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Review: Stillen Catback Exhaust

After deliberating for months on which CBE to purchase and even attempting a muffler delete, I decided on the Stillen CBE. For the record, this was one of the first

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Old 10-04-2009, 12:45 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Thumbs up Review: Stillen Catback Exhaust

After deliberating for months on which CBE to purchase and even attempting a muffler delete, I decided on the Stillen CBE. For the record, this was one of the first catbacks available for the 370Z and over the last few months has lost some 'excitement' compared with some new CBEs now on the market. Also, various people have suggested that Stillen no longer makes quality products while others have reported numerous issues while trying to install and fit this exhaust. May the following be just one more review which will hopefully set some of the record and rumors straight.

Background:
Since I bought the 370Z in March, I've loved the car but felt that they gave it an exhaust of a Versa. It just didn't have the growl and pizzazz that a sportscar exhaust should have. About two months ago I found a local shop that removed my stock muffler and fabricated some pipes and tips to enact a muffler delete. The sound was SURREAL! The 3.7VQ can sound like an uncaged beast if we only gave it a chance. Unfortunately, the muffler delete was too raw for me, leading to resonance and ear-pounding drone at certain RPMs (specifically the 4-5k range). I woefully swapped back to the stock exhaust and started the search for the right catback. The muffler delete did help me realize an important point. The 370Z engine/exhaust has some 'hot spots' where you really get more sound at some spots in the RPM range than others. I've found these to be mainly 2k RPM and 4-5k RPM while under load. On the stock exhaust, you hear almost no exhaust note until you get in these ranges under load. With the muffler delete, everything sounds fabulous UNTIL you get in these ranges and then your ears start to bleed. The mission: find a CBE with an in-between sound.

Stillen CBE:
After pondering the FI catback and comparing with other models on the market, I decided that the Stillen option was the best for me. I've never heard the FI exhaust in person, but from the videos it sounded to have many of the low, resonating qualities of the muffler delete. While sounding great, I couldn't handle loud low frequencies reverberating throughout the car in an everyday driver.

Since the Stillen CBE release, people have been giving some mixed reviews of Stillen products. Some claim poor build quality while others have noted problems with fitting the exhaust and clearance issues with the crossmember supports. Here is my experience.

I ordered the Stillen CBE early last week. It was delivered to my local installer directly in 4 days via Fedex. Their shipping was prompt and customer service excellent. I had the exhaust installed today and it was completely painless when done on a dedicated lift. There was no need for a screw jack to support the exhaust while tightening the bolts, everything fit together perfectly, and there were ZERO issues with clearance or hitting parts of the undercarriage. My hypothesis is that people who have noted these problems either 1) had an early version produced before Stillen made adjustments or 2) installed some of the components up-side-down. The Y-pipe has a slight bend in it to help clear the crossmember. If you put it in up-side-down, the bend will actually make the Y-pipe rest on the crossmember. As I stated, the exhaust went in easily, but I do recommend two people so one can hold the exhaust while the other tightens bolts. Also of note, there are a number of slip joints to help with aligning the muffler/tips. While some people have claimed this is a feature of 'cheap' products, I found them helpful for a clean installation. You can either use the Stillen U bolts to hold the slip joints in place or have a professional weld them once you have the exhaust on.

As for the final, installed product...I couldn't be happier. The overall fit, finish, and quality is excellent. Time will tell how the exhaust holds up to the elements and road salt, but so far I'm very pleased. Sound wise, I'd say the Stillen CBE is an amplified stock exhaust. Essentially, it's what the stock car SHOULD have sounded like. There is no drone or rasp inside the car at any RPM. At idle, the exhaust has a nice, low purr that opens up nicely into a hearty growl as you accelerate. Overall I'd describe it as very sporty and SMOOTH. The 'hot spots' in the RPM range at 2k and 4-5k RPM sound fantastic with the exhaust note filling the car but never becoming too loud or resonating. Essentially, the exhaust is the loudest I would reasonably tolerate while under heavy acceleration in the 'hot' RPM zones. Don't think this is a tame setup...it reverberates off buildings downtown and set off a car alarm on my drive home. An added benefit is that many of our 'seasoned' members here have attested that the Stillen CBE works and sounds great with HFCs too.

To better clarify how this sound relates to the stock and muffler delete, check this out:

Loudness Scale:
1----------------2--------3------4

1:stock 2:Stillen 3:FI? 4:Muffler Delete

I threw the FI exhaust on there as a guess. Again, I haven't heard it in person, but from the videos I think it's closer to the muffler delete in terms of loudness .

Here are a few pics of the exhaust...unfortunately I got to drive home in a rain storm. The overall look is pretty sweet. Stillen used HUGE tips that look like sewer drains. I like the sportiness of them a lot. I'll get some vids up once my buddy with the HD camcorder is back from vacation.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg _DSC3811 2009-10-03 001.jpg (254.8 KB, 585 views)
File Type: jpg _DSC3812 2009-10-03 002.jpg (287.6 KB, 515 views)
File Type: jpg _DSC3813 2009-10-03 003.jpg (276.5 KB, 300 views)
File Type: jpg _DSC3814 2009-10-03 004.jpg (305.0 KB, 285 views)
File Type: jpg _DSC3816 2009-10-03 005.jpg (248.8 KB, 259 views)
File Type: jpg _DSC3817 2009-10-03 006.jpg (237.4 KB, 244 views)
1st and 2014370z like this.

Last edited by spearfish25; 10-04-2009 at 07:46 AM.
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Old 10-04-2009, 12:50 AM   #2 (permalink)
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nice review, your loudness scale confuses me! is it the ^ or | denoting marks


and to clarify, its significantly quieter than your delete?
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Old 10-04-2009, 12:55 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Fixed the scale...it didn't keep the formatting after submitting the post.

I'll get some decibel readings on the exhaust tomorrow for an objective comparison. It's definitely quieter than the muffler delete. The delete truly hurt my ears inside the car during acceleration over 4k RPM. The Stillen never does this but during heavy acceleration you'll surely hope a cop isn't around to hear it. The main difference is that the Stillen CBE is much more refined sounding and is much quieter though still very audible at idle and low RPM. The muffler delete was in your face at all times....very fun at low RPMs but shaking panels and damaging hearing when accelerating. (the delete would be awesome on a track day, but not EVERY day)
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Old 10-04-2009, 01:56 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks for the review Spearfish, looks like I have to put the Stillen one back on my list of potentials. I'm starting to dislike the sound of my Berk HFC's with
stock exhaust more and more. So I think it'll be back to stock cats and then getting a New CBE.
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Old 10-04-2009, 07:45 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JB1 View Post
Thanks for the review Spearfish, looks like I have to put the Stillen one back on my list of potentials. I'm starting to dislike the sound of my Berk HFC's with
stock exhaust more and more. So I think it'll be back to stock cats and then getting a New CBE.
One additional reason I chose the Stillen is that many of our senior forum members have the Stillen CBE with Berk or Stillen HFCs. They have no complaints about the combo and say there is still no drone but perhaps a touch of rasp. I like the idea of being able to add HFCs without compromising my sound quality so I went with the Stillen CBE.

Just as a note, there is NO rasp with the Stillen CBE alone.
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Old 10-04-2009, 08:12 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spearfish25 View Post
One additional reason I chose the Stillen is that many of our senior forum members have the Stillen CBE with Berk or Stillen HFCs. They have no complaints about the combo and say there is still no drone but perhaps a touch of rasp. I like the idea of being able to add HFCs without compromising my sound quality so I went with the Stillen CBE.

Just as a note, there is NO rasp with the Stillen CBE alone.
Congrats on your new CBE! I recommend adding a HFC. Great bang for the buck so to speak. The HFC will add some rasp.
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Old 10-06-2009, 10:14 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks for the review I wonder if the earlier versions of the exhaust had the slight bend in the Y pipe or was this the fix for the cross member rubbing issue? Either way nice to see it fits without rubbing issues, I always liked the look and sound of this exhaust just didn't want any installation issues.

I think I am still going to do the Berk HFC first then pull the trigger on an exhaust, Stillen's Cat Back is now a consideration again!
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Old 10-06-2009, 11:45 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I keep enjoying the exhaust more and more as time goes on. The sound is perfect and reaches the ideal loudness level when you floor it. It's definitely not a quiet exhaust but it's well balanced to control interior sound resonance without compromising exterior sound quality.
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Old 10-06-2009, 12:31 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I never liked the fitment of the stillen exhaust.. the drivers side looks good but the passenger side looks too far over to the left and doesnt fit in the center of the cutout.
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Old 10-06-2009, 01:00 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I noticed this too but I think it can be adjusted by adjusting the position of the exhaust in the rubber hangers. I pulled on the passenger side a bit the other day and it was better. I'll look again tonight. It's a pretty minor alignment issue that I think a bit of tinkering could fix.

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Old 10-06-2009, 02:16 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I would love to see and hear a side by side exhaust comparison. Several 370's with the different hfc's and back or just cat back exhuast systems side by side rev'd upped, launched etc... filmed by the same video camera at the same location, one after another. That video would help those on fence choose which direction they would like to go. IMO anyway.


2 days until a nice big box from FI arrives at my house. I fell off the fence a couple weeks ago. HFC's w/ 18" CF res
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Old 10-07-2009, 02:48 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Nice review and the exhaust looks great! I gotta hear that thing in person.
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Old 10-07-2009, 05:42 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chotyme View Post
Nice review and the exhaust looks great! I gotta hear that thing in person.
Hoping to meet another forum member by Brookfield Zoo on Sunday afternoon if traffic permits after the Chicago Marathon. Let me know if you're interested in stopping by.
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Old 10-07-2009, 06:15 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Great review. I have to agree with all of your observations. I have the Stillen HFC's with the Stillen CBE. I had zero fit & finish issues. And like you said, maybe certain people were installing the pipe upsidedown (?). I love the sound (rumble). Although at certain RPM's, the resonance can annoy my old ears. But a full throttle burn reminds me of some of life's great pleasures. The match between the Stillen HFC's & their CBE is perfect (IMO). I've heard the FI exhaust, and to me it sounds like a raspy rice-burner (like an SI Civic with a large "can" muffler).

The customer service that Kyle at Stillen provided me was second to none. To me, it's a no-brainer. With the experience I had with them, it's a shame everytime I see someone who "bad-mouths" Stillen and their products.

(Please don't flame me for my opinions)
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Old 10-07-2009, 06:21 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daishi View Post
I never liked the fitment of the stillen exhaust.. the drivers side looks good but the passenger side looks too far over to the left and doesnt fit in the center of the cutout.
Mine fits perfect. I'm sorry I don't have any pictures on this computer that show the back of my car. I'll try and post some later, but my fit is just perfect.
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