Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: MBRP Single Side-Exit Exhaust for 5.3L V8 GM engines (w/pictures & video)

For when your limited budget parallels your disregard for manners

Those of us that live in the snow belt are far too familiar with the moisture-and-road-salt-induced rust that eats away at the underside of your winter-battling car or truck. Yet until scientists devise a practical, wide-scale way to treat the roads and effectively prevent such oxidization, we're stuck with snow plows, sanders, and the crappy road surfaces that result. As such, rust inevitably takes its toll on your vehicle, and my Avalanche was no exception. Exhaust system after exhaust system corroded past the point of repair and late in the winter of 2013, the same happened yet again. This time, a strict budget and the recent disintegration of a custom-bent “shop-floor special” in mind, I decided to try a mass-made example from a reputable company. Many forum threads and a $297 Amazon charge later, an MBRP Single Side-Exit Cat-Back exhaust system was en route to its new life fixed to the undercarriage of my Avy. This would mark the fifth aftermarket exhaust system I've had experience with on a 5.3L GM truck motor, in the order of: Gibson, Magnaflow, two random shop-floor custom-bent examples, and now the MBRP. Having gone through the same process so many times, it's safe to say I'm no stranger to the wide world of using a V8 Chevy truck engine to make noise. How did MBRP's budget-minded kit fare? Let's find out...
With tip installed

What we have here is the basic “swept-side” single-exit, which is a fancy way of saying it occupies the same location and has the same style as the factory system. Some like the stock look, others don't; to each their own. The factory-spec appearance does have a “stealth mode” draw to it, and it forces you to focus on the other traits that can really set it apart. Up close the pipes are nicely made (and look much better painted black...more on that later), with nice bends and clean welds. Nothing of show-quality here, but it doesn't look like a hack-job either. Running it without the provided tip creates an even smoother, almost-hidden look, which is fairly badass in my opinion.
Score: 4/5

People generally fit into one of three groups: those craving a NASCAR-style sound, those who want dead silence, and those looking for the “perfect pipes,” which roar when revving and under hard acceleration but packing a quieter demeanor on the highway or when simply cruising along. I fit into the third demographic; there's nothing that can replace a V8 rumble and I absolutely wanted to hear my truck's engine bellow when hitting the loud-pedal, but regularly blowing my eardrums during my eighty daily highway miles wasn't appealing. Hoping for the MBRP to fit into this formula, it didn't turn out to be perfectly on-point with what I had been looking for.

So, how does the MBRP sound? On startup it's not unlike an LS-series motor: thunder upon turning the key, followed by a smooth settling, and an almost subdued but evil character when sitting at idle. Rev the engine and it speaks directly to your inner straight-pipe craving. In gear, though, full throttle produces a sound that is undoubtedly more pleasant on the outside than the inside; there's no escaping the bellow, and inside you lose much of the guttural growl.

Despite this downside, there is a notable upside: deceleration from higher in the RPM range results in barks and pops that are reminiscent of the truck's bowtie-bearing siblings with names like “Corvette” and “Camaro.” (You can hear some of this in the video.) It does indeed evoke muscle-car thoughts, and this is possibly the MBRP's strongest point. Overall, it makes good sounds, those that are only disappointing when you're behind the wheel and on the relentless on the accelerator.
Sound: 3.5/5

Here we have a bi-polar being. Cruising while very low in the RPM range is quieter-than-expected, dare I say even pleasant? Under slow acceleration the noise is audible over the radio, but not overbearing; however, hit a slight incline where the engine is taxed even minimally and out comes every bit of the drone you know has been hiding somewhere in your ears' nightmares. From the middle to the higher end of the powerband there's a semi-unpleasant, very loud sound the emanates everywhere, and you can't do anything about it unless you manage to trick the automatic transmission into upshifting, or turn the radio up to damaging levels. The sound is so prominent and there's simply *so* much of it that you find yourself subconsciously doing everything possible to avoid hitting this range. Bottom line: it's most certainly not for the faint of heart.
Score: 2.5/5

Performance Gains
No, adding an exhaust system won't give you noticeable power gains on its own unless you believe everything the Need For Speed video games taught you. But combine a less restrictive air intake with a free-flowing pipes and you're likely feel a slight improvement to throttle response and see a couple of tenths increase in gas mileage as well (some even claim to gain 2-3 MPG). In my observations, fuel economy gains were similar to those on the power front: a minor but noticeable change if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel. Keep in mind that your results may vary.
Score: 3.5/5

You usually get what you pay for in this department, especially at this price point, and I was pleasantly surprised by the MBRP's quality...until a problem arose only months after it was installed on my Avalanche. In short, the post-muffler hanger cracked off of the pipe in a spot where welding would have been more work than it would have been worth. Usually this would be unacceptable (and don't get me wrong, it was pretty frustrating to have a new exhaust break), but MBRP replaced the damaged section under warranty without question. It wasn't a next-day affair, but after a few weeks (and some black high-temperature spray-paint to prevent further rusting/corrosion) the exhaust was back in full working order and hasn't caused a problem since. Spray painting it was an inexpensive and worthwhile extra step to ensure longevity, and I would highly recommend doing the same for anybody who buys an exhaust that is not stainless steel. Other than this minor hiccup, the quality has been just fine, especially when you factor in the total investment of around $310.
Score: 4/5

A great looking, great sounding, highway-friendly, high-quality exhaust system usually tickets in the $1000 range, give-or-take a few hundred bucks, with high-end prices dancing around the $1500 mark. In the past I bought two of these other systems for the same engine and, though they were better all-around, they also made a much more noticeable dent in my bank account. Accordingly, those on the much less expensive side have a major compromise somewhere, it's just a matter of locating that downfall. At $297, the MBRP kit was definitely inexpensive, but there's a big difference between inexpensive and cheap. What I found with the MBRP system was a pretty decent compromise of money spent vs. overall satisfaction with the exhaust's traits. Simply put: you can't get as much off-the-shelf exhaust for the price, and with the class-leaders costing easily a thousand bucks more, this is truly a hell of a value.
Score: 5/5

Final Thoughts
So would I recommend it? The short answer is yes, but not to everybody. The exhaust makes some great sounds (some of the time) and looks near-stock but makes itself heard through its angry vocals, and all for a fraction of the price of the “brand-name” systems. MBRP's customer service was solid and they stood by their product, and the price was absolutely unbeatable. I'd say if you're rolling in money or don't mind spending the extra for something that will outlive your truck, spring for the exhaust you're dreaming of. However, if budget is even remotely a concern and you can handle the drone, don't hesitate to give the MBRP Single Side-Exit Cat-Back exhaust system a try. And hey, even if you really do regret it, the whole thing only cost as much as a few tanks worth of gas anyways.

Final Score: 3.75/5

Pardon the rust and dirt
-Ross, 10/1/14


  1. Ross - Pretty good write-up. Well written, informative, seems to be very objective, with any opinions backed up with reasons. Good job!
    "Gary P" from the Z71 forum

  2. Wow man, great write up. You posted this over on CAFCNA and I came to check it out. Nice job

  3. This is 09chevyavy by the way. Forgot to add that hahaha

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  5. I got the installer series and went in really good, the only issue I had was that the brake lines were a little to close so I had to pull the back and strap them to the emergency brake cable. Anyone else notice this?

  6. I got the installer series and went in really good, the only issue I had was that the brake lines were a little to close so I had to pull the back and strap them to the emergency brake cable. Anyone else notice this?