When I was first asked to test and review the Sniper tuner, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I was quite satisfied with my SCT X-Calibrator 2 tuner. Once I got it in the mail it wasn’t anything like what I expected it to be. It’s a handheld tuner, but it has no GUI (graphic user interface) on it. It came with a little black box (the tuner itself), an OBDII cable, a USB cable, and some software for gas and diesel. Lost at this point, I did some reading and got a better understanding on the tuner and how it worked. It turns out that this tuner is quite different from anything else out there; in fact, it’s almost in it’s own class. With this tuner, the days of generic programs are over. That’s right, you can custom tune your own vehicle far beyond what any other tuner does with your laptop or PC. Here’s how it works:
It starts by reading your vehicle’s PCM file and saving it. From there, you load the gas or diesel software (whichever corresponds to your application) onto your laptop or PC, and make adjustments accordingly. You not only select the tune type, transmission firmness, and all the other things you can on any other tuner; but you can tune for the mods you’ve made to your vehicle. (i.e. cold air intake, exhaust, injectors etc.) This to me was one of the best things about this tuner, due to the fact that my transmission had been rebuilt and updated to the 2003 model year. This presented a problem with several performance companies as they programmed for an ’01 Excursion with an ’01 transmission. With Sniper, it tunes specifically to your vehicle, no matter what’s been done to it. Reflashes, rebuilt transmissions, engines, and whatever else have virtually no effect on whether your Ford car, truck, or SUV can be tuned. Once these adjustments are made, you can load them to any one of the open slots, load them into your vehicle and you’re off.
Once everything was loaded up and I went on the first test drive, I was amazed at how smooth the acceleration was. It also had plenty of power and low-end you could really feel; the shifts were also firm, precise, and consistent. Something else I noticed was that this tuner utilized the stock shift points instead of modified ones. This was something I wanted more than anything with a tuner. It was also something I couldn’t get because most performance companies greatly modify the shift point and other aspects to adjust for the increase in power. I liked the changes they made with my rebuilt ’03 tranny and didn’t want to loose them, with the Sniper; I didn’t have to make any sacrifices. After some smooth in-town driving, it was time to see what this thing could really do. I mashed the pedal to the floor and it (my truck) shot down the road and firmly pressed me into my seat. While I had my foot to the floor, I was able to take a quick glance into my mirror and I didn’t notice very much black smoke. This may sound like something bad, but it isn’t. I’ve heard it said time and time again, that black smoke is basically wasted power. In this case, power was efficiently used and not wasted as I only saw a slight haze under heavy acceleration.
On the freeway
I had to make a business trip out of town so I took this opportunity to stretch my truck’s legs and see how the Sniper does on the freeway. I enjoy the open road so I decided to take my time, set the cruise at 65, and relax as I had a two-hour drive in front of me. On the freeway, the engine was just so quiet it was almost unbelievable. The freeway I was on had a few small and good size hills that would give a stock truck a run for its money. With the Sniper, my truck “walked” up the big and small hills with very little effort or use of the turbo. This amazed me because most of the time, your truck will really start to use the turbo or dip into passing gear depending on the load. With the Sniper at the 75hp tune, this trip netted me 21.4 mpg when I normally see about 18.6 mpg. (Your results may vary)
A good friend of mine had a car he was fixing up for charity and needed it towed, as it didn’t run. This was yet another opportunity to see how the Sniper would react. We picked up an auto-transport, loaded the car up, and went out. Things were a little rough at first, but after the first ½ a mile things came together and it was smooth sailing. Around town, my truck never missed a beat and did the job as if the trailer wasn’t there. On the freeway, it briefly leaned into the turbo to make its way up some of the hills, but again, it didn’t have to work very hard to get the job done.
The Sniper, although not quite what I expected it to be, is something that packs a quite a punch while keeping things cool and not sacrificing anything.
Test Vehicle: 2001 Ford Excursion 2wd
Engine: 7.3-Liter Powerstroke Diesel
Exhaust: 4” SS MBRP system with Aeroturbine 4040 Muffler mounted as close to the down pipe as possible
Intake: Homemade with NAPA 6637 filter
Transmission: 2003 MY Ford Remanufactured
Average MPG with Sniper tuner: Consistent 17 mpg (mixed driving, mostly city) @ 45-50 MPH 21-22 mpg observed on the freeway @ 65mph. (your results may vary)
Test conditions: Mostly sunny, between 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit, with little or no humidity.