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Horsepower and torque. Is it truly possible that we can add more power to our BMWs without taking them to an expensive performance shop? The answer is yes...well...kind of. The bottom line is it depends on what model BMW you own and what type of increase in power you are looking for. The tuning in all modern BMW engines is controlled electronically. In other words, there is an engine control module (also known as the DME, ECM or ECU) under the hood of your BMW that uses complicated calculations to determine how much air, fuel and spark is administered in the cylinders at different RPMs. These calculations are flashed (or "hardcoded") into the control module and can only be accessed with professional diagnostic equipment. In other words, the horsepower and torque of your BMW is pre-determined at the factory and coded into your vehicle. But what many people don't know is that these factory tunings do not unlock the full potential of the engine - there is hidden horsepower and torque that can be set accessed by simply bypassing the engine's control module with an aftermarket tuning chip.
Before purchasing a BMW performance chip pay close attention to the reported power gains and decide whether it makes economic sense.A tuning chip is actually a mini-control module that when plugged into your engine's wiring harness, overrides the vehicle's factory settings. Its often referred to as a "piggy-back" tune. Tuning chips unlock the hidden horsepower and torque in your BMW's engine by bypassing the ECU's calculations with their own. What's great about this system is that the tuning chip can easily be installed by any do-it-you selfer and is completely reversible. The downside is tuning chips can raise false hope in BMW owners that they can turn their 4-cylinder daily driver into a Formula 1 race car. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. One thing BMW owners should be aware of is that not all BMW models and engines are supported. And those that are supported do not always produce the exact results claimed by performance chip manufacturers. Then there is our famous "cost per horsepower" equation; how much does that extra performance cost and is it worth it? Ask yourself...is it worth spending $600 on your 2016 BMW M2 to gain an extra 32hp (we will withhold the manufacturers name on this one)? Will you even notice a difference (probably not)? That's a cost of approximately $18 per horsepower for only an 8.7% increase in power...too much money and too little gain in our opinion to justify purchasing. On the other side of the coin is a 2011 335i - you can purchase a performance tune from RaceChip for $500 that unleashes 80 extra horsepower and 113 more pounds of torque. That's a whopping 25% increase in power for a mere $6.25 per horsepower. You will definitely notice some extra kick in your 335i's acceleration so this may be a worthwhile purchase. There are several key makers of BMW plug-and-play tuning modules that have years of experience and field testing of their equipment. We have reviewed the top 5 below - all of our choices are manufactured by reputable companies that stand behind their product. The BMW Repair Guide strongly suggests that our readers stay away from cheap "knockoff" tuning modules that find their way onto the market - they are not researched and developed by a reputable tuning company and make a lot of false claims about their results.
Best Value $
✓ Reasonably priced
✓ Easy to install
✓ Bluetooth compatible
X Power gains not always that noticeable
RaceChip is a Germany-based company - they have been around since 2008 and produce high-quality performance software not only for BMW, but over 3,000 vehicle models. They supply tuning modules for a vast array of BMWs, predominantly for turbocharged engines manufactured after 2011. RaceChip is a high-quality tuning chip that gives solid performance at a reasonable price. Many customers have reported that the power gains advertised by RaceChip are not always that noticeable. The packaging is excellent and customer support has been reported as responsive and friendly (remember...it's in Germany so don't expect an immediate response). Most customers are very pleased with the results from installing a RaceChip in their BMW, and for the price, we feel it's the best value among the group reviewed in this article.
✓ Easy to install
✓ Bluetooth compatible
✓ Great product support
X Power delivery not smooth
Burger Motorsports is based in Simi Valley, California, and is a specialty tuner and manufacturer of performance race chips .Founded in 2007 by Terry Burger, Burger Motorsports is acknowledged for producing reliable tuning modules at a competitive price. They are best known for their JB4 performance tuner - a plug-and-play "piggy-back" module that fits most BMWs produced after 2011. Like the RaceChip tuner, the Burger motorsports module is very easy to install. The biggest reported problem with the Burger Motorsports tuning chip is choppy power delivery that takes away from the smoothness of a stock setup.
✓ Easy 10 minute install
✓ Excellent support
X Annoying power hesitations
If you are a performance BMW enthusiast, then you most likely have heard of Dinan. Founded in 1979 and headquartered in Opelika, Alabama, Dinan has become the indisputable leader in BMW performance products including engine, driveline, and chassis tuning components. They produce premier engine tuning software including the new Dinantronics which is emissions legal in all 50 states. The Dinan tuning module is easy to install - some owners have said they were up and running in under 10 minutes (depending on the model). Overall satisfaction on the Dinantronics tuner is high with one gripe that seems to resonate among most users - there's an annoying amount of power hesitation around 3000 rpms.
Best Performance ✈
✓ Reliable power gains
✓ Easy installation
✓ Allows custom bluetooth tuning
X A bit on the expensive side
AFE, or Advanced Flow Engineering, was founded in 1999 and is a premier designer and manufacturer of automotive performance components. Their products are built and tested in the USA at their headquarters in Corona, California. AFE is well known for their affordable plug-and-play tuning modules with Bluetooth connectivity and on-the-fly power adjustments that can be made while driving. The Power Scorcher Blue module is their next-generation tuning module that fits most turbocharged BMW engines. We personally love AFE performance products here at the BMW Repair Guide - we have used quite a few of them and have never been disappointed.
Best Overall ★
✓ Smooth reliable power
✓ Excellent performance
✓ Bluetooth compatible
X Very expensive
X Very few BMW models supported
Dahler offers a broad range of premium competition products for your BMW from tuning software, suspension upgrades, performance exhaust and wheels. Based in Switzerland, their performance tuning modules are considered the gold standard among many BMW enthusiasts. But this reputation comes with a price...literally. Dahler is not cheap - in fact many of their BMW tuning modules cost over $2000.00. But if you don't mind paying for Swiss precision and are looking for a tuning module that works seamlessly with your existing ECM, Dahler may be your best choice. Dahler only produces tuning software for a select amount of newer BMW models.