Best Exhaust for C5 Corvette

The C5 Corvette was a revolutionary design that captured the classic essence of America’s only sports car while heralding a new age. The C5 was the first ‘Vette to take advantage of the brilliant LS1 engine that is capable of building head-snapping power while remaining reliable and fuel-efficient enough to avoid paying a gas guzzler tax. Here is the deal: if you want to improve the looks and performance of your C5 Corvette, a cat-back or axle-back kit is a good way to go. The best exhaust for C5 Corvette owners that we’ve found are all products made by Borla. We found a couple that give you different looks and a few that you should avoid. We’ll show you why buying the right exhaust is the best option.

C5 Corvette exhaust

Best Exhaust for C5 Corvette – Top Picks:

Borla 140017Borla 12649QTP Electric CutoutsSR*S Quad-TipAuto Dynasty QuadCCIYU 3
OEM Part Number140017‎12649‎QTEC50‎SRS-CHEVY-CORVETTE9704BTCBE-CC97-LS1-6‎105240-5210-1836271263
Model Years1997-20041997-20041997-20041997-20041997-20041997-2004
Engine TypeV8 5.7LV8 5.7LV8 5.7LV8 5.7LV8 5.7LV8 5.7L
Item Weight (pounds)40.5243No data61‎51.2
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The following products are tested and have proven to be superior options for replacing your factory exhaust kit. You’ll get a deep, throaty sound that lets everyone know how high-performance your C5 is while giving the tail-end a new, custom look that helps your C5 stand out from the crowd.

Best High-End: Borla 140017

Borla 140017

So, here is a funny thing. Cars like the C5 Corvette are fast and powerful. Everyone knows that and you don’t have to put ridiculous sounding exhaust components on these cars to trick people into thinking your car is fast. This S-Type system from Borla builds a throatiness in the exhaust note as you accelerate but keeps the idle and mid-range tones very mellow. The advantage is that you can enjoy the sound of the exhaust at all RPMs without droning, vibration, or tin-canny sounds like you’ll get with cheap products. If you’re looking for something to just make your car loud, this isn’t it.

The Borla 140017 is made from T-304 stainless steel. This is an optimal material for high-performance exhaust components that are built to last. It’ll resist corrosion from exhaust fumes, salt and dirt from road surfaces, and it polishes beautifully. Dual resonator chambers modulate the exhaust note so that only the desirable frequencies are heard. The tones that make droning sounds are minimized, so all you get is pure, unadulterated, sexy sound.

The kit finishes off with dual rolled-edge “phantom” exhaust tips made from the same T-304 stainless as the rest of the exhaust components. Installation is straight-forward and all brackets line up correctly. The exhaust tips fit perfectly and are level, unlike most of the low-cost kits on the market today. That makes it easy to DIY this swap because you won’t need to cut and weld to get the tips lined up correctly.


  • Excellent looking system that bolts up without any trouble
  • Sleek exhaust tips provide a unique performance look
  • Slightly increases overall volume of exhaust note while preventing droning


  • A significant financial investment for a part that does little to add value or performance

Best Mid-Range: Borla 12649

Borla 12649

The first Borla kit we showed you keeps the tone mild and street-oriented. Now, if you are looking for something more than mild, you’ve got a great option with this kit from Borla. The 12649 is made from T-304 aircraft-grade stainless steel and eliminates the resonators that restrict the volume and tone of your exhaust. This kit will induce some buzziness and interior drone, particularly at freeway cruising speeds, but when you crack the throttle wide-open, you’ll be rewarded with a sound that’s right at home on the track without violating emissions laws, even in California.

The kit starts with over-axle pipes in T-304 and bypasses the factory S-Type bend and resonators, giving you a straight pipe exhaust look. This product is designed specifically to fit the Z06 C5 Corvette, but you can modify the brackets and the mounting hardware to make it work on other models, even the base C5. It should be noted that removing the rear sway bar will be necessary to get everything aligned and bolted down properly. Most buyers took this kit to an exhaust shop to get the install done on a lift rather than trying to fight with it in the driveway.

Standard Borla T-304 tips keep the sound loud without adding resonators to reduce the volume. This is a dual exit system rather than the popular four-exit design used by many companies. Dual tips help keep costs reasonable while giving you a classic performance look and sound. Adding other performance mods, like an X-Pipe and catalytic converter delete (illegal on street cars in the US) improves the sound tremendously and gives your C5 track-level noise that’s perfect for annoying your neighbors.


  • Gives you a very loud exhaust with some drone
  • Looks like the performance exhaust you’d find on a classic Corvette
  • Straight-forward installation on Z06 ‘Vettes


  • Requires modification to fit on base model C5
  • Too loud for daily drivers
  • Induces quite a bit of interior drone sound at freeway cruising speeds

Best Modified Exhaust: QTP Electric Cutouts

QTP Electric Cutouts

Around town and on the freeway, the stock, subtle sound of performance from your C5 Corvette is very liveable. Then there are days where having your car sound as fast as it really is comes along and you start thinking about modifying the system. Wish you could have the best of both worlds? Well, here is the ultimate solution from Quick Time Performance. This pair of electric cutouts opens your exhaust up for track-day and shuts down for street sound.

Cutouts are simple devices that have been around for decades. In essence, they function like a valve that redirects the exhaust from the stock pipes to a wide-open exit. In the old days, you had to get under the car and remove a plate to make it work, but now thanks to modern electronics, you can wire these cutouts up to a switch. Go from race car exhaust to stock in seconds with the flip of a switch. You’ll never have to worry about emissions laws since the cutouts retain all of the factory exhaust, but you might want to keep your eyes open for Johnny Law if you are driving around on the street with the cutouts open.

These are high-quality cutouts that weld in place anywhere behind the exhaust manifold or headers. Everything you need to install is included in the kit, so you won’t be running around town buying wiring, switches, or other parts. It is highly recommended that these be professionally installed since they’ll need to be welded in place.


  • Easy way to add full race car performance to a stock car without changing the entire exhaust
  • Big time loud sound when open
  • Electric switches make opening and closing fast


  • Probably going to get you in trouble if you are driving on the street with the cutouts open

Best Burnt Tip: SR*S Quad-Tip

SRS Quad-Tip

If you like the look of burnt tips, you can either lean your car out until the stainless steel overheats and gives you that burnt look, or you can swap in a kit like this one. This quad-tip kit is essentially a Chinese copy of a Borla kit that artificially colors the exhaust tips to give you that burned-up look that some people think is cool.

The exhaust is listed as T-304 stainless steel, but buyers should be aware that products manufactured in China do not have to meet the stringent requirements of US manufacturing in regard to the actual content of stainless in the T-304. Essentially, due to the lack of laws in China, they can just label shiny metal as T-304. There are practically no reviews online and the manufacturer does not provide any sound clips or other documentation to describe the quality or sound.

The only verified installation of this kit had few problems other than aligning the tips. This kit is best installed by two people and you’ll need a straight board to make sure you get the tips lined up correctly. The included clamps are of very low quality and should be discarded.


  • Gives your C5 a race car-like look with the burnt tips
  • Slightly louder than stock
  • Some moderate drone at freeway speeds


  • Mailing address for the company is invalid which takes away from consumer confidence

Products to Avoid

Whenever you are looking at upgrading any parts on your C5 Corvette, you are going to want to keep a wary eye out for inferior junk being passed off as something decent. These are some examples of products we wouldn’t buy, and we will show you why.

Auto Dynasty Store Quad Tip Exhaust

Auto Dynasty Quad

This is a nice-looking system, at least in the few pictures available. A search online reveals that there is a company called ‘Auto Dynasty’ that sells car parts -just not exhaust kits for C5 Corvettes. They sell headlights, fender arches, and other products mostly for Dodge and Jeep trucks and SUVs. This should be a red-flag to anyone looking for good-quality parts -if you can’t find the company online, don’t trust them.

The product they sell has very few reviews, also not a good sign. The one review we found for this exact product claims the metal is extremely thin to the point that the system jiggles while the car is running. Nothing makes a performance car look more cheap than wobbly, poor fitting parts. A lack of reviews and indications that quality is subpar should be enough to convince you to look elsewhere.

Here is the final kicker for us on this product: cost. For roughly the same amount of money -and maybe even less- you can pick up the best quality cat-back kit from Borla that is made in the US and is a trusted company using verifiable materials. It doesn’t make sense to spend lots of money on untested parts when the same money buys you tried and proven performance solutions.


  • Does a good job of looking like a high quality component


  • Unverifiable company with now contact information or country of origin information
  • No positive reviews and reviews that indicate low quality, thin metal
  • As expensive as the best kit from Borla

CCIYU Long-Tube Headers


Long-tube headers for under $350? What a fantastic deal! Headers from a company like American Racing are over $2,000 just for the most basic designs. Well, this is definitely a case of “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” You’ll quickly notice a few major problems that indicate you should just pass this ‘Great Deal’ on by.

One of the things we often notice when looking at products online is that reputable companies take the time to make sure the product descriptions are free of spelling and grammatical errors. So when we see a mind-blowingly cheap part that has all the right specs for a great performance upgrade with misspelled descriptions, we know that something isn’t right. When the product lists a ‘Warm Tip’ and says things like “Most satisfied replis will be offered if any problem or defect occurs.” It’s almost like this manufacturer wants you to know that this header is junk. And yeah, the typo is on the product description.

The biggest thing is the price. You just simply can’t buy a good quality, well-made exhaust header that will actually increase performance for that kind of money. Maybe you get lucky with this one, but we’d be willing to bet that you’ll have major fitment issues, constant leaks, and absolutely no performance gain.


  • It’s so cheap that if it doesn’t work, you can just throw it out


  • Everything about this product indicates that it is low-quality and won’t work well


The best way to improve the tone and appearance of your C5 Corvette is by adding the best exhaust system. In our research, we consistently found owners who were more than satisfied with products from Borla. The American-made and verifiable T-304 stainless construction means that you’ll get a superior part that will last and sound good. Upgrading the cat-back exhaust is a simple way to change the appearance of your car while giving it a different sound. Buy the best the first time and save yourself the frustration.