Have you ever looked at an oversized aftermarket exhaust and thought ‘why has someone fitted that to their car’? Or have you ever heard a Fiesta fly by at a relatively sedate speed emitting a noise that would have you believe it was breaking the sound barrier? Chances are the answer to both of those questions is yes, the reason being someone has decided their stock exhaust didn’t sound good enough or look all too pretty. But some car companies get the sound and particularly the look of an exhaust just right. So we decided to gather together a list of our favourites.
The 11 best car exhausts of all time
Pagani Zonda C12 S
It seems odd to think that Pagani was at one point a complete unknown, over the last three decades it has produced some of the finest looking, exquisitely built, fastest and loudest cars on the planet. But once they came from basically nothing, and it all started with the Pagani Zonda.
On looks alone the Pagani Zonda’s exhaust would bag itself a spot on this list, so the fact that it, combined with the AMG-supplied V12 engine, made the glorious noise that it did cements its reputation as one of the best car exhausts ever. From the original Zonda C12 to the later Zonda Tricolores, it’s a beautiful looking thing.
Porsche 918 Spyder
All you need to know about the Porsche 918 Spyder’s exhaust is that it could spit blue flames. The exhaust was mounted on the top of the 918 Spyder’s body, and not just for looks. The system reduced weight (less pipe, less metal, less weight), reduced back pressure, improved the aerodynamics and helped minimise powertrain temperatures. Clever stuff, awesome exhaust.
Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
The LP670-4 SV could go here just as well, but the Murcielago LP640 did the hexagonal exhaust first for Lamborghini so it, we feel, should make the cut. Up to this point the Murcielago used centrally mounted twin-pipes, so an exhaust that looked more like a tunnel was somewhat surprising when the car was unveiled at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show. What made it all the more jaw-dropping was that it wasn’t just the first Murcielago with a less-than-traditional pipe but the first mid-engined Lamborghini V12 with something a little unusual, as the Diablo, Countach and the Miura, despite their relative theatrics, had fairly ordinary exhausts (unless you count the Miura Jota’s straight-through pipes).
Ferrari 458 Italia
Whatever mid-engined Ferrari V8 you go for, whether it’s an F355 or an F430, you’re going to get a nice noise. But the 458 Italia’s took looks and sound to another level. A significant step forward from the F430, the 458 Italia had a 4.5-litre V8 with 570PS (419kW) and a seven-speed double-clutch transmission. As well as being much, much faster than the F430, its engine, with an extra 0.2-litres of capacity, revved higher, reaching the sunny peaks of 9,000rpm. The tri-exit exhaust made the most of the engine’s shouty nature, too, all while doffing its hat to the triple-spouter of the Ferrari F40.
Honda Civic Type R
Speaking of triple pipes, here’s another, this time one at the more affordable end of the automotive spectrum. Truth be told the FK8 Honda Civic Type R’s exhaust sounds completely naff, a sort of odd muted rush of air that isn’t exciting at all, but it looks cool, is real (there’s nothing worse than fake exhaust trims) and actually does something.
Honda wanted to get some exhaust volume without a dull, pain-in-the-ears motorway drone, so what the FK8’s engineers did was split a single pipe into three. The two outer pipes have larger straight-flow mufflers, the smaller centre pipe is a resonator. When your foot goes to the floor exhaust gasses steam out of all three pipes, including the centre and louder pipe, but once you lift off to a cruise the airflow flowing through the smaller pipe stalls. The stalled air creates back-pressure, sending the vast majority through the two outer and muffled pipes. The result? Less drone and less noise on the motorway.
From one Japanese triple-pipe to another, and from the more affordable end of the car world to the very other. The LFA is a Japanese motoring icon, thanks largely to its 4.8-litre naturally-aspirated V10 engine. The ‘1LR-GUE’ was a bespoke engine co-developed with Yamaha, smaller than a V8 and reportedly lighter than a regular Toyota V6. It produced a whopping 560PS (412kW) at 8,700rpm, and could rev from idle to its 9,000rpm redline in 0.6 seconds. Knowing how rev-happy the engine was and wanting to make the most of the engine’s scream, Lexus’ engineers channelled engine noise into the cabin but also designed the exhaust system so that all sound-deadening chambers were bypassed beyond 3,000rpm. If it weren’t for the actual volume, the LFA could be mistaken for an F1 car at full chat.
Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
Ah, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. As a project it was probably pulled in too many different directions by too many people, but when it comes to exhaust style and exhaust noise the SLR did good. The SLR’s 5.4-litre supercharged Mercedes V8 was a deep, gurgling creation, and its side-exit exhaust pipes located just behind the front wheels did a fine job of dumping noise into the world with as much force as possible.
Jaguar E-type V12 Series III
I bet you weren’t expecting to see a Jaguar E-type on this list, were you? The Series III E-type doesn’t get an awful lot of love (and if you look at them you can see why), the earlier E-types being the most valuable and the most sought after for the most part. But the V12 Series III’s quadruple exhaust chisels the E-type name into the exhaust pipe history books. If there is such a thing. A loud and raucous exhaust it is not, but bonkers looking an unexpected it most certainly is.
Chevrolet Corvette C1
Trying to find out exactly which Corvette C1s had exhaust pipes that exited through the rear bumper, and indeed through the middle of the rear lights in some cases, is like trying to catch smoke – the exhausts on Corvettes in the 1950s and ‘60s depended on how much you wanted to pay and which dealer you went to. But suffice to say some Corvette C1s had some very cool exhausts, even if they did prove problematic… The issue, whether the pipe went through the chrome bumper or the rear light, was the dirt that the engine generated, quickly covering everything within a several-inch radius in soot. As a result some of these quirky exhausts have been removed, replaced with trim or other lights, but from time to time you’ll stumble across one with these awesome pipes in place.
Bonkers. Everything about the TVR Sagaris was nuts. The interior was ridiculous, the engine unhinged, the styling utterly silly and the exhausts, well, they were preposterous. It isn’t just that they’re huge and incredibly loud, or that they’re side-exit pipes and that they’re at the rear, but it’s the fact that they don’t even point backwards but sideways, towards the legs of those who’ll be turning to look at you as you drive past. It’s a real shame TVR, as it once was, no longer exists. We need more cars with a whiff of madness about them.
3D printing has so many applications in so many different fields, and for one company it has proved vital to create shapes and structures that would have been otherwise impossible: Koenigsegg.
Ever the experimenter, Christian von Koenigsegg decided to take advantage of 3D printing when creating the One:1. Working with such low-volume production numbers, tooling for new parts would have been incredibly costly and very time consuming. By using 3D printing, however, Koenigsegg could create moulds for carbon-fibre body pieces and test pieces for parts in hours rather than days, and experiment with shapes that wouldn’t have been possible with casting, for example.
Metal 3D printing is where Koenigsegg really started to have some fun. Printing didn’t just bring new shapes but new advantages with strength and weight, too. One part that benefited was the Koenigsegg One:1’s exhaust. Printed in titanium, it is polished and sanded until completely smooth before having an electric current passed through it and being dipped in a special chemical solution. The result is a titanium exhaust that looks as though its colour has changed due to an exposure to heat over time from brand new, and one that weighs around 400g less than it would have done if it hadn’t been 3D printed. A tiny gain, but when you’re trying to create one of the lightest and most powerful cars in the world, every gram counts.
Zonda, 918, SLR, E-type, Corvette and Koenigsegg images courtesy of Bonhams.
Which car has the best exhaust?
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