Custom vs. Generic - Which is best?

We get asked this question all the time, and indeed with the emergence of social media groups and forums, we actually get told what customers want fairly often! Or, as we'd like to think, what they think they want or have been told they want.

Generic map or Custom map?

The problem is that there is no such standardised nomenclature within the tuning industry. There are companies offering "custom" maps on your driveway, without a test drive, without data logging, and they'll do it for almost any car. Ask yourself; how can this be possible? Is a custom map always going to be better than a generic map? Generic maps are looked down upon by many customers as though it may be second rate to a so-called custom map.

What is a "generic map"?

In the true sense of the words, a generic map is a map that is used on more than one car. This can't be good, right? Surely if it's not made to your car, all manner of problems could happen and gateways to hell could open. Not the case. Your car has had a generic map on it since it was built, made by the manufacturer for all cars of a certain specification to use. Can you imagine a manufacturer tuning every single car they produce? It would probably take longer to do that than build the rest of the entire car! They don't, as we all know and common sense will tell you. This means that there are a multitude of improvements that can be made within the calibration. A manufacturer has to build an ECU calibration that can be used on cars often worldwide, with a huge temperature range to deal with, varying grades (and of course qualities) of fuel, different operating altitude requirements, differing servicing regimes.. the list goes on. However, the ECUs on most modern vehicles and indeed the cars that we specialise in, are capable of adapting to changes in the operating environment and have safety features and lookup tables within the calibration to fall back on in when the need arises. Whilst the true meaning of a generic map is a map that could be used on more than one car, most people refer to it as just being a token increase in power with little to no knowledge of the car involved. We see this kind of map very often, with a few percent added here and there, to make a car a bit quicker. We would call a generic map in that style, more a "remap" than a "tune".

So what's a custom map then?

Well here comes another massive can of worms. Many people tend to believe a custom map is better for their car than a generic map as we mentioned above.. but any map is only as good as the person who writes it. At Shark Performance we believe a custom map to be exactly that, a bespoke complete recalibration of the ECU required because fundamental components of the engine have been altered or swapped out for larger/higher performance versions. But if you can buy a "custom" map for your otherwise standard car, surely that's better? Well, unfortunately not. Many remapping companies use a kind of "remapping by numbers" type of editing system where as before, a few percent here and there are added to create a new ECU map. Is it custom? Arguably it could be. Is it any good? Not necessarily. And indeed could be worse, make less power, and could potentially be more dangerous than a well tested, time proven generic map.

This is confusing. What should I do?

Now this is a simple one, and the answer would be the same for just about any purchase you are deciding on. You should do whatever is best for you. Do your research. Look at the reputation of the company you'd like to use. Decide if you truly need a "custom" map, because in all honesty a well developed, well tested map will likely be a much better bet for your car and even your pocket, in the long run. Is the company a specialist in your brand? A company that tunes almost anything is less likely to be able to offer you the same expertise about your vehicle or its mapping as a company who deal with a only handful of brands. ECUs are complicated things, and never has the phrase "knowledge is power" been more true.

What do Shark Performance offer?

We offer the best of both worlds. We offer well tested, dyno developed, street refined software for our Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 offerings that can also be customised in any way you, or we want or need. Instead of selling our customers a "generic" or "custom" map, we categorise our maps based upon the modifications you have on your car. We don't charge extra for customising your map to your preferences. We don't charge extra for necessary tweaks or alterations to a map to make it correct for your car.

  • Stage 1 - for cars with no hardware modifications, or small changes such as a cat-back exhaust system
  • Stage 2 - for cars with a cold-air intake and turbo-back exhaust system
  • Stage 3 - for cars with all prerequisites for Stage 2, along with an intercooler and/or other model specific modifications, such as high-pressure fuel pump upgrades on 2.0TFSI engines for example
  • Bespoke - for cars with a long list of modifications, including the above and encompassing larger turbochargers, change of injectors, and a range of other modifications designed for very large performance increases from the stock power

Whatever it is that you're looking to do with your car, we'll give you sound, honest advice about your modification journey whether you drive an A1 or an R8. Of course we have to make a living, but we're not here to sell. That's why our customers return over and over again and why we are lucky to enjoy a good reputation along with a high level of respect within the tuning industry.