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Things like headers, cold air intakes, and cat-back exhaust systems tend to be the first speed parts that come to mind when folks start looking for ways to inject more performance into their rides. But with late model vehicles, hot rodding really starts at the software level – after all, the aforementioned improvements won’t do you much good if the ECU doesn’t know what to do with them.
That’s where tuning devices like the DiabloSport inTune i3 come in. As the successor to the company’s Predator handheld, the inTune systems have introduced a number innovations that have made the tuning process easier while also offering more powerful features. “The original inTune picked up where the Predator left off,” explains Michael Litsch of DiabloSport. “It offered a much more compact form factor that fit in the palm of your hand and could be easily stored in a glove box. And thanks to its WiFi capability, it eliminated the need to use a computer in order to update the device. The inTune was the first of its kind in that regard.”
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Now in its third iteration, the inTune i3 builds upon those innovations with faster processing and a wider range of functionality. Available for late model domestic vehicles ranging from pickups and SUVs like the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500, and Dodge Durango to muscle cars like the Mustang, Camaro, Challenger, and Charger, the device has a proven track record of delivering performance gains for modified vehicles as well as showroom-stock examples. But while improvements in horsepower and torque are the inTune i3’s main claim to fame, its functionality isn’t limited to just loading and unloading pre-installed software calibrations.
Thanks to its compact size, the inTune i3 is easy to stash in a glove box in case you want to make a quick tweak or switch tunes while away from the garage.
“With our pre-loaded tunes installed we typically see a 20 to 25 horsepower improvement at the wheels for stock, naturally aspirated vehicles,” Litsch says. “And we’ve seen as much as a 90 horsepower improvement at the wheels for factory turbocharged vehicles like the 2020 Ford F-150 with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. The factory tends to leave a lot on the table.”
Every inTune i3 comes with a range of tunes pre-installed on the device that are designed to find and unlock that untapped factory performance, and for those that like to keep things simple, the device offers an Easy Tune mode that takes the guesswork out of the installation process. “This is for the end user that wants the setup to be really straight-forward and, well, easy,” he tells us. “For someone who just wants to pick a tune and maybe change a couple of the common adjustable parameters like tire size and the speed limiter, this mode will take it down to the basics and walk you through it. And of course the more advanced features are still accessible within the software if you want to make other changes.”
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With the standard, 50-state-compliant inTune i3, those features commonly include adjustments for things like idle speed, the cooling system fans and the rev limiter, while owners of 2014-and-newer GM vehicles and all modern Mopars can also tweak throttle sensitivity to their liking.
But Litsch also points out that the benefits go beyond performance. “If you tune your vehicle and don’t change your driving style, there’s every reason to expect that you’ll see a half-mile to one-mile-per-gallon improvement in fuel economy thanks to the optimized efficiency offered by these tunes. And with some applications we also offer a Mileage Booster tune that can improve fuel economy even more. That can be particularly handy if you’re going on a road trip, or something along those lines.”
The device also allows you to check and clear any diagnostic trouble codes and can even provide data logging by way of the vehicle’s OBD-II port. “For more advanced users who really want to know what’s going on with their vehicle, the data logging can be a powerful tool,” he tells us. “You can interpret that those logs and make changes to the tune through the adjustable parameters to further dial things in.”
The inTune i3’s smartphone-style touchscreen interface makes it easy to use right out of the box.
The inTune handhelds also introduced the ability to tune more than one vehicle with the same device. “Multi-vehicle licensing is a neat feature, and it’s really easy to use,” Litsch says.
“If you’ve got a family member or a friend’s car that’s the same make as the one you originally bought the inTune for – for instance, if you bought one for your Corvette and you wanted to tune your wife’s Camaro – you can get another vehicle license for $149 and tune the car using the same device. You can either call in to purchase that additional vehicle license, or you can purchase it through the update software. After a software update is completed, it presents a storefront to you on the device, and the licenses can be acquired right there. You can buy them one at a time, five at time – whatever you need.”
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When asked if there’s a limit to how many vehicles you can program with the same device, he says that DiabloSport has yet to find the limit. “Nobody has ever told us that they ran out of storage space for vehicle backups on their inTune. I’d say fifty vehicle licenses is a safe bet.”
Certain vehicles will require an extra step in order to apply tunes due to factory encryption, but DiabloSport has that covered as well. “The ’21 F-150 will require a piece of hardware to unlock its PCM, so that’ll get its own SKU,” Litsch notes. “But it will still use that same i3 device with it. And the 2015-and-newer Mopar stuff requires a PCM swap in order to apply tunes. We offer the option to either swap out the vehicle’s original PCM for an unlocked unit, or you can purchase an unlocked PCM separately and keep the original one.”
The tuner’s data logging capability provides additional insight into the engine’s real-time vitals and can be a handy tool if you want to refine things even further.
For those who want to go a step further there’s also the Platinum i3. The device is intended only for off-highway use in California but remains street legal in other states, and it offers even more advanced capabilities. “The Platinum i3 gives you access to additional parameters that you can tweak, like timing and fueling at wide-open throttle,” he says.
“The Platinum i3 also supports the ability to load fully customized tunes onto the device, and install those onto the vehicle in turn. So any custom tune dealer that has our CMR software can start with a copy of the stock tune from your device, make changes based on that data logging information, and they can send it back to you to import onto your device. And because you might want to have different tunes for different pulley setups or octanes of fuel, you can also load multiple custom tunes onto the i3 Platinum so you can make those changes as needed.”
Both the standard and Platinum inTune i3 models also feature a headphone-style jack on the top of the device that allows you to plug a dual-channel analog input into the unit. “And that means you can log any 0 to 5-volt referenced signal that you want,” Litsch says. “So, for instance, any popular wideband sensor would work with this – you simply plug it in and configure it in the i3’s software. And when you’re data logging, your wideband data is right there in the log.”
The i3 can also scan, identify, and clear any diagnostic trouble codes that are present in the system.
While the inTune i3 currently offers support for the vast majority of late model domestic trucks, SUVs, and muscle cars on the road today, DiabloSport is always hard at work developing tunes for upcoming models and refining the formula for existing ones. “Most of the updates that we release for the inTune are to add support for new vehicles or a new calibration for an older vehicle,” he says. “The vast majority of the updates that we roll out are to add new stuff to the device.”
And that adds a measure of future-proofing to the device as well. If you, for instance, purchase an inTune i3 to tune your F-150 and then later decide to trade in that truck in for a new Bronco, that original inTune device will work with your retro-inspired SUV.
“With the Ford stuff there’s one device that covers everything from 1996 to 2022,” he points out. “And as long as it’s compatible with the device, we’ll add support for vehicles like the 2023 Mustang to that same device once we’ve developed tunes for it.”
The inTune i3 is available for most late-model domestic vehicles from Ford, GM, and Mopar offerings and will deliver performance gains for both stock and modified vehicles.