Updated on March 16, 2022
If you’ve followed my site for a while, then you may recall that I had almost no interest in upgrading my exhaust. I had even added a resonator to suppress the extra drone that resulted when I upgraded to an APR down pipe. Why the change of heart? Why mess with a good recipe for sound control on my car? When I added the resonator, the installer had to add some 3-inch pipe and a reducer to adapt it to the factory 2.75-inch pipe. His work was not as pretty as I had hoped, but the welds were someplace that almost no one would see. Then a sharp-eyed YouTube viewer noticed a leak at that new weld. That’s when my mind’s wheels began to turn…
Sure, I could have taken the car back for more shoddy workmanship and perhaps a chance for a new leak. Instead, I decided to pursue an upgrade by Baun Performance, LLC. The proprietor, Jake Baun (aka “GTI Jake” at GolfMk7.com), had caught my attention years ago with his sensible approach to upgrades. He builds exhaust and intercooler systems in his home workshop. I was very tempted by his valved system, which allows drivers to switch between a muffled exhaust and nearly wide-open with the flick of a remote switch. Here’s a photo of that impressive system. My reality is that the switch would be off 99.99% of the time and not worth the $800 upgrade… not for me and my purposes, anyway. Later, it was easy for me to conclude that I made a wise decision. You’ll understand after reading more.
Instead, I chose his “Less Aggressive” cat-back exhaust (CBE), which consists of a Vibrant 17950 resonator, a Borla Pro XS muffler, his expertly-crafted 3-inch food grade 304L stainless steel pipes (non-food grade 304L forward of the axle), and a pair of attractive Jones 4-inch double-wall tips. At the time, Jake referred to this setup as his “most adult” system. 😉 He does not maintain an inventory of completed exhaust systems. Everything is paid in advance and built to order.
You may recall that I had bonding straps on my stock exhaust in support of my ham radio suite. Not wanting to put clamps on Jake’s beautiful work, I had him add some 3/8″ stainless steel studs in key places so that I could bond the exhaust without using clamps. They turned out great. Most of Jake’s customers choose to have his products shipped to them. Jake lives about 5-6 hours from me. I enjoy a good road trip; so, I made a plan to pay him a visit and have him install the system.
I took the car on a good test drive, including a few bumpy roads to ensure that the exhaust had no rattles or misalignments, as well as a few places where I could put on some speed. I noticed extra volume right away. Admittedly, that was a bit of a turn-off, but it wasn’t enough for me to have buyer’s remorse. The true test of volume was driving in the mountains with my trailer in tow. With the trailer and steep hills, the exhaust drone was a bit much… not unbearable, just undesirable. The drone reduced as I descended from the mountains and drove on flatter roads. And it was even better with the trailer uncoupled. Regardless, the extra exhaust note was tolerable in light of my next observation.
I’ll preface what comes next with the fact that I’m a perpetual skeptic: I had never been a firm believer that cat-backs do much to add power. With that said, I was pleasantly surprised to notice more “oomph” during acceleration. At first, I wondered if was a placebo effect or maybe the sense of thrust that comes after pulling a trailer for nearly 400 miles and then disconnecting it. But there was more. I also noticed that my ASR indicator was flashing more than usual… and at higher RPM. Driving with traction control disabled brought out a little more thrust. Jake said that he hadn’t dyno’d the difference, but it’s likely that I had picked up 10-15 hp by opening the exhaust. All I know is that the extra thrust more than makes up for the added exhaust volume.
Update: After about 18 months, I expressed an interest for Jake to design a quieter system. I made it clear that I had no intention of removing his Less Aggressive CBE if he could not accommodate my request, but I also shared that I was eager to tame the volume of the exhaust. He did not disappoint me with this solution. Here is his “Stealth Dual” option, which is an add-on to his Less Aggressive CBE. I could have had him ship it to me since all of his axle-back components are interchangeable. Instead, I traveled to him to capture video footage and to evaluation another option, his “Stealth Suitcase” option. Both options tame the exhaust note, but the Suitcase is truly a pleasure for someone who likes the idea of having a quick car that doesn’t draw unwanted attention while having a bit of fun. It’s almost as quiet as stock.
I highly recommend Baun Performance! Some may be intimidated by his pricing. But consider the fact that each of his pieces are hand-built to order from high-grade stainless steel parts that are TIG welded and Argon back-purged. Odds are good that any of his systems will outlast the rest of the car. So, save those pennies if you want the good stuff! 😉 See Jake’s complete price list on his FB page, as well as photos of his impressive work. See my video series about these system on my Baun Performance playlist.