Project Evolution Gauges have become a must-have in all my vehicles that see track time (especially the forced induction ones). I've learned the hard way that when you don't always know what's going on inside your engine, no matter how well-built, it can come apart rather quickly. Yet, with some simple monitoring devices you can greatly reduce the chances of catastrophic engine failure.
Take the temperature gauge, for instance. Sure, every car has one, but by the time it's reading anywhere past half, the engine has more than likely already overheated. Factory gauges are known to be horribly inaccurate, and when you plan on driving your car at the limit, not only does it make sense to invest in good gauges but it should be almost at the top of your list.
When it comes to choosing the brand of gauge, you have to consider precision, accuracy, build quality and what fits your budget. Too often the lure of buying a cheap but good-looking gauge gets to people. If enhancing the look of your interior is what you're after instead of precision, buy the cheap stuff. However, if you're looking to use them as instruments to monitor your engine's vital signs, then buy the best gauges you can afford. It's no secret that a $100 gauge isn't going to have an OE-spec sensor or a precision 270-degree stepper motor, but it will have that cool opening sequence and tinted glass.
I have used and tested many gauges on the market, and without a doubt, I can say the Defi units are the best out there. The precision and motion of the needles are so natural and fluid that it's hard to believe it's electronic. The sweeping action shows no signs of choppiness or inconsistency, it's instantaneous and dead on every time. Defi is a brand of Nippon Seiki, which makes OEM clusters for Hondas, Subarus and even the Corvette's heads-up display. It's no wonder why they're the best in the business.
The latest line to be introduced to Defi's series of gauges is the Advance CR. The heart of the system is the next-generation Defi-Link Advance Control Unit. It allows up to seven gauges to be daisy-chained together and has a separate control switch unit that can be mounted away from the control box. Users can now choose from two different opening and closing modes, while driving data can be recorded and replayed for up to 3 minutes. The control unit makes for easy wiring of the gauges and sensors with simple one-plug technology. Once the control unit is wired in for power, the gauges and sensors feed off of it, eliminating the need to wire in each gauge individually.
There are 60mm and 52mm sizes available for the Advance CR gauges - I chose to go with the larger of the two because I would be dash-mounting them. A tinted-lens version will soon be available, but I personally like the clear lens because it's easier to read in the bright sun. At night, the gauges illuminate red or white, depending on your preference, and the new Advance CR has a glowing red ring around the diameter of the face to make the gauge's appearance even more visually stimulating.
Mounting options are few and far between in the EVO X. There are a few companies that make A-pillar, dual-gauge pods, but I've long outgrown that gauge-mounting solution. There's room underneath the radio (I've seen some rather nice custom installs in that location), but the gauges are almost useless down there because of how far you have to look to check them. On the track, you want to keep your eyes on the road as much as possible. Having to glance down to the center console is a huge distraction.
The optimal mounting location is on the dash, where your eye doesn't have to look too far to see the gauges. I decided that oil pressure and oil and water temperature gauges would be mounted there and the boost gauge would reside on the steering wheel column, where it's still in the eye's peripheral vision.
Thanks to Phillip Chase over at TEIN USA, the official distributors of Defi products in the U.S., I had shop space (and his help) for the install. You're looking at a full day's worth of work when installing a set of gauges because not only do you have to mount the gauges but the sensors have to be installed inside the engine bay.
As expected, I couldn't be more happy with the Defi Advance CR gauges - they work flawlessly, the audible warning is superb and when you read next month's story about my experience at the track with the X, it will reinforce how critical gauges really are.