Until recently, I didn't have much interest in software. However, after hearing all of the good reports on ESS's tune and having gone many months without blowing any coin on mods, I was starting to get the itch. Well the stars aligned and my wife went to Florida for the week with the kids, leaving me with an extra car and the perfect opportunity to send my ECU out.
First, let me start by saying kudos to ESS and Mike. These guys run a truly first class shop when it comes to customer service. I FedEx'ed my ECU out Monday morning for Tuesday delivery, they programmed it on Tuesday and sent it back out Tueasday afternoon. I had it by mid-morning today (Wednesday). Now that is what I call turnaround time! I think Mike said they managed to process 6 or 7 ECUs yesterday. Throughout the process (from a few weeks ago when I started talking to Mike about this) communication has been amazing.
Now, for my impressions:
Shifting: The software makes an amazing difference. It is absloutely night and day. My car shifts so smoothly now. This alone is well worth the price of the software.
Torque Management: All I can say is wow. The low end responsiveness is so much better. That bog down lag when you hit the gas in first gear is completely gone. The car pulls so nicely accross teh range -- even at low RPMS.
Shifting: The car shifts great. Gone is that SMG thump, particularly on downshifts.
Exhaust Note: I am not sure I hear any difference as others have reported. Certainly no noticable difference at idle. Maybe a little more F1ish under load, but that could just be the power of suggestion. ESS does not represent any change in exhaust note and I wasn't looking for one, but I thought I would report on it since others seemed to notice it.
Shifting: Have I mentioned how much smoother the shifts are?
Redline Increase: I chose the 8400 limit (there is an 8500 limit at your own risk which I was not interested in) and the extra 200 RPM is a noticable benefit.
HUD Display: With the increase in the rev limiter, the HUD has been adjusted so that there is a larger yellow/orange range (it encroaches into what was the red range -- I don't think the green range is affected). Having this broader area makes it much easier to get the shifts just right. This is how it should be set up stock from BMW. I can't understand why you need a broad red zone that the car cannot enter anyway. I did notice that the adjustable band around the dashboard tach has not been adjusted, but I never use that when running hard anyway.
Shifting: I should probably point out what a remarkable difference there is in the SMG. I noticed this from moment one while the car was warming up.
Butt Dyno; Mine is very inaccurate. Some days my car feels lighting quick and other days not so much. But the car certainly feels noticably faster to me. Even if it isn't in actuality, it feels that way and I am more concerned about my visceral enjoyment that the occasion beat down of the competition.
A couple of things to point out. When I first started the car after re-installing the ECU, I got the High Battery Drain warning. I stopped and re-started the car and it cleared. I assume this is from the car sitting without the ECU for 3 days. It has not come back
I took the car for about a 20 minute ride, made a quick stop and then another short ride and all was fine. When I got back in the car about 45 minuted later and started it up, my idle dropped to below 500 RPM and the car seemed like it was going to stall. Turned it off and started it again and it was fine. The same thing happened the next time and it cleared after a few moments (I did not re-start it that time). I hope this is just a matter of the ECU adjusting.
Anyway, whenever a buy any product, I evaluate it based on quality, value and customer service. So far, this gets 5 stars accross the board. I am addding ESS (right alongsinde of RPI) as my list of "vendors I would look to business with again soon"!