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PRESSERtech Client Review: Stage 2 Takes AMG GTS from “Restrained” to “Maniacal Demon”

We love hearing stories from you about your performance tuning journey. Today we’re thrilled to share a Stage 2 tune review from our client Larry Flaxman. Larry recently fell in love with a 2016 Mercedes AMG GTS Edition, but found that it didn’t have quite the bite he was expecting. With two very important goals ahead of him (“more horsepower and more loud”), Larry dove into the world of Mercedes performance tuning, and we were lucky enough to get to work with him.

Strap in to read about Larry’s experience with PRESSERtech and his review of this Stage 2 tune, which turned his civilized and restrained AMG GTS into a “maniacal demon.”

Like Father Like Son, A Passion for Mercedes Benz

Ever since I can remember, automobiles have played a significant role in my life. My Dad was an avid auto enthusiast – owning a variety of cool and often unusual vehicles. Mazda’s, Toyota’s, Lincoln’s, Infiniti’s, Fiat’s, and Mercedes.

Of his cars, two have stuck in my memory: a 1977 Mercedes 240D, and a 1978 Mercedes 300D.

Those two diesels sedans were his pride and joy. I can remember many a time seeing my Dad outside lovingly washing and waxing them both at all hours of the night… even when he had followed the exact same routine only a few days prior. To some, owning two Mercedes likely represented extreme hedonism and outright showmanship, but, to my father, they symbolized much more. They were his passion. A passion that made a significant and lasting impact on me.

Hi, my name is Larry.  I’m a best-selling author and tv personality (www.LarryFlaxman.com) that would self-identify as a car connoisseur.  Over the course of my “adult” life, I’ve bought, modded, traded, and sold more cars than I can possibly recall. I use the term “adult” figuratively because, well, do any of us truly ever grow up? That old saying about boys and their toys is amazingly accurate.

I’ve been fortunate to have owned just about every major marquee imaginable – BMW, Porsche, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ferrari and Lamborghini. Surprisingly, the Mercedes brand had been missing from my ownership portfolio.

Until last year.

Love at First Sight: 2016 Mercedes AMG GTS Edition

One day while browsing cars on eBay, I came across a new 2016 Mercedes AMG GTS Edition One being offered by a MB dealer in California. I had honestly never heard of this model, let alone seen nor driven one… yet I instantly fell in love. It was utterly mesmerizing with absolutely gorgeous lines and coachwork reminiscent of early 50’s style racers. I had to have it.

After some back and forth negotiation (and what felt like endless back and forth paperwork), I traded my heavily modified 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera for it. Next step was the long, impatient wait  for the cross country enclosed transport to drop off its wondrous cargo (and pick up my own pride and joy.)

On the day of it’s arrival,  I felt a flashback to senior year of high school prom. I was so nervous and scared… yet incredibly excited. I could barely contain myself! Oh wait… never mind, I didn’t go to my senior prom.

Anyways, as the driver backed my new Selenite Gray chariot down the ramp and proceeded to pull the Lambo in its place, I shed a tear. A tear of both joy and sadness. Would this new toy fulfill my need for speed? Would it sound good? Would it impress the ladies?

I had watched a few YouTube video reviews of my new car… but, honestly, that was the extent of my pre-purchase research. Upon finally seeing the car in person, my first thought was “holy crap, it’s so much larger than I thought!”

Something’s Amiss: An Engine that’s Too Quiet, Too Refined

My second thought was – “wow, it’s so quiet.” Too quiet.  On my first drive I figured out that I could adjust various parameters such as controlling shift points, exhaust tone, and suspension firmness.

But the sound. Even putting the car into Sport+ mode didn’t quite satisfy me like the sound of my yellow screaming V10 (with Fabspeed pipes, intake, etc.) When downshifting, the Lamborghini grunted, barked, and popped. It was truly a glorious symphony and announced my presence several blocks before I would arrive at my destination.

Sure, the Merc was fast… deceptively so… but, it was also sophisticated and refined. In fact, it was way more refined than any other car I’ve ever owned. The GTS is a remarkable vehicle both stylistically and technologically, but, I felt so disconnected from the overall driving experience.

My wife joked that I had finally upgraded to a “grown-ups” car. Truth be told though, I wished it was rougher. I missed the visceral, “sports car” feel I was so accustomed to. Beyond the remarkable Lamborghini sound, I also missed that “oh sh*t” feeling of my neck nearly snapping due to violently being thrown back against the seat when I dropped the hammer.

I’ve been around high performance cars long enough to recognize that this new whip likely had significant hidden potential lurking within. She simply needed some help to achieve excellence.

Was I up to the task?

Delving into the Mercedes Performance Tuning World

In an effort to educate myself, I joined a several MB message forums and Facebook groups to begin my journey into understanding the Mercedes universe. Coming from an incredibly active Lambo and Ferrari world, I was hopeful that Mercedes owners would be equally as helpful and patient with a newbie such as me. Likely due to the “newness” of the GTS, I didn’t find much specific mod info… however, since it utilized the M178 engine there were definitely some solid suggestions available.

After a few weeks I had outlined a plan to transform my car. My two primary goals were more horsepower… and more loud.

I immediately set about having the secondary cats removed (weight reduction and airflow) and adding high flow air filters and airbox spacers. Supposedly, these mods should be good for 30-40hp.

Short of a full cat-back exhaust, upgraded turbos, or other significant engine work, the biggest impact would likely come from an ECU tune. In previous cars I’ve always done ECU/TCU tunes when possible. Throughout the years, I’ve used many of the major aftermarket tuning companies with varied levels of success. Some were fantastic… and some were simply mediocre at best.

A search of the forums yielded little tangible info, but, tons of personal opinions. Now, opinions are great, but, if I’m going to spend $2k+ for a tune, I want to do my due diligence and ensure that the numbers are there to back up the opinion.

Which Mercedes ECU Tune Company?

Being the incessant Mercedes newb, I posted on one popular message forum asking for opinions regarding the tunes from a few companies which were known to be the heavy hitters in the Mercedes ECU tuning world. From my research, I had narrowed my choice down to two companies: Eurocharged Performance in Houston, Texas, or Pressertech in Atlanta, GA. I simply wanted some input regarding pros and cons of each. At first, there were quite a few helpful replies, but it quickly degraded into a massive non-productive, finger pointing, drama infested mess.

No thanks to the folks on the forum espousing every doom and gloom scenario possible if I were to choose a tune from any company that cost less than a Bugatti payment, I was now significantly scared enough that I said, “screw it” and wrote off Mercedes ECU tuning as a liability.

I continued to enjoy the car, but, secretly pined for better performance. While attending car meets and shows, I often found myself feeling pangs of jealousy when a Porsche, BMW M series, or Lambo pulled in. While my AMG GTS certainly attracted attention, the actual driving experience still felt too civilized and restrained. My wife was right – and I hated it.

Five Star Communication with PRESSERtech

Several months went by, and honestly, I had forgotten about my tuning journey until I received an email from Todd Presser, CTO of Pressertech. He reached out to ask if I had chosen a tune yet and I told him that I had not.

After explaining my artificially induced hesitation, Todd allayed all of my concerns. It turns out that only a few companies actually produce tunes for these cars… which means that most of the base tunes (even from the big-name players) are exactly the same with only minor differences applied by the individual company!

We discussed options and expectations. I was very adamant about my requirements. I wanted to ensure the tune would not only significantly increase horsepower above and beyond the stock 503hp, but also would not negatively affect long-term reliability or usability of the vehicle. Oh… and sound. I wanted more loud.

Todd patiently answered all of questions and assured me that if I wasn’t happy they would do whatever was necessary to satisfy me.

After our nearly hour-long conversation, I decided to pull the trigger on their stage 2 tune (605hp and 625LbFt torque.) With my existing mods that should put my car close to 650hp. I’ll take that.

My ECU was in the mail that afternoon.

From the moment it arrived at Pressertech until it left for its return journey home, Todd continued to update me regularly. In today’s often impersonal, disconnected world, Pressertech’s communication was refreshing and definitely worthy of five stars!

Four days later the ECU was back in my hands. I quickly went about reinstalling it, however, torrential rain relegated the first startup to be in the garage.

Wow. It certainly sounded louder, but, it was in my garage, so, I’m going to chalk that up to simply being my imagination.

The True Test: From Civilized to Downright Brutal Performance

The next day I got up early to take her out for the first proper shakedown cruise.

Pulling out of my neighborhood in eco mode, I felt slightly disappointed as the car didn’t seem to have been magically transformed as I had hoped. In fact, if anything it seemed quieter and even more refined. Ugh. Were the forum guys right? Was this whole experience an exercise in futility? Would I ever get my passion back?

Maybe the car simply needed some time to adapt to the new software?

Then I dropped into Sport+ mode. HOLY HELL! Instantly, the car came alive. I hit the fun pedal and literally could not wipe the grin off my face.

Excitement & Passion of the Mercedes AMG GTS Edition

30 minutes quickly turned into 60, then 90 while cruising around with no destination in mind… Time seemed to completely escape me in my “new” car. I felt that sense of excitement and passion that I thought was long gone.

Upshifts and downshifts were more purposeful and deliberate. The car accelerated like a speeding freight train… pulling harder and harder, faster and faster all the way up to redline. Actually, brutal would be the best way to describe it. Stomp the pedal and you are instantly pitched back in your seat like a limp rag doll.

And the sound. Oh my! The sound emanating from the pipes took on a much more aggressive, deep tone. Granted, this isn’t my daily driver, so, perhaps I simply forgot how awesome it sounded before?

Nope.

The tune definitely changed something – whether fuel or air mapping I can’t say, but, the sound of the car now closely approximates an angry hell beast in full attack mode. At full throttle the sound is absolutely glorious.

As I downshifted and slowed towards an approaching stop light, I instantly heard something else. Something familiar sounding, yet so foreign. The growl, pops and burbles were back! I had resolved to accept the fact that those sweet sounds were forever gone when the transport truck pulled away taking my Lambo with it..

Nope.

Not only is the car significantly faster – whether from a roll or full stop, the sound is noticeably more sports car like. I finally knew that I had made the right decision in trading for the GTS.

A Stage 2 Tune Transformation from “Grown Up” to “Maniacal Demon”

While I don’t believe in sorcery or black magic, whatever wizardry or pixie dust Todd and Pressertech have up their sleeves are simply amazing. This thing is an absolute beast now thanks to them. There are so many appropriate words that now describe my car: mystical, supernatural, ethereal, wonderful… but I think EPIC would be the best.

To say I am pleasantly surprised would be the biggest understatement of the year. Not only did the Pressertech stage 2 tune wake up the vehicle, but, it literally transformed my “grown up” car into a maniacal demon at full boil. Mercedes – if you are listening, this is absolutely how the car should have come from the factory.

If you are interested in upping your game and taking your car to the next level, you absolutely owe it to yourself to check out Pressertech.

“I couldn’t find the sports car of my dreams, so I built it myself.” – Ferdinand Porsche

Contact Pressertech when it’s your time to Tune your Mercedes

Whenever your ready to tune your Mercedes whether it be a Mercedes AMG GTS Edition or a E550 with the M278 Engine or whatever Mercedes you have, call the professional tuners at Pressertech. You can reach us by phone at 770-648-0500 or simply use our contact us page and drop us an email. Our tunes may be a Maniacal Demon, but we’re not!