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      03-31-2009, 02:22 AM   #1
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ESS review

I've been putting miles on the latest ESS stage 4 flash - close to a months worth of testing and around 400 miles total - and I wanted to share my impressions now that I've had some real seat time. It was important to me to get some proper testing in before posting a comparison and impressions, or a short blurb for that matter, which wouldn't have really covered anything or provided details.

For those who don't want to read the whole thing (and trust me, I might not want to either depending on what time of day I discovered this thread), I'll summarize :

I was a happy Procede user and had V1/V2/V3 - right up to the 1-14 Stage 1 (game changer maps) earlier this year. I have an '07 E92 running ar catless dp's, Helix FMIC, DCI, Forge DVs, stock exhaust. I now have the ESS stage 4 map. I love it. It's smoother than stock and much smoother than V3 (and as fast as the V3 stage 1 maps in my car in testing thus far).

For me, this means I don't have to tinker, update maps or upgrade anymore - very happy, thumbs up! If you're on the fence, don't hesitate - email or PM Todd right now. It's very good.


For those really interested in a full comparison, or for those who might have trouble falling asleep at night, pop a Unisom, down it with a Nyquil chaser and read on....

First, a bit of history about my car, my modifications to date, and lil' ol me.

Before the ESS flash, I ran every iteration of Procede, up to but not including RevII (can't recall my first V1 map version, but it was pre 1.47 and the latest maps I used were the 1-14, game changer maps).

For the most part, I had little to zero trouble with V2 and V3 - it was quick, feature rich and inexpensive (granted you didn't continue upgrading). As with most people here, I have always been most interested in a flash, but sans Dinan, there just wasn't one available that appealed to me until ESS began making their presence known. Procede fit the bill for me until recently.

So why did I change if I was reasonably happy?

First off, and some of you may get this, but my life has become busy enough that I was actually getting tired of updating my V3 every other week with new maps. There is, of course a certain joy to tinkering and updating, but to compliment that eventually, there is also this comfy sense of pacification that you should get after a round of modifications where you just enjoy the car from that point on without worrying about updating, upgrading or moving on to something else. Of course I didn't *HAVE* to update each time a map was released, but if a new map was posted...well, you know how it goes. You MUST get it. If there isn't a new feature, there's sure to be a number of posts shortly after it's made available attesting to its life changing goodness. I'm an update fiend - doesn't matter what it is. New firmware for my Zumo 550? Gotta have it. BavTec released a new update? Sigh...gotta get. If a new map was released, I HAD to have it. For me, this wasn't a lengthy deal time-wise as I had a USB cable in the cabin, but I also never felt like I was ever getting a stable baseline that I retained for several weeks or several hundred miles without starting over.

In order to control myself, I sort of needed to remove the ability to keep updating, upgrading, etc. A flash made sense in this regard.

Secondly, and this wasn't as noticeable to me until much later in my experience with V2/V3, but I noticed that the car was much smoother stock in normal, around town driving. In particular, off boost response, overall throttle response down low and just normal, city driving. The only reason I discovered this was due to a need to remove my V3 harness temporarily to trace and track down a misfire issue I was having last year (turns out it was my charge pipe no longer sealing properly to the throttle body due to oil buildup...under boost it would leak there, chug, boost gauge would peak at 22psi and things would go incredibly rich momentarily and misfire, resulting in instant limp mode, all in about 4 seconds). Anyhow, I removed nearly everything I could to trace it, one thing at a time. I noticed that stock, albeit slower of course, the car was much smoother around town for 75% of the driving I do day to day. And FWIW, a brand new charge pipe fixed that issue (along with the addition of an oil catch can IMO).

Lastly, and this is as much of a kudos to Vishnu as a sales force as it is an end user complaint, but I was tiring of seeing new features released that were honestly fixes to pre-existing issues. I was never in fear of what might happen (as far as I can tell, V3 offers more fail safes than any other option on the market for instance) but it was more the principle of the issue - towards the end of my V3 ownership, I felt as if most of us here on e90 were beta testers. Never by trickery of course, all beta maps were thusly labeled so...but I was unable to keep from testing these maps myself, even against my better judgment. As noted above, a flash was a way to bind my own hands, you could say.

So about 5 weeks ago, I decided to give ESS a shot. The worst case, I figured, was that I ended up back with a RevII in 6 months time, or a Procede/BMS/??? flash if/when they become available should I not be pleased with the ESS flash.

I can say now that I don't see myself changing anytime soon.

Some details about my particular car :
  • 2007 (10/06 build) E92 w/sport kit (oil cooler)
  • M6
  • Latest software (32.2 + wastegate conversion, AKA lag fix feature)
  • Vishnu DCI
  • Helix FMIC
  • ar catless downpipes
  • Forge diverter valves (I'm a green spring devotee)
  • Riss oil catch can
  • Brand new charge pipe and fittings (ha!)
  • New plugs+coils 1,300 miles ago (aprox 900 miles before ESS)
  • Stock exhaust (for now, Borla axle back is on the way)
  • Shell 93 at all times

About me - this often helps as it illustrates what other cars someone has owned and had seat time with. I've been a car nut my entire life. My father was a semi-pro drag racer, and I grew up at a track for the most part. I ended up branching off into software (game development) but always tinkered and collected cars as my passion (once you convert your passion to work, it's gone as means of enjoyment!). Now, let's face it - we all consider ourselves to be Stig-like, and I pretend as good as anyone else in my track devoted Elise and Formula Mazda (but still somehow come away looking a bit more like dead Black stig). I've been lucky enough to own pretty much one of everything over the years - a few years ago, someone told me I had the "15 year old boys bedroom wall poster collection" and that sort of made sense at the time given what was in the stable. Suffice it to say that I've had loads of seat time in lots of cars - it's given me a unique perspective I guess. For years, it has been my real passion - all consuming, in fact, for some of those years, and it was getting to the point where I had to purchase off site storage for the ever growing toy box (which, in retrospect, is really pretty dumb to let it get to that point). Thankfully I've discovered motorcycles lately and that's much easier and cheaper.

Back to the issue at hand - I was able to drive my 335i stock with the 32.2 update from BMW for a short time before the ESS flash, so I know how good that was for stock, and how much of an improvement that was on prior versions. Previously, I was a 23.x prog car (!!!) - very original, very old software. The latest update with the wastegate conversion was quite nice, but of course, quite slow too...

First off, I'll address from my perspective the one issue most folks appear to have about ESS - the prospect of mailing my DME wasn't a big deal for me. I'm lucky in this regard, as I have other cars and motorcycles to use in the
downtime. If I didn't have this available, it would be a bit harder, but the turn around time is such that you're down for a maximum of 3 days. In my case, I had turn around in 24 hours (DME arrived at ESS Monday morning, I had it back Tuesday afternoon at 2pm here in Dallas, all via trackable FedEx). Insure the shipment and if the worst case comes to pass, you get a new DME eventually. For me, it wasn't a problem, but I'm less risk averse than most so your millage may vary.

Removal of the DME takes less than 10 minutes. Install is faster. It's dead
simple. The DME itself is built like a tank - wrapped completely in bubble wrap and packaged into a large FedEx box, you could drop kick the thing and it's going to be fine. I think that the only way a DME could be damaged in transit is if someone somehow shipped the bugger without wrapping it in bubble wrap. Hell, even then it may be just fine - the DME case is robust, to say the least. I suppose FedEx could lose the shipment, but in years and years of using FedEx, I've never had a lost shipment.

Okay, so on to the actual impressions.

The car is butter smooth with this flash. To me, stock was much smoother than Procede V3 (yes, running the 1-14 maps from not so long ago, which were smoother than previous V3 maps, granted, but not as smooth as stock). At that time, my car was a very early, very much pre-29.2 car - no idea how much this matters, but my car, when stock, was very smooth. ESS is that same delta above stock in smoothness. It's really good. For around town, normal driving, it's simply light years better than stock. Off idle response, post shift tip in, all incredibly smooth - transition from vacuum to boost is so rapid and smooth that you just no longer pay attention to it. Smooth enough that the one thing that keeps popping into my head is that the car feels naturally aspirated now. Boost is very stable and never exceeds 15psi.

WOT, full tilt boogie, abusing the loud pedal - great. Very quick and linear. Smooth, zero lag, meatier down low than V3, tapering more aggressively up top. I haven't yet dynoed (I know a lot of folks here firmly believe that every tune on the market lives or dies by the dyno - I'm no stranger to this way of thinking, having owned many dyno queens in my lifetime myself) but I will at some point soon. BUT - for me, I was less interested in absolute power, and more interested in making the bulk of the driving I do, (mostly civil, around town, semi-legal errand running jaunts) as pleasant as possible without sacrificing the power I had become accustomed to.

The only metric I can offer in regards to power at this point with this ESS flash is this - I have a stretch of road nearby that I've used for nearly 10 years to play. Over a half mile long, zero turn outs/ins, intersections, 3 lanes wide. It's the holy grail of undeveloped road. I've put a dozen cars through their paces on this stretch of road over that time, so I know the road. Starting point is the same, braking point is the same. I can usually judge with a modicum of certainty deltas between cars (comparing a 360 Spider or Lingenfetler 427TT to my wifes A4 Avant, for instance), less so with modifications to individual cars unless the changes are substantial.

On the latest maps I ran with V3 (the 1-14 maps), running stage 1 maps set at 92%, I would consistently see 120~121mph at my braking point.

With the ESS flash, I've seen as high as 124mph in this same stretch, and as low as 120mph. Ambient temp + a tail wind could account for the difference, though my datalogs show that temps were within 6 degrees both nights.

This is measured on the speedo - data logging has indicated it to be a little less of course (the typical 7% high BMW save Americans from themselves speedo) but consistently so. In other words, yes the speedo is a bit liberal, but the relative comparisons are on the same speedo.

Trust me, I realize that this is FAR from scientific, but I'm detailing this here for just one reason : I'm not giving up anything power wise from what I can tell. If I am, it's negligible, and that's all I was interested in. I wasn't looking to bump my peak numbers - I was looking for hands off, install it and forget it, smoothness and that's precisely what I've received with this flash. Track times and dynos will provide more hard data, but for my needs with this car, it has met my expectations (and I haven't given up anything in order for that to happen, which was my biggest fear).

How was my experience in dealing with ESS?

Nearly unbelievably positive - Todd isn't just knowledgeable about the flash and ESS, he's a proper gearhead and a real joy to deal with. He's also email-bound (like me - as if this long post hasn't clued you in already) which means it was not uncommon to receive replies to questions at 3am. I'm a night owl too, so this was nice for me - it never felt like I was just an entry in his sales sheet. He cared about each email I sent, and I sent plenty - asking all manner of questions, providing feedback, and so on. If it wasn't a 3am email, it was a mid afternoon text or phone call. Todd was always available, and this made everything simply painless. My very first email, in fact, asked loads of questions that Todd had already addressed here in the forums. He could have just pointed me to the thread, but he took the time to answer each question thoroughly and completely. It was only a week later that I discovered that he'd answered all of my questions weeks earlier and this was my first positive take. I couldn't even say with certainty that I wouldn't have just redirected an interested customer to previously answered questions. A small detail? Sure, but it meant a bunch to me.

I like their track record, as well - they're not a new name by any stretch, and I rather like the fact that they currently own the current Nordschleife street car record (an E46 SC'ed M3 with 40K on the clock) with a 7:22 and change. Does that fact translate directly to my needs and my purchase? Not in the slightest, really. However, it's a nifty record and not an easy one to achieve (or maintain for that matter). But what appealed to me is that it wasn't a factory fresh M3 with a brand new SC kit - the bugger had 40,000 miles on it!)

For what it's worth, I imagine that Todd would wave off all of this fanfare - this is my impression of ESS, and of Todd. The Nürburgring record was
something I dug up and discovered before I even chose ESS as an option, not a sales pitch I was fed.

Anyhow, there have been precious few independent reviews and impressions of ESS thus far - they are somewhat late to the N54, as it were, and there are just a few early adopters at this point I believe to even be able to share impressions. But they have my business and I couldn't be more pleased. I'm sure that the future competitive DIY flash options will be interesting, with some time and tweaking. In my case, a flash was something I wanted to trust a firm like ESS with. Up to this point, for me, the piggyback options have been the real only choice that made sense. I wasn't interested in the Dinan flash, and I believe the Procede/BMS/??? DIY-via-BT flashes are still 4 to 8 months out.

But for now, I can just enjoy the heck of my 335i once again without tinkering. I'll finally have time to tinker with other things.

If anyone has any questions, please post 'em or PM me - I'd be happy to try to answer them if I can.
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      03-31-2009, 02:46 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexus-6 View Post
I've been putting miles on the latest ESS stage 4 flash - close to a months worth of testing and around 400 miles total - and I wanted to share my impressions now that I've had some real seat time. It was important to me to get some proper testing in before posting a comparison and impressions, or a short blurb for that matter, which wouldn't have really covered anything or provided details.

If anyone has any questions, please post 'em or PM me - I'd be happy to try to answer them if I can.
Thanks for your thorough and detailed review, really appreciated. This is one of the reasons I'm consulting the forums here, as it's really a treasure trove of good info and immediate customer experience.

Just one quick question to you: You wrote that you have the ESS stage 4 flash. I was under the impression that only stages 1-3 have been released to customers yet, and stage 4 is still in the testing phase. I would be quite interested in the stage 4 as it is supposed to be adapted to aftermarket downpipes (I'm on the group buy of the ar design dps, mine will come catted), and as I've just sent in my DME yesterday (albeit to Norway, so this will take some days longer than in your case) I would naturally be happy to be able to get the stage 4 already.

Thanks again for taking your time to write all this.

Alpina_B3_Lux

P.S. I can confirm your experience with the ESS guys as well. Todd and his Norway counterparts are very helpful and reactive all the time.
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      03-31-2009, 02:57 AM   #3
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I believe I was one of the lucky few who had the right combination of modifications to qualify for stage 4 right as it was released - it was fresh on the menu when I first sent my DME in, and Todd actually called me one evening to make sure it was okay with me if they provided me with stage 4 (as you point out, requiring downpipes) as my car qualified, instead of the stage 3 that I had ordered - same price, same turn around. Call it good timing, as I've since read that they've stopped doing so.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Alpina_B3_Lux View Post
Thanks for your thorough and detailed review, really appreciated. This is one of the reasons I'm consulting the forums here, as it's really a treasure trove of good info and immediate customer experience.

Just one quick question to you: You wrote that you have the ESS stage 4 flash. I was under the impression that only stages 1-3 have been released to customers yet, and stage 4 is still in the testing phase. I would be quite interested in the stage 4 as it is supposed to be adapted to aftermarket downpipes (I'm on the group buy of the ar design dps, mine will come catted), and as I've just sent in my DME yesterday (albeit to Norway, so this will take some days longer than in your case) I would naturally be happy to be able to get the stage 4 already.

Thanks again for taking your time to write all this.

Alpina_B3_Lux

P.S. I can confirm your experience with the ESS guys as well. Todd and his Norway counterparts are very helpful and reactive all the time.
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      03-31-2009, 03:28 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexus-6 View Post
I believe I was one of the lucky few who had the right combination of modifications to qualify for stage 4 right as it was released - it was fresh on the menu when I first sent my DME in, and Todd actually called me one evening to make sure it was okay with me if they provided me with stage 4 (as you point out, requiring downpipes) as my car qualified, instead of the stage 3 that I had ordered - same price, same turn around. Call it good timing, as I've since read that they've stopped doing so.
I would of course welcome it if they did the same in my case. Maybe ESS themselves could chime in? My latest info (from around 10 days ago) was that they've finished testing but were waiting to do some dyno runs before releasing it to the public (although I'm not really interested in dyno runs myself), probably to be sure that there are real gains over stage 3.

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      03-31-2009, 03:51 AM   #5
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Great writeup! I choose ESS when I decided to change supercharger systems on my E46 and they were helpful the entire way to accommodate my requests. In fact, I was the first one with their Stage 3 Twinscrew Kit in the United States and the car performs without a hitch. The car truly drives like stock due to their rigorous testing they perform. Awesome to hear you are happy with their products!
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      03-31-2009, 05:12 AM   #6
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I talked with ESS today and Stage 4 is ready. I would appreciate some official information about Stage 4
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      03-31-2009, 07:17 AM   #7
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I talked with ESS today and Stage 4 is ready. I would appreciate some official information about Stage 4
That is excellent news. Looks like my DME (which is currently travelling to Norway) will already receive this flash then. Great!

Just some "official" info from ESS would be nice.

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      03-31-2009, 08:36 AM   #8
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      03-31-2009, 08:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexus-6 View Post
Anyhow, there have been precious few independent reviews and impressions of ESS thus far - they are somewhat late to the N54, as it were, and there are just a few early adopters at this point I believe to even be able to share impressions.
Great read, and they are late because they have to focus on the supercharger for the S65
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      03-31-2009, 12:11 PM   #10
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That's a terrific review. I am really considering the stage 2 now. The reviews are few right now but they seem very positive. $750 is very reasonable as well compared to the Dinan...
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      03-31-2009, 01:10 PM   #11
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curious as to why ess has not released baseline dynos versus their stage 1, 2, 4, etc.

or have they? and i have just not seen them ??

thanks
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      03-31-2009, 03:53 PM   #12
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Thank you Lan! It has been an ultimate pleasure working with you!

Yes, we have shown dynos of 1, 2, and 3 around the forum. Stage 4 will come soon.

Yes, Stage 4 is Stage 3 optimized for DPs (same max boost but other changes). Do note, all of the stages will benefit on their own from DPs as well, but this stage 4 is meant to maximize their performance.

Yes, you can get Stage 4 now, but we must notify you and every person that wants it:
On paper, Stage 4 is right at the limit of the rated speeds of the stock MHI turbos. This is why Stage 4 won't be advertised, but is available to those who want max power and know the possible risk. We know the piggybacks decided to push it farther, but this is the absolute limit we will go. We are not out to win HP dyno wars and won't run that high of timing and lean AFRs they do. We have been working on boosted BMWs since the day we opened and know what BMW meant these engines to do. We pride ourselves on making a silly smooth, stock feeling, no-BS, powerful tune for your N54 for a great price.

For now, the $750-any-stage price will hold steady on E90post.
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      03-31-2009, 05:12 PM   #13
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Great thorough review. If ESS ever figures out a better way to conduct the flashing/update/reflashing, I would give them serious consideration.
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      03-31-2009, 05:49 PM   #14
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Great review, thanks! You didn't explain why you didn't want to go with Dinan, seeing you were flash oriented always. Was it the extra cost? Was it the performance of the flash?
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      03-31-2009, 05:53 PM   #15
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Thanks for the thorough review. . So you had send your ECU to Sweden right. what was the turn around time?.
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      03-31-2009, 05:54 PM   #16
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^ my bad. read your post again.
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      03-31-2009, 05:58 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lotus99 View Post
Great review, thanks! You didn't explain why you didn't want to go with Dinan, seeing you were flash oriented always. Was it the extra cost? Was it the performance of the flash?
Both, actually, and good point - I didn't actually say what it was about the Dinan flash I didn't like! But the early reviews were just luke warm - seems that has gotten better, but the price wasn't great for what you got.
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      03-31-2009, 06:01 PM   #18
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Thanks for the thorough review. . So you had send your ECU to Sweden right. what was the turn around time?.
No worries - it's a long ass post.

The US office is located in Phoenix, AR - doesn't really matter where you're shipping from in the lower 48 if you go FedEx standard overnight, and they only charge $25 for the return trip, FedEx overnight.
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      03-31-2009, 06:05 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexus-6 View Post
No worries - it's a long ass post.

The US office is located in Phoenix, AR - doesn't really matter where you're shipping from in the lower 48 if you go FedEx standard overnight, and they only charge $25 for the return trip, FedEx overnight.
Small correction, but it is Phoenix, AZ. I believe AR is Arkansas.
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      03-31-2009, 06:12 PM   #20
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thanks for the review!
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      03-31-2009, 11:00 PM   #21
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All PMs replied!
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      04-01-2009, 01:47 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ASAed330 View Post
Small correction, but it is Phoenix, AZ. I believe AR is Arkansas.
HAHA! Yeah, I can't even blame a non-qwerty keyboard on that one. AZ as in Arizona is correct.
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