Our blog has guides for most of the basic bolt-on mods for the BMW N55 engine. We always overlook exhaust upgrades, less the downpipe. There's a reason we've skipped over exhausts, though. They're pricey for minimal performance gains when you compare exhaust mods to tunes, downpipes, intercoolers, etc. However, aftermarket exhaust setups do have a few benefits of their own. In this guide, we will discuss the benefits of exhaust systems and list a few of the best options for the N55.
N55 Upgraded Exhaust Performance
To note - we are ignoring downpipes in this post. We have a separate guide for N55 downpipe upgrades here. Of course, the downpipe is a part of the N55 exhaust system. We don't want to include that for a reason, though. A downpipe (DP) provides the vast majority of the power and performance benefits. Catless DP's offer somewhere around 15-25whp on the N55. The rest of the exhaust only offers power gains in the ballpark of 0-5whp.
Point is - small horsepower gains are possible. However, we do not recommend N55 exhaust upgrades for the power and performance alone. There are better, less expensive mods to squeeze that kind of power out of the engine. Exhaust mods should primarily be left to those wanting a louder, more aggressive sound.
N55 Exhaust Weight Savings
This may be one of the more compelling reasons to upgrade your exhaust. We'll try to provide exact weight savings for each of the products below. However, weight savings typically fall in the ballpark of 10-50 pounds. Catless N55 systems without mufflers will provide the best weight savings. However, it's also going to be very loud.
The weight savings might sound nice on paper, and they will help a tiny bit in a straight line. When it comes to handling, the exhaust weight savings won't help much. That's because the exhaust lies so low on the car. For example, Teslas weigh a lot yet they still handle fairly well for their size and weight. A lot of the Tesla's weight lies down low. The same concept applies to the N55 or any other car. Removing weight will help regardless, but weight savings lower to the ground are less valuable.
N55 Exhaust Sounds
There's not really a way to write about specific sounds from each exhaust. We'll try to add in a few videos below. Regardless, sounds are the primary reason to upgrade the N55 exhaust. Videos don't always do justice, either. Certain exhaust systems may be much too loud for some.
If you want your N55 to be as loud as possible you should consider catless options with no muffler. Those concerned about being too loud should definitely avoid this. Stick with a high-flow catted exhaust and/or an option that includes a muffler.
N55 Cat back vs Axleback
Final topic before moving onto a few of our favorite exhaust options for the N55. Catback and axleback exhausts are something to keep in mind. A catback typically replaces the entire exhaust system from the N55 downpipe back (not including the downpipe). An axleback exhaust replaces the exhaust from the rear axle back. As such, these systems leave the stock cats in place. It's typically just the mufflers and exhaust tips that will be different.
That said, a fully catless catback exhaust will provide the best performance benefits. They will shave the most weight and offer the best N55 power gains. Even then, most will probably only pick up 3-5whp. That may be optimistic, too.
Best N55 Upgraded Exhausts
This section is, of course, highly subjective. As we laid out above, sounds are really the main reason to pull the trigger on an N55 exhaust upgrade. Those who are content with the sound of their N55 should look to other mods for power. Otherwise, if you're set on an aftermarket exhaust you'll probably want to buy one based on sounds, looks, and price. Tons of options exist for the N55, so check out your choices before buying. Anyways, we think the following N55 exhausts offer a great balance of price, quality, and sound.
**We'll try to provide options that exist for the E and F chassis N55 engines. The fitment will be different, but most well-known companies will have an exhaust for most N55 engines.
1. N55 VRSF Catback Exhaust
We run countless VRSF products on all of our BMWs and recommend them for good reason. Great products for a great price. VRSF has plenty of exhaust options for the N55. The E chassis 335i receives the choice between the VRSF street or race exhaust. Street systems include a muffler while the race exhaust does not have a muffler. Both are catless and come at the same price of $779.99.
They also offer an F chassis catback exhaust for the 335i and 435i. These do include a muffler, so they're effectively the same as the above N55 street system for the E9x BMW's. All of these exhausts are well-priced and come from a well-known, quality company. If you like the sounds it's hard to go wrong with VRSF.
Price: $779.99 (E Chassis) $799.99 (F Chassis)
Weight Savings: 40-60 pounds (E Chassis), 22 pounds (F Chassis)
2. Turner Motorsports N55 Valved Catback System
We're throwing this in as a unique option. Turner Motorsports offers an N55 catback system with mufflers and exhaust valves. Unfortunately, there are only two settings but some might enjoy having the options. With the valve closed the exhaust sounds remain fairly modest and similar to stock. Open up the N55 exhaust valves and it sounds like a true upgraded exhaust.
They're a bit pricey at $1,500 for the E9x N55 and $1,375 for the F chassis N55 models. It probably wouldn't be our top option for price alone. However, the real selling point may be the valves for those who don't want a loud exhaust all the time. Unfortunately, we could only find sound clips of the exhaust on the N54 engine. Nonetheless, the above video gives a good idea of how big a difference the valves make.
Price: $1375 - 1,500
Weight Savings: No data found. Assuming ~30-40 pounds for the E Chassis and 10-20 pounds for F Chassis
Buy Here: N55 Turner Valved Exhaust System
3. N55 Dinan Axle-Back Exhaust
Most BMW owners are probably familiar with Dinan. You may also know you're paying quite a bit of extra money for the brand name. This probably wouldn't be our preferred choice for an axleback. It's just too pricey. However, it's available for both the E and F chassis N55 engines. As such, we're more so listing this to show the possibilities with exhaust systems.
The Dinan axleback simply replaces the muffler and exhaust tips. There probably aren't any performance gains to be had, and weight savings will be minimal compared to a full N55 exhaust.
BMW N55 Exhaust Upgrades Summary
Upgraded exhausts are a fairly simple bolt-on mod for the E and F chassis N55 BMWs. However, it's an N55 mod we don't discuss often since they're expensive for minimal performance gains. Depending on the exhaust setup you may pick up about 5whp and save 20-50 pounds of weight. We wouldn't recommend an exhaust just for these reasons. However, exhausts are a great mod for N55 owners looking to get some louder, more aggressive notes from their engine.
The above products are just a starting point since most will probably look for an exhaust with the best balance of price, quality, and sounds. We do really like the VRSF option, though. Especially if you like the sounds of the N55 VRSF exhaust. Otherwise, check out some videos or try to find some local N55s with upgraded exhausts. Pick the one that you think sounds best and fits your goals and budget. That's really all there is to N55 exhaust mods.
Do you have an N55 exhaust? Are you considering one?
Drop a comment and let us know!
If you are looking for more N55 engine content, check out our Ultimate BMW N55 Engine Guide!