Does Sprint Booster Improve Vehicle Engine Performance?
TL;DR: No. Sprint Booster simulates a lead foot.
Sprint Booster is an automobile accessory that shares the market space with a myriad of other similar products, such as: Pedal Commander, Windbooster, PedalBox, X-Pedal, iDRIVE, SpeedForm, and so many more. I first learned of Sprint Booster after purchasing a 5th generation Toyota 4Runner in 2020, and discovered that the vehicle’s drive-by-wire accelerator introduced a throttle response delay in an effort to improve fuel economy for its ECO Mode feature. By comparison, this made the new SUV less responsive than my much-older 4th generation 4Runner. The Internet was filled with posts and reviews of buyers who were pleased with their purchase, but did Sprint Booster really improve their vehicle’s engine performance or increase efficiency like some of them claimed?
Modern vehicles have replaced their mechanical throttle cable for a drive-by-wire technology that uses an Electronic Control Module (ECM) to translate pedal travel signals into a throttle response. The Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) system can be programed to exhibit subdued acceleration, for the benefit of fuel efficiency. This led Boulekos Dynamic to develop their Sprint Booster product, which they brought to market in 2005. Sprint Booster is claimed to be the first product in the industry to improve throttle response, achieved by reprogramming the acceleration signals.
Sprint Booster continuously measures and converts the digital signals provided by the ETC’s potentiometer voltage, and then provides the ECM with a newly altered signal. The accelerator’s transducer tracks pedal position with voltage, and so pushing the pedal harder yields a higher voltage output to the ECM / ECU. The plug-n-play design of Sprint Booster positions it between the automobile’s electronic accelerator pedal and computer control system. Keep in mind, however, that manipulating pedal position feedback does not alter engine performance potential.
That’s the rub with Sprint Booster, and all of these ‘electronic throttle controller’ products. The only thing that Sprint Booster can influence is the accelerator pedal positioning information received by the Electronic Control Unit. No in-line pedal device, including Sprint Booster, can open the throttle any wider or improve engine output performance. Further, by changing the programmed acceleration curve and throttle response, you actually reduce fuel efficiency. Gone is the ability to ‘feather’ the throttle with precise pedal control. All you’ve really gained is a simulated lead foot.
Still, I wasn’t convinced that I should not at least try the products for myself. So after reading pages of posts endorsing these devices for the latest electronically-controlled 4Runners, I took the plunge. After one month of intermittent comparison testing, I can report that my Sprint Booster did in fact do something: it wasted gas. Sure, my vehicle felt like it was launching off the line faster, but that perception was only because the device was reporting more accelerator pedal depression than I was physically forcing. The same affect was exhibited by pressing harder, faster. Additionally, Sprint Booster and the like cannot bypass the ECU’s signal filtering process, so unless you reprogram your computer, all you’re really getting is a ‘proportional controller’ for your electronic accelerator pedal.
So does Sprint Booster, Pedal Commander, Windbooster, PedalBox, X-Pedal, iDRIVE, SpeedForm, or any of these ‘electronic throttle controller’ or ‘proportional controller’ products actually improve anything, if not vehicle engine performance? They improve one powerful thing, and that is perception. If you only have to depress the accelerator halfway to get the affect of wide-open throttle, it might make your vehicle seem more ‘alive’ or responsive. As previously explained, these devices really just press the pedal harder on your behalf.
But a shared perception – backed by bold manufacturer claims, is enough to make big profit, and that is exactly what is happening online. On one Toyota 4Runner group, Jason Burtman prominently promotes Sprint Booster devices. While his Burtman Industries website does list “Big gains in high rev range” as a benefit, which seems ambiguous at best and misleading at worst, but to his credit he does offer a more candid response elsewhere, stating “These don’t give more hp, which many think that’s what it does. It makes the vehicle feel more like there’s a direct link, a cable link from the pedal to the throttle body, which most of these drive by wire setups still aren’t instant like an old school cable would be.” He later reiterates: “Again, this doesn’t give more HP, this doesn’t improve gas mileage…” Suffice it to say, the answer is a resounding no, Sprint Booster does not improve engine performance.
Thanks in part to the sluggish ECO Mode on 5th generation 4Runner SUVs and plenty of online marketing, there is a strong demand for these devices, making them easy enough to buy and also re-sell. While Sprint Booster and others typically cost around $300, I also purchased a Windbooster clone for less than $50. Both offered practically identical pedal amplification, but only Sprint Booster has a valet lock-out feature. Is that worth the added cost? Are any of these devices worth the wasted fuel economy? That’s a personal choice. After weeks of driving without any device installed, I eventually became used to the accelerator curve of my new 4Runner, and now it feels no different than the old model it replaced. I even managed to get my money back out of the Sprint Booster. Your mileage may vary.
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