There has always been a lot of talk and hype on the off-road forums about throttle controllers, ECU re-flashes and power chips that you can install in your vehicle to produce more power, torque and save fuel. To be honest I've always been sceptical about these products and claims...
However, for the past couple of months, the SA Adventure team has secretly been testing a new throttle controller developed right here in South Africa, the Power +. We have one installed in the Prado 120 V6, the FJ Cruiser V6 and the Nissan Navara 2.3 TD. Before we get to our findings about the unit, let's discuss what a throttle controller is, and how it differs from an ECU re-flash or a power chip...
The Power+ throttle controller works on most fly by wire pedal assemblies by modifying the voltage signal level from the pedal to your vehicle's Engine Control Unit (ECU). The Power+ unit will allow you to finely tune the response from your accelerator pedal to greatly reduce throttle or turbo lag.
The Power+ unit has no control over injection timing, air to fuel ratio, fuel mapping and so on, it therefore does not increase horsepower output, retaining the reliability of your engine. The Power+ simply improves the way your throttle responds to inputs, by allowing you to adjust up to 36 tune settings the delay in the throttle system. In a nutshell, it electronically alters the torque curve to the accelerator position...
Well, What Does All That Actually Mean?
The first unit I installed was to our Toyota Prado V6. The installation literally took 5 minutes. If you can change a lightbulb, you can install this unit! The Toyota 4 litre V6 motor, although highly reliable, is a lazy beast. With its VVTI (variable valve timing) system, it likes to produce its power only above 4000 RPM. It's also incredibly thirsty and has a massive petrol-guzzling problem. Once the Power+ unit was installed I set it to the "F1.9" setting which is the recommended "Daily" setting, I hit the road... Well, instantly the V6 was awoken. I cannot begin to express to you the difference you will feel on that first drive!
The Power+ unit has 6 modes and a security code feature, allowing you to immobilize your vehicle using a code. Each mode has 9 settings and each setting increases the sensitivity of the accelerator pedal. The modes are as follows:
- F 1- Daily Driving
- F 2- Used for Towing
- F 3- Power or Race
- Nor- Normal or Factory settings
- EC- Economy or 4x4 Crawl setting
- AU- Intelligent Learning to your driving style
What Have We Noticed While We've Been Testing?
As I mentioned we've been testing on 3 vehicles, but the Prado has now done over 12000km with the throttle controller installed. The first thing that stands out to me is the "Drivability" of the Prado is a thousand times better than factory settings. Around town, I'm driving on mode F1.6 and the responsiveness of the vehicle is about perfect. I've also noticed a drop in average town driving fuel consumption of about 1,2 litres per hundred km.
Out on the 4x4 trail, I've been trying out EC mode in low range. In this mode, the Power+ unit massively reduces the throttle surge you often experience while crawling over slow, technical obstacles, making the drive much smoother and less taxing on the drivetrain.
But here is the big one... As some of you may know, the SA Adventure Prado is used as a support vehicle for our adventure motorcycle tours. On these tours, it pulls a heavy, purpose-built off-road motorcycle trailer, usually with at least one or two big heavy adventure bikes strapped to it, it has spare tyres on the roof rack and all the client's luggage in the boot... It's a heavy rig! Setting the Power+ unit to "towing" mode made the Prado feel like it had nothing behind it at all! Easy to overtake on the freeway and can easily maintain 110km/h on the open road. Usually pulling this setup forces the fuel consumption up to about 19L/100km if you are "gentle". Last weekend I did 880km towing the trailer with a BMW GSA 1200 and a KTM 1290 aboard and averaged 14,6L/100km. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT. That's a game-changer for us and on this one trip, the Power+ throttle controller basically paid for itself...
To Sum Up...
For those of you who know me, you know I would never recommend a product I would not use myself. Well, our Power+ throttle controllers are staying!
Better drivability, better fuel consumption and on the Nissan Navara TD we noticed a huge drop off in turbo lag... I'm so impressed with this product that we applied to become a dealer. That was approved on Friday, so we can now retail to you, our valued client. You can buy your own throttle controller straight from our online shop. I guarantee you will not regret the purchase...
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Below are a few more technical details on the Power+ Throttle Controller:
How difficult is Power+ to install?
On most vehicles, the Power+ can be installed in less than 5 minutes without any tools or special skills. All kits include printed instructions to help get the job done. On some rare occasions, we have had some customers experience difficulty with having the plug click in which has been caused by glue that needed to be removed on the vehicle plug.
Is the Power + compatible with petrol engines?
The Power+ is perfect to be used on both naturally aspirated and forced induction diesel and petrol engines.
How does Power + operate?
The Power+ Throttle Response Controller works on most fly by wire pedal assemblies by modifying the voltage signal level from the pedal to your vehicle's Engine Control Unit (ECU). In more ways than other controllers on the market do, the Power+ will allow you to finely tune the response from your accelerator pedal to greatly reduce throttle lag (or increase which is perfect when off-road or trying to reduce fuel consumption).
Is it easy to change modes and toggle between the 36 settings on the Power+?
The Power+ is among the easiest on the market to operate. Just push the mode button to switch between Auto AU mode, Eco/4×4, Comfort/Tow, Sport or Sport+ High-Performance Modes. Finely tune these modes by adjusting the response from 1 to 9.
How is the Auto Mode on the Power + different to other models on the market?
Our controllers have adaptive software that studies your driving style and adjusts depending on the situation. Auto mode is a great way to set and forget as it will give you both power and economy when you need it. Due to the Power+ having a processor twice as fast as the competition and a large number of tune settings (36 compared to 18 with the competition) it’s one of the most preferred settings as it will apply gradual setting changes as you drive, not harsh setting selection which will drive as either spongy eco mode or flat stick high performance.
How can I utilize the Overtake function?
If no setting has been changed on the Power+ in the past 5 seconds, press on the MODE button to jump directly into Sport+ mode to facilitate overtaking or intense driving. To exit out of Sport+ mode just press the MODE continuously to select your preferred driving mode. Before testing this we strongly recommend you learn the position of the buttons so you may control the Sport+ mode without taking your eyes off the road.
Can I use the Power+ if my car has had an ECU Tune or Reflash?
As our product does not change throttle parameters it will not affect the operation or cause issues when used in conjunction with an ECU tune or reflash.
Can I use the Power+ if I’ve installed a Power Chip or aftermarket Exhaust?
The Power+ will compliment aftermarket chips and exhausts and will not have an adverse effect as the Power+ and Powerchip/Exhaust utilise different internal systems.
Will the Power+ Throttle Controller void my new car warranty?
Your new car warranty may be affected by installing any aftermarket modification or non-genuine product and unfortunately, new car warranties are often interpreted differently depending on what dealership you see or speak to. At Power+ we have extensively run tests on new (and used) cars and found that when correctly installed it will not damage a vehicle in any way. The Power+ also has a setting that can return your vehicle to its factory setting in the unlikely event that it develops a fault; in this mode, the Power+ will be switched off and won’t affect the drivability of the car. Installation is quick and easy but if you have any concerns just unplug it and return it to us for a replacement or refund.
Will the Power+ ruin my engine or lead to increased wear and tear?
The Power+ only uses already available power which is reserved by the manufacturer. As Power+ will only activate when you need the power (e.g. when applying power, Power+ will not work when idling). Your car’s machine-driven parts (e.g. the engine, clutch, transmission, brakes) are only pushed to the limits which are appropriate not beyond. The security functions and safety of the engine and the vehicle’s ECU do not get changed at all or get turned off. It’s out of the question for Power+ to push your vehicle beyond its factory limits.
How does the fuel save mode function?
Usually when you put the pedal to the metal the engine straight away goes into higher revs which essentially causes you to use more fuel. The ECO mode (fuel-saving mode) on the Power+ slows the response of this down, which stops the engine from responding in that way. The slower response allows your engine to get to the right speeds without using as much fuel. This means that instead, it creates a smoother acceleration rather than the higher revs. This function in turn can give you up to 5% more distance for the same amount of fuel.
Do I have to turn the Power+ off every time I turn off my vehicle?
No. The Power+ is powered by your vehicle and depends on that power. Once your vehicle has powered down (after it has completely switched off e.g. 5min after the vehicle has shut down), the Power+ will shut off by itself.
Will I have to put it back into my favourite mode every time I start my vehicle?
No. The Power+ has an internal memory that will naturally go to the last mode you have driven in.
Is the Power+ suitable for towing?
Absolutely! The Power+ Throttle Controller has a dedicated Towing Mode and is the perfect companion when towing by helping your vehicle get up to speed from a standing start with less effort and therefore placing less strain on your engine and using less fuel.
Is the Power+ easy to install
Essentially, it’s as easy as plug and play. Switch off your car, wait a few seconds, locate the pedal plug (behind the pedal) and unplug it. Add in the vehicle-specific harness and connect everything provided; ensure you hear a click, and have a tug at the plugs to ensure a good fit. If you have problems plugging in, please check the pins in the plug as you may have bent these while plugging it in. Safely tie away all cables to ensure they do not drop while driving as this will be dangerous.
Can the Power + work with a Manual Transmission?
The Power+ throttle controllers have settings for both Automatic (AT) and Manual (MT) Transmissions because they naturally drive differently. When Auto Mode is selected is suited to both manual and automatic transmissions.
Can the Power + damage my clutch?
It’s not possible for a throttle controller to directly damage the clutch. The clutch only works when the car starts to move and to shift gears, at which time the accelerator is not active.
The purpose of the throttle controller is to amplify the signals being sent by your foot via the pedal to the throttle positioning sensor in the intake manifold.
In vehicles where the opening of the throttle is governed by a signal coming from the pedal instead of a cable opening the butterfly, the boost/throttle controller simply increases sensitivity which in turn improves the response. Also, as the clutch on the torque converter only works when the car speed is very low, a throttle controller will not have an effect because when the speed is very low the throttle controller is either not operating or has an extremely weak role.
Does the Power+ increase performance/horsepower?
The Power+ has no control over injection timing, air to fuel ratio, fuel mapping and so on, therefore cannot increase power output. The Power+ simply improves the way your throttle responds, (better than other controllers on the market) by allowing you to adjust in 36 tune settings (or automatic) the delay in the throttle system.
Are Power + Controllers universal or vehicle specific?
Each Power + model is suited to a different set of vehicles in both its software and plugs.
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Stay Safe, Big Love, the SA Adventure Team!