AJ said he was absolutely sure the rear 02's were on and the redline was 8,000, my tachometer was "misleading," and the cruise control function was an electrical error on my car. I had no choice but to believe him. After three weeks of testing fuses and wires, three failed emission tests, I was convinced the tune was the issue. I took it to BMW (250 miles away) and had the OE US tune flashed (on my dime) and my car miraculously turned the rear o2's on, my cruise control worked, redline was back to normal.
I packaged up the DME and sent it back to Arizona to ESS (again, on my dime) to have my DME looked at. Lo and behold, the rear O2's were not turned on and the redline was indeed increased on my tune. Not even a "whoops, sorry man!" from anyone from ESS after sending me through the ringer for a month (and another $500+ out of pocket to fix their mistake). The SMG tune I was very happy with, outside of the Auto upshift function not working at WOT; as this function was primarily used by my wife. I won't get into details, but suffice to say that the information I gathered from Roman (sales) prior to purchase regarding the SMG flash's compatibility in Auto mode, differed from the technical side. If I had learned this prior, my decision to lighten the wallet an additional $600 would have changed for sure as my wife liked the "A" mode feature. This is why Roman is the salesman. Their was other garbage in the tune that was revealed from Roman that was only learned after.
To be fair, I had some issues with the initial Evolve tune setup and parameters; however, the way I was treated by Evolve's customer service guys (both Imran and Salman helped out) was completely different than the way I was treated by ESS. They stayed awful late (approaching 10 pm UK time) troubleshooting on their Friday night for one lowly US customer. I was impressed. It took 3 days to even receive a "my poop don't stink" email from AJ regarding his copy and paste "supposed custom tune" job. The Evolve gang contacted me several times to ask how we liked the tune, and to review the drf files (as he had concerns with our HIGH altitude). It is small potatoes in the long run, but it shows that they care how the customer feels post wallet-lightening. ESS not once asked for feedback, or let alone apologize for their mistake (which kept my car down for an extra month....for a tune!!).
I learned of Evolve from the Uk's M3 site and plunged for their CF Airbox. Just for craps and giggles, I picked up Evolve's tune to compare with ESS's tune as their flash hardware came with the Airbox when I went in for some baseline runs. Sal sent me their OTS N/A MAF header tune (e.g. before airbox install) and I booked some time at the dyno. The ESS tune (I learned again my redline was 8,200) was run a total of 7 times with a minimum cooldown of 5 minutes. With the car STILL STRAPPED TO THE DYNO, I flashed the Evolve tune to the car. We ran it another 5 times with the Evolve tune. Ambient temps and humidity creeped way up later in the afternoon after the flash, so we left the car strapped to the dyno to run the next day with the same time, and conditions the ESS tune ran in.
I am a data nerd by trade (research biologist) so I tried my best to eliminate ALL variables outside of the tune. Here is what I tried.
-The same half tank of fresh 91 (e10) pisswater from Chevron
-Same day (and next)
-Nearly identical ENV variables.
Some other details not evident from the dyno:
-4,800 ft elevation
-Evolve redline = 8,000
-ESS redline = 8,200
-Evolve's tune was not given proper road adaptation (I would assume the delta would increase after a few hundred road miles), and still out performed ESS's tune with a 200 rpm disadvantage.
I then created a thread on M3forum just discussing the dyno results. Before the thread was deleted, my data was accused of manipulation, I was accused of getting free products from Evolve, and if I recall correctly someone implied that I was some sort of spy for the other companies not named ESS. It was great fun until the thread disappeared. I was just trying to inform those who were considering both companies for a tune; however unfortunate, my message was twisted and then deleted (similar accusations arose with my review of Morr VS8.2 wheels as well...but apparently that is status quo at m3forum).
Here are the best runs for each tune:
So much for trying to inform enthusiasts...
Fast forward to 2012. I contact THREE companies for technical questions regarding valves and VANOS compatibility for tune on an S54 with a built head and cams: one company replied immediately that they will check their race teams for precise data (Evolve), one company called me directly (VAC motorsports) and one company completely ignored my request (guess who!). The boys at Evolve got back to me and provided the information I needed prior to plunging into the head build. Both Mike and Steve at VAC helped me select the proper valvetrain components. Three months later, and still no response from the BMW tuning experts at ESS.
This is my personal experience with these companies. Your experience may differ. I am only here to inform others. I have no sponsors. Mods are supported by my income alone.