The drive-by-wire (DBW) throttle body has been in the GM lineup for quite some time now. These units are a nice improvement over the older mechanical cable-driven throttle body as it cleans up the engine and engine compartment. However, if you’ve driven any new Chevrolet truck or car, you will notice how unresponsive the DBW units can be. Unfortunately, you get used to the delay, and in the words of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, “It is what it is.” Take, for example, our 2021 Chevrolet Silverado test vehicle. By now, we’ve put a few thousand miles on the truck and have gotten used to it the way it performs. So when we got the opportunity to test out the Bully Dog Thruster, we were excited about how much of a difference the product would make on our truck.
Bully Dog’s Thruster
The Bully Dog Thruster is an electronic module that plugs in between the gas pedal and the engine control unit (ECU) and reduces lag times while increasing vehicle acceleration. This unit can be adjusted on the fly by the turn of a dial and is fully waterproof in design and rugged enough for offroad use. If you’re planning on using the Thruster on your new car or truck, don’t worry because this device will not void the factory warranty.
So, how does it work? The Bully Dog Thruster basically modifies the pedal input to the ECU depending on the setting. When it’s set to zero, your vehicle will perform like a factory. However, when you start increasing the percentage, the responsiveness of the throttle input will become more aggressive. Think of it this way. Even though the pedal range stays the same, the throttle body will react much faster as you adjust the knob up to give you better performance off the line.
Installing the Thruster is remarkably simple. Bully Dog states that it takes about 10 minutes to install, and we can tell you that on a 2021 Silverado, that’s about right. The first thing the instructions told us was to disconnect the battery before installing the unit. If you do not disconnect the battery, the factory computer will not learn the correct starting pedal position, so this step is crucial.
With the battery unhooked, we then unplugged the factory wiring harness from the pedal. Then we plugged one end of the Thruster into the OEM harness and the other into the pedal assembly and routed the wires for the adjustable dial. After we reconnected the battery, we hit the road to see the difference the product makes. And to be honest, we didn’t know what to expect from this little black box — would it be worth the $299 price tag or not?
To be safe and responsible, we decided to take the truck to a large empty parking lot for testing purposes. This would allow us to come to a complete stop, make adjustments to the Thruster, test, and then repeat without dealing with traffic or depending on stoplights and stopsigns to reset.
On the way to the parking lot, we couldn’t help turning the dial to see what happened. After all, Bully Dog states that you can adjust the device on the fly. We had the unit set on 0-percent at 40 mph and then twisted the dial to 100-percent, the truck started pulling harder until it downshifted and took off like we were giving it a lot more throttle, but we weren’t. As we mentioned before, the Thruster is just moving the range of the pedal so that it applies more throttle earlier in the curve. And the higher the dial setting, the more aggressive the ramp becomes. This process kept us entertained until we arrived at our testing spot just a few minutes down the road.
As we pulled into the parking lot, we stopped the truck and set the Thruster on 0-percent. With this setting, the Silverado responded just like always. First, you would push the gas pedal down, and then it would hesitate a second before it would start to move. We then stopped the vehicle, took it up to 25-percent, and noticed the improved throttle response immediately. Next up was 50-percent, which turned out to be our favorite setting. It was aggressive enough to get the truck rolling out but not enough to throw the passenger head back in the seat. By now, we were excited to see what 75-percent felt like, and we were not disappointed. When we applied the same amount of throttle, the Silverado jumped out of the hole, causing us to crack up because the Silverado was a totally different animal. Finally, with the Thruster set on 100-percent, we eased into the pedal cautiously, but it didn’t matter. The Chevy launched like a scalded dog. It was almost ridiculous at how much of a difference there was between these settings.
That’s A Wrap
After testing the Thruster, we turned the dial back to 0-percent and quickly realized how mundane the Silverado pedal was before adding the Thruster. And while you may think it’s okay, it’s not. The Thruster makes the DBW pedal feel like it should have from the factory, quick and precise. There’s no more pedal surge or hesitation and when you hit the gas the truck goes as it should. It’s incredible what this little device, which can be installed in just minutes, can do for the drivability of a vehicle. For more information on the Bully Dog Thruster and specific applications, please visit Bullydog.com