The exhaust system is often one of the first things Mustang owners upgrade. Combined with a cold air intake and a custom tune, a new exhaust can help your S197 breathe better and achieve its full performance potential.
While axle-back kits offer an affordable way to alter your exhaust sound, cat-back exhausts are more comprehensive. They free up the restrictive factory exhaust to give you more power and an improved exhaust note.
With so many aftermarket options, it can be hard to find the right cat-back exhaust for your S197. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best cat-backs broken out by category.
Best for GT
The Borla ATAK cat-back exhaust for 2005-2009 GT Mustangs is the most aggressive exhaust available from Borla. It’s designed using Acoustically-Tuned Applied Kinetics, or ATAK. This technology produces the highest decibel levels without sacrificing clarity or adding distortion.
For 2011-2014 GTs, the JBA 3” cat-back exhaust with 4” tips delivers power, sound, and quality. Each JBA system is tuned to provide the best possible exhaust tone that doesn’t sound too overwhelming inside the cabin.
Another good option for ‘11-‘14 GTs is the MBRP Aluminized Series 3" Race system. It’s made from heavy-duty aluminized steel that lowers temperature while providing max flow. It offers an aggressive exhaust note, better fuel economy, and improved performance. You can expect gains of around 5 horsepower and 10 torque with this bolt-on exhaust.
Best for V6
Although a V6 won’t make as much power as the GT, adding a cat-back exhaust is one way to bump up the performance and sound.
For '05-'09 V6 Mustangs, the Ford Performance Touring True Dual Exhaust is a great option. It comes with a pair of Bullitt-style mufflers with 3-1/2" steel polished tips. They’re OE reproductions of the ones on the 2008 Bullitt Mustang. You will need to cut the rear bumper for this exhaust to fit, though.
The Borla ATAK cat-back system is one of the loudest street-legal systems for 2011-2014 V6s. The mufflers pump out volume without exhaust drone or distortion.
Borla’s Stinger S-Type exhaust is another good option. They have a straight-through baffled design that can help you achieve that deep muscle-car sound.
Top Picks by S197 Owners
What better way to find out what exhaust is best than by checking out what’s popular with other S197 owners? Here are some of the top choices from some of our S197 customers.
The MBRP XP Series cat-back exhaust for ‘05-‘10 GTs and ‘07-’10 GT500s is Bill's Pick for harnessing that classic muscle car sound.
For 2011-2012 GTs, Bill recommends Borla’s ATAK cat-back exhaust, as it’s one of the loudest options available.
Bill’s pick for ‘11-‘14 GT and ‘11-‘12 GT500 owners is the Ford Performance 3” cat-back exhaust. It perfectly captures that loud, raspy race car growl that many Mustang owners are after.
Best Power Boost
2005-2009 V6 Mustangs can get a power boost and a more aggressive sound from Ford Performance’s Touring True Dual Exhaust Kit.
Roush’s Off-Road cat-back exhaust adds increased power and a mean sound to any ‘05-‘09 GT Mustang or ‘07-‘09 GT500. The higher flow system generates more power compared to a conventional exhaust system.
The MBRP Black Series Race cat-back system adds a power boost by using minimal bends, smooth piping, and high-flow mufflers to add horsepower to any 2011-2014 GT.
Even though cat-back exhausts are often more expensive than axle-backs, there are still some budget options. These are some value picks that don’t sacrifice performance or sound for affordability.
What’s Next After a Cat-Back Exhaust?
Pairing a cat-back exhaust with a cold air intake can open up both sides of the engine for more power. Once you have an exhaust and a cold air intake, a tune can help give you the most optimal air-fuel ratios so you can achieve the best performance possible.
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This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.