Mercedes-Benz E-Class and E-Class AMG: Exhaust Modification

Most owners who purchase a Mercedes-Benz are after a quiet, comfortable ride, while still enjoying a good bit of performance from time to time. While many individuals will never question the silent exhaust note, gearheads and auto-enthusiasts will want to unleash the beast within to let the exhaust note be heard. There are plenty of exhaust modifications available for the w211 that will boost performance and allow the engine to sing.

By Joseph Coelho - July 9, 2015

This article applies to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and E-Class AMG w211 (2002-2009)

A good portion of engineering and testing has gone into making the exhaust note of the w211 quiet, unobtrusive, and comfortable while driving. For many, this is completely acceptable and may be one of the primary reasons they have chosen a Mercedes as their perfect car. For more performance oriented individuals, the exhaust note can come across as muted and diminish the enjoyment of a great performance-luxury car. Fortunately for the auto-enthusiasts out there, the aftermarket has answered your calling and has a wide variety of exhaust system components to not only improve your car's exhaust note, but also increase performance. So whether you are looking for a mild or wild exhaust system, this article will outline available exhaust modification options for the Mercedes-Benz w211 E-Class.

Exhaust Modifications

When it comes to exhaust modifications for the E-Class, there are three basic components that can be replaced or modified: headers, mid-pipes, and mufllers. Beginning with the front of the car, headers attach to the engine's cylinder heads and collect the emerging exhaust gasses. These gases then make their way down through the mid-pipe, which houses the catalytic converters and resonator. Before exiting the car, the exhaust gasses must pass through the mufflers at the rear of the vehicle to suppress the sound once more. A combination of new aftermarket components can be put together to achieve the desired sound characteristics and performance increases that the owner may be searching for. While some of these components can be a bit pricey, especially if installing multiple components at the same time, a good chunk of change can be saved by doing the install yourself as the installation is usually straightforward.

Figure 1. E-Class exhaust system components.


DIY Cost – $1,000-$3,000

Professional Cost – $1,800+

Skill Level – Moderate; installation involves working in tight spaces, and depending on the brand of headers, it may require welding of the mid-pipe.

Headers can offer a tremendous performance improvement over the stock exhaust manifolds. Headers utilizes a tubular design that allows the exhaust gases to be separately extracted from each cylinder. Many header manufacturers are able to further improve upon the stock components by making the header tubes equal lengths to ensure each cylinder is performing at its best. Conversely, the stock exhaust manifolds are heavy cast pieces that do not allow the exhaust gases to exit the cylinders individually, but instead collect in the one-piece manifold and reduce exhaust flow. In general, a set of headers will allow the engine to breathe more easily, hence more power. Headers alone will not typically change the exhaust note much, but can offer a 7% to 10% increase in horsepower depending on the style used. Note that certain headers will not fit the factory mid-pipes, and will require the installation of new mid-pipes. Recommended for its horsepower increase.


DIY Cost – $500+

Professional Cost – $800+

Skill Level – Easy; most mid-pipes are bolt-on items that require little to no modification to install.

On the w211 E-Class models, the mid-pipe consists of the catalytic converters and resonator. Of all the components that make up the exhaust system of the w211, the mid-pipe is the area that quiets the car down the most. When installing a set of headers, it's common practice to install a set of mid-pipes as well; however, mid-pipes can be coupled with the rest of the factory exhaust setup. Mid-pipes can typically be had with or without catalytic converters fitted. Additionally, mid-pipes differ in variety with some including a true dual design, whereas others use an X-pipe as pictured above. It is controversial whether an X or dual design provides better overall performance. Regardless, either design will yield positive performance gains as opposed to the factory system that snakes its way around and reduces exhaust flow. Most owners recommend keeping the factory exhaust mufflers in place when installing a mid-pipe/mid-pipe and header combo, as the straight through design may become obnoxiously loud for some individuals and reduce driving enjoyment. Mid-pipes will offer a nice European growl from the engine and the occasional pop, bang, and gurgle under deceleration. Expected performance gains can be as high as 8% to 10%, but also expect the exhaust note to be a bit more intrusive while cruising. Recommended for drivers who like a loud sound.


DIY Cost – $1,000-$2,500

Professional Cost – $1,500+

Skill Level – Easy/Moderate; aftermarket mufflers can be easily installed at home with basic tools; however, a muffler delete will often require some fabrication.

Perhaps the most popular exhaust modification for any w211 E-Class model involves the mufflers. The E-Class utilizes primary and secondary catalytic converters, as well as a resonator that are all placed upstream of the mufflers. With these components in place, along with the stock mufflers, the exhaust note is pretty well muted and will leave any car enthusiast wanting more. The easiest way to unleash some of your engine's growl is with a set of aftermarket mufflers, or a muffler delete. Owners who have replaced their OEM mufflers often report a throaty growl when under moderate to heavy acceleration, all while maintaining a comfortable noise level in the cabin. If any drone is present, it is usually mild and minimally intrusive. A muffler upgrade will usually net a 5% increase in horsepower and torque as well as drop some weight over the heavy stock components. Mufflers are typically the best choice for 95% of owners interested in a mild increase in exhaust volume with a slight increase in performance. If looking for the maximum increase in exhaust sound, mufflers coupled with a new mid-pipe will really wake up the neighbors. Recommended for its mild sound and slight increase performance.

Pro Tip

Exhaust notes are very subjective with different notes and resonances appealing to different people. Exhaust components can be mixed and matched to achieve the desired characteristics that the owner is searching for. Additionally, certain companies offer complete exhaust systems that have undergone rigorous development and testing to provide nice performance increases coupled with an enjoyable exhaust note. The choice is yours!

Related Discussions