Car Industry Chronicles
The Auto Industry Can Help You Tune Your Car
Independent companies have a wide selection of options for drivers who are skeptical of movie-style modifications
Action movies make it seem too easy. If you wanted to modify your car, all you’d have to do is take it to a tuning shop. A large team of highly-skilled professionals would identify its make and model, choose the appropriate parts from a vast collection and do the magic over the following days. You’d retrieve the car with a big smile and leave ready to take on the upcoming adventures.
While such companies and such level of work quality do exist in reality, things don’t usually happen like that. Truly competent tuning shops are hard to find, their catalogs might be limited, importing parts might take too much time and money, there might be execution problems along the way… and you may not really like the result. What if there were more conservative ways to tune a car?
Why can that be so problematic?
Because it means disrupting a project that took years to be entirely developed. Modern cars have several electronic safety aids and they depend on sensors of all kinds; any poorly executed addition, removal or change of components can tamper with their readings. Besides that, any performance improvement must be applied with proper calculation of all the consequences on the other parts.
None of that means it can’t be done, of course — the number of tuned cars that work exactly as planned proves it. The thing is, there are just too many factors that may lead to problems and those problems become impossible to overlook once we remember cars are tuned to better perform under intense conditions. That is why manufacturer-approved solutions come in handy for many cases.
The simplest way to have the auto industry cater to your tuning needs is by its line of individual accessories. In general, it’s prepared to enhance the original proposal of all the models currently sold by the respective maker: spoilers and darkened parts for sporty cars, special tires and wheels, and plastic protectors for off-roaders, utility equipment for pick-up trucks, and many other options.
One of the most famous accessory makers is Mopar, which currently works for Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles. Not only does it offer a wide array of options for all the group’s brands, it also creates complete kits which make them stand out at auto shows and exclusive events like Jeep’s Easter Safari in the Moab desert — every year, it brings several cars with a concept car-like level of customization.
These are a permanent feature of the car world. Sporty trim levels have a long history of success that goes from the unpretentious addition of more powerful engine and some visual items to timeless legends such as the GTI models from Peugeot and Volkswagen. Even though they often come with a fixed selection of improvements, they’re the easiest way you can get a high-quality tuned car.
German automakers are the reference here. Brands like AMG and Motorsport are synonyms of high performance paired to excellent taste in style. They have gotten famous to the point of being subdivided: you can get a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, for example, with the AMG Line accessories or in the sporty versions E 53 and E 63 S. Each one brings its own list of changes towards performance.
The most radical approach to this sort of “conservative tuning” is leaving your car to the talent of a partner of its maker. Companies like that often specialize at a few brands and have worked with them for decades, so they get access to the car’s project information in order to make their modifications even better. For each supported model, you can usually choose from a list of possibilities.
Alpina and Brabus are two prominent examples. They only modify BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars, respectively, and perform extensive work on powertrain, chassis and suspension to reach much higher figures than those of any factory version. As for style, the former makes the body kit more aerodynamic and the cabin look fancier, while the latter invests in a bolder appearance as a whole.
So many options!
The only big problem you might face is finding that the solution you desire is above your budget. Automakers have always known how much people enjoy customizing their cars, even though they never put all their wishes to practice. Tuning in general has a very strong emotional component, so anything offered with that purpose will certainly elicit positive feedback from public and press.
If you feel adventurous and have a budget large enough, you should look for a competent tuning shop by all means; it’ll be capable of leaving your car almost exactly the way you want. However, if that’s beyond your possibilities and/or you’re just not that interested in tuning, take a closer look at what automakers (and their partners) offer. They probably have more options than you thought.