Marc Christ
Brand Manager, Modified Mustangs & Fords
May 11, 2012
Photos By: Patrick Hill, Evan J. Smith, Courtesy Of SCT Performance

Smart phones have become part of our everyday lives. People can't go anywhere or do anything without their iPhone or Android in hand. From plain-old cell phones 10 years ago, these hand-held devices have progressed into handheld computers that serve as portals to our entire lives. Facebook, Twitter, email, texting, paying bills, and even getting directions are all done on our smart phones. Well, now you can communicate with your car through yours.

SCT Performance recently released the iTSX. A next-generation iteration of the TSX (Touch Screen Extreme) that was released in 2009, the latest version is designed to be used through your personal handheld device, not a separate handheld tuner. Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod in late 2011, it will also be available for your Android device by the time you read this.

"The iTSX is a natural progression of the evolution of tuning," says Chris Johnson of SCT. "We began flash tuning with a handheld device in 2003, and we've evolved into a wireless dongle that uses your cell phone."

The dongle that Johnson is talking about is a small wireless box, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, which plugs into your vehicle's OBD-II port. You simply go to the App Store and download the free iTSX app to your device, sync the dongle to your device via Bluetooth, and you're ready to tune, datalog, monitor your vehicle's vitals, and even do performance tests; but more on those in a minute. The app also allows you to personalize the view by picking your own theme, or skin, for your device. And not to mention, as SCT develops new features and updates, you get those for free.

Since the app itself is free, you can download it to your device before spending a single penny. There is also an interactive tutorial that demonstrates all of the available features. Then, when you're ready, you can purchase the dongle (PN 4015; $469), and the fun begins.

The four main features of the iTSX are programming, performance tests, virtual gauges, and diagnostics. Programming refers to flashing your car's PCM with one of the included tunes or a custom tune uploaded from your email or computer (from your tuner). Performance tests are built-in and include 0-60 mph test, eighth- and quarter-mile e.t. and mph test, top speed test, and 60-0 mph test, as well as a g-meter. The virtual gauge allows you to pick one or multiple signals on your screen in real time, and provides adjustable warning/alert lights, of which you set the parameters. Lastly, you can read and clear diagnostic trouble codes, directly through your device.

If your car is stock, or if you have minor mods like an aftermarket cold-air kit, you can simply download your stock tune to the dongle through your device and upload one of SCT's "canned" tunes. These are the same tunes already available with other SCT products, and the flash only takes a couple of minutes. There are options for gear ratio, tire size, headers, etc. Later, if you make more performance mods and want to upload a custom tune, you can do so by dragging the tune file to your device from your computer, or by accessing it through your email on your device. It can then be flashed to your PCM the same way--wirelessly through your phone.

Though we can't take anything away from the iTSX and its revolutionary ability, we wanted to see what the performance tests were all about. So we called Johnson and had him meet us at Gainesville Raceway to test out, specifically, the accuracy of the quarter-mile calculator. We also called our MMFF video guru Brad Adler to borrow his '11 GT for the test, and he agreed. Brad's GT is a stock Brembo-upgrade, six-speed coupe with only the Steeda shocks, struts, springs, and sway bars; it's never been down the dragstrip. We did, however, borrow a pair of Nitto NT05R drag radials from Tony Gonyon, who was there at the track with us.

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Brad has an iPhone, so he downloaded the free iTSX app. At the track, we plugged the dongle into the car's OBD-II port and synced it to Brad's iPhone. Before flashing the PCM, we made a couple of passes to test the iTSX's accuracy and to get a baseline. To perform the test, you simply open the app, select the performance test option, come to a complete stop, and push the start button. We simply staged fully, then pressed the start button; the clock doesn't start until your vehicle's PCM sees that the vehicle has begun moving.

A couple of baseline runs yielded a best of 12.80 at 107.72 mph with a second best of 12.96 at 107.59, according to our timeslips. We were launching at 3,800 rpm and shifting just before it hit the rev limiter at 7,000 rpm. We were going through the traps just after completing the 4-5 shift. On the 12.80 run, our performance test on the iTSX said we went 13.0 at 111.2 mph.

The variances between the two can certainly be attributed to the way the dragstrip measures e.t. and mph. The clocks at the track don't start your run until your front tires completely clear the beams at the start line. Called Rollout, this allows you to get the car moving before your run actually starts. Depending on how shallow (or deep) you stage, Rollout could account for two-tenths of a second of your e.t. The iTSX starts your run immediately when the car begins to move, so you don't get the advantage of Rollout. Also, the clocks on track calculate your speed by timing how long it takes you to get to the finish line from a beam 66 feet before the finish. The iTSX uses the vehicle speed sensor to measure actual miles-per-hour at the quarter-mile mark instead of the "speed trap."

Though different, the results were similar. Would we see the same after the tune? Back in the staging lanes, we uploaded the SCT tune to Brad's GT through his iPhone. On track, we went a full two-tenths quicker and four mph faster, 12.56 at 111.73. According to the iTSX, we went 12.7 at 113.9 mph. Launching at the same 3,800 rpm, we were now shifting at 7,500 rpm. And since we could wind each gear out longer, we went through the traps just above 7,000 in Fourth.

Though we always enjoy a day at the track, admittedly, this was surprisingly enjoyable. It was a blast testing out the new gadget, and even though it doesn't measure exactly the same way the dragstrip does, it was exciting to see such close and consistent results. We did test out the virtual gauges, as we monitored coolant temp in between runs (see photo). But we didn't get a chance to even touch the 60-0 mph braking test or g-meter. We'll save that for next time.

iTSX vs. Gainsville Raceway

ActualiTSX
Baseline
E.T12.80113.0
MPH107.72111.2
w/iTSX Tune
E.T.12.5612.7
MPH111.73113.9

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8 After flashing the PCM, we ran a best of 12.56 at 111.73 mph-over two-tenths quicker than our baseline of 12.80 at 107.72. And the iTSX logged a 12.7 at 113.9 mph on the same best run. We'll call that accurate enough, considering the radically different methods of obtaining the data.