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Superchips Cortex Tuner - Diesel VS. Gas: Tuner Shootout

One Tuner, A Dual-Turbo Power Stroke, And A Superchared Mustang

Photography by Joe Greeves

One of the most useful innovations to the modern automobile was the implementation of second-generation onboard diagnostics (OBD-II) in the '96 model year. A small plug under the dash of all vehicles allows us to interface with the vehicle's computers and monitor the powertrain in ways a mechanic in the '80s could only dream of. Now, we can pinpoint problems and be well on the way to a solution without even opening the hood. More importantly to the enthusiast, the addition of OBD-II opens up a whole new round of almost instantaneous performance enhancements, once again with hands clean, and the hood still closed.

Dozens of aftermarket companies have created tuners designed to eliminate many of the compromised settings dialed in by the vehicle manufacturer. Horsepower gains are often immediately felt, but that's only half the story. Now you can also modify or eliminate the rev-limiter on the engine, tighten shift points in the transmission, and adjust your speedometer to compensate for that new set of taller tires. Originally, tuners were designed for specific vehicles and retailers who had to have dozens of units on hand. Thankfully, technology keeps making it easier, and Superchips' new Cortex tuner has made it even easier.

One Tuner, Multiple Vehicles
The $429 Superchips Cortex tuner features tuning that works with both diesel and gas engines. With the Cortex you can upgrade your Dodge, Ford, or GM diesel work truck during the week with an additional 100 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. At the end of the week, you can return the truck to stock, and using the same Cortex, upgrade your Charger, Mustang, or Camaro for the weekend drag races. Then on Monday morning, you can return your car to stock and reprogram the truck in a matter of minutes. Horsepower gains are said to vary with the make and model, but the Superchips website will give you a close approximation of what you can expect.

In addition to adding horsepower, the Cortex has a data logging function that provides real-time information on functions like engine, transmission, exhaust gas temperature, boost, top speed, and 0-to-60 acceleration times. Superchips even has a prototype bracket in the works that will hold the programmer on your windshield or dash, eliminating the need for an additional gauge package.

To benefit from the latest changes, Superchips says that its Cortex programmers can be updated for free using the Internet, and the Cortex tuner carries an industry-exclusive, two-year limited powertrain warranty that covers your '08 vehicle.

Follow along and watch as Michael Schimmack, Superchips' lead Ford calibrator, uses the same Cortex to tune an '08 Ford F-250 6.4L diesel and a Shelby Mustang GT500, both in less than half an hour. The Ford unit (P/N 1950) covers '05-'08 Mustangs, '99-'08 Ford SUVs,'99-'08 gas-powered Super Dutys, and '99-'08 diesel-powered Super Dutys and Excursions.

Fuel Economy Test
While increases in horsepower and towing capacity are important to the diesel enthusiast, it's not the end of our story. Fuel economy is another of diesel's benefits that's important in today's economy. Superchips reported to us that it had just finished a fuel economy test using its Cortex tuner.

Working together, Superchips and the Richard Petty Driving Experience conducted a mileage study that monitored a fleet of Dodge trucks, each hauling trailers loaded with a NASCAR vehicle and delivering them to races and promotional sites around the country. The study covered 147,000 miles and Superchips claims that the Cortex-equipped Dodge achieved 20% better mileage than the rest of the trucks in the fleet.

How did they do that? Superchips told us that the extra horsepower and torque typically found using one of its settings allowed the tuned truck to remain in top gear while the stock trucks were forced to downshift repeatedly. Fleet drivers were also said to have marveled at how responsive the Superchips-tuned Dodge had become, and enjoyed the side benefit of increasing the average range of the truck from 364 miles to 440 miles per tank. Fewer stops for fuel also meant more productive time on the highway.

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