Panda Motorsports started R&D on their new Z!
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"TL;DR Dyno Results Below

At Panda Motorworks, we’ve had a passion for performance since our inception. We have made a name for ourselves in the Ford EcoBoost realm, but as many of you know, we don’t tie ourselves to one specific platform as there are MANY exciting platforms in the world today that deserve our attention. As we enter our 10th year of business, we made it our goal to not only branch out into something completely new, but to prove our tuning and performance capability in the process. Enter our 2023 Nissan Z! The Nissan Z is very different from any previous vehicle in the Panda Motorworks fleet, but by applying our years of tuning knowledge we will be delivering horsepower to a Nissan Z near you very soon!
We have a built a reputation of tuning excellence over the years by applying knowledge acquired from motorsport experience, research & development, and by never deviating from our core tuning philosophy. This experience has led to many accomplishments from co-developing software for new tuning applications to receiving Cobb Tuning’s coveted Gold Protuner Certification. Our experience has also led us to break down barriers in markets we have supported. For example, our early work in the Focus ST market allowed us to build the very first 500hp Focus ST. Along with that, we’ve held various records in the 4 Cylinder EcoBoost community over the years and will continue to push that platform forward. Our motorsport experience is far reaching, and not limited to one discipline. In fact, we have significant experience in Drag Racing, Autocross, Drifting, Road Course, Rally, and more! Our lead calibrator’s tuning and driving excellence even led him to two Regional Autocross Championships! Personal experience behind the wheel has led to a first-hand prospective into how tuning changes affect a vehicle at the limit in real time.
Taking that motorsports knowledge and experience and applying it to street cars has helped us solidify our tuning portfolio, with thousands of happy #PandaTuned customers to show for it. While delivering a satisfying end product is very important, making sure our customers have an excellent tuning experience is our primary goal. We are able to achieve this through our utilization of our customer centric ticketing system that directly connects you with a Panda Motorworks Calibration Expert. With this ticketing system you are able to receive a personalized experience and support throughout your entire tuning journey. Our calibration team upholds an industry leading standard of a 24-hour response time in email tuning revision delivery Monday-Friday, to ensure your tune is completed as efficiently as possible. This hands-on approach keeps you involved throughout the entire tuning process. Our ticketing system is also cloud based, so you can rest assured knowing that your tuning data is backed up for easy recovery.
Our tuning success all stems from our tuning philosophy that was created by me on day one, otherwise known as the Three Pillars, which was implemented on Day 1. Our Three Pillars of Tuning Excellence can be found in EVERY PandaTune we have put out there. The Three Pillars are: Drivability, Reliability, & Power. I will breakdown each pillar, and its importance to a quality tune from Panda Motorworks.
Drivability is the first and most important pillar, and for good reason! By emphasizing drivability, we are able to take in real-world data to deliver a tune that feels just as fast as it is smooth. How a car makes power is a lot more important than the peak power numbers. For example, a tune with higher peak HP numbers may seem faster on paper, but once you are in the driver seat you may realize that the car is not only a pain to drive under normal conditions, but also not as fast as you may have expected. There are methods to have a car make more power at the expense of the overall driving experience, however that is never the case with a Panda Motorworks Tune. Our goal is to put a smile on your face every time you get behind the wheel!
Reliability is our second pillar, and something we take immense pride in. We will always tune a vehicle to make the most power it possibly can while making sure it is making it safely and consistently. This allows you to drive your car with the peace of mind that nothing was altered for the sake of making a few extra peak HP. For a lot of our customers the car being tuned is their daily driver, so we must be sure that our tune can provide them with the gains they seek while maximizing reliability. If we release tuning support for a specific platform, you can rest assured that numerous hours were spent on the dyno and street refining adjustments so that the end product meets our standards keeping the Three Pillars at the forefront.
Power is our third pillar of tuning excellence. Through our tried-and-true philosophy, prioritizing drivability and reliability first allows us to make power in a way that is more refined providing a better overall package. With this refinement comes the importance of power under the curve. Over the years we’ve proven that power under the curve does a better job of telling the whole story as opposed to just looking at a peak number. By testing our tunes on the street and track, we are able to truly test how a car with more area under the curve is actually faster than a car with higher peak numbers. If you are unfamiliar with the term “power under the curve”, I will briefly explain. The term is used to indicate the change in power or torque across the rpm range rather than just caring about the difference in maximum points on the curves. While we have the ability to make more peak power, we adhere to our pillars to provide the most refined package possible.
Now that we have talked a little bit about who we are and how we operate, we will now discuss how we took those years of knowledge and applied it to tuning the new Nissan Z! When starting research and development on a new platform you will likely run into some issues, and we did with the Z. With there being so little data out there, we had to apply our knowledge to overcome these obstacles to keep pushing forward.
Right off the bat, we encountered an issue where we could not take a data log of the stock file within the EcuTek software. Because of this we had to capture a data log of the stock tune file with another device to get the information we needed. Once we got that information and reviewed it, we were finally able to flash the car with EcuTek and begin the tuning process!
After flashing the car, we ran into an issue where the torque converter would not lock up when doing a pull. We spent many hours trying to figure out if we had a defective part, dyno issue, or software issue. After discussing this with both EcuTek and AMS Performance, we were able to learn that there is an issue when flashing the car with EcuTek that has not been fully resolved yet. It is important to note that this will not cause the vehicle any harm, but rather the TCM is failing to reset after uploading a tune file to the car. (To our knowledge at this time) In the meantime, we have identified a workaround that has allowed us to move forward.
Our lead calibrator then started refining drivability concerns that we had found in the stock data. If you look at the dyno graph, you may notice that the torque curve on the stock run is wavy. In our stock data we noticed the the boost levels fluctuated as RPMs increased. This lead us to address this issue before adding more power. With this, were able to address the boost curve which gave us more consistent torque though out the powerband. This is a prime example of our use of the Three Pillars in our tuning R&D process.
After addressing the boost issues and making various changes to aid in reliability and drivability, we were then ready to start increasing power. When looking to increase power in DI Turbocharged vehicles, there are many different methods to do so. Before making big changes to the power of the vehicle, we decided to sample a few different methods before we locked in what we feel will be the best strategy to make power on the Nissan Z. When applying this strategy and upping the power, we found that this vehicle is octane limited as we find in many DI turbocharged vehicles. At the time of testing, our Z had 91 octane fuel and we were very limited on the amount of timing that the vehicle would accept in the mid to upper range. From our past tuning experience, we feel that this car will have very strong gains in the mid to upper RPM range when adding a higher octane fuel, such as an ethanol blend or race gas.
Our first sample of R&D that we are excited to share with the community shows significant gains throughout the powerband. We mentioned earlier that power under the curve is very important to us, and if you look closely at the graph, you can see gains of over 150 ft/lbs of torque in the lower rpm range around 3500 RPM. At this same RPM, we were also able to pick up over 100 wheel horsepower under the curve. Another exciting thing you will notice while looking at the graph is the average gain throughout most of the powerband. When doing the math, the average net gain of tq is 43.74% and hp is 30.57%! One thing our R&D seems to have uncovered is that the turbos past 6,000RPM are out of breath. It will be interesting to see if this is a restriction in a particular part or if the stock turbos just struggle past that 6,000RPM mark.
On another note, our lead Calibrator was ecstatic to find that the Z comes equipped with a turbo speed sensors from the factory! When looking at speed sensor data on a factory ECU, most vehicles have an inferred value because they do not actually have a turbo speed sensor. The Z does! This feature is generally added when a standalone ECU is introduced, so the fact that the Z has one from the factory is pretty cool!
We are very eager to continue our R&D of the Nissan Z on both the dyno, street, and track throughout the winter and share our findings with the community! I hope that you enjoyed this write up of our R&D and Tuning processes!"