It's a gimmick! Or is it?
I unboxed the Pedal Commander and, to my surprise, it was even simpler to install than I imagined. You simply unplug the electronic vehicle pedal and plug the Commander into it. The factory cable you pulled from the pedal is plugged into the Commander's second plug. Done. That's it! No tools. The hardest part was bending down so I could see under the dash.
After glancing through the simple operation instructions, I got in my truck and fired it up. I did a couple minutes of driving with the Pedal Commander turned off, just to give myself a base line so I would be more keen to any changes the Commander would make. I instantly realized that was a waste of time when I turned the unit on. I went straight for Sport+ mode and set the sensitivity to +4... Wow! I touched the gas pedal with a feather foot and it took off like I planted my foot in it. It was so touchy, I would almost consider it undrivable.
After playing around with Sport+ mode, I set the unit to its polar opposite, Eco mode. What a difference! Where Sport+ mode is all about responsiveness and shrinking pedal throw, Eco mode is the complete opposite. In this mode, you are forced to press the gas pedal farther to get the same acceleration that you would without the unit. This is great for a few reasons. It allows for much more precise throttle input and that's good for stretching out your MPGs. It also makes accelerating in slippery conditions much more controllable. This is the mode to be in for long drives, as well as offroad adventures.
Don't mistake Eco mode for a slouchy experience. If you let pedal meet floor, you'll still get all your horses moving. The best way I can describe Eco mode is by comparing it to towing a trailer. You have to push the pedal harder than usual to get the trailer moving. It's that same feeling, sans trailer.
The Pedal Commander creates a very noticeable change in the way the truck feels. It's like driving a different vehicle, from the waste down.
City and Sport mode sit between Eco and Sport+ mode. Each mode has it's own characteristics that match their respective names. I'll cover this a bit more in the "Device" section, below.
Alright guys. Here's what's really going on with the Pedal Commander. It's not a placebo, nor is it witchcraft. The science is actually very simple and I'm going to try explaining it to the best of my ability. Here we go:
The Tacoma, as well as many other modern vehicles, has a throttle-by-wire system. This means that there is no yesteryear mechanical linkage between your foot and the throttle body. Instead, there is a positioning sensor within the gas pedal assembly that detects how far down the driver has pressed the petal and it sends that information to the computer. The computer takes that information, runs a few codes, and tells the engine to start making the appropriate power.
The Pedal Commander sit inline with the gas pedal position sensor and the computer that receives the input information. This means the Commander can take that sensor's information and modify it, telling the computer the pedal is in a different position than it really is. It's basically a device that lies to your truck about what your foot is doing.
The stock throttle map is linear. When you push the pedal 25% of the way down, it tells the computer to make 25% of your power. When you press the pedal 75%, it passes that amount on. The Pedal Commander changes the values based on the mode you've selected. 25% no longer means 25%. In Sport+ mode, pressing the pedal 25% tells the Commander you've pressed the pedal 25%, but the Commander lies to the computer and tells it you've pressed the pedal down 50%. The computer acts on the number the unit gave it, creating 50% of your power, but with the pedal at 25%.
Sport+ mode is the touchiest mode. It offers the quickest throttle response and tells the truck to make more power, sooner. Pressing the pedal about 30% of the way down will give you full power. This means you don't have to push the pedal all the way down to get full throttle, but only about an inch and a half. If you tow or daily your Tacoma, this is pretty useless for regular driving. If you've got an, X-Runner or a track ready Pre-Runner, this would be for you.
Sport mode is the next step below Sport+. The throttle map is still linear, but it isn't as compressed as the Sport+ variant. You get full throttle at about 50% pedal depression. It's still a touchy feeling, but not as unusable as Sport+ mode.
City mode is the next step down from Sport... Wait... Correction: It's not a step down, it's a step over. City isn't less responsive than the two Sport modes, but it's an entirely different personality. City feels almost stock, but with a little boost within the first 10% of the pedal stroke. This creates a responsive feel that gets you off the line quicker, but stretches your pedal throw for the last 90%. This is ideal for city driving because it gets you going from a stop quicker, but still allows for smoother acceleration once you've started moving. I've heard of people seeing a slight improvement in gas mileage, but I personally hadn't.
Eco mode is last in the line of the device's selections. This is my favorite due to it's diversity. It takes the first 25% of your available power and streeeetches it across 50% of the pedal throw. This means you are always smooth off the stop signs, gently accelerating from 25mph to 40mph. It's a surreal feeling of the truck feathering the throttle for you. It doesn't limit your power, though. The throttle is remapped into a curve. The first 50% of the pedal is a gradual rise upto about 25% engine power, but once you get past that, power comes on quicker. This means you still have all your horses to pass that guy on his phone in the left lane, merge onto an on ramp, or get a little slippy in the rain. I have personally seen mileage improvements up to 2mpg (sometimes more) with Eco mode.
Finally, sensitivity selections. Each mode has 9 sensitivity option, -4 through +4. These allow you to make minute changes the where the throttle map sits within the throw of the pedal. If you find the pedal is a bit too touchy, you can back the mapping up a notch by setting the sensitivity to -1 or -2 within that mode. In the same respect, you can get bring the throttle map up to increase throttle response, if you find there is a little dead space at the start of your pedal's travel.
This all means you can chose a throttle map that best suits your driving habits and needs, then tune in the sensitivity to something your foot is comfortable with. You are basically changing your truck to fit you and not the other way around.