2012 Frontier Modifications

DiabloSport l1000 Intune Programmer

DiabloSport tuner

WHY? Because I just can't leave well enough alone, that's why.  No matter how good my vehicle may be, it can always be better.  Many reviewers have pointed out that the Colorado, tuned for maximim fuel economy, has a relatively slow throttle response and a transmission that tends to prefer higher gear ratios.  Neither issue is a deal-breaker for me, but I figure that overall driveability would be improved without those two issues.  Fortunately, both can be remedied by a good tuner;  as a bonus, horsepower and torque can also be increased.  I have experience with both custom tuners (a qualified technician writes new parameters for an individual vehicle) and with "canned" tunes (a tune written for a specific tytpe of vehicle).  If I were looking for maximum gains for a performance car I would use a custom tuner, but since I'm just looking for improvement in driveability I decided to go with a reputable aftermarket tuner.  

Several years ago I had excellent results from a DiabloSport Predator tuner on a Ford truck, so when I heard that they had performace tunes for the new Colorado I decided to give them a try. Their new handheld programmer (l1000 InTune) is preloaded with tunes for many cars and trucks, including the Colorado, so I decided to give it a try. The InTune is carried by many aftermarket retailers, so you might want to shop around.  I found the best deal at, including an online coupon for 15% off.  The total, with shipping, was $289 so I ordered and paid by credit card.

SERVICE:  Excellent.  Immediately after placing the order I received an email confirmation.  I ordered during the Christmas season so I expected to process to be slow but within 2 days I received a shipping notification, complete with a tracking number.  The tuner arrived just four working days after I first placed my order.  I consider that to be pretty darned good service. The tuner arrived double-boxed, and everything was in good order.  The programmer was packed with a USB cable for updates, a cable to connect it to the OBD port, and an excellent set of directions. 

INSTALLATION:  Not too difficult.  I worked carefully, and following the instructions I took about 10 minutes start to finish.  Immediately after unpacking the programmer I used the USB cable to connect it to my computer and check for updates.  The unit automatically downloaded the most recent software and updated itself in just a few minutes.

Uploading the new tune to the truck was a very simple process.  I must admit that I am always a bit nervous at this point; I have never had an issue while loading a tune but let's face it--you're messing with the vehicle's brain here and I'd hate to suffer a failure during the process.  I connected the programmer to the OBD port (located under the dash on the left side) via the supplied cable.  

The tuner came to life and instructed me to turn the ignition key to "on" without starting the truck.  It recognized the vehicle and showed a menu page that gave me the options of downloading a new tune, checking a diagnostic code, or data logging (to be used by a custom tuner if you desire).  

I selected the tuning option and was taken to a menu of choices: 1) A maximum performance tune that requires 93-octane fuel.  DiabloSport claims gains of 10 hp and 20 ft# torque.  2) an 87-octane tune for 5 hp and 15 ft# torque. 3) a max-mileage tune for 1-2 mpg gain over stock. 4) a custom option where you can modify parameters for speed limiter, speedometer calibration, etc.  All of the choices give you the option of modifying the transmission's shift firmness.

Since I'm not looking for max performance I chose the 87-octane tune and picked the option to make the transmission's shifts slightly firmer.  I followed the on-screen instructions carefully and the programmer went to work.  The first order of business was to save a copy of the truck's stock tune. When this is done, it "locks" the vehicle to that tuner and it can't be used on another vehicle unless the first vehicle is returned to stock.  Uploading the performance tune and transmission tune took about 4-5 minutes.  When it was done I disconnected the cables, held my breath and turned the igntion.  It started!  So far, so good--now for a test drive.

Results:  As Advertised.  The improvement in throttle response was immediately obvious.  Did I gain 5 horsepower and 15 ft# torque?  Don't know.  I'm not willing to spend $200-300 to dyno the truck before and after to be scientific and the old butt-dyno is notoriously unreliable.  My Dad was an old-time hotrodder who owned a car repair business and he called it the "gold factor":  the more gold you spend on a modification the more you want it to be faster. It certainly feels quicker, but that may be a result of the improved throttle response.  I also like the different transmission tuning.  I had not found the stock shifting to be objectionable, but I definitely like the firmer shifts.

I haven't had time to experiment with the 93-octane and max mileage tunes, but will do so in the next few weeks and report on the results.

WORTH THE MONEY?  I think so. Overall driveability is improved and the cost didn't break the bank.  Looks like a good investment so far.

UPDATE:  After a few months, I decided the Diablo tune was a wash.  It performed as well as I had expected, but I finally decided to return the truck to stock tune and sell the tuner on eBay.  Here's why:

After the novelty wore off I remembered the reason for buying the Colorado in the first place: everyday transportation that could work on the ranch and occasionally haul a stock trailer or hay trailer.  It's not a racer, and it would take a lote more than a downloaded tune to make it one.  To realize the full potential of the tune required premium fuel and that got old quickly.  In addition I didn't want the hassle of a voided warranty on a truck that was less than a year old.  In other words, I decided to let the truck be a truck.