BMW N54 Tune Comparison: JB4 vs. Cobb vs. Procede

BMW N54 Tune Options: JB4 vs. Cobb vs. PROcede

Before purchasing a tune for your N54 it is important to consider the pros and cons of the available tunes on the market. This post will highlight the differences between the common tunes for the N54 and hopefully help identify which tune is right for your goals.

 

Piggyback vs. Flash Tunes

An important aspect of tuning your N54 is the difference between a piggyback tune and a flash tune. I will briefly explain the major, but not exhaustive, differences between the two types of tunes. A piggyback tune is a direct plug-and-play tune for the N54; this allows you to install the tune directly to the stock ECU. A piggyback tune essentially controls boost by modifying or altering the signal sent to the computer; the ECU still believes the car is running stock boost levels (around 8-9psi). The computer is still running the factory timing and fueling tables. However, by altering the boost signal, various engine sensors and controls recognize the need to increase fuel flow and adjust timing on the fly to compensate for the higher boost and power.

On the contrary, a flash tune completely remaps or reprograms the stock ECU; this is installed by flashing the new software through the OBD port. A flash tune completely rewrites the stock boost, timing, and fueling tables. Flashing the computer allows for greater accuracy, but is more complicated than simply piggybacking the ECU. This is turn may negate or reduce the effectiveness of some of the safety features that are programmed into the stock ECU tune. However, the ability to completely reprogram the ECU does allow for more aggressive and consistent tunes.

In summary, both tunes are very safe and effective if done properly. Due to the ease of piggyback tunes they are typically less costly than the alternative flash tunes. Piggyback tunes also allow you to switch maps in seconds while on the fly, while a flash tune takes several minutes to rewrite the ECU’s programming. Advancements in the N54 tuning community have allowed for the use of back-end flash maps coupled with piggyback tunes. This allows for the best of both worlds and will be discussed later in the post.

 

N54 Piggyback Tunes

Burger Tuning JB4 G5 – $479

Burger Motorsports JB4 G5 piggyback tune is without a question the most popular tune in the N54 community. Terry and the guys at Burger Tuning are highly involved in the N54 and BMW community and are constantly improving their products. Burger Tuning offers great product and tuning support and there is endless information regarding their products. One great feature of the JB4 is its Map 5 auto tune. This map is constantly making adjustments based on fueling (e85 mixtures vs. pump gas), temperature, and many other parameters.

Pros:

  • Most cost effective tune
  • Unparalleled product support and information
  • Great safety features
  • Exceptional boost control
  • In dash gauges
  • Map 5 autotuning

Cons:

  • Cannot be used as a standalone tune for larger turbos
  • Limited by the stock ECU timing table and fueling

The cons of the JB4 may be irrelevant as back-end flash tunes coupled with the JB4 solve these issues. MHD offers some very cost effective back-end flash maps for the JB4. The back-end flash shifts the timing, VANOS, and fueling to the flash side while the JB4 retains its more accurate boost control, in-dash gauges, E85 autotuning, and various safety features.

Buy it on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2yoYJb0

Link: http://www.burgertuning.com/jb4_pnp_BMW_performance_tuner.html

 

PROcede Rev3 – $745

Similar to the JB4, this piggyback tune is also popular in the N54 community and offers many features that match those of the JB4. However, there is slightly less information regarding the PROcede and due to its higher cost it is not quite as popular as the JB4.

Pros:

  • Still relatively cost effective compared to many flash options
  • Safety features
  • Auto tuning
  • Boost control

Cons:

  • Cannot be used as a standalone tune for larger turbos
  • Less product support and development vs. JB4
  • Limited by stock ECU functions

The PROcede has similar pros and cons to the JB4, but due to less support and information back-end flash maps are not as readily available as they are for the JB4. However, they are still available for the PROcede and may eliminate some of the cons when coupled with back-end flash maps.

Link: http://www.procedetuning.com/BMW/n54/tuner/tuner.html

 

N54 Flash Tunes

COBB Accessport V3 – $650

COBB’s Accessport V3 is one of the most common flash tunes for the N54. The device comes with many built-in flash maps and can be flashed simply by plugging the Accessport into the OBD-II port. Additionally, COBB and other tuning companies offer customized flash tunes specifically for your car (although this comes with an extra cost for each tune). These customized tunes are able to deliver great accuracy and consistency by developing maps designed specifically for your mods and goals.

Pros:

  • Store up to 100 flash maps
  • Customized tunes
  • Greater accuracy and consistency than standalone piggyback tunes
  • Great support and product information
  • Supports all different mods, including larger turbo(s)

Cons:

  • More costly than JB4
  • Additional costs for customized tunes
  • Less safety features than piggyback tunes
  • Less boost control

COBB offers an all around great product and is an excellent option for those looking for a flash tune. Customized flash maps deliver excellent accuracy, however, they come with an extra cost. Flash tunes alone also do not allow for gauge hijacking and the stock ECU safety features offered from piggyback tunes.

Other Flash Tunes:

MHD, Dinan, and Wedge, among many other tuning companies offer standalone flash tunes for the N54. Many of them have similar pros and cons to the COBB, as such, I decided to skip mentioning them. Most importantly, I wanted to cover the benefits of running these flash tunes coupled with a piggyback tune.

Link: https://www.cobbtuning.com/products/accessport/bmw-n54-accessport-v3-ap3-bmw-001

 

Back-End Flash for N54 Piggyback Tunes

As mentioned throughout the post, running a back-end flash coupled with a piggyback tune allows for the best of both worlds. Piggyback tunes have unmatched safety features, boost control, ethanol auto tuning, and many other features that flash tunes cannot offer. However, piggyback tunes are limited by the ECU’s factory flash. They simply modify the boost signal sent to the ECU and allow the ECU to adjust timing and fueling on the fly based on the increased boost levels. This allows for less accuracy as the ECU can only adjust these parameters so much.

A back-end flash reprograms the ECU and allows the flash tune to control timing, fueling, VANOS, and other functions. The piggyback tune allows for superior safety features and boost control, while maintaining on the fly map changes, gauge hijacking, shift lights, etc. Combining the benefits of piggyback and flash tunes gives the best of both worlds; the flash tune ensures accuracy while the piggyback tune maintains many safety and control features that flash tunes do not offer as standalone tunes.

 

SUMMARY

This post was intended to highlight the differences between piggyback and flash tunes while addressing the benefits of combining the two. Due to the JB4’s superior product support, development, and information related to the product, we believe this is truly the best standalone tune for the N54. The JB4 has many excellent safety features that a flash tune cannot offer; it also allows for ultimate boost control. The JB4 offers many options to add a back-end flash for more accurate and customizable tuning. Burger Tuning’s excellent involvement and support in the N54 community means the JB4 is always evolving and improving. Regardless of your tuning goals, the JB4 has something to offer for everyone.

By |2018-02-03T15:15:20+00:00June 15th, 2017|Featured, N54 Tuning Guides|6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Mario Gonzalez November 27, 2017 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    I got Cobb on my 335, Does the JB4 works with Cobb at the same time? Or I have to use one of them?

    • Zach November 28, 2017 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Mario – great question. You are indeed able to run the JB4 stacked with a COBB back-end flash. The COBB flash tune would control most of the tuning parameters while the JB4 would act as an advanced boost controller. Additionally, the JB4 would still provide all of it’s features including the gauge hijacking (should you choose) and advanced safety functions. In our opinion, running a JB4 with a back-end flash offers the best of both worlds.

  2. Drew January 17, 2018 at 9:10 am - Reply

    Hey, I just picked up a used 2011 335is manual. Since it already has a factory tune from BMW would a JB4 or Cobb be as effective? In other words i don’t want to spend $1000 if the boost would only be minimal. So mainly do you think it is still worth the tune since it is an IS. if so, both flash and piggyback?

  3. Jake February 3, 2018 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    Drew – Congrats on the new car, that thing will be a lot of fun. Always loved the 335is, but didn’t want to pony up on the $ to get one. Anyways, I’m not overly sure what factory tune you have from the dealership, but my guess is it provides very minimal power gains. From their perspective, they aren’t going to increase your boost pressure (psi) in order to generate more power, knowing that it likely might cause more repairs needed for your car under warranty.

    I would recommend picking up a JB4, installing it and driving it around for a bit and then go from there depending on how happy you are with the power. You can click our link above to buy it on Amazon! (it helps us pay for the costs of running this website, which isn’t cheap!)

  4. Javier Gonzalez February 6, 2018 at 10:08 am - Reply

    How is MHD compared to these tunes? Also can you tell me if it would be okay to switch out the JB4 with an MHD tune, I got this from your post about building a 500HP N54. Sorry, I’m new to the car scene but I’m growing on to it! Thanks

    • Jake February 15, 2018 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      MHD is a backend flash that you can couple with the JB4 or other tuners. For example, Zach runs the JB4 and couples it with MHD’s flash to run 50% E85. The two are complements rather than separate tuners. You can run MHD without a JB4, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Terry has a good write-up and FAQ about using the JB4 and back-end flashes such as MHD.

      You can read it here: http://www.n54tech.com/forums/showthread.php?t=29236

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