When you are modifying your car for better performance, there are basic formulas you follow. One is to add power by reducing restriction. That can be as simple as a few bolt-on upgrades or as involved as a full engine build and tons of custom fabrication. Wherever you decide to take your build, there is one thing you’ll need to sort for both improved performance and greater enjoyment: exhaust. But where do you begin? Today, we’re covering the exhaust upgrades that will be right for you and which manufacturers we love the most.
From the factory, exhaust systems are designed to be quiet by including mufflers and resonators to produce a specific sound that is both appealing to a wide range of buyers and quiet enough that it isn’t considered noise pollution. Since the 1970s, exhausts have included emissions equipment in the form of catalytic converters, which convert harmful emissions into less harmful ones. While they are designed to be the intersection between performance, safety, and compliance, OEM exhaust systems make sacrifices when it comes to power and performance. That’s one of the major reasons we enthusiasts look to when upgrading our exhaust systems, even on our daily drivers. That, and we enjoy the unsubdued sounds our engines produce.
With any budget, you can have an exhaust that works for you. There are off-the-shelf options and custom solutions that can be perfect for you. The most important factors are whether you like it and what you want to spend to achieve it. You can expect some performance increases with less restrictive exhaust, but it isn’t going to be a huge change in power. Some software tunes require the less restrictive exhausts, so if your goal is to continue modifying, the exhaust upgrade’s big benefit is allowing you to increase power.
What to choose? Again, it has to be something you like. We have plenty of videos of our exhaust options compared to each other and to stock, which you can find on our ECS Tuning YouTube channel (along with other great content like Cad to Cars, Wrecked, Winter Beater Challenge, Summer Drift Series, and more.) You should also have an easy time finding other examples of different companies’ exhaust online as well.
We have plenty of options from which to choose, as well as a custom ‘universal’ program that will allow you to build a system yourself. It all depends on how much time, skill, and budget you have.
Our ECS exhaust systems are all in-house designed and dyno-tested for proven performance and exceptional fitment. For a bolt-on solution with no variable for power, looks, and sound, our exhausts are a safe bet for any daily driver or weekend fun car. We have resonated and non-resonated versions, high-flow catalytic converters, customizable exhaust tips, heat shields, and even skid plates to protect some of your investment. It’s as close as you can get with an off-the-shelf option to something unique to your car. Cat-backs, downpipes, midpipes, and full exhaust systems let you upgrade your system at your pace, too.
For you VW/Audi owners, APR is likely familiar. They have a reputation for proven systems with precise fitment and tons of options to make your exhaust yours. APR offers full systems, downpipes, high-flow cats, tips, cat-backs, and everything you’d need to maintain an APR theme or simply improve the sound and performance of your Audi or Volkswagen.
Corsa Performance Exhaust:
These guys are almost synonymous with exhaust. Corsa offers exhaust systems for Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, and plenty of other makes for those of you looking for highly-developed performance and sound. If your budget allows for this level of exhaust, Corsa is one of the most widely recognized for their incredible quality, sound, and the work they invest in acoustic technologies. We would call their exhaust notes unmistakable, as they are intended to be the best noises possible from your car without drone.
A scientific approach to performance, Borla is well-known in the racing and street-car world for their high-quality and attractive exhaust systems. They are fairly affordable for a modest budget and fit with factory catalytic converters for easy installation.
An affordable solution for Audi, BMW, MINI, Volkswagen, and more models, Scorpion cat-back systems are an excellent option for a daily driver. For some applications, high-flow catalytic converters are available as well for increased performance. If you want a system that will provide durability, performance, and easy installation, Scorpion is a fantastic choice.
Hand-built, Italian, gloriousness, Supersprint exhaust systems are absolutely beautiful for any of the vehicles they support. These systems aren’t for someone on a budget, but they provide second-to-none build quality, appearance, sound, and performance. For someone looking to break molds and have one of the prettiest bolt-on options available, Supersprint is the way to go.
Milltek Sport Exhaust:
Milltek Sport develops an incredible number of systems for a wide range of applications. Excellent for your first exhaust system due to affordability and ease of install, Milltek Sport is not aggressive by any means, but it will open up your engine’s sound for something more enjoyable, especially for a daily-driven vehicle.
So you don’t care what it costs in time and money, you want something unique, beautiful, artistic, and completely designed to your specifications? Or you just need something fast and dirty? Custom exhausts are also a great option. You can spend as low as a few hundred bucks at an exhaust shop or spend thousands on pie-cuts, TIG welding, unique exhaust builds. Whether that is with your own skill or with a fabricator, the only way to achieve something totally unique and mind-blowing is to have it done individually. Our T304 stainless steel that we use for the exhaust systems we develop is available in straight and bent sections, as well as V-Band connectors, so you can do just that. If you have a need to develop something because you don’t have options off-the-shelf or want a completely unique and striking system, the custom solution is your best solution.
Exhaust systems are really all the same thing: just pipes. It’s the materials, fitment, quality, sound, and appearance that matter. You can spend as little or as much as you want, and the performance difference might be negligible. The most important thing is whether you like it or not. If you like how it sounds, it fits your budget, and it is right for your application, then that is the perfect exhaust for you.