In recent years, reprogramming a vehicle’s ECU by way of a tuning device has become as obligatory for modern-day performance enthusiasts as bolting on a bigger carburetor was for hot rodders during the 1960s. A vehicle’s calibration serves as the core marching orders for the behavior of many of a vehicle’s electronically-controlled powertrain systems, and having the ability to interface with that software is essential for those looking to add more performance to late-model vehicles.

Since 2001, DiabloSport has been leveraging that technology to unleash the true potential of modern powerplants through its meticulous revision efforts with factory ECU calibrations. Those revisions allow DiabloSport to find opportunities to not only free up horsepower and torque, but also alter the behavior of the vehicle’s powertrain electronics to provide access to capabilities that might otherwise be inaccessible to the end user.

Of course each newly-introduced vehicle presents a new challenge for the programming gurus at DiabloSport, and that often means that the early adopters of the latest go-fast machines are forced to practice some patience, as the tuning house isn’t one to rush its vehicle calibrations out the door before they’re fully baked.

Handheld tuners have come a long way in just the last few years, and nowhere is that more evident than in DiabloSport’s Trinity tuner. Not only does it provide a means to applying preset and full-custom performance tunes to modern performance vehicles, the tuner itself can serve as a gauge pack, shift light, racing timer, data telemetry logger and a lot more.

But recently there was a cause for celebration among sixth-generation Camaro SS owners, as DiabloSport has added Chevrolet’s latest naturally aspirated V8 pony car to the roster of vehicles supported by the Trinity T1000 handheld tuner. The company says that not only do its new calibrations for the Camaro SS unlock more power, they also provide a host of other potential improvements to the LT1’s behavior, while the wide array of functionality offered by the Trinity tuner continues to expand as well.

Anxious to check out how the tuner’s software tweaks could improve upon the already-potent LT1 under the hood of the latest Camaro SS, we got the low down on all of the features available with the Trinity tuner from the experts at DiabloSport and then hooked it up to a test vehicle to see what kind of gains we’d find.

A Tuner That Does More Than Just Tunes

While it’s a safe bet that a factory ECU calibration will provide a solid balance of performance and drivability, OEMs are also hamstrung to a certain degree by a number of different factors that electronically hold back the powertrain to ensure that the motor conforms to the constraints of things like fuel economy, emissions, and durability concerns. While applying a tune won’t radically transform an engine’s behavior, it allows enthusiasts to unlock some of this untapped performance potential and tweak a multitude of settings to better tailor the powertrain’s behavior to one’s liking.

While it might seem logical to assume that the best tune for a particular vehicle is going to be the one that it left the factory with, the reality is that automakers are saddled with a number of constraints that often prevent factory-tuned engines from reaching their true potential. There’s a multitude of considerations that OEMs must consider when calibrating a factory engine tune, not only in terms of how to maximize fuel economy and minimize emissions, but also when it comes to the issue of overall engine behavior – what might be considered tame by an enthusiast might be unacceptably rowdy to the average buyer.

“The Trinity tuning provides dramatic improvements in throttle response, torque management, mid-range and top-end power,” says DiabloSport’s Matt Barker. “We optimize the fuel delivery with performance in mind to extract as much safe horsepower out of the stock equipment as possible.”

Considering the fact that the DiabloSport Trinity can perform multiple roles that go far beyond just applying and adjusting engine tunes, this handheld not only offers a lot of value, but can also reduce dashboard clutter by consolidating a lot of crucial information into one easy-to-read device.

Moreover, the OEM calibration is designed around the set of components that the vehicle leaves the factory with, as the manufacturer can’t possibility predict what aftermarket hardware an owner might add later, and that can lead to issues where the factory calibration is simply out of step with the current configuration of the car. “Adding high-performance parts without custom tuning solutions would be completely ineffective, as the tuning is what really pulls everything together, so the Trinity also includes custom tuning capabilities,” Barker points out. “If your build goes beyond stock hardware, custom tuning will make a tremendous difference in the performance potential of those parts.”

Along with this suction cup mount, DiabloSport also offers a gauge pod mount (right) that fits all 2-1/16th gauge pods and allows you to hide the cable for a clean install. This mount slides onto the back of the Trinity and locks in place.

Adding high performance parts without custom tuning solutions would be completely ineffective, as the tuning is what really pulls everything together, so the Trinity also includes custom tuning capabilities. If your build goes beyond stock hardware, custom tuning will make a tremendous difference in the performance potential of those parts. -Matt Barker, DiabloSport

And while unlocking additional performance is the most obvious benefit provided by the Trinity, the device also boasts a number of other features that are geared toward enthusiast users specifically. “The Trinity is a tuner at its core, but consumers benefit from the unit’s extensive monitoring capabilities,” Barker tells us. “We can monitor nearly every sensor available on the vehicle’s network. Data logging is an absolutely essential function when tuning these vehicles and understanding how the engine is performing, and monitoring parameters is also vital to diagnose issues and prevent problems.”

As if that weren’t enough, the Trinity tuner’s display can also double as a gauge readout that allows for multiple parameters to be viewed in real time, while shift light options, performance timers and other performance-focused functions are on hand as well. “The Trinity also has the ability to read and clear diagnostic trouble codes which can prevent the need to head to the dealer to have simple codes read or cleared,” Barker points out.

Trinity And The LT1

When it comes to the sixth-generation Camaro SS and its direct-injected LT1 V8, the Trinity tuner gives owners the ability to unlock the motor’s true potential safely and with minimal hassle. “We adjust the fuel ratios, torque management, transmission shifting (currently only available for 2016 model year), and timing to improve the LT1’s output,” says Barker. “Many of these changes are designed to work with premium fuel to optimize fuel delivery, while the torque management and shifting adjustments help us deliver more power to the wheels and adjust the shifting to account for the increases in performance.”

While the Trinity comes with several pre-programmed or “canned” tunes which serve as a baseline improvement over the factory calibration, users also have the ability to dial in a multitude of different settings to taste to get the motor’s behavior right where they want it. “Trinity comes equipped with a host of user-customizable options to tweak the pre-installed tunes to the driver’s liking,” Barker explains.

In modern vehicles, applying a new ECU tune is a lot like installing a new operating system on your smartphone. Provided your interface (in this case, the Trinity tuner) has the latest available software on it, the process is pretty straightforward – establish a connection with the car’s on-board systems through the OBD-II port, select a tune, apply it, reboot. The entire process only takes a few minutes from start to finish, and the tuner automatically creates a backup of the original tune in case you ever need to revert back to stock.

“For example, on the 2017 Camaro SS we allow users to adjust active fuel management, gear ratio, tire size, cooling fans, skip shift on/off, idle RPM, rev limiter, timing advance/retard, shift RPM, throttle booster and the speed limiter. This comprehensive list of adjustable parameters gives users the ability to make the small changes that customizes the pre-installed tunes to fit their specific needs.”

And for customers who want to go to the next level, the Trinity tuner also provides the capability of taking the tuning customization much further through the Chip Master Revolution software. “The custom tuning potential of the Trinity is definitely a huge benefit,” says Barker. “DiabloSport’s CMR custom tuning software is a limitless tool that allows vehicle builders to customize the hardware and then design tuning to take advantage of all those upgrades.”

We allow users to adjust active fuel management, gear ratio, tire size, cooling fans, skip shift on/off, idle RPM, rev limiter, timing advance/retard, shift RPM, throttle booster and the speed limiter. These adjustable parameters give users the ability to make the small changes that customize the pre-installed tunes to fit their specific needs. -Matt Barker, DiabloSport

The CMR software allows skilled techs the ability to delve into the minutiae of tunable parameters like spark timing tables, fuel tables, volumetric efficiency, power enrichment, MAF curve adjustment, and other functions in order to squeeze every last drop of torque and horsepower out of the vehicle and establish a tailor-made tuning profile for vehicles that have significant aftermarket modifications. The Trinity can hold up to five CMR tunes concurrently.

Installation And Results

Once we had the product packaging pried open, we set to work getting the new performance tune on our test subject, a 2017 Camaro SS convertible.

We hit an early, yet somewhat predictable snag – upon hooking the tuner up to the ODB-II port, it responded back that this vehicle was not currently supported by the software on the device. That’s not a completely unusual result though, as this tuner was likely packaged up before the 2017 model was available to be added to the list of supported vehicles.

But in the age of the internet, issues like these can often be resolved by simply hopping online and looking for the most current available firmware for the device, which is precisely what we did. This time around we were able to select the 2017 model year for the Camaro, but we were also instructed to head back to the computer and update the device once again before we could actually apply the tune to the car.

Since we're applying this to a 2017 model year Camaro SS, it's not surprising that the tuner needed an update right out of the box to bring it up to speed--much like a "day one" software update for a new video game or any other internet-connected consumer device. What we found a little less intuitive was the need to update in two different phases--first the tuner was rejected for not having the 2017 model year software on it, then the second time around it required us to go back and get the latest calibration file.

A little forum research indicated that this is common–if the device hasn’t already been fully updated for a specific car, the device needs to first be able to talk to the car, then determine if it has the current calibrations. If not, it needs to be updated a second time, as this one did.

After nabbing the aptly named “trinity_gm_can_gas-1r13z_update.crom” file from the site, we headed back out to the garage to get the ball rolling on the update.

Once the Trinity was loaded with the latest software and tunes for the Camaro, applying the tune was a breeze. After hooking the device up and selecting a tune (since we're in California we used the 91-octane tune), the device creates a backup of the stock tune before installing its own performance tune. When that's done you'll be notified that the process is complete and the car is ready to be driven. You'll have the opportunity to make any adjustments to the various parameters of the tune here as well.

Now that the device was playing nice with the Camaro’s on-board systems, the installation proceeded smoothly. Following the step-by-step instructions, we were guided through the process of backing up the car’s factory tune and installing the new tune for the vehicle. Since we’re in California, we selected the 91-octane tune, though a 93-octane-specific tune is also available for folks who live in regions where gas stations readily offer it.

While seat-of-the-pants driving impressions can be useful, getting the car on the dyno shows the benefits of the Trinity tune in no uncertain terms. We're seeing peak gains of more than 13 horsepower and about 17 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels on an otherwise totally stock Camaro SS. What's more, this performance-focused tune will provide greater gains each time we add a new mod down the line. Even basic stuff like a cold air intake and an aftermarket exhaust system will benefit from the DiabloSport tune.

Tuned and dyno tested, we decided to head out on the road and see how the re-tuned Camaro felt from behind the wheel. Along with the additional pull provided from the peak output gains, we noted that the car seemed more responsive overall, with snappier throttle response that gave the car a more urgent feel in general.

More importantly, the new tune lays the foundation to maximize the benefits from future modifications, and will provide us with a means of fine-tuning the various engine parameters to our liking.

Once the tune has been installed in the car, the Trinity doesn’t need to be hooked to the ODB-II port anymore if you’d prefer not to have it in the car. Making adjustments to the parameters of the tune is as simple as hooking it back up and walking through the steps in the interface, and restoring the stock tune can be done here as well. Considering how quickly the device can apply a tune to the car, it’s probably worth restoring the car back to the factory calibration before taking it to a dealership for any service – if the dealer overwrites the Trinity tune with their own device while the vehicle is there, you may need to contact DiabloSport to get the device to talk to your car again.

Adding horsepower and torque doesn’t get much easier than this. Device updates aside, this process takes just a few minutes to unlock tangible improvements in horsepower and torque throughout the powerband.

Have you been looking for a hassle-free way to get more power from your late-model vehicle? Whether your whip is showroom stock or heavily modified, the Trinity tuner can help unlock the true capability of your powertrain while providing additional functions like code diagnostics, real-time engine health information, sensor monitoring, and a whole lot more – all in one simple device. Give the folks at DiabloSport a call today and discover the true potential of your ride.