To chip or not to chip - and which is best?

Brett Dikeman brett at
Mon Feb 16 01:41:53 EST 2004

At 8:09 PM -0800 2/15/04, Tom Ellis wrote:
>I've only had my 200 20v for a bit over a year, but I've heard from many
>Audiphiles that I can't really appreciate the car until I've upped the
>performance with a new ECU chip.  I'd really like to hear what other 200 20v
>owners think about this.

The first rule is to have the car thoroughly checked out.  There 
should not be any leaks in the intake system(the IC inlet joint is a 
famous leaker, and you can get leaks on the throttle body boot and 
the IC outlet->metal pipe hose, aka the michellin man hose).  The 
turbo bypass valve should be known good(holds a vacuum) and the 
control line to the back of the intake manifold should be known 
good(it cracks right about where the wastegate is- you need to remove 
the metal cover next to the intake pipe to get at it, and you'll 
probably find it very brittle.  A good long term replacement is thin 
copper tubing along that "high temp" area).

With any of the chips, 93-94 octane is a -requirement-.  91 will not 
be sufficient, especially in hotter weather.

>The car is already pretty quick with the stock ECU - does the new chip
>really make all that much difference?

Yes.  50+ hp depending on the chip.

>  Realistically I don't ever expect to
>take this car out to a track, and may never get the opportunity to find out
>just what the REAL top end speed is.

Top speed stock is 153mph according to Audi.  The avant is slightly 
slower(but still earned, and held for a while, the title of fastest 
product wagon when it was new).  With a chip, dunno- top speed 
doesn't have -that- much to do with HP, aerodynamics can be something 
of a brick wall.  I don't think anyone has actually tested this, in 
part because not everyone runs Z-rated tires :-)  Fastest I've gotten 
my car is maybe 120 on the back straight at Watkins Glen...I think. 
I was more focused on my instructor and the very rapidly approaching 
braking distance signs than the speedo :-)

>   But the chance to noticeably increase
>my acceleration in the 30-70 mph (OK, in the 30-90 mph range!) does have
>some appeal.

That will be no problem.  1st gear, not a huge amount unless you 
really hold the gear- it -really- takes off towards the top end(I can 
open the ashtray this way).  Higher the gear, the more effect as the 
turbo has time to really spool up before revs get too high.

>So whose chip is best?  I've heard about Hoppen, IA and several others.

I believe IA's III+ is the most powerful chip you can buy, and by 
Ned's own admission "pushes the limit of the turbo's map". 
Historically MTM(and hence Hoppen) have always been slightly 
conservative with chips- the A4/S4 chips for example had much lower 
claimed HP/torque figures than competitors.  Such is the territory 
when you're the closest thing to a factory tuner for Audi; customers 
want reliability.

Mihnea has been a participant on this and other Audifans(and 
non-Audifans) lists and forums; he's based out of Belgium and I've 
helped a lister install a new pressure sensor and chips(the car 
didn't start afterwards- DOH!  I believe it's because we got the two 
ROMs mixed up, but I don't recall- I'm almost positive it was not 
Mihnea's fault).

Nothing against Mihnea, but IA and Hoppen's chips have been on the 
market for over 10 years now and are by far the best "tested".

>I've even seen some guy in Astoria OR selling a chip on eBay that he claims
>he's importing from Europe.

Without a name or email, doesn't ring a bell.  Could be legitimate, 
dunno.  I would suggest going straight with the respective tuner or 
someone known to listers like Scott Mockrey(SJM).

>For the way I drive, I'd think that I want a
>chip that is going to maximize performance in the 3000-5000 RPM range, to
>give me that ability to punch it on the freeway onramp (and other places as
>well) and take the car to 70+ mph in a hurry.  Top end performance would be
>a plus, but not a necessity.

Boost is limited in stock(and chipped) configurations above about 
4,000 RPM or so.  It is a feature of the ECU.  There's still plenty 
of power to go around, but these engines were designed to have 
low-end grunt to compete with the V8-powered BMW/Merc sedans of the 
time.  Personally I find these engines have fantastic partial 
throttle response in the lower rpm ranges; that's where the torque 
peak is, at least for stock.

>Am I foolish to even bother buying a chip with my somewhat conservative

No.  You'd only be foolish if your engine is not properly maintained; 
ie the O2 sensor should be known good, the intake system known 
sealed, ignition system components in good shape, very little oil 
consumption, etc.  I'd urge a lot of caution if you have G60 brakes 
and drive aggressively in traffic- the chip will get you into 
'trouble' faster than the G60's will get you 'out'.  Momentary lapses 
in judgement can also result in "spending the night in County"...

Unless you specifically want max performance, going with Ned's 
regular III is probably the best idea for someone looking for "just 
something more".  Ned has a vested interest in you being pleased with 
his product, so I'd discuss your budget, wants, needs with him.  He 
can answer your questions about RPM ranges etc better than I can.

One caveat- Ned's chips for the 200q20v cause the check engine light 
to come on with a "bad checksum/replace ECU" code.  He says it's only 
some ECUs, but -extremely- informal surveys have proven it's more 
like "most".  A lot of people probably don't notice unless they have 
a California car with the check engine bulb installed(side cluster 
set of 'idiot' lights), but I do have it installed, and I was rather 
irritated to loose the capability to tell when a new fault is 
generated(it's too bad the light doesn't blink with a new code or 

>   Or have any of you found that a new chip didn't perform as you
>expected, and that the chipped car's performance wasn't much different than

The difference is night and day.  I dunno if the results are still 
online, but my car placed half-way on the field at the NE Audi 
Owner's drag event a few years ago.  I beat every stock car I went up 
against, and I believe every modified A4.  Even just chipped S4's of 
course were waaay out of reach with at least another 30-40hp on me.

"They that give up essential liberty to obtain temporary
safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Ben Franklin

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