely, reliably and economically. This is what luxury car tuning is all about these days.
If you're the owner of an entry-level luxury car or a full-blown luxury car and seek more performance, you probably spend a lot of time with Audi parts, Volkswagen parts, BMW parts or Mercedes parts. You know that installing performance headers, hotter cams or a free-flow exhaust alone is not enough and that the ECU must be programmed to take maximum advantage of all those performance car parts. You also know that turbo motors, especially, are capable of delivering a lot of extra power by cranking up the boost, but that it must be done safely via proper ECU programming.
There are various ways of ECU tuning. You can replace the stock ECU with a more powerful programmable unit. This is generally done with dedicated race cars. You can modify the existing ECU so it becomes programmable, if the required add-on boards are available. You can reprogram your stock ECU with replacement chips. Or you can install electronic add-on modules that intercept signals to and from the ECU.
Tuning via add-on electronic modules has some significant advantages. It does not require replacing an expensive ECU. It does not affect the functioning of the stock ECU, which means the software is generally invisible to diagnostics equipment. That can be important as it may affect manufacturer warranties. Add-on modules are also much easier to install and replace than daughterboards or entire ECUs. Should you need to quickly remove a module and detune the car, that can be done in a few minutes.
Yet another advantage of such control modules is that they can affect areas other than just performance. Depending on the make and model of your car, you may be able to customize the functioning of the remote, the power windows, side view mirrors, burglar alarm, sunroof, seats, A/C and many other aspects of the car. This can make driving safer and more convenient. These inexpensive control modules may also add a variety of additional information on the LCD display of your car.
There are many sources for luxury performance car parts, but only few have truly embraced the new computer tuning technologies that can add both power and functionality to your vehicle.