Dale Amy
March 27, 2005
Money's clearly no object when it comes to the lifelike props we here at5.0&SF will employ to create a Hollywood-quality lead photo. But forthose of us to whom money is an object, may we present the $450 Raptordatalogger from Superchips Custom Tuning. Like the prehistoric predatorit's named after, the SCT Raptor is fast and smart, capable of puttingthe bite on contenders many times its diminutive size.

Not so long ago, automotive dataloggers were limited to the domain offactory race teams or particularly well-heeled privateers, with pricetags agonizingly out of reach of the average gearhead. And what a shame,because a good datalogger is the perfect tuning tool, querying an arrayof sensors to assemble a detailed report--for real-time or lateranalysis--of vehicle behavior under whatever operating conditions theuser chooses. With a datalogger, there's no longer any need to guess at,say, what level of spark advance is present at 6,150 rpm under wide-openthrottle, or what effect intake air temperature might be having on thatspark advance.

So we're happy to report that the price excuse has nowgone the way of the dinosaur, thanks in part to Superchips CustomTuning's new Raptor datalogger, affordable to maybe even magazinescribes at a mere $450, and remarkably capable to boot.

Your $450 gets you not only the Raptor itself, but also a detailedmanual (not shown), a CD containing software to be loaded on yourlaptop, a USB cable to connect to said laptop, a cable to connect toyour car's OBD-II diagnostic port, and one final analog-input cable.What you connect that analog cable to is up to you, but we suspect manytuners will be hooking up a wideband oxygen sensor, to log preciseair/fuel ratios.

"Capable" indatalogger lingo means two things in particular: speed (that is to say,having a brief interval between sampling points), and the ability to loga wide variety of parameters. The Raptor scores high marks for both, andit is compact, easy to use, and--did we mention?--cheap. To be fair,part of the credit for this affordability must go to the OBD-II-capableprocessors mandated in our cars from 1996 onward, and the considerablearray of onboard sensors the factory installs for those processors tomonitor on a continual basis. In operation, the Raptor acts as ago-between interpreter, peering over the shoulder of our car'spowertrain control module (it'll work with EEC V and some early BlackOak), and duly reporting its findings to a handy laptop computer, towhich it attaches via a user-friendly USB cable.

In other words, theRaptor connects to the OBD-II port, sees all the parameters of data thatthe EEC sees, and translates whichever ones the user commands into aform the computer can display and record. Basically, if the EEC canmonitor it, the Raptor can log it, and it also has analog inputs toallow logging of up to four external sources, such as a wideband O2sensor. The Raptor's included software logs the data in comma-separatedvalues file format and displays it in graphic form. However, those same.csv files can also be opened under most spreadsheet software, such asMicrosoft Excel, for viewing in tabular form--meaning you can send yourdatalog out for review by folks who don't even have the Raptor software.This is a handy feature for remote-tuning assistance or suggestions.

In use, the Raptor must be connected to a laptop computer via thesupplied USB cable. This connection not only allows the Raptor toforward its data stream to the computer, but it also supplies thedatalogger with power, so there is no need for a separate power cord. Asfar as applications, the Raptor will work with any OBD-II EEC Vprocessor (i.e., '96-'04 Mustangs), as well as early Black Oakprocessors using Standard Corporate Protocol communications, such asused in the SVT Focus. It will not work with later-generation BlackOaks, such as used in the current F-150, nor with the '05 Mustang'sSpanish Oak processor, because these use a different communicationsprotocol known as Controller Area Network.

Formany professional tuners, the Raptor will replace Ford's New GenerationSTAR tester, an expensive dealership-oriented diagnostic tool that untilnow seems to have been the datalogger of choice. According to SCTPresident Chris Johnson, the Raptor has a sampling rate that is 10 timesfaster than the NGS, and it has a much broader range of parameters thatcan simultaneously be logged. PHP's Paul Svinicki adds that, "In termsof technology, it's like going from the '60s to the new millennium."

Howlong a data stream will the Raptor record? Well, how big is yourlaptop's hard drive? The Raptor will happily spew its findings as longas your computer has room to store it, though, for practical tuning ordiagnostic purposes, only a few megabytes of space are typicallyrequired. And it samples at up to 62 times per second. If all that isn'tenough, the Raptor can also be used to view and clear diagnostic troublecodes from the processor.

When we first introduced you to SCT's lineupof tuning hardware and software ("Fine Tuning," Jan. '05, p. 120), wereported that the Raptor was going to be both datalogger and flashtuner. In the meantime, however, Chris Johnson decided to leave out theflash tuning capabilities in order to keep the Raptor as affordable aspossible. But before this decision was implemented, some Raptors wereassembled with flash capability, so if this interests you, we suggestyou contact SCT for pricing and details.

Our captions and screenshotswill give some more detail of how the Raptor can put sophisticatedhigh-speed datalogging capabilities--for no-guesswork tuning analysis wecould only dream about just a short while ago--in the hands of anyonewho can pony up 450 bucks. Our guess is, it won't take long to recoupthat modest expenditure in saved engine components.