We spent some time with a 2017 Civic Hatchback Sport 6MT last month, and while we had it we thought it would be a good time to try out Hondata's latest FlashPro product.
We had one of the original FlashPros in our 2006 Civic Si Project car, and it was instrumental in allowing us to extract the maximum performance from the modifications that we had applied to the 8th generation Civic's K20Z3 engine. The FlashPro is a device that interfaces the OEM Honda ECU to your laptop (or mobile device), and allows one to tune numerous ECU parameters on the fly. The FlashPro device is a small grey and black box with a pair of buttons, 4 LED lights, a USB port on one end of the box, and a 6-foot cable with an OBD-II connector on the other end. To use the FlashPro, you need Hondata's proprietary FlashProManager software, which itself requires a Windows environment to run. We tested it with a MacBook Pro running Windows 7 in a virtual machine under Parallels, and for the most part it worked fine. We also connected it to a Windows 7 VM running under VirtualBox on a desktop Mac and it seemed to work there as well, though there were a few minor USB glitches that we had to work through.
Over the years, the FlashPro doesn't seem to have changed much from the exterior, but one cool feature that has been added is Bluetooth connectivity. This means that you can connect the FlashPro to your mobile device via the Bluetooth connection and have a remote dashboard which you can view. Below is a video demonstrating this feature on both an iPad Air 2 and an iPhone 6S.
The FlashPro is a very powerful tool for tuning, but since we only had it and the Civic Sport for a limited time, we barely scratched the surface of its capabilities. In fact, we didn't do any actual tuning - we simply reflashed the stock ECU with one of the supplied calibrations.
The FlashPro Manager software comes with a handful of baseline calibrations designed to get tuners started, and as more calibrations are developed, you can download these and apply them to your specific case. Since we were working with a completely stock Civic Sport, we just wanted to see what the maximum possible gains would be with the least amount of effort. So we selected the standard +6psi calibration which was designed for stock Civic 1.5Ts.
As for the reflash process itself, during our testing it took a little over 5 minutes to complete. Tiny beads of sweat may begin to form upon your brow as you watch the progress bar and then wonder to yourself whether the process has stalled for too long, while imagining the worst case scenario unfolding. Well, at least we thought about it once or twice, but thankfully it was never an issue. Be patient. The FlashPro even has the ability to store two calibrations within the device itself. You can download them to the FlashPro from the desktop app, and then using a few button presses on the FlashPro, you can flash either calibration directly to the ECU without requiring a connected laptop computer. This is extremely handy if you had a calibration for a certain race fuel, but then wanted to drive your car home on regular pump gas.
As you can see from the dyno plot below, immediate gains are evident everywhere. If you examine the boost curve (lower plot), the +6psi part isn't the difference in PEAK boost, but Hondata has essentially flattened the boost curve from the time it comes online and holds on to it for as long as it can (which works out to be around 4900 rpm). On our graph you can see that the dyno operator used two different starting points (in terms of RPMS) for the 2 runs, but from the shape of the curves you can see that the boost lag is essentially identical.
The key difference, and it is pretty signifianct here, is that Honda's base calibration holds the boost down to around 14psi from the time it comes on, and slowly ramps it up to a peak of about 16.5PSI at 5500 rpm. This provides a nice and wide torque curve with a linearly progressive ascent of the horsepower curve to its peak at 5500 rpm. This results in an engine that (in stock form) feels almost like a naturally aspirated engine, if you can ignore the turbo lag. The Hondata calibration, on the other hand, surges to 19-20psi as quickly as the boost can come online. This generates a large gain in torque and a steady ~15hp gap in power throughout most of the rev range. As it gets closer to 5000 rpm, the L15BA's small turbo begins running out of puff, and the boost curves start to converge. This is why at the PEAK, the Hondata only shows about +7hp and roughly +3psi gain compared to the stock program. But if you look everywhere else in the plot, this calibration is clearly making considerably more power and torque on average (the all important "area under the curve") than stock.
On the Street
The gains you see on the plots are immediately noticeable. While the stock L15BA provides a very satisfying shove in the back, it moves with much more urgency with the Hondata reflash. There is now a much greater delta in torque between no-boost situations and full boost, so in some ways it may feel like there is slightly more turbo lag with the Hondata, but in reality there isn't. Against the stopwatch, we didn't see huge improvements in the 0-60 nor 1/4 mile times (mostly due to the previously mentioned launch difficulties as well as the time lost during the boost sag between shifts), but the 1/4 mile trap speed improved by almost 2mph with this program. Perhaps if Hondata implements the "no lift shift" rev limit feature for the 6MT reflash we will see much larger improvements in the ETs.
As with any modification to your engine there are always risks involved. And as with any modification, if you use the FlashPro as intended and within the limits of your engine, it is a relatively safe tuning tool. Just know that it certainly gives the end user plenty of opportunities to damage the engine, so if you don't have a full understanding of what you're doing, it's best to pay an experienced professional tuner to help. The standard calibrations that are offered with the FlashPro tool should all be fairly "safe", as they are designed to stay within the ultimate bounds that are programmed into Honda's standard calibration. For example, Honda has specified a maximum safe operating rpm for the stock turbocharger, and the Hondata base calibrations will never exceed this limit. One other thing - you might be tempted to raise the rev limiter in order to get a bit more speed out of each gear, but there are two reasons why you shouldn't do that: 1) because the stock valvetrain uses very light springs, you're likely to encounter valve float, which would be Very Badô. 2) Power and torque drop quite rapidly beyond 5500 rpm, so it's not worth it to rev beyond the stock redline anyhow.
As of today, from a legal standpoint you should only use the FlashPro off-road/on-track, as it is not yet emissions legal. But stay tuned, as this could very well change in the near future.
The Hondata FlashPro is an invaluable tool if you're hoping to extract the most power from your Honda. In the case of the Civic's L15B7/L15BA with 6MT, the gains are solid even if you don't modify anything else. But you can achieve these same gains for essentially half the price ($350) by getting your ECU reflashed by an authorized Hondata dealer. Just know that if you do opt for the FlashPro, you can take advantage of its tools and then if you decide to sell your car later, you can unlock the FlashPro from your car and resell it to somebody else, so the cost difference may come out in the wash. Either way, we're pretty sure you're going to like the results.