The 2.0 Liter LTG Ecotec can be found in a number of cars that we work with: namely the 2013+ Cadillac ATS, 2014+ Cadillac CTS, and the 2016+ Camaro. There are also versions of this motor in the Chevy Malibu and other vehicles as well, so this advice would ring true for all of them.
We recently began working with a customer who came to us with a modified 2016 Camaro 2.0T. This customer was ready for their tune, so the mods were installed with the anticipation of having the tune done right away.
The stock pulls on this car show that with the bolt-ons this particular car is making a very healthy amount of torque. That is, until it hits the ECU's factory torque output limit and torque management steps in to greatly reduce the amount of power that the engine is allowed to put to the ground.
In the graph you can see that from about 3,750 RPM to about 5,750 RPM the power output of the car is significantly reduced. This will happen if your car produces more torque than the ECU's preset torque limit, and is a significant reason to make sure that you get a good tune to support your mods. For those of you wondering, the factory torque limit varies by RPM, so it's not one set value, but the max calculated amount allowed is in the low 300's. It is safe to say that amount is meant to most closely relate to the output at the crank, not at the wheels.
Without a tune this driver would be driving at wide open throttle with less than 200whp at some RPM ranges due to the torque management intervention, when they could easily be making well over 260 whp as is. The torque management on these cars is aggressive on the stock tune, and very unforgiving. that calculated value could even be thrown off by something as seemingly benign as a change in tire diameter too.
What is actually happening here is that the ECU is sensing the additional torque output and is commanding the throttle body to start closing (much like it does during traction control). As the driver you may feel this as a sort of "nerfing" or dead spot in the powerband.
In even more extreme cases the ECU will also start to report false knock retard in order to demand less airflow from the turbocharger. (there is a table that reduces allowed airflow from the turbo in the presence of knock, FYI).
Here is what the ECU commanded Throttle % was, despite the fact that the driver's foot was at 100% throttle the entire time:
At RPM-Motorsports we have been working with the GM Ecotec Platform since 2004, and have seen a few different generations of ECUs come and go over the years. We started off with tuning the Ecotec way back when the little Chevy Cavalier gave you practically less options to adjust than a common household VCR. Over the years we evolved with the platforms, to the more advanced Chevy Cobalts and their introduction of the MAF sensor to the Ecotec family, followed by the Bosch torque-based ECU found in the Pontiac Solstice GXP, Saturn Sky Redline, Chevy Cobalt SS, and HHR SS.
That first torque-based ECU was a curveball to the typical dyno tuner back in its first year of introduction. Some more complicated concepts that were typically only seen in Diesel engine applications were now starting to make their way into the engine management of gasoline powered engines. Things like Torque-based Airload, and Direct Injection settings started to look like a foreign language to most. We quickly adapted, and got ourselves at the forefront of tuning the LNF engine, and quickly adopted the LTG engine when it was introduced too.
The LTG brings a lot more complication to the process of tuning an automobile, and even though it has been around for more than 3 years there are still a lot of people puzzled by it's inner workings. This logic now applies to even the mighty LS series V8 engines, which has come as a shock to those shops that have not been keeping up with the times in the 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder direct injection world.
It's not just about Timing Advance and Air Fuel Ratio anymore!
The real basics of the good ole days are gone, and tuning a car to run properly is rarely as easy as just turning up the timing advance until it knock and then dialing it back a little, and dialing in your air fuel ratios to where you are happy. Now there are calculations for axle torque and predictive coefficients that must be taken into consideration, as well as a spider web of tables that cross-reference each other to keep things in check.
Tuner are now facing tables like the Driver Demand tables that indicate the amount of torque that the engine should be allowing/demanding. This table does not exist as a perfect 1:1 relationship with reality.
We also see tables like Peak Engine Torque coming into play, though you can see that these values are not perfectly related to the Driver Demand table, yet these tables work together to target and limit calculated torque output from the engine. "Calculated" being the operative word, because if you spend some time looking at logs you will see that this number is also something somewhat arbitrary to the ECU itself. If you look at these tables in an Automatic Equipped car versus a Manual Transmission equipped car you will also notice that their values are wildly different, as the ECU uses a different method of torque calculation in each.
From there you will find a plethora of other tables that require careful adjustments in order to ask the engine to demand more power. The relatively complex ECU found with the LNF engine now seems rather elementary compared to that found with the LTG in the 2016 Camaro 2.0T. In fact, the logic in this ECU shares more in common with the newer ECUs found with Subaru's FA20DIT engine that comes with the 2015+ WRX and 2014+ Forester XT.
Boost control now becomes a delicate balance of torque targets and wastegate duty cycle tables that simply airload limits and torque percentages. You cannot simply max things out to 100% and expect this LTG to want to pick up steam.
We have the Charge Pipes, the Cold Air Intake, and Down-pipe in final stages of R&D… We have a few Bar & Plate Cores being delivered today so that we can get the new upgraded intercooler built and we picked up the new TD04 Turbocharger from our turbo build shop… it has a 60mm billet wheel and ported intake channel. So far our CAI has not thrown a code, we have learned allot about MAF placement with our previous GM 2.0T Platforms. We are excited! We are looking at shipping first rounds of product the first week of November!
Form Meets Function
We don't often share what goes on in the shop on a day to day basis, and have generally posted products only when they are fully developed. Today we wanted to peel back the curtain a little bit and begin talking about products that we are currently developing in-house.
Thanks to customer Michael L. for loaning us his car for a few days to complete the Research and Development necessary to produce a quality Cold Air Intake Kit for the 2011 to 2014 Dodge Avenger 3.6L Pentastar. We will be working on testing fitment on other platforms here in the near future after development to see if these also fit the first generation Chrysler 200 or possibly others.
We start off by mocking up the design for where the intake will eventually go, and then produce the first protoype for testing. We decided that a 180 degree mandrel bend was going to yield us the best performance possible in the space that we had available. Ultimately we plan to make 2 versions of this kit: One that will connect to the stock air box, and one that will have its own K&N style conical air filter.
The final product will not only flow more freely than the stock baffled and resonated intake tubing, but it will also come custom painted in your choice of factory colors, or the standard wrinkle black hi-temp coating. This can ultimately be a performance part that is also a show piece worth popping the hood to show off. We believe that our parts not only have to look good, but they have to serve a purpose too.
The RPM-Motorsports Cold Air Intake Kit for the 3.6L Dodge Avenger will not require a custom tune, but you will see more performance gains when installed in combination with our Stage 1 Tune.
Over the years we have inevitably run into customers who were tuned by other shops at some point in the car's life. Sometimes the customer we are dealing with is aware of the tune, and other times they are secondary owners that had no clue what work the previous owner had done to the car. Either way, they turn to us for some performance parts and tuning and we are glad to help.
Usually when we run across a car that was previously tuned it was work done by one of our competitors, and the tune will have many logical adjustments made to it that are appropriate for someone tuning this type of ECU. Other times we run across situations that are much more mind bending, and that's where we bring us to today.
While observing some logs on a customer's car that we all believed to be a STOCK 2008 Solstice GXP, the logs started to reveal some irregularities. Our first clue that something was not stock was that the MAF sensor was seeing much more airflow than stock. There were many other red flags that turned up in the "stock" tune that quickly indicated to us that something was WRONG. So we downloaded the tune off of the ECU to see what was up.
Right away, it became apparent that this file was not stock at all, but it also was not a file written by someone with specific knowledge on how to tune an LNF engine either. At best, this file looked like it was touched by someone who was used to tuning other types of turbocharged motors, but that someone had no clue about direct injection fueling or an ECU that used torque calculations (like the Bosch Controller we have in the Solstice, Sky, HHR, and Cobalt).
Like Something We Had Never Come Across Before:
If you are accustomed to reading dyno graphs, it would be quite obvious that something was greatly wrong with the above picture. Even if you aren't used to reading the graphs, you can still see the extreme loss of power at higher RPMs. But don't let the power part of the graph steal all of the attention. In reality, where this dyno pull is making the greatest amount of power (256whp/341wtq) is actually operating under incredibly dangerous conditions. Not only is the turbocharger boosting well above 24 psi (the stock MAP sensor was maxed out, so who knows how much boost was there), but the Air Fuel Ratio was so lean that it was almost leaner than idle! This was a 14.5 AFR @ more than 24psi of boost.
Furthermore, at the upper RPM ranges the car suddenly became extremely rich, and power dropped to about 170whp @6,000rpms (well below stock despite the engine being under higher than stock boost pressure). This goes to show you that boost does not always equate to power. Upon further examination of the data logs it became clear that the car was attempting to protect itself from the extreme combustion temperatures being created by the combination of excessive boost and dangerously lean AFR. In fact, according to the Oxygen Sensors the Exhaust Gas Temperature during this pull was more than hot enough to melt aluminum.
So What Do We Do From Here?
One of the big questions I hear a lot of other car guys ask each other at car shows or online is "How much boost are you running?", if anything this case should help you understand how irrelevant that type of question is. A properly tuned car at these same boost levels would be producing substantially more power than this, and be operating much safer.
From here we can only hope that however much driving around had been done on the previous tune hasn't already caused any irreversible damage. Early indications may be showing that this customer got lucky on this one because the car was not a daily driver for them and only saw occasion use on that previous tune. Now we will go back through with our V-Tuner and connect to the customer's car to upload our RPM Stage 2 Tune and carefully monitor the car again for the next few days. Once it has been determined that we have a properly working LNF, this customer should experience a wickedly different top end power curve on this car (and not to mention a safer one too!).
This is one of the added benefits to getting a tune from a shop that specializes in your car. Furthermore, with all of our V-Tunes you get a complimentary Remote Dyno & Diagnostic Service ($150 value), which is where we realized that we had this issue in the first place. Had this customer just gone to another shop for service that didn't know the LNF engine that shop could have attempted to flash their tune on top of this already bad tune and not known any better.
Did you buy your car used? Not the first owner? Ever wonder what has been done to your cars ECM… is it stock? Is it tuned? If it’s tuned, does it have a “good” tune? What about the general health of your car??? Is it fueling properly? Does it knock under acceleration? With some vehicle’s going on their 5th owner you as the current owner want to know exactly what’s been done to your new car and taking your car to a dealership or local speed shop can spiral into the several hundreds of dollars…
We can help! RPM-Motorsports has developed a program called “Virtual Diagnostics”, it’s a tell all story about your car! The process is very simple, we send you one of our V-Tuning Kits and from there we start by looking at the ECM calibration that is currently on the car and determine if it is “Stock” or has it been altered… then onto live road testing and data logging… from there we extract the data that was collected and give you a detailed report about your vehicles general state of health… We provide information on fueling, knock retard, if you have a Turbo or Supercharged vehicle is your car boosting properly, is it making adequate airflow based on your equipment? We can even identify “Boost Leaks”. On certain model vehicle’s we can even use on-board sensors to calculate real world “Wheel” Horsepower… That’s right no need to go to the dyno shop! These are just a few of the parameters that we include in your final health report.
Now that we have the information…What do we do? In the event we identify a “Critical” issue, we will advise you on the best course of action to resolve the issue. It might be as simple as changing spark plugs.. or if it is “Tune” related and you decide to have us re-tune your ECM we offer upgrade pricing on all of our Stage Tunes, we simply credit the cost of the Virtual Diagnostics program towards the cost of the ECM tune..
At the end of the process you will have peace of mind knowing exactly what is going on with your car!
Click below to order your service today!
Supercharger Versus Turbo
Being in the performance business we often get asked by our customers, "Which one is better: a supercharger or a turbo?" If this were 20 years ago the answer would be pretty cut and dry, as you've probably heard the old adage that Superchargers are better for low end power and Turbos are better for top end power.........but does that type of advice still hold up true today?
If you have been around cars a long time, you may still think that Superchargers are more responsive than turbos, that turbos are less reliable, and the list probably goes on and on. So let's examine the available scenario given two commonly found Ecotec motors:
2.0 Liter LSJ Supercharged Ecotec (205hp @5,600rpm/200tq @4,400rpm)
-2004 to 2007 Saturn Ion Redline
-2005 to 2007 Chevy Cobalt SS
2.0 Liter LNF Turbocharged Ecotec (260hp @5,300rpm/260tq @2,000rpm)
-2007 to 2010 Pontiac Solstice GXP
-2007 to 2009 Saturn Sky Redline
-2008 to 2010 Chevy Cobalt SS
-2008 to 2010 Chevy HHR SS
-2007 to 2010 Opel GT
These engines make a good comparison for many reasons, some of which is their shared displacement, frequency of use, and relevance to our business. Some of you might not agree that we are comparing apples to apples, but we pretty much are and we pretty much aren't. On the surface these cars are both 2.0 Liter displacement, and while the cam phasing and fuel delivery may vary between the two engines the real apples versus oranges here is the supercharger and turbo.
In the above graph we compare a pretty much "maxed out" Eaton M62 Supercharger equipped LSJ engine on E85 fuel, which is represented by the red line. The blue line represents a stock LNF equipped with only an E47 Tune. Both were tuned by the same in-house tuner here at RPM-Motorsports. At the peak the turbocharger equipped LNF engine is producing around 185 more torque at the wheels than the supercharger equipped car. Both of these cars are pretty close to pushing the boost limits on their factory equipped power adders.
You can see that the power difference between the two cars is substantial. The turbocharger in this case just produces way more boost than the supercharger does, and it produces it at a much lower RPM than you may have expected if you came from the school of thought that the turbocharger would make less boost due to "turbo lag". In fact, "turbo lag" is about as dated of an automotive term these days as "leaded fuel" or "carburetor". Thanks to the K04 turbo being designed with a twin scroll exhaust housing, this small turbocharger can now spool almost instantaneously (full spool as low as 1,800 rpms!) and also breath hard up top just like a larger turbo. It's almost the best of both worlds.
Let's not just compare the power output of these two devices, but let's also dive into the relative safety of running either of these power adders near the brink of their mechanical limits.
As a tuner, one of the factors I have to consider when pushing cars hard is the IAT2 temperatures. For those who are unfamiliar, this is the air going into the engine after it has been cooled off by the intercooler. Whether or not your car is knocking, or whether it is running at the right AFR under boost, IAT2 temperatures is something that cannot and should not be ignored. If you can effectively lower the IAT2 temperatures on your boosted car, you will run safer and also squeeze denser and cooler air into your engine resulting in better airflow and better performance.
In the short 3rd gear pull above, this LSJ powered Cobalt experienced an IAT2 temperature climb from a base of 102 degrees up to 126 degrees over the course of only 3,000 rpms at WOT. If this driver were to continue to floor the throttle through 4th gear afterwards, the temperatures would continue to climb at a similar rate. Once the IAT2 temperatures exceed the 175 degree range it is possible to cause irreversible damage to the pistons and other engine internals. unfortunately these temperatures have NOTHING to do with your engine coolant temperature, and without a specialized gauge there would be no way to monitor it on the car.
Above is a similar 3rd gear pull in the LNF powered Cobalt. The IAT2 temps raised from a cruising IAT2 of 81 degrees up to only 91 degrees after reaching the top of 3rd gear. This represents a climb of only 10 degrees compared to the LSJ's climb of 24 degrees in roughly the same time frame. You must also keep in mind that not only does the LNF experience less of temperature rise, but it is also producing 8 to 10 more psi of boost than the LSJ. More boost and lower air temperatures typically means more power.
HPTuners Authorized Dealer
RPM-Motorsports has been offering custom ECU tuning for over a decade using the HPTuners software. We are pleased to announce that we have decided to become an authorized HPTuners dealer so that we can offer their top quality tuning cables and hardware to our customers directly.
What this means for our customers is the ability to purchase their very own HPTuners Standard or Pro Interface cables to scan, log, and tune their very own cars when they please. Additionally, because we have always offered our tunes for sale as stand-alone files, you can now purchase them separately and switch between files as needed.
If you were curious about trying E47 or E85 tunes due to local availability of ethanol fuels(or lack thereof), you could now switch between Pump Gas and Ethanol fuel tunes on your own with the use of your HPTuners cable.
Standard VCM Suites start at $499, and include enough credits to tune up to 4 cars before needing to purchase more credits. These work well for our LNF powered customers, since that engine has a built in wideband from the factory that HPTuners can easily read. We will even send you our Customer scanner configuration to get you started so that you know exactly what you should be looking at in your logs.
Pro VCM Suites start at $649 and include all the same features as the Standard Suite PLUS the addition of a serial input for your external boost or wideband sensors on non-factory equipped cars. This is a must for 2.4L LE5 Turbo Swaps, LSJ Powered Cobalts, and those who want to log external wideband sensors. Another feature that set the Pro Suite apart from the Standard Suite is the stand-alone data logging capability. After a basic setup, the Pro Interface can data log and store hours of driving logs for later download onto your computer.
Check out our currently available options in our Tuning Section.
V-Tuner technology allows our in-house tuners to connect to your car from anywhere in the world.
We recently sent out some of our V-Tuner kits to customers across the country who purchased the Stage 2 Kits from our online store. Instead of having the customer mail us their ECU and wait until they get the new ECU back to drive it again, our process does not involve ANY downtime.
From the moment the package arrives at your door, we are capable of walking you through the easy setup of the V-Tuner system, which needs nothing more than a Wifi connection, some power, and to be plugged into your OBDII Port under the steering wheel.
From there, we set you up for some initial data logging. Unlike "canned tunes" that are prepared by most speed shops or mail order tuning companies, our process does not even begin until after we have looked over your current file and have you make two 10-minute data logging sessions. All you need to do is drive like you normally do for the first log, and for the second log we ask for some full throttle pulls. This allows us to see your car's current behavior during the broadest spectrum of driving environments. Best of all, unlike dyno machines where your car just free spins some rollers in a garage, our process captures data on the open road, in real world conditions. Vehicle weight, wind resistance, and uphill/downhill driving conditions are taken into account to insure the closest thing to real life scenarios, because you are driving in your real world environment.
After the data logs have been captured, our in-house tuner can write your Stage 1 or Stage 2 file and add in the data captured from your car's sensors. We make adjustments to airflow calculations, timing tables, fuel mapping, boost control, torque management and more based upon what we see in the logs. This process gives each one of our customers a custom tune, as well as Before and After dyno results.
2007 Solstice GXP Manual Stock Dyno Pull
The above customer's stock 2007 Solstice GXP (manual transmission) made 225 horsepower and 240 torque at the wheels in stock form. This is completely normal wheel output, since the manufacturer estimates 260 crank horsepower and 260 crank torque. This represents a 14% power train loss to the wheels, which again is completely normal when dynoing one of these Kappa car with a manual transmission. The 240 torque at the wheels goes to show you that these LNF motors were a little under rated on torque and in actuality probably produce around 275 torque at the flywheel.
After uploading the base calibration for the Stage 1 or Stage 2 file to the car, additional datalogs are captured of the tune in action. We still recommend one log to consist of at least 10 minutes of around town driving, without any full throttle activity, and the second log to contain a good number of 3rd gear full throttle pulls.
These two varied logs allow us to further calibrate the tune to the car's modifications and the sensor feedback in the logs. We are also able to verify that the Air/Fuel mixture is safe and accurate, that the engine's knock sensors are not detecting detonation or "pinging", and that the turbocharger is not over-boosting or under-boosting. Without taking this critical step after loading the base tune to the car, too much would be left to the unknown.
The other nice result of capturing the "After" logs is that we are able to provide accurate before and after dyno results to prove the power gains from the tune on your specific car. Since each car is different, you will all start from slightly different base power levels, and end up at slightly different peak power levels. In addition to the power levels, we also typically provide information on the boost pressure and the air fuel ratio of the tune within the dyno graphs.
Unlike most traditional dyno shops, while datalogging on our setup we are able to view information related to air temperatures, exhaust gas temperatures, fuel trims, and virtually feedback from every available sensor onboard. We are not just working off of typical AFRs and timing advance.
The secret to a good tune is not just in the PEAK power output, but also in the total amount of available power across the entire RPM spectrum, and even more important the drivability of the tune. These tunes are something that you want to be able to drive around on every day, and always have ample amounts of power on tap when you drop the throttle.
You will FEEL the power immediately, and we back that up with real world dyno readings.
In this Before and After readout, you can note the dramatic increase in low end torque, and the consistently higher power across the entire RPM range. Additionally, due to the tune allowing you to rev to 6,750 RPM, the power becomes usable all the way out to the new redline. No more drastic power drop-off after 5,500 RPMs. While Torque output is clearly the largest gain from the Stage 2 Tune, every car will vary depending upon modifications and health of the engine and turbocharger on the car. This particular customer gained 162 peak torque at the wheels (going from 240 to 402 torque at the wheels with supporting modifications). Gains on lightly modified cars with just intake, charge pipes, and tune tend to still be in the range of around 130 torque at the wheels. In the graph below the Horsepower and Torque readout you will see a separate graph that highlights the Boost PSI and the Air Fuel Ratio. The boost was increased to a nice and steady 23-24 psi with an eventual tapering to 20-21 psi by the time the motor reaches 6,500+ RPM.
Continuing to dive into the above example, at 3,500 rpms peak torque increased from 240 at the wheels all the way up to 402 torque at the wheels (162 torque peak gains, or 67%!). When looking at the horsepower gains, the stock tune produced a peak of 225 horsepower up to 306 horsepower at the wheels (81 peak horsepower gained, or 36%!).
If you look under the curve, meaning non-peak gains, you will see other areas within the RPM range that simply overpower the stock power of the factory tune. It would only be partially beneficial to have only peak gains, but having power everywhere in the spectrum is even more meaningful. This tune gets the car moving, and keeps pushing it relentlessly until you let off the throttle.
Gain 30%+ WHP and 40-50% WTQ!
The RPM Motorsports Stage 2 Tune for the Pontiac Solstice GXP and Saturn Sky Redline brings a whole new level of performance to the already nimble Kappa platform. With addition of Upgraded Charge Pipes and our Stage 2 ECU Flash these cars can gain significant power all across the RPM range. Whether you have a manual transmission or an automatic, there are versions of the tune available for both.
One of the first things you will notice right off the bat with the Stage 2 Tune is stock-like drivability when you are cruising around. That all changes the moment that your right foot gets a little heavy, as the Stage 2 tune begins to command instantaneous boost from the turbocharger. Torque output in the 2,500 to 4,000 rpm range pick up by 40-50% and peak horsepower increases around 30%. In addition, the top end power is usable for many more RPMs past the stock power level with usable power on tap all the way out to 6,500 RPM. No more power drop after 5,500 RPMs like the stock tune.
To help the manual transmission equipped cars make use of the new power, the rev limiter is raised from 6,300 to 6,750 RPM to allow you to wind out each gear a little longer.
The automatic transmission equipped cars get similar treatment as well. Since the stock automatic tends to shift at 6,000 RPMs (despite the 6,300 RPM redline painted on the tachometer), you would be leaving a lot of performance potential on the table if you shifted that early. Depending on the particular gear, transmission shift points have been raised from 6,000 RPM to as high as 6,600 RPM. In addition, shift firmness is increased to minimize torque slippage between gears and shift times are reduced by approximately 0.25 seconds per gear change at full throttle.
The Stage 2 Tune makes a perfect upgrade to an already capable car. There is even an option available for those who previously purchased the GM Turbocharger Upgrade Kit (aka, GM Stage 1). There are different versions of the tune designed to work with the 3 Bar MAP sensors provided in the GM Upgrade Kit so that you can further increase your power levels above and beyond those already good gains.
The Proof is in the Power!