May 17, 2015
Day Three with Bama Livewire TS (Bama product support / Unit review)
After reading Coke/Pepsi type discussions (perhaps Ford/Chevy is more appropriate here) I took the plunge on a Livewire TS unit. I decided on the Livewire as my car didn't have the track apps functions. The gauges and performance tests options are of course extra bells and whistles but that was really what I was looking for on my daily driver pony. A little about myself; I'm not mechanically inclined but I am inclined to be mechanical. I enjoy working on my car and upgrading pieces as a past-time in itself not the means to an end. With that said, my comments are not those of an 'expert' but rather an average Joe doing the driveway mechanic weekend gig. My car that this is for is a 2014 Mustang V6 standard package with BBK 73mm TB; Airraid CAI; BMR LCA; Barton Short Throw Shifter and Bracket; Strut Tower Brace.
After choosing the Livewire TS unit (it was between this and the Diablosport Trinity T-1000), I had to decide from where. Bama Tunes (American Muscle) with their free tunes for life was too hard to beat. I was able to find the Livewire online for around $500 but then having a custom tune written would have run another $75/tune. Bama really had the best deal around. Alex from AM that is active on the forums hooked me up with the 6 forum member discount took the unit price down to $563. At that price it was actually cheaper than one custom tune and the unit elsewhere. I took the plunge.
I ordered the unit on this past Tuesday with expected shipment scheduled for Thursday. Later in the day I got an email from Bama asking for information on my car to write a custom tune. Doing that process I saw a notice that custom tunes take 5-7 business days to write. This was a bummer as I was expecting my tuner for the weekend. However, it seems that tunes written for tuner purchases get priority and I got the shipment notice that it went out on Thursday afternoon. Friday afternoon, it showed up. Three day turnaround on the tuner, custom tune being written and installed on the unit seems pretty good to me.
The Livewire TS unit has had some posts put up here and there that the touch screen is awful. It is not awful but... it has a weird sensitivity to it that if I had a smart phone like that, I'd return it. C- to D on the touch screen. Another physical issue with the tuner is that all the images of the Livewire TS show the ODBII cable as having a 90 degree angle where it attaches to the unit. I had plans of mounting it center on my dash and this cable bend seemed logical. To my dismay the ODBII cable was a straight cable with no bend as pictured on the AM website and other places. (http://www.americanmuscle.com/sct-ts-livewire-1113v6.html). Backing up a bit, I did look at the Livewire TS unit elsewhere that had its ODBII connection on the back of the unit and not the side as is the case with the Livewire TS. The lack of a 90 degree cable bend for a side connection on a device designed for dash mounting would have been enough to have me opt for the TS over the TS. Neither Bama nor SCT have the 90 degree bend cables available. This sounds trifling but it was a major disappointment when mounting the unit.
I went to the SCTflash site to update the unit and it need a bunch of files but this was reasonably smooth and fast. Prior to updating, I called Bama to make sure the update wouldn't nuke the preloaded custom tunes they put in. I had a physical person on the phone inside of a minute who was courteous and helpful. I should have gotten his name but didn't. I sincerely felt that I got excellent attention and service on my call. After reading scattered posts about folks having trouble reaching Bama, I was concerned but at least in my case it was fast and pleasant.
Using the unit (insert mild blue flame language here until I get as used to that #@*and$ touch screen as I could) it was straight forward. Setting up the gauge layout had about eight (I didn't count) different layouts. Each readout was customizable as to what you wanted displayed. For some reason, I was expecting something where I could add in digital gauges like on a PC. Nope, not here. But all in all they were what I wanted to see and were acceptable.
Flashing the cars BIOS (or at least that what I equate it to) aka programming the car with the new tune takes a few minutes. Lots of warnings about don't turn key off or disconnect the unit were displayed. PC folks out there know what hosing up a flash can mean. I almost felt like stringing up some police tape and a Jersey Barrier when it was loading. I opted to sit in the car trying to look cool while sweating the anxiety out.
I loaded up the 87 octane street/performance tune first. Driving impressions were good. I did not feel any additional power or pull at any point with the tune but, the car seemed to "feel" happier. As if all the aftermarket parts I installed were now singing from the same sheet of music. That is what the tuner is supposed to do anyway. To qualify my "feeling" about this. I was expecting to sense some extra pull or something and didn't so I was actually primed to be negative; the smoothness of the engine was markedly improved. Driving about 100 miles in both city/highway conditions seemed to show about 1-2 mpg increase.
Loading up the 93 octane race tune next, I did feel the difference there. Much more low end and mid range punch. Throttle responsiveness was noticeably improved. I installed a 73 mm BBK throttle body a couple of months ago which made a great improvement over stock with throttle response. The Bama tune took this to the next level. Driving around for about 75 miles or so on this tune my gas mileage seemed to go back to normal (approx 23mpg). Considering 93 octane gas runs about an extra .50 cents a gallon here in Virginia. Running the 93 octane tune daily would cost me about an extra $50/month with my daily commute. Nice option to have however if I want to fill up with the good stuff and load up the race tune. FYI - I didn't think about this until I read it elsewhere; do not run the 93 octane race tune on a tank of 87 octane gas. You will damage your engine. Seems like a no brainer but I'm trying to put all the tid-bids I had to dig for online for anyone agonizing on this purchase as I was.
Okay, moment of truth. First, I do want to make a point for you younger guys there is a difference between driving fast and being reckless. 30 years ago I did a lot of sport bike riding and we affectionately referred to it as "road dance." You should always obey all state and local traffic laws but... be smart and safe.
I won't get into details about my secret spot that is flat and straight for three miles with all but no traffic. (Just shy of rating a bridge to nowhere highway project.) Part of the reason I selected the Livewire TS was the performance measuring. The unit records 0-60, 1/4 mile and braking. The Livewire TS unit boasts this plus 1/8 mile times. ( 2 for folks thinking about waiting for the TS unit to be more widely available. As far as how accurate the unit's timer is for measuring speed/time, I can't say. For my purposes in seeing what kind of a performance increase the Bama tune would give me, it provided a consistent measure so I could compare apples to apples. I made a few passes with each being a 'granny launch'. Hey, this is my daily driver and that heating up the tires thing is best when money is on the table or if you're at the track. Ambient air temperature was about 91 degrees.
Stock tune loaded up earned me a quarter mile of 15.22 @ 98mph. The Livewire TS unit gives you a breakdown after a run. This run per the unit:
1/4 mile ET: 15.22 @ 98.9mph
Est HP: 230
Est TQ: 213
Bama 93 Octane Race tune loaded up earned:
1/4 mile ET: 14.65 @ 100.5
Est HP: 225.5
Est TQ: 291.9
A couple of things about the times as reported by the unit that surprised me were the end trap speed and the torque. Half a second quicker with the race tune I thought would have given me a much higher end trap speed. Also the estimate torque numbers. Est HP when down 5 ponys from stock to race with the torque going up 79. This just didn't seem right to me but I suppose I should relay on the word "estimated". I can't explain it but it is what it is.
At the end of the day, I'm marginally satisfied with the Livewire TS but very pleased with Bama Performance for shipping, helpfulness and accessibility. Lots of pros here but the cons are what I was looking for when I was shopping around before so I'll give those to you. Side port connection for straight OBDII cable after all images were of a cable with a 90 degree bend for dash use was a big fail. If you are debating a purchase on one of these tuners, do yourself a favor and wait for the Livewire TS unit with its rear port. That alone makes the wait worthwhile. American Muscle/Bama have the online sales image with the 90 degree bend cable as do everyone else so with a clean sweep of thumbs up to AM/Bama on my experience with them for this purchase, they do get one thumbs down for the image of what you are ordering being slightly different than what you get. The Livewire TS touch screen after I got the hang of it is a solid C- grade. Gauge configuration does not seem as robust on the Livewire TS as it appears to be on the Diablesport Trinity but 'appears' is a relative concept of the unknown (at least for me.) Am I glad I got the unit and was it worthwhile; yes. I hope my thoughts are helpful to others out there in the same boat I was the week before I ordered mine.