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SA­FARI 4X4 En­gi­neer­ing is best known for its air-in­take snorkels that im­prove the flow of clean, cool air to a 4x4’s en­gine and re­duce the risk of wa­ter ingress when cross­ing creeks and rivers. Over the years, Sa­fari has also pro­duced prod­ucts to im­prove the breath­ing of the en­gine fur­ther down­stream from the snorkel – tur­bocharger sys­tems, in­ter­cool­ers and ex­hausts have all been de­vel­oped in-house at its Mel­bourne head­quar­ters and con­tinue to this day. How­ever, times change and so do the prod­ucts needed to im­prove and op­ti­mise the ef­fi­ciency of an en­gine.

These days all new diesel en­gines are tur­bocharged, so there’s not the de­mand for af­ter­mar­ket retro­fit turbo kits there once was; and the en­gines are elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled, so tun­ing them is done via a com­puter and not play­ing with in­jec­tors, pumps and turbo kits. A me­chanic or qual­i­fied tuner can im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of an en­gine us­ing a lap­top, with­out hav­ing to get his or her hands dirty.

We live in an age where en­gine tun­ing is done by re­cal­i­brat­ing ECUS and fit­ting af­ter­mar­ket ECUS or tun­ing ‘chips’ to im­prove per­for­mance and, as it has al­ways done, Sa­fari has en­tered this mar­ket cau­tiously to en­sure it pro­duces the best prod­uct for the con­sumer.

En­ter the Sa­fari ARMAX ECU, which is avail­able to suit many pop­u­lar modern diesel-pow­ered ve­hi­cles, and with an in­creas­ing num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions be­com­ing avail­able. So far, the ARMAX ECU is avail­able for the Toy­ota Land Cruiser 200 Se­ries, 70 Se­ries, Prado, Hilux, and For­tuner mod­els, with the new Ford Ranger, Ever­est and Mazda BT-50 ap­pli­ca­tions due to be on sale by the time this is pub­lished.

The ARMAX ECU is not just an­other ‘tun­ing’ prod­uct. The years spent re­search­ing and de­vel­op­ing the prod­uct has en­sured it is the most so­phis­ti­cated and safest ECU for your ve­hi­cle. Safety is a key word here, as in­cor­rectly play­ing with the tun­ing pa­ram­e­ters on a modern diesel en­gine with­out pro­tec­tion sys­tems can re­sult in ma­jor, and very costly, en­gine dam­age. It’s not just a mat­ter of di­alling up the boost and wick­ing up the fuel any­more; there’s a lot more to it.

The ARMAX Per­for­mance ECU doesn’t re­place a car’s orig­i­nal equip­ment (OE) ECU; in­stead, it works in con­junc­tion with the OE unit to op­ti­mise ef­fi­ciency and im­prove the per­for­mance, en­hance the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and fuel con­sump­tion of your ve­hi­cle, while still pro­tect­ing it at all times.


WE SPENT a day at Sa­fari HQ with the com­pany’s En­gi­neer­ing Di­rec­tor, Duane Evans, as he showed us the ARMAX ECU’S fea­tures. From the time you open the ECU’S re­us­able hard case and pick up the ECU, you can tell this is not like any other prod­uct. It’s built on a bil­let alu­minium

base with a heavy duty re­in­forced plas­tic cover, so it’s solid and de­pend­able, and like all the com­po­nents of the ECU the main unit is Ip68-rated for pro­tec­tion against dust and wa­ter ingress. In fact, the unit can be sub­merged in wa­ter and with­stand mas­sive tem­per­a­ture shifts with­out any in­flu­ence to its op­er­a­tion.

The in­cluded wiring har­ness is sim­i­larly heavy duty and ex­ceeds the qual­ity of the OE wiring, and it uses all Oe-style con­nec­tors and plugs that have gold-plated ter­mi­nals. The har­nesses and mount­ing brack­ets sup­plied are ve­hi­cle-spe­cific, so they will neatly and con­ve­niently plug straight in to your ve­hi­cle.

Duane showed us how the ARMAX ECU worked by hook­ing up the com­pany’s Land Cruiser 200 to its in-house chas­sis dy­namome­ter. Plugged into a lap­top via the ECU’S eth­er­net port (USB was con­sid­ered too slow) we were able to see what the unit was read­ing via its on-board teleme­try dis­play­ing a va­ri­ety of sen­sors in­clud­ing ex­haust tem­per­a­ture, coolant tem­per­a­ture, throt­tle po­si­tion, en­gine speed, in­jec­tion in­for­ma­tion, man­i­fold vac­uum- and fuel pres­sure. Wind­ing the LC200 up on the dyno showed these read­ings chang­ing un­der vary­ing load con­di­tions and then Duane showed how they changed in each of the ARMAX ECU’S five pre-set set­tings.

The five set­tings can be se­lected via an in-cabin but­ton within easy reach of the driver. They are tai­lored to pro­vide op­ti­mum set­tings for dif­fer­ent driv­ing con­di­tions, be it off-road, tow­ing, econ­omy or per­for­mance.

The ARMAX ECU also op­er­ates as a throt­tle con­troller, op­ti­mis­ing the ac­tu­a­tion of the ac­cel­er­a­tor for each set­ting. Many own­ers use throt­tle con­trollers these days and many of them use them in ad­di­tion to tun­ing chips or flash tunes. The ARMAX ECU in­te­grates the en­gine and throt­tle tun­ing in the one unit to give you a per­fect ap­pli­ca­tion of torque when driv­ing off-road; or a more ag­gres­sive shove in the back when you need in­stant ac­cel­er­a­tion as soon as you mash the pedal.

The ARMAX ECU not only tunes the boost and fuel lev­els, but also the fuel tim­ing and fuel pres­sure to give the best re­sults. This also works to­ward sus­tain­ing in­jec­tor life, as sim­ply in­creas­ing the num­ber of in­jec­tor open­ing and clos­ing cy­cles (as most af­ter­mar­ket tunes do) can pre­ma­turely de­grade the in­jec­tors; the ARMAX ECU sim­u­lates the same as the


OE ECU to main­tain fuel sys­tem life and ul­ti­mate dura­bil­ity.

Main­tain­ing dura­bil­ity and en­gine op­er­a­tion was paramount in the en­gi­neer­ing of the ARMAX ECU. The unit closely mon­i­tors EGT to keep heat un­der con­trol, and it will limit the amount of fuel and boost ad­just­ment to keep ev­ery­thing within safe work­able pa­ram­e­ters for over­all en­gine longevity. We saw how it achieves this when the LC200 was loaded up on the dyno, and if any­thing should step out­side safe op­er­at­ing pa­ram­e­ters the ARMAX ECU will au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just to look af­ter the en­gine and driv­e­train of the ve­hi­cle at all times.

In an­other clever fail­safe, the unit can be re­motely ac­cessed by Sa­fari head­quar­ters any­where in the world that has a phone/ data sig­nal. The en­gi­neers at Sa­fari can ac­cess the data on the unit and di­ag­nose any faults, in most cases which are not re­lated to the ARMAX ECU sys­tem but are ve­hi­cle faults, such as faulty in­jec­tors or blocked fuel fil­ters. It could also pick up an in­jec­tor that is on the way out, where an early di­ag­no­sis could pre­vent costly en­gine dam­age and re­pairs.

Us­ing this re­mote ac­cess func­tion Sa­fari can also up­date the tune of your en­gine to ac­com­mo­date any changes to it such as the ad­di­tion of af­ter­mar­ket com­po­nents.

Say, for ex­am­ple, you’re do­ing the big lap of Aus­tralia tow­ing a car­a­van and you had the Sa­fari ARMAX ECU fit­ted to the ve­hi­cle be­fore you left home, but the car re­mained oth­er­wise me­chan­i­cally stan­dard. While trav­el­ling, a friendly camp­fire chat with some­one con­vinces you to fit a big­ger ex­haust sys­tem or an ARMAX in­take snorkel to your ve­hi­cle and you get it done on the other side of the coun­try to where you had the ECU fit­ted. Sa­fari can in­stantly send you an up­dated tune pro­gram via the eth­er­net port, to re­ally make the most of the new mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

The pro­grams and cal­i­bra­tions Sa­fari pro­vides are so pre­cise that chang­ing the ex­haust with­out other up­dates can re­sult in the ARMAX ECU sys­tem go­ing into pro­tec­tion mode. The py­rom­e­ter which mea­sures the ex­haust gas tem­per­a­ture needs to be pre­cisely mounted within the ex­haust sys­tem, and when you up­size the di­am­e­ter of the ex­haust tub­ing the po­si­tion­ing of the py­rom­e­ter also needs to

be ad­justed to get the best re­sults. When you or­der an ARMAX ECU for your ve­hi­cle, Sa­fari gives you a de­tailed ques­tion­naire ask­ing about any other mods to the ve­hi­cles, and it tunes the unit to suit.

It’s this pre­cise level of de­tail that in­spires Sa­fari with the con­fi­dence to claim that the ARMAX ECU is the safest way to tune your modern diesel en­gine, and in-turn, that con­fi­dence in the prod­uct can be passed on to the con­sumer. It comes back to the no com­pro­mise at­ti­tude that un­der­lies ev­ery as­pect of the ARMAX ECU.


AF­TER an en­light­en­ing time with Duane in the Sa­fari work­shop, we hit the road in the com­pany’s LC79. We chose the 79 for the road test as, with its man­ual gear­box, it would be eas­ier to feel the dif­fer­ence be­tween each of the ARMAX ECU’S five set­tings while hold­ing the car in a sin­gle gear. The 79 is also equipped with an ARMAX in­take snorkel and a larger ex­haust sys­tem.

Leav­ing the shop with the ARMAX ECU in its Com­fort set­ting, it was in­stantly ob­vi­ous that this was con­sid­er­ably more re­spon­sive than a reg­u­lar VDJ Cruiser; but we wanted more, so with the en­gine and driv­e­line up to temp we switched to Sport mode. Wow. The re­sponse is in­stan­ta­neous and had us quickly shift­ing gears as it pulled up in to the hills. This thing rocks.

Switch­ing be­tween the dif­fer­ent set­tings high­lighted the throt­tle’s doughier feel when in Traction As­sist mode and the re­duced per­for­mance in the Stan­dard set­ting. It’s not re­ally re­duced, but it’s vastly dif­fer­ent to the rocket-ship per­for­mance in the Sport and Com­fort modes.

On moun­tain-road climbs the bet­ter­per­form­ing Sport and Com­fort set­tings were worth a gear over the Stan­dard OE set­tings when pulling out of cor­ners. That is, you needed sec­ond gear to pull out of them in the Stan­dard set­ting, while in the Sport mode it com­fort­ably pulled hard out of the bends and up the hills in third. It’s al­ways great to have that ex­tra gear when you’re pulling a heavy trailer or load, and it’s bet­ter for fuel econ­omy.

To say we were im­pressed with the ARMAX ECU would be an un­der­state­ment. The dif­fer­ence in per­for­mance and drive­abil­ity was mind-blow­ing, and know­ing it could be had with the safety and se­cu­rity that Sa­fari has built into the prod­uct is re­as­sur­ing. Sa­fari backs the prod­uct with a three-year/un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre war­ranty, as well as a driv­e­line war­ranty on the ve­hi­cle. The ARMAX ECU is also in­ter­change­able, so pro­vided the unit is suit­able for your model of car, it can be un­plugged and swapped into your new or re­place­ment ve­hi­cle. That’s the only rea­son we can think of to war­rant re­mov­ing it.

The ECU can work mods such as the with ARMAX in­take snorkel.

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