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      01-17-2013, 05:25 AM   #1
kamek
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Active Autowerke Stage 2 N51/N52 Tune Review

Active Autowerke Stage 2 N51/N52 Tune Review

Disclaimer: This is a completely unbiased and unscientific test/review. I haven't run dyno tests or made any other comparisons other than driving the car pre-tune and post-tune twelve days apart.

The Car

Model: 328xi
Engine: N51
Transmission: 6MT
Performance mods: BMW Performance Exhaust with secondary cat delete

The Process

I decided to send my tune into AA for the flash since there were no dealers with flash stations near me, and the whole process was a pain in the ass. It would've been less of a pain in the ass if AA would've provided clearer instructions other than "follow our E9X M3 ECU removal guide which should be the same," because removing the ECU from an E9X non-M3 is NOT the same as removing the ECU from an E9X M3. Thankfully for the e90post forums, I received help from user ja. who provided me with a JB4 installation video which helped me access the ECU.

I shipped my ECU out to AA, and it was promptly returned.

Reinstallation and Start Up

Simple enough -- just reverse the steps for removal to get the ECU back in, as stated in the instructions provided by AA.

What AA doesn't state is that you're supposed to turn the car on to position 2 (key in with two presses of the ignition -- lights on, etc.) for 20 seconds so the ECU can re-adapt to the car. I only found out by calling AA after my car went crazy and suffered in the process, and only then was I informed about this "ECU adaptation process."

With my newly flashed ECU in, I started my engine.

Start 1: The engine fluttered, rose up to 4K RPM, and died with all error lights on -- CEL, 4x4, everything.

Start 2: The engine fluttered between 2K to 4K RPM, up and down, up and down. I pressed the throttle, but no response.

Start 3: The engine fluttered, but settled down to 1K RPM. I pressed the throttle to check if it was working, and I got a loud "POP" and cloud of black smoke out of my exhaust. The car was running and working, or so I had hoped. My CEL remained on, but I decided to take it for a drive.

The Drive

My first thought was "this was the biggest waste of $450." I was feeling regretful that I didn't feel much of a difference in performance, and I was feeling especially regretful that I had gone though so much trouble just before this initial test run. I was afraid that this would become more of a "convince myself that my $450 was well spent placebo effect." I ran a round of errands, which included going to AutoZone to get my error codes cleared, and totaled 30 miles on the new ECU, still feeling unimpressed. AA states the ECU takes 50-100 miles to fully adapt, so I kept my hopes up and gave it a chance to break in.

The next day, I put over 200 miles on the new ECU, and was feeling more of a difference in performance. It isn't a HUGE difference as I'm still trying to figure out how different the car really is compared to stock. Maybe I had set my hopes too high... I thought this tune would've blown my mind as it did for some members on the forum. No, I don't mean feeling as if I went from a 328 to a 335, but I've come across some very promising reviews.

What I've noticed is that my car does pull a little harder in the lower RPM range (especially in second and third gears where the car used to feel very sluggish), and there's a point after 3.5K or 4K where it opens up much more than it used to. The throttle feels more responsive, and pulls feel smooth. There's undoubtedly a difference. It may be small/minute, but it's there.

The car now feels "right," meaning it feels like it should've come from the factory this way. It'll add some pep to your step, but not enough to set a stock N51 worlds apart from an AA tuned N51. Again, my pre-tune and post-tune drives were done almost two weeks apart, so maybe I would've felt more of a difference if I had made the drives back to back. It's a great mod, I have no regrets, and the tune will add some enjoyment to your driving, but I still stand by my belief that the best mod I've done to my car is my BMW Performance Exhaust with secondary cat delete. Now that's an enjoyable and definitely noticeable mod.
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      01-17-2013, 09:56 AM   #2
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You mean the 15hp didnt thrust you back in your seat like the take off of an F18 like some n52 guys have described? lol, you and I are the same tho as long as I have a nice throttle response and a nice sound coming out of it im happy. Power isn't everything in a quality DD
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      01-17-2013, 10:58 AM   #3
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dyno or it never happened.
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      01-17-2013, 11:09 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kamek View Post

What I've noticed is that my car does pull a little harder in the lower RPM range (especially in second and third gears where the car used to feel very sluggish), and there's a point after 3.5K or 4K where it opens up much more than it used to. The throttle feels more responsive, and pulls feel smooth. There's undoubtedly a difference. It may be small/minute, but it's there.

The car now feels "right," meaning it feels like it should've come from the factory this way.

I still stand by my belief that the best mod I've done to my car is my BMW Performance Exhaust with secondary cat delete. Now that's an enjoyable and definitely noticeable mod.
Good to see objective and honest reviews.

Can you comment on how soon you felt the throttle response? and how does the top end feel?
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      01-17-2013, 01:11 PM   #5
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200miles is probably not enough, mine takes like 800miles to complete set in.

also bad thing about the adaptation is you really dont feel much performance gain cuz the tune is stepping up progressively. you really need to be patient with it.

steping point is 3200, 4400rpm, you can feel it switch on with medium throttle. I use it to judge wether the tune is set or not, really hate it when i had to reflash for dealer visit and wait another 800 miles.
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      01-17-2013, 01:19 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by jc5988 View Post
200miles is probably not enough, mine takes like 800miles to complete set in.

also bad thing about the adaptation is you really dont feel much performance gain cuz the tune is stepping up progressively. you really need to be patient with it.

steping point is 3200, 4400rpm, you can feel it switch on with medium throttle. I use it to judge wether the tune is set or not, really hate it when i had to reflash for dealer visit and wait another 800 miles.
Hmm, im just flashed an Evolve tune and feels like it set in quick to the point that 250 km later it feels complete & smooth but aggressive on demand.
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      01-17-2013, 04:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by benzo23 View Post
You mean the 15hp didnt thrust you back in your seat like the take off of an F18 like some n52 guys have described? lol, you and I are the same tho as long as I have a nice throttle response and a nice sound coming out of it im happy. Power isn't everything in a quality DD
That's exactly what I'm talking about! When I first pressed the throttle, I was thinking "OK, let's see how hard I'll be pressed into my seat." This is what I meant by "hopes too high."

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrey_gta View Post
Good to see objective and honest reviews.

Can you comment on how soon you felt the throttle response? and how does the top end feel?
I felt the throttle response that first time I reved the car on the third start of my engine. I gave it some gas to check the throttle and the revs shot up way more than I had anticipated. I was aiming for around 3K, but I accidentally reved over 4K. It was either the heightened throttle response that caused this, or the reduced throttle delay. I drive a 6MT and haven't found it less or more difficult to control the throttle because I'm accustomed to doing so.

As for the top end, its always been the same -- if you punch the gas pedal while riding a high RPM, your car will be more responsive. The most noticeable difference is somewhere between 3.5K to 4K where there's a kick while you're accelerating and you feel the tune kick in, as if an extra valve opens and is propelling you slightly faster. It's small, but noticeable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jc5988 View Post
200miles is probably not enough, mine takes like 800miles to complete set in.

also bad thing about the adaptation is you really dont feel much performance gain cuz the tune is stepping up progressively. you really need to be patient with it.

steping point is 3200, 4400rpm, you can feel it switch on with medium throttle. I use it to judge wether the tune is set or not, really hate it when i had to reflash for dealer visit and wait another 800 miles.
800 miles is A LOT! AA claims 50-100 miles, max. I do agree with you about feeling the tune switch on at a certain RPM. That's one of the only things that convinces me that it's working.

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrey_gta View Post
Hmm, im just flashed an Evolve tune and feels like it set in quick to the point that 250 km later it feels complete & smooth but aggressive on demand.
200 km is roughly 125 miles, which is how long it should take for the tune to adapt.
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      01-17-2013, 05:31 PM   #8
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The tunes are more noticeable on automatic cars. On the manuals, you may feel a bit better throttle response due to the remap, but not as noticeable as the auto.

Also, your car weighs 250+lbs heavier than the standard "i" series and had the n51 motor
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      01-17-2013, 05:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny D View Post
The tunes are more noticeable on automatic cars. On the manuals, you may feel a bit better throttle response due to the remap, but not as noticeable as the auto.

Also, your car weighs 250+lbs heavier than the standard "i" series and had the n51 motor
x2x... that boat anchor aint helpin.
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      01-17-2013, 06:16 PM   #10
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Point is moot. Gent had an Xi before he started & and Xi after...may I add a damn good looking Xi at that. Props kamek

Too bad the tune is "minute". I really need to roll in a tuned N52 to make an informed decision and jump from over a PBX.

Do they alter the valvetronic in stage 2?
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      01-17-2013, 07:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny D View Post
The tunes are more noticeable on automatic cars. On the manuals, you may feel a bit better throttle response due to the remap, but not as noticeable as the auto.

Also, your car weighs 250+lbs heavier than the standard "i" series and had the n51 motor
So is the tune more effective on a n52?
I'm planning on doing this soon with SVC concepts, but I've been wanting to get a few other mods out of the way first.
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      01-17-2013, 07:56 PM   #12
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Point is moot. Gent had an Xi before he started & and Xi after...may I add a damn good looking Xi at that. Props kamek

Too bad the tune is "minute". I really need to roll in a tuned N52 to make an informed decision and jump from over a PBX.

Do they alter the valvetronic in stage 2?
I dont think it's moot. Power to weight. 15hp is 15hp yes, but you will "feel" more gains in a lighter vehicle.

Yes the valvetronic is adjusted through the DME.

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So is the tune more effective on a n52?
I'm planning on doing this soon with SVC concepts, but I've been wanting to get a few other mods out of the way first.
The most beneficial vehicle is obviously going to be the 325i. It can be brought up to 330i specs and higher. (Tune + Manifold)
The next would be the 328i because again bringing it up to 330i levels and beyond.
The lowest is the 330i. It already is the peak model of the n52 and although the tune should be a nice addition, I don't see it being a kick in the pants like my 325i was. I'd still buy it if I owned a 330i just for the throttle remap and support alone.

I would for sure get all the mods you want done out of the way first. Tune last. If SVC does the dyno tuning you'll get an even better tune than I got
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      01-17-2013, 08:09 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny D View Post
The tunes are more noticeable on automatic cars. On the manuals, you may feel a bit better throttle response due to the remap, but not as noticeable as the auto.

Also, your car weighs 250+lbs heavier than the standard "i" series and had the n51 motor
I thought the tune works better with the N51 because it already has the 3 stage manifold ?
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      01-18-2013, 09:31 AM   #14
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I thought the tune works better with the N51 because it already has the 3 stage manifold ?
The n51 has a lower compression rate than the n52 and therefor uses the three stage manifold to compensate for this. With the tune expect the same results from both because of this.
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      01-18-2013, 11:01 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny D View Post
The tunes are more noticeable on automatic cars. On the manuals, you may feel a bit better throttle response due to the remap, but not as noticeable as the auto.

Also, your car weighs 250+lbs heavier than the standard "i" series and had the n51 motor
Understandable, which is why I took the fact that I have an xi into account in my review. I was expecting more than "hardly noticeable" gains.

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Originally Posted by Rival View Post
x2x... that boat anchor aint helpin.
I don't have a boat anchor, neither does it justify the fact that this tune is any good on an xi.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagger1 View Post
Point is moot. Gent had an Xi before he started & and Xi after...may I add a damn good looking Xi at that. Props kamek

Too bad the tune is "minute". I really need to roll in a tuned N52 to make an informed decision and jump from over a PBX.

Do they alter the valvetronic in stage 2?
Thank you, I appreciate it!

I think people mostly do these tunes for the throttle remap, which is what you're given with the PBX. 10-15 hp is minute, after all. AA has always stated that this tune alters the valvetronic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by redline2001 View Post
I thought the tune works better with the N51 because it already has the 3 stage manifold ?
I was under this same impression.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny D View Post
The n51 has a lower compression rate than the n52 and therefor uses the three stage manifold to compensate for this. With the tune expect the same results from both because of this.
I thought the N51 was a "detuned" N52 with three stage intake manifold.
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      01-18-2013, 12:52 PM   #16
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Let's be real here. These tunes, no matter which one, are not going to make a world of difference on a dyno. I think I speak for the majority of people who just get them to fix the throttle delay problem. Coming from a modified turbo car, I knew not to expect a huge jump in power like I did from a turbo-back 3" exhaust, increased boost, etc. Very generally speaking you're adding 10hp with every 1psi increase of boost on a turbo car. My Celica All-Trac ran 8 psi stock (200hp) and I had it increased to 14-16 psi. Just doesn't work that way on a N/A engine. If a tune does add a little power, however noticeable it is, that's just icing on the top. All I know is my car (PBX) drives 10 times better than it did before which is exactly what I wanted.
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      01-18-2013, 01:24 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ross328i View Post
Let's be real here. These tunes, no matter which one, are not going to make a world of difference on a dyno. I think I speak for the majority of people who just get them to fix the throttle delay problem. Coming from a modified turbo car, I knew not to expect a huge jump in power like I did from a turbo-back 3" exhaust, increased boost, etc. Very generally speaking you're adding 10hp with every 1psi increase of boost on a turbo car. My Celica All-Trac ran 8 psi stock (200hp) and I had it increased to 14-16 psi. Just doesn't work that way on a N/A engine. If a tune does add a little power, however noticeable it is, that's just icing on the top. All I know is my car (PBX) drives 10 times better than it did before which is exactly what I wanted.
I've seen too many people swear by the AA tune who are very ecstatic about its minimal gains, and I affirmatively use the word "minimal" given my first hand experience. Those reviews have said such things as "pushed me back in my seat" and "smile I can't get off my face," and the like. If there's any expression on my face, it's of confusion as I'm trying to figure out what it has actually done for my car.

Fixing the throttle response is surely an upside to this tune, and the extra pep from the few added hp/tq is what you'd call "icing on the top." I do feel more pickup in second and third gears, especially when I'm accelerating with more confidence in third when I used to feel the need to downshift into second.

I'm not against the bandwagon, but I won't say that this tune brought my car to new levels never known before. I'm not regretful of having dished out $450 + time + stress (AA, you guys are a reputable company, which is what helped my decision to choose you for the tune, but the least you could do for us is provide better/clearer instructions to support the vehicles you offer products for), but I'm not saying I couldn't have lived without it, either.
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      01-18-2013, 02:16 PM   #18
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Thank you for an honest and realistic review kamek!

Though it may not have been what you/we had expected, I suppose it's still the best solution out there
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      01-18-2013, 03:15 PM   #19
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Great review.

I've been on the fence about this tune and a BMW PE for my E91, but like you, have no local shop that can do the AA tune for me, so I'd have to send it to them and be without my car for a few days.

Think maybe I'll do the PE and decide on the tune later. Maybe by then I'll have a local shop who can do it, which would make my decision to do it MUCH easier.
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      01-18-2013, 03:44 PM   #20
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Thank you for an honest and realistic review kamek!

Though it may not have been what you/we had expected, I suppose it's still the best solution out there
You're welcome!

I can't say if it's the best, but I went with AA because they're the most reputable name I know. I was looking for an equal amount of performance and peace of mind that my car would be running well.

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Great review.

I've been on the fence about this tune and a BMW PE for my E91, but like you, have no local shop that can do the AA tune for me, so I'd have to send it to them and be without my car for a few days.

Think maybe I'll do the PE and decide on the tune later. Maybe by then I'll have a local shop who can do it, which would make my decision to do it MUCH easier.
Thanks!

The process of mailing in your ECU to AA is painless, but getting it out is another story. I did as AA told me to do and ran into a dead end because they gave me the wrong information on two accounts (ECU removal and first startup). If you decide to remove it yourself, use the JB3 installation video on YouTube to help guide your way into the ECU box.

Otherwise, don't hesitate on the BMW PE -- you'll love it. I'd choose the BMW PE first, over the AA tune. When I first installed it, it was my absolute favorite mod, but my favorite mod was replaced by the secondary cat delete that I did to my BMW PE, which brought out and heightened the beautiful tone it emits.
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      01-18-2013, 04:16 PM   #21
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Nice write-up! I was thinking of this tune as well.
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      01-18-2013, 11:17 PM   #22
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Take whatever you want from this.. but I am actually being honest about the tune. Believe what you want.

I think it was definitely worth it and I felt the difference in throttle response and power IMMEDIATELY on the drive home. It definitely put a smile on my face. Response is definitely there and is more prominent than the power boost for sure.. but it makes all the difference.

The once lethargic N52 really comes into its own with the tune and trust me I was the MOST skeptical of anybody else of "wasting" $500 of my hard earned money on a tune where I could easily spent it on a nice wax/polish job, a nice watch or a nice evening of hookers and scotch on the town. However I don't regret spending the money on the tune.

I track my car and have a lot of track time/experience so I'm not your average bimmer douche off the street.

I think its worth it - I don't think its a scam at all... and to be fair I can tell you that the feeling has worn off in recent months... I don't know if its the tune, whether or not my recent waterpump and t-stat repair had anything to do with it or if its just my heavy OEM winter rims and shitty winter tyres but the car feels slower. It's really amazing what light wheels and tyres can do for your car.. but I feel/hope that once I get my lightweight CSL's on in the summer the car starts putting more smiles on my face.
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