Tune or not - part one as it turns out

# One member's experience getting a Stage 1 tune.

Pictures and more on their way...

How do I use launch control again? For the 5th time, my step-son Trust, says: dynamic mode on, traction control off completely, brake pedal to the floor, gas to the floor, both hands on steering wheel, release the brakes (and hold on for dear life). We’re on our way to visit Unitronic in Montreal for a tune and gathering 0 to 100km information on my stock S4 seems important.

Unitronic is a Canadian company, based in Montreal and is both an Audi Club NA chapter supporter in Canada and an advertiser in Quattro. I met John Staffi, Technical Director at Unitronic, at an Eastern season opener at Blainville Audi in January. (Montreal, middle of winter, and a snowstorm - hey that’s how we do season openers in Canada). Unitronic has a 4-wheel dyno and John invited us to drop by when we could - that time had come. Had the S4 lost any oomph since new? My butt dyno said no. We decided, for scientific reasons, a road trip was warranted.

Unitronic really does focus on developing products (and packages) that can make a real difference. While we were there, they fabricated a 3” straight pipe to see the difference with their tune between that and the OEM system (other than being friggin' loud). Well, no dyno difference. All were surprised but pleased that customers wouldn’t “need” to change the exhaust. Damn -- I was looking forward to a reason (?) for a straight pipe.

It has not been a smooth drive. Montreal highways in March are not friendly for lowered cars, expensive rubber, or delicate rims. Time to take a peek behind the curtain.

We get a quick tour. Mostly what you’d expect, engine dyno, 4-wheel chassis dyno, couple race and test cars, racks of engines and parts, service bays. A few surprises: a photo studio, 3-screen racing simulator, a new 3D printer, and an impressive airflow tester. And some things they’d rather I didn’t mention.

Side note: the 3D printer is unbelievable. A brilliant way to bring products from a concept to life – in a day. Want to try a new intake design? Just print it. Want to try a small change? Print it again. Easy and quick.

The dyno bay door rolls up and the scientific research begins. After a few pulls, the numbers are consistent: 346.2 hp and 440.5 Nm (324Ftlbs) of torque.  Michal Zielinski., President of Unitronic, expected a drop from factory numbers with the mileage but is not surprised: Audi usually understates factory HP.

Time for the tune. John gets his laptop, connects a cable to the OBD-II port, goes to the Unitronic site, flashes the software, disconnects. About ten minutes start to finish. (Gordon, is waiting for the hood to be opened and “something” to be done there – he’s old school.)

I’m asked to leave the area - Gordon doesn’t want me to know the new numbers until after I have a chance to drive it (get the seat-of-the-pants dyno results). Several of the Unitronic staff have heard of this little game and arrive to watch me squirm. And I do. Doesn’t help that people are watching the dyno pulls, smiling, and whispering to one another. Michael has stayed around for the fun.

Leaving the parking lot, things are different. The car feels just a bit peppier - the throttle is more responsive. Acceleration is more noticeable. I can only imagine what stage 2 or 3 would be. I still haven’t been told the new numbers. Sadly, it's’ raining. Full seat-of-the-pants dyno testing will be another day. (On the highway, we unexpectedly come upon Stephen in his TT. After a quick wave of acknowledgment, we pass a Mercedes AMG together.

Finally, Gordon finally reveals the results: 419 Bhp and 494.5 Nm (364.7 ft-lbs) of torque. I was surprised. For Stage 1, in a 6-year old car, I had hoped for a high 390’s. The numbers explain what I have been feeling through the seat and the steering wheel. Happy? Yes!

So, to tune or not to tune. Hell yes! (Post story update: Gordon discreetly got me a supercharger pulley while we were there. Almost 500hp here I come…a blog for another day.)

Brett Fisher

e - brett.fisher@audiclubna.ca