One of the all-time great tuning mods, here’s the best car exhaust brands for getting you more power, jaw-dropping looks and that all-important performance rumble.
It’s hard to know where to start when modifying a car, and there’s no denying that one of the most popular places is with a performance exhaust. But where should you be looking to get your mitts on a shiny new system in 2023? Well, who better to ask than us at FC?
You see, aside from all those posh materials that last forever and create the sort of noises that make any (sensible) full-grown adult go all weak and trembly at the knees, performance exhausts are about just two things.
First and foremost, tuning your engine. Performance exhausts free up the restrictions you’ll find in your standard system helping to get waste gasses out more efficiently. This releases more power and torque. And second – although many deny that it’s a crucial factor – they look awesome at the back of your pride and joy.
Why should I modify my car exhaust?
There are several reasons why you might want to modify your car exhaust. By making modifications, you can improve performance, increase horsepower, and enhance the sound of your car.
A well-designed aftermarket exhaust system can improve engine efficiency by reducing exhaust backpressure, which helps unleash more horsepower and torque. Additionally, a performance exhaust can enhance the engine’s sound, giving it a deeper, sportier tone. Furthermore, reducing weight with aftermarket exhaust components can improve the car’s overall handling and dynamics.
However, it’s important to check local laws as some modifications may not be legal in all areas.
What are the best car exhaust brands?
So, with all our modifying knowledge and experience, what manufacturers are at the top of the tree for looks, price, performance gains and more than a little car scene kudos along the way? That’ll be this little lot right here. In no particular order, these are our best car exhaust brands in 2023.
Posher than a caviar-powered Bugatti, Akrapovic cut their teeth in the ‘90s making award-winning motorbike exhausts, before launching their stunning car line back in 2010. Basically speaking, if Louis Vuitton decided to produce high-end exhausts, they still wouldn’t be as sought-after as the trinkets on offer from this Slovenian behemoth.
Some of the world’s most extreme R&D, along with the use of space age materials such as titanium, carbon fiber and ceramic composites, is their main focus nowadays. And it’s this almost ridiculous attention to the finer details that has seen them bag over 160 championships in all areas of motorsport. Yep, you just know you’re dealing with a monster when they put together their CAD designed in a ‘metallurgical laboratory’… er, whatever that is. They even have their own foundry where they produce the proprietary titanium for their top-end designs.
But, what does all this mean for us? Well, apart from the fact that you’d better start saving, they offer two product lines over a decent range of applications… although naturally, the cars on the list are a little on the high-end side, too. Choose from the Slip-On Line, which is available in titanium or stainless steel, and offers a healthy performance hike. Or the Evolution Line, which does all of the above, but with the addition of extra link pipes for even more performance. These also come with a choice of carbon and titanium tailpipes. Like we said, start saving; but Akrapovic earns itself a rightful spot in our list of the best car exhaust brands.
Check out Akrapovic exhausts.
There aren’t many exhaust manufacturers that are as revered as Fujitsubo in the car community. That’s exactly why it had to feature in our list of the best car exhaust brands in 2023.
The oldest manufacturer on our list, Fujitsubo has been a family-run business since 1955. They actually started out as a race team developing their own parts. Nowadays though, they’re known for producing nothing but the finest exhausts for JDM cars. That and for valuing tradition above all else.
In true Japanese arts and crafts style, they don’t have welders. They have traditional craftsmen that have to endure a lengthy apprenticeship to earn the title of Master. These guys have been building exhausts from stainless steel and titanium before your parents were born.
The boss, Fujitsubo-san (who took over from his father, Fujitsubo-san… who took over from his father, Fujitsubo-san), oversees a huge operation in the foothills of Mount Fuji, much of which is supplying OEM parts. Allegedly they’re secret standard equipment on many JDM performance cars including the R35 Nissan GTR.
The list of aftermarket applications is also extensive. There’s no less than 15 different types from their road-legal ‘Legalis’ series, and a whole load more that are, let’s just say, even more fruity. But, with all that said, they’re not as common as you might think outside of Japan, probably due to the premium price. So, if you do manage to find a local dealer and get one on your car, you immediately have our permission to puff out your chest and strut round like you own the place.
Check out Fujitsubo Exhausts.
A premium brand synonymous with out and out performance, Milltek Sport is a UK manufacturer that, over the past 40-years, has put British engineering firmly on the map. In terms of the range of applications they offer, too. Dare we say it? They probably have more than anyone else on our list, especially when you consider that they also have a huge division called Milltek Corp that serves the USDM market.
Known to be at the top of the game when it comes to innovation and intensive testing, chiefly at their huge facility on the Nürburgring. Along with their stainless-steel cat-back systems, they’re just as well-known for their other modular upgrades, such as downpipes and de-cats. Not so long ago on these shores, a VAG motor just wasn’t a modified VAG motor until it had a Milltek downpipe at the very least. But what’s most important is that these innovations have seen them lead from the front for decades. Nowadays they even make products for Teslas… and no, we’re not kidding.
Perhaps what’s best is that Milltek have just one single product line, there are no budget options, and this means that you get the exact same quality no matter what you drive. If consistency is key to building a brand name that everyone knows and trusts, you can think of Milltek as the Coca Cola of the exhaust world. You didn’t think we could leave it off our list of the best car exhaust brands in 2023, did you?
Check out Milltek Sport Exhausts.
There’s no doubt about it, Scorpion is a British institution, and it has been for well over 30-years. In modified car circles the Red Power badge is nothing short of legendary. Most likely because they were the first UK manufacturer to start producing direct-fit, stainless-steel upgrades for cars of the ‘90s hot hatch era.
These home-grown tuning pioneers have firmly stuck to their roots by continuing to offer hand-crafted exhausts for a whole load of cars that you actually see on the streets – Ford Fiestas, Audi A4s, Honda Civics, Vauxhall Astras, Renault Clios – the modifying bread and butter. To this day their fitment list – along with their prices – remains realistic, so you could say that Scorpion manufacture the exhausts of the people. And we reckon there’s a lot of honor in that.
Don’t go thinking they’re not all flashy and high-end though. Just because Scorpion actually make a backbox for your 1.4 SEAT Arosa doesn’t make them a budget brand – there’s a huge difference between a bargain and a bargain basement alternative. There’s actually a mind-blowing amount of R&D that goes into every single one of their products, both in terms of performance gains and sound engineering. Some of the most intensive R&D in the whole industry, in fact.
Most of all though, you just can’t beat the kind of build quality that’s been proven to perform at the highest levels of motorsport. Race car or road car, you just can’t kill a Scorpion, and that’s a fact, hence why it’s in our list of the best car exhaust brands.
Check out Scorpion Exhausts.
Remus Performance Sport Exhausts
This Austrian firm is a bona fide European success story, founded in 1990 it only took Remus 5-years to take the performance world completely by storm. Their OEM and motorsport clients are a veritable Who’s Who of prestige motoring, and they even make stuff for Airbus… so listen out for the tell-tale raspy note the next time you’re boarding a jet.
But we digress, the aftermarket exhaust side of the business is what we’re most interested in here, and what these guys cook up in their three huge factories in Austria and Bosnia is as high-brow as you like.
Although they have quite the extensive fitment list for European cars (and the odd Japanese motor), perhaps what they’re most known for is offering performance upgrades for prestige motors, particularly those of the German persuasion. Basically, if you’re looking for a flashy exhaust for your BMW M8 Competition, Merc CLA AMG or 900bhp Brabus Rocket, Remus is the first number you dial. Luckily though, there’s quite a few realistic fitments in there, too. But what’s most important is that you always get the same uber-quality and high spec materials.
There is one other thing too of course, despite all the motorsport know-how and performance gains, nothing out there sounds quite like a Remus. Their unique grumble is something they’ve been trading off from the very beginning.
Check out Remus Exhausts.
Established in the early noughties, there’s no doubt that Japspeed is one of the original (and much replicated) one-stop shops for Japanese cars. Put simply, what these guys don’t make isn’t worth upgrading in the first place. They continue to develop all sorts of parts in-house, here in the UK, and list everything from intercoolers and BBKs, to suspension arms and radiators. And naturally, their line-up also includes CAD-designed stainless steel exhaust systems, along with plenty of downpipes, sports CATs and tubular manifolds.
Almost as famous as their parts is their race team, and more specifically their exploits in the drifting world over the past two decades. They’re also the maker of the world-famous double barreled Shotgun Exhaust… which is exactly as lairy, and road-legal, as it sounds.
The truth is that Japspeed exhausts are almost standard equipment on imports nowadays, for many Japanese car fans they’re the first port of call when it comes to finding an exhaust upgrade. Price point is a key consideration of course, the sheer volume of their sales means they can keep the costs within’ the grasp of us mere mortals. But what they have always done extremely well – you might say their raison d’etre – is to offer applications for the more off-beat models. You’ve got your GT-Rs, RX-7s, Scoobies and Civics, but they’re not all from the GT-R, FD, STI or Type R stable. And that’s pretty important to a healthily modifying community.
So, if you’re after a high-quality exhaust or downpipe for the car that no one lists, and you don’t want to re-mortgage your grandad’s wooden leg to get it, Japspeed is often the answer.
Check out Japspeed Exhausts.
You may wake up one morning and feel the need to have your exhaust passing through your driver seat and coming out of your roof. And, while we sincerely hope you don’t, it’s nice to know that you can with the mighty Powerflow.
Perhaps the most famous custom exhaust manufacturer – certainly here in the UK – with over 60 locations it seems like these guys have been around forever, so it’s hard to believe that they only started in 1998. Except of course, that’s not quite the case. What most people don’t know is that Powerflow were building exhausts in South Africa as far back early ‘70s, because that’s exactly where they mine the ore needed to make stainless steel. True story.
What Powerflow do is design and build your exhaust exactly how you want it. They offer offer a selection of tailpipe designs, and even a choice of where you put the exits. And it’s this kind of flexibility that has seen a symbiotic relationship with the modified car scene for the past couple of decades.
Suffice to say we’ve seen some mentalist creations from them over the years, too. But what’s always been just as useful – for rarer models where there’s no bolt-on option, along with classics where parts are hard to come by – is that they can do whatever you ask, and put it all together while you wait. You just sit down, grab yourself a drink and watch the masters at work. That’s why Powerflow earns a spot in a best car exhaust brands in 2023.
Check out Powerflow Exhausts.
We can’t talk about performance exhausts without including the most famous Japanese manufacturer of them all. Now we’ve no doubt that, when Hiroyuki Hasegawa, Goichi Kitagawa and Sigma Automotive, gave up their initials to their new company back in the early ‘70s, they had no idea what they’d unleashed on the tuning world. We also know that HKS make some of the most revered parts in the world-wide Japanese car community, and that this extends to the absolutely mind-boggling array of direct-fit exhausts they have on offer.
Now it’s a bit confusing this one. First because the fitment list isn’t massive; it’s basically limited to JDM cars. But the number of different lines they produce, not to mention what they’ve decided to call them, is confusing and entertaining in equal measure. These range from those constructed mostly for looks and a mild performance hike, to race-only items that will have the local police breathing down your neck.
We’ll start with the famous ones that most Japanese car fans have actually heard of – the Hi-Power Muffler, Spec R and Super Turbo Muffler. But then there’s also loads of others such as the Super Sound Master, LEGAMAX, Coolstyle, ES Wagon, Dual Muffler, Silent Hi-Power, LEGAMAX Sports, Full Dual Muffler, Trail Master and V11TS and… well, yeah, that’s not even all of them.
So, are they just making it up as they go along? Probably, but surely that’s all part of the appeal. Crazy, but sometimes crazy is the whole point.
Check out HKS exhausts.
There’s more than a couple of exhaust manufacturers that sponsor cars in the top echelons of motorsport, but only one we can think of that has their own entire BTCC team. And that’s what Cobra Sport is all about, taking the risk and going big. In fact, these guys have had a long and illustrious history of competing which dates back to Formula Ford and Formula 2000 in the late ‘70s. But still, even that little lot pales in comparison to the success of their products in the modifying community over the last 30-years.
Since the birth of Cobra Sport as a stand-alone brand, they have built up an absolute ton of bolt-on fitments for a huge selection of the most popular cars on the scene. They also have all sorts of innovations and posh upgrades, such as resonator deletes, race cats and carbon fiber tailpipes. They even offer a custom exhaust service for cars that aren’t listed – you can’t say fairer than that, right?
Cobra is also the only exhaust manufacturer we know of who can boast the prestigious ‘Made In Sheffield’ mark. And it means that the workmanship and the quality of the stainless steel is right up there with the best that the world has to offer. That’s why it’s earned itself a spot in our list of the best car exhaust brands in 2023. What isn’t up there though, is the pricing. Something we always find a little surprising for tig-welded loveliness that’s this damn good. A modifying favorite and no mistake.
Check out Cobra Sport Exhausts.
Aside from a whole host of other parts, affordable but extremely well-made stainless systems for European motors is the name of the game here. In fact, when you take a look at the quality of their line-up, it’s no wonder that Direnza has become one of Europe’s most popular modifying go-tos over the last decade.
What we’re looking at here then, is premium parts at not so premium prices. And they’re all designed to eek out plenty of extra performance on the road, and on the track. What we like most though, is that Direnza are also pioneers in the latest vehicle scanning techniques, CAD design and even 3D printing at the prototyping stage. All their products are designed, developed and performance tested right here in the UK.
There’s also a wide range of fitments, and plenty of supporting parts such as backbox deletes, sports cats and a selection of rather posh looking tubular race manifolds. If we had to pick out a stand-out product line though, we’re absolutely loving their oversized, ceramic coated downpipes. There’s plenty of bang for your buck to be with this little lot.
Check out Direnza Exhausts.
OK, so there’s a few on our best car exhaust brands list from Japan, a few more from Europe and one or two from UK. But what about a slice of home-grown talent for our readers in the US? Well, that’s got to be MagnaFlow.
It’s hardly a surprise though, because we’ve also got the Discovery Channel and this monster corporation seems to be endorsed by just about everyone to wear a race suit or slap on a welding mask. Let’s just say that the list is long and distinguished, but it’s all with good reason. Custom car maestros like Chip Foose, Bodie Stroud and Aaron Kaufman have quite the following around the world. And that goes double for monster truck royalty like Dennis Anderson and racing god Mario Andretti.
MagnaFlow started in the ‘80s and they continue to manufacture full exhaust systems for all sorts of American metal, including the massive pickups, off roaders and muscle cars you’d fully expect. But perhaps what they’re most famous for is their Builder Parts and Custom Exhaust Kits, where you can order a whole load of pre-bent pipework and weld up your own. We’ve all seen how easy that is on the TV, right? Besides, in a land where custom is king, we can’t think of anything better.
Check out MagnaFlow Exhausts.
What are the different types of exhaust materials?
When purchasing an aftermarket exhaust, you may have to consider what sort of material you want the exhaust to be made from. So, here are the strengths and weaknesses of the major core options that you’re most likely to come across.
Stainless steel is the most common type of material you’ll find used in aftermarket exhaust systems. In fact, steel in its various forms is by far the most common choice for OEMs too because it’s cheap and easy to work with. The more basic stuff can prove to be weak at extreme temperatures though, which often means it requires thicker walls which in turn adds weight to the car.
Most aftermarket options that use steel will opt for either the T304 or T409 stainless kinds, which are the best suited for the job. There is a trade-off to consider between the two though – T304 is less susceptible to corrosion, whereas T409 is better at dealing with high temperatures. So, if you live somewhere rife with road salt, T304 might be better. However, if you live in a car-friendly climate, you might want to opt for T409 for the best performance potential.
Titanium exhausts are arguably the next step up. They certainly are in terms of cost. Often, titanium exhaust manufacturers will claim that these offerings weigh around 40% less than your average steel alternative. Perhaps the coolest thing about them though is the coloring – when heated to an extreme, titanium exhaust piping will turn blue/purple/gold as a result of a chemical process known as oxidation. The look is deemed quite desirable, so some aftermarket exhausts come with pre-oxidized tips as an option.
Nickel Alloys (e.g. Inconel)
Exhaust systems made from nickel alloy are the most expensive out there. Whereas stainless steel and titanium are fairly multipurpose materials, nickel alloys are most prominently used in scenarios where temperatures get really, really hot. As such, they’re the best suited to deal with hot exhaust gases; offering more strength against the heat and a greater level of resistance to corrosion.
Because of the elite nature of this material, it’s most commonly found in motorsport scenarios, or the more exotic end of the tuning scene. One of the most popular brands of nickel alloy for car exhausts is Inconel.
Frequently Asked Questions About Car Exhausts
What is a car exhaust system? And why is it needed?
An exhaust system in a car plays a crucial role in the overall performance and functionality of the vehicle. It is responsible for safely carrying exhaust gases away from the engine, and reducing both noise and vehicle emissions.
A standard car exhaust system comprises various components that work together to ensure efficient performance. The exhaust manifold collects and channels engine exhaust gases into one pipe. Next, the catalytic converter plays a crucial role by converting harmful pollutants into less harmful emissions before releasing them into the atmosphere. The muffler is responsible for reducing the noise levels generated by the engine’s exhaust. Finally, the tailpipe releases the treated emissions into the environment. Each component serves a specific function in the overall operation of the exhaust system, contributing to the vehicle’s performance and maintaining optimal exhaust flow.
Can I use an exhaust system from a different car model on my vehicle?
While it may be possible to use an exhaust system from a different car model on your vehicle, it’s generally not recommended unless the components are specifically designed to be compatible. Exhaust systems are tailored to fit specific vehicles, accounting for differences in chassis design, engine placement, and other factors. Attempting to fit an incompatible exhaust system can lead to clearance issues, exhaust leaks, and potential damage to the vehicle. It’s best to choose exhaust components that are explicitly designed for your car model to ensure proper fitment and performance.
Can I install an aftermarket exhaust system myself, or do I need professional help?
Installing an aftermarket exhaust system can vary in complexity depending on the make and model of your car and the specific exhaust components you choose. Some exhaust upgrades are relatively straightforward and can be installed by mechanically minded car enthusiasts with the right tools and knowledge. However, more complex installations may require specialized tools, welding, or adjustments to ensure proper fitment and performance. If you are unsure about the installation process or the exhaust system’s compatibility, it’s recommended to seek professional help from experienced mechanics or automotive technicians.
Are car exhaust modifications legal?
The legality of car exhaust modifications varies depending on your location and local regulations. In most cases, exhaust mods are allowed, but altering the exhaust system beyond the manufacturer’s specifications can sometimes be considered illegal, particularly if it results in increased noise levels or emissions above the allowed limits. It’s best to research and understand your local laws before making any modifications to avoid potential fines or legal issues.
Will modifying my car’s exhaust void the warranty?
In some cases, modifying your car’s exhaust system can void the manufacturer’s warranty, especially if the modifications directly impact the vehicle’s emissions or drivetrain. However, some aftermarket exhaust manufacturers offer warranties for their products, ensuring their compatibility and performance with your vehicle. It’s crucial to research warranty terms and consult with the manufacturer or a reputable mechanic before making any modifications.
What is the difference between a cat-back and an axle-back exhaust system?
A cat-back exhaust system replaces everything from the catalytic converter (cat) to the rear of the vehicle, including the muffler and exhaust pipes. On the other hand, an axle-back exhaust replaces only the components from the rear axle to the rear of the car, typically including the muffler and exhaust tips. The primary difference lies in the extent of the modification and the potential impact on performance. While a cat-back system can offer more significant gains, an axle-back system can still improve exhaust flow and sound without extensive alterations.
How much horsepower can I gain from a performance exhaust upgrade?
The horsepower gains from a performance exhaust upgrade can vary depending on the specific modifications you’ve made, your car’s make and model, and other factors like the engine’s state of tune and existing exhaust setup. Generally, a well-designed aftermarket exhaust can offer modest horsepower gains ranging from 5 to 20 horsepower. However, combining the exhaust upgrade with other performance modifications, such as intake upgrades and engine tuning, can lead to more significant power increases.
What are the legal noise regulations for modified exhaust systems in different states/countries?
The legal noise regulations for modified exhaust systems can vary significantly between states and countries. Some regions have specific decibel limits for vehicle exhaust noise, while others base their regulations on subjective criteria like “unreasonable noise.” You need to research and understand the noise regulations in your location to ensure your modified exhaust system complies with the law. Additionally, what may be considered legal in one region may not be acceptable in another, so always consider your local guidelines.