Everybody is doing it these days; the car manufacturers themselves are locked in a power war, and the man in the street wants even more than that. But is simply more power the answer to your automotive dreams?
Well first up, the good news. No mass-produced vehicle delivers optimum performance from the moment it leaves the factory floor. Factory vehicles are designed to cover a wide range of needs, under a wider range of conditions. And it is this mass manufacturing approach that opens the door for one to seek out performance individualisation for their vehicles.
It is this principle that also always leads to same question. "How can I unleash more power from my vehicle, yet do so safely and reliably?" And this is where it all starts to go bad for the uneducated performance enthusiast.
After first considering factors like, industry reputation, research & development initiatives, guarantees & warrantees on product and workmanship, countrywide coverage when needed and the likes of courtesy cars when choosing a tuner. You also need to consider that magazines and newspapers are full of self-paid advertising, singing the praises of one tuner after another, many with claims and prices that seem to good to be true. First rule, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Enter Steve Fischer, the Steves Auto Clinic Group's founder, as he expands on this point a little further. "SAC are a proud group of companies that meet the first demand of a customer in providing quality, guaranteed, reliable workmanship across South Africa."
"Besides being the leaders once again by being the only local after market tuning company to offer a dedicated Research & Development Centre, we are also one of the few who don't test and conduct trials on customer's cars, we actually make our own, group funded and developed, vehicles available for independent performance testing and publishing in the local media."
And it is this massively expensive step that brings Fischer to enquire wirily, "If our competition were able to produce the advertised results they claim, reliably and repetitively, surely one would see more independently tested and published results of this in the media?"
But as already discussed, this is just the first part of the problem. The most important part according to Fischer is knowing exactly what type of power are you chasing as a customer to start with?
"Times have certainly changed over the years. A bakkie was a slow work implement to carry loads, a 4x4 was only available as a luxury item at the high end of the market and the family saloon was there to transport all around in comfort whilst using the least amount of fuel."
"This has changed with the introduction of a massive new number of model derivatives into our country and the pace at which diesel technology is growing and becoming more accepted across the board. Now it is expected that the family saloon is the weekend 4x4 and that the work bakkie is also capable of travelling in high speed comfort at relatively low fuel consumption rates."
Making power for power sake is not going to work when applied basically to most road going applications. A peaky increase in power is going to be lost on a vehicle that spends a good portion of its life towing in the lower ranges of rpm and ultimately requires the midrange torque to be increased.
Merely improving driveability for a hot-hatch customer who wants to race from A-B is also going to be a lost cause, as he is going to measure his progress in seconds gained on the road and not be too bothered by the loss of low down torque and power or increased fuel consumption that comes from revving 1 000r/min higher than normal.
There are a few other factors that should affect your decision process on a mechanical level, is your vehicle automatic or manual, does it have long or short overall gearing, is it a heavy car or a light car, has it been accessorised with bigger wheels and/or off-road gear that all adds to drag, right up to things like extreme turbo lag, and to whether you, yourself are a fast or slow driver, or a conservative or hard driver?
Fischer concludes by saying that, "All these factors must be taken into account in getting the right upgrade that suits your perceived personal needs, but ultimately the results also have to deliver a solution that meets your vehicle's needs once it has undergone performance enhancing, and not just be about making the most horsepower at any cost. A cost that is normally yours to bear."
So before you go out and have you dream of more power shattered by a simple lack of information, take a tour through the SAC website at www.steves.co.za or contact a consultant at your nearest SAC Branch.