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Nov. 1, 2012, Las Vegas -- Arrington Performance gave us details on the new Chrysler Performance Calibration program announced October 30 at SEMA from their perspective. As one of the two approved initial participants, Arrington Performance President and CEO Eric Hruza sat down with us today to answer our questions, which we’ll get to in a minute.
Starting with the 2011 model year vehicles, Chrysler locked down the engine control computers (known as PCMs) with an extremely strong form of rolling encryption. This made it virtually impossible for any aftermarket company to modify the engine’s calibration. Without the ability to tune the engine calibration, it was impossible to modify the engine with any performance modifications. Chrysler was coming out of bankruptcy and had a need to control losses occurring with illegitimate warranty claims. Prior to the PCM lockdown, it was possible to make modifications, change the calibration, and, if the engine was damaged, remove the mods and reflash the PCM with a backup of the stock calibration. So Chrysler locked the PCM down.
This was, in our opinion, an overreaction. Dodge has a long history of high performance; even the new Chrysler admits that performance is in their “DNA.” We know of many real world examples where new car buyers that switched brands due to this “freeze” in performance level to stock OEM only.
Yesterday at the Mopar press conference Mopar CEO Pietro Gorlier announced a “Performance Calibration” option and support through two companies, Arrows Racing Engines and Arrington Performance. But no details were provided. We were left wondering what “Performance Calibration” meant to buyers of 2011 and newer Chrysler vehicles. Eric Hruza, as head of one of the two initially approved companies (Mopar says more companies will be announced later) agreed to fill in a little more detail for us.
According to Eric, the Performance Calibration support is a hardware and software solution that satisfies both Chrysler’s legitimate concerns over safety and liability and offers vehicle owners an unprecedented level of refinement in their performance upgrade options.
“The Performance Calibration support is Mopar and aftermarket companies like ours working together to provide performance upgrades that are truly at the same level of refinement with which cars leave the factory. Chrysler has given us the keys to the engine control kingdom, the actual software and interface to directly access and calibrate the PCM itself for a given hardware upgrade.”
Prior to the 2011 PCM lock down, the most common method of adjusting the PCM calibration for a performance upgrade such as a supercharger was to use a hand held programmer that put a “piggy back” tune on top of the underlying factory calibration within the PCM. The tuner, whether a company or an individual, did not have access to all of the data tables and features within the PCM, and could only adjust the ones to which it did have access. It was not uncommon to read on forums or experience in person a less than ideal driving experience, where the vehicle might have a surging idle, unsmooth transition from low rpm to full throttle, etc.
Worse than this from Chrysler’s point of view was the ability of these piggy back tunes to cancel or override important safety features including even turning off antilock brake systems and engine code warnings, which in the worse case scenario could and did create legal liability issues for Chrysler. Another issue was emissions compliance, many of these modified cars and tunes were not even close to smog legal, which is a critical reality that modern automotive manufacturers have to consider.
Eric sees the Chrysler Performance Calibration Support program as something that once enthusiasts absorb the details should be well received. “We aren’t putting a band aid over the factory calibration to produce a sort of acceptable [driving] experience. We’re not limited by having to spend ten minutes uploading a programming change before we can test it. We’re plugging right into the factory computer, accessing all of the tables through the factory interface in real time and making previously impossibly small fine-tuning changes that produce a seamless calibration that is as good as any OEM would achieve on a factory certified performance car. And we’re doing it in a manner that preserves all of the factory safety features and meets emissions standards.”
Initially, Arrington is offering three levels of performance calibration, ranging from a cold air intake and exhaust upgrade, a six pound supercharger kit to a full performance built Hemi crate engine. Mopar officials told us on and off the record that this is the path forward for them and that there are definitely more companies and options coming.