If you didn’t know, the ECS Tuning and Turner Motorsport performance upgrades are all designed right here in-house by our Research and Development team. From hatch-pop kits to titanium exhaust systems, everything starts as an idea. During the pandemic, we showed you an in-depth look at the lifecycle of our in-house development. Now, we’d like to revisit the subject with a fresh update showing off some of the new platforms we’ve had a chance to get into the shop since the world stopped being crazy. This week’s edition of Tuned In is just to toot our horn a bit and show off all the cool stuff we’re working on right here in Wadsworth, Ohio. 

For a bit of a refresher, ECS parts always start as an idea. With a building full of enthusiasts, many of those ideas happen naturally. Someone wants a part for their car, passes the idea around the building, and eventually, we end up with a final product. For a hard look at that process, we encourage you to check out our previous walkthrough of the ECS Development Process right here on our blog. 

We also make plans for upcoming models and build a performance catalog around the cars we think will be the next hot platforms on the scene. Generally, we identify the handful of cars we predict will need the biggest aftermarket support as early as possible. That process is fairly involved itself, too. With much discussion across departments with stakes in the new product development, we first determine just what platform, options, and even color will work best for our plans. 

With a car selected, we place the order with our trusted local dealership partners and go pick up the car. While extremely exciting, bringing the car back to our shop is just a small peak in an upward climb of thrills. It really is just the first time we are able to start putting our hands on the physical example there in our shop. What it represents, though, is months of planning on the front end and years of scanning, designing, testing, re-testing, and constantly evolving on the back end.

For a perfect example, we recently took delivery of our brand-new BMW M2. After months of predictive deliberation, conversations about what we can bring to the platform, and even discussions about whether this car would have the enthusiast market we want to support, the new M2 is here in all its glory. So what happens now?

Well, during those initial plans, we spend plenty of time looking into the base platform itself. What new innovations is the brand, (BMW in this case), bringing with this model we’re considering? What have we already designed that will just need tweaking or test-fitting? What do we think the enthusiasts who buy the car new will want for it? What will the second and third owners eventually do? All of these are questions our design team and brand team ponder before we ultimately decide whether to purchase a car for development. 

Even if the decision is made to pass on buying a car, that doesn’t mean we won’t develop parts for it. We use employee cars and even your cars from the local (or semi-local) area to produce upgrades and improvements if we don’t end up buying an example of that platform ourselves. The ones we buy, though, are the cars we want to spend the most time intimately learning so we can become the tuning experts for that chassis.

This brings us to the M2. When BMW announced the new replacement for the beloved high-performance compact aimed at motorsport purists, the internet lit up like wildfire. The G80 M3 created plenty of division among die-hard fans of the brand, but the M2 seemed to really stir the pot. Its new looks, weird proportions, and design language have caused plenty of community hatred. At first glance, the roundness of some elements contrasted with the sharp, boxy, lines of others seem to create the appearance that the car is fighting with itself over what image it wants to present. Under the skin, though, this thing is a purebred racecar. Which is exactly why we decided to snag it.

Now, we’ll be able to bring tons of ECS and Turner Motorsport flare to the platform and deliver parts that future owners of this (admittedly divisive) platform will want to experience as we improve the car together. 

But the M2 isn’t the only recent addition to our fleet. We’ve been hard at work since the new MK8 GTI and MK8 R hit the scene. You may recall the announcement we made when we took delivery of the launch editions of VW’s pair of hot hatchbacks. Since then, we’ve developed plenty of performance, visual, and styling upgrades for the new platforms. It’s the same story with the 8Y RS3 and the G80.

Whether you like the modern styling of contemporary Audi, VW, and BMW design language or not, the fact is that these cars are extremely capable. In the hands of our engineers and with input from enthusiasts inside and outside of our building, we’ve managed to bring a slew of upgrades to market that accentuate the already incredible capabilities these cars possess. 

Upgrades like intakes, exhausts, charge pipes, intercoolers, and other performance-enhancing parts are usually high priorities on the design docket. Alongside those basic performance upgrades, we also take a look at the overall style of the car. With help from our 3D scanner, we convert the whole car to a digital model that our designers then play with in CAD software. This allows us to “see” what parts like hatch spoiler extensions, front lips, rear diffusers, and more look like on the car before we even send the drafts off for prototyping,

Beyond those entry-level upgrades, living with these cars and putting test miles on them help us get a feel for livability improvements, too. Having 24/7 access and ultimate authority over what changes are desired gives us a much better ability to really draw out the ultimate picture of what the car could be. Over the years we spend with cars like our new M2, we find those parts that don’t work the way we would like them to. Living with them lets us really understand what an enthusiast would want from the car, which helps us bring those parts to the market more quickly. 

It’s a constantly evolving process, too. While many of the upgrades we eventually develop are identified before we even take delivery of the car, we make a point to see what other enthusiasts are doing with their cars. Often, we all arrive at similar conclusions. Maybe it’s something simple, like more tactile climate control knobs or billet seat adjustment handles. Maybe it’s something more involved, like a multiport injection and methanol-ready intake plenum. Whatever it is that we find, it’s generally a result of us simply living with the car and pushing its limits. That’s part of the reason we usually start with those basic performance upgrades. We’re able to feel the car as it improves, live with it, and discover its limitations.

So, that’s what’s next. Now that we have the M2 here in our shop, test fits and durability testing is already rapidly underway. With that first round of upgrades, we’ll truly experience the changes in how the car drives and performs. Undoubtedly, those improvements will test limits of other parts, some we know, some that we don’t, which will direct us to what’s next for the development process.

Really, as much as these big purchases are planned out, there is still an element of surprise to all of it. We try to identify as much as we can on the front end, but inevitably, living with the car and making those initial changes will often steer us toward the next round of upgrades. It’s just like different versions of your project car. We improve as we go, find the weak points, make adjustments, and listen to what the car tells us it wants. Hopefully, this M2 tells us it wants to be something that proves all the internet haters wrong. For the answer to that question, though, you’ll have to follow along as we bring plenty of goodies to market with our new development toy. As always, let us know what you’d like to see us make for this car, any of our new cars, or your car. We’re always listening and ready to hear the next great idea that helps bring you enthusiasts exactly what you want. Stay tuned, folks. 

If this all suits your fancy, check out our latest new products right here!