PLX Devices Kiwi Bluetooth Review

It’s time for another product review article!

This one comes to us courtesy of PLX Devices, Inc, headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley, CA. It’s only fitting that such a cool product would come from an area known for its car culture AND cutting-edge technology.

The Kiwi Bluetooth is an easy-to-use (and affordable) plug and play wireless device. The entire unit measures only 2.75″ x 1.25″ x 0.6″. It is attached to your vehicle’s OBDII port via a 6 ft cable, so installation is as simple as plugging in a toaster. However, this thing packs a lot of bang for the buck!

When I received mine, I was impressed with the simplicity of operation – The included instruction manual is easy enough for a kid to set up.

PLX Kiwi Manual

I decided to give it an initial shakedown during a 6-hour road trip to California, so that I’d have time to evaluate it fully.

Connecting the Kiwi to my Android phone was as simple as pairing it with a new Bluetooth connection, which happened almost instantaneously. Once the device is plugged into your OBD2 port and it’s paired with your phone, you’re ready to rock!

NOTE: To get the MOST functionality out of your PLX Kiwi, I highly recommend downloading the Torque Android App, which is available in the Android Market for $4.95.

The Torque App allows you to observe all kinds of cool functions:

Dyno / Dynomometer and Horsepower/HP
0-60 timings – see how fast your car is
Massive fault code database for allowing lookup of fault codes from many different manufacturers
Send logging information to web or email CSV/KML for analysis via excel / openoffice
Heads-up display / HUD
GPS Speedo/Tracking – see what you and your engine were doing, at a point in time
Turbo boost feature for vehicles that support MAP sensors
Set alarms (for example, if your coolant or oil goes over a preset temperature)

One of the first functions I tested was the “green driving” capability. The instant readout displays your fuel consumption, trip average MPG, fuel used, fuel remaining, engine RPMs, coolant temperature, and other specs. Once I configured the readout, it was simple to modulate driving style to get the most MPG out of our vehicle, in this case a 2005 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab 4×4. Typically, we get 17mpg on the highway with our truck (which is outfitted with 20″ wheels, 275/55/20 summer tires, and an aftermarket intake and exhaust). Once we got the hang of using the unit, we saw our overall highway mileage increase to 21MPG! Not a bad return for simply changing driver behavior, right?

Then I get serious with it – Delving into the depth of options available using the Torque app, I was able to monitor acceleration in G’s, throttle position, GPS speed (as well as the difference in GPS speed and speedometer indicated speed), manifold vacuum, coolant temp, oil temp, air-fuel ratio, altitude, barometric pressure, horsepower, distance to empty, exhaust gas temperature (for each bank), and a ton of other interesting parameters!

Click for full-size screenshots…

How about those pesky OBD2 codes? “Check Engine” light? Yep, the Kiwi can show those as well. What’s more, you won’t have to take any more expensive trips to the dealership to reset the light. When your engine light goes on, the Kiwi gives you the engine code so you know what’s wrong, and it even allows you to reset the engine light on-the-fly. Super-cool option for people wanting to avoid paying $300+ for a handheld scanner!

You can set up your “gauges” in a variety of different ways – Digital or analog, with different configurations, sizes, and display options. For the “green driving” meter, for example, I set the Kiwi to display one large meter, in digital format, full-screen sized, with a bar graph at the bottom (so that I’d have both numerical and graphical representations of our instant miles per gallon). I could then set my phone on its side on the dashboard and read it easily. In this manner, it’s not hard to “learn” to keep the bar above a certain MPG reading. Of course, for future use, I’ll mount the phone in a cradle or dash mount for convenience.

Real-time dyno figures are a really cool option, and the data logging functionality would be great for using on a track day… set up your Kiwi in view of an in-car GoPro camera and review it later to improve your lap times, for example!

PLX Kiwi Torque Track

I’m sure users with more technological know-how than I will come up with dozens of other uses for this cool device, but it’ll pay for itself easily in just a few months by saving you fuel and enabling you to identify and clear engine codes.

Incoming calls and texts are unaffected by running this app, and I was able to carry on a speakerphone conversation at freeway speeds while simultaneously monitoring my driving style, all without taking my eyes off the road.

When you shut off your vehicle, the Kiwi goes into low-power standby mode, ready for the next trip. This means you can mount the Kiwi module in your glove box or console (or other convenient location, hidden from view) and not worry about theft. The range is 50-ft for most Bluetooth connections, so you don’t need it to be in the immediate vicinity of the phone.

All in all, this is a serious tool that can be used to monitor tons of engine functions, all for a price that really makes the purchase decision pretty easy.

You can purchase a PLX Devices Kiwi (<-- click it!) for around a hundred bucks! Hope you've enjoyed this review. If you have questions, comments, or just want to talk about your new PLX Devices Kiwi, post up here! PLX Devices Kiwi Bluetooth Review and Discussion