F80 M3 AWE SwitchPath Non-Resonated Exhaust Review

F80 M3 AWE SwitchPath Non-Resonated Exhaust Review

September 14, 2018

Some of you guys know the basics of my story.  Poor kid, hard working parents, good education, a bunch of luck and an unquenchable pursuit of success, passion for cars, blah, blah, blah.  Well, I was living the dream and got the cars, house, wife, kids, etc. of my dreams.  Long story short, a week after my daughter was born last year I had a near melt-down where it took me a few months to dig out of the hole.  I used to think of myself as “Superman” but now was confused having eventually been diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive (shocker I know…).  Anyway, part of my recommended mending was to reach out to people rather than living in my own cave, which had been perfectly fine up to this explosion point after taking on the world all by myself.

I needed to let people in.  This has led to my onslaught of the internet forums, local car scene, and of course YouTube.  The response I’ve gotten has made me realize there are others out there like me.  We are just few and far between.

So what the heck does all of this have to do with AWE and an exhaust?  Well a C2S Journal led to, an M3 Journal which led to, a YouTube Channel, which led to a GT3 Journal, which has ultimately led to car guy “internet fame.”  I keep telling my wife she better treat me better because I’m a YouTube sensation.   She scoffs and rolls her eyes stating, “What’s that going to get you, a bunch of boyfriends?”

One of the things I’ve been missing out on in this world is that when you put yourself out there (assuming you’re not a jerk) you start to make friends.  Making friends means opportunities come up.  The latest of many opportunities lately was to get one of the first customer installed exhaust made by AWE Tuning.

A couple of months ago, Jesse from AWE shot me a PM asking if we could chat.  He said something to the effect that my “forum presence reputation was a bit out of control (my interpretation…).”   I’d been hounding their tech support line once a month or so to convince them to make a 991 GT3 exhaust, so you better believe I called him back immediately.  To my surprise the conversation had nothing to do with a P-Car.  I could envision the smile on his face when he said they are getting in the BMW game.  He asked, “Would I like to try out an early version of their exhaust?  Knowing nothing about it but having been an owner/lover of their exhaust on my B8 S4 and 991 C2S I said very eloquently, “Um…yeah!”

But then I remembered, I just bought an Akrapovic Evolution a month earlier that I really, really liked.

We emailed a few times over a week or so.  I told him I’d probably be interested but was nervous that I found an exhaust that I liked.  I didn’t want to mess things up like I have a tendency to do in the sport of toying with my car.  After some back and forth, I decided to take him up on his offer under two conditions:

1.  I get to do a review on the forum.
2.  I can give an unbiased, honest opinion.

Let me give a few other qualifiers to hopefully add some validity to my upcoming comments.  I’m not on the inside of the car industry.  I work for Merrill Lynch in rural Florida.  I couldn’t be further removed.  I added it up, this is the 15th different exhaust I’ve installed myself, in my garage, on Rhino Ramps, onto various vehicles.  I think I have a decent basis for comparison.  In my opinion, the most important disclosure pertaining to this review is that I didn’t get this exhaust for free and no one is paying me to write this.  I did get a discount and the opportunity to get one of the first units shipped to a customer, but I am a customer.

So let’s get started on the review.  I placed the order and was told the exhaust would arrive in about three weeks.  To my surprise I got a tracking email from Jesse a couple of weeks later, and to my luck it was coming FedEx on a Saturday during a long weekend!  You know what this means, a weekend playing in the garage!  Needless to say, my wife was super amped about this…  The bad news for me is that I came down with the death cold, but that wasn’t going to stop me!

The packaging was very good.  The only problem I have with Instapak is that it darn near makes my brain explode trying to remember how to put it back in the box for future use.  I inevitably end up throwing like five pieces away asking myself how I messed this up so badly.  I guess we can’t be good at everything.

This was a really awesome experience.  I rarely purchase things without doing extensive research, but it was fun to open up a surprise box of which I had no idea the contents.  The extent of what I knew is that it would involve some metal and some bolts.

Breathing a sigh of relief…  Normal, single-walled, yet Diamond Black tips!  Sorry, I’m not a fan of the double walled fad that has possessed the aftermarket.  It was my least favorite part about the Akra.

This is my second set of Diamond Black tips.  I had them on my 991 C2S.  I don’t like monster sized tips.  I chose the 90mm version that suits the car well.  They offer 102mm if you feel the need.

Thank you, thank you, thank you AWE for changing the clamp design for the tips.  It was a dream to install them with the new integrated collar (that’s what I’m calling it) design.  It is much improved.

Diamond Black certainly looks good on top of stainless counter tops.

Calm down former Audi guys.  The Accu-Seal, slip-joints are a piece of cake on this exhaust.

You better believe I ate the blow pop.  It’s winter, and I’m “bulking.”

Nice touch.  It’s too bad I installed it backwards.  My sinuses were about to explode my head, so I left it on.  Oh well, no one is going to see it.

And it is revealed!  Shiny, yet utilitarian.

Damn you Instapak!  It looks so easy to put back in the box after I remove the good stuff.  I’m just kidding.  The packaging was well executed and protected the items as intended. I will say the muffler box cardboard is a little flimsy and isn’t as heavy duty and the second box.

You know me, you’re going to get a thousand angles of this thing.

Box 2

Interesting, the x-pipe is at the beginning of the mid-section just after the downpipes.

Welds look good to me

Cool idea.  This is a first run, so I didn’t have instructions.  I didn’t need them.  Install was pretty self explanatory.  You’ll certainly want them if you are going to do this yourself and haven’t done a bunch of exhaust installs like I have.

Hardware

Sorry AWE, I don’t put stickers on my car.  I tell you what.  Make that GT3 full rear section that doesn’t have valves opening and closing all of the time, and I’ll put stickers on both cars…

…for a few weeks.

Install time

Rhino Ramps are just easier to deal with and safer than jack stands.  I just can’t drive up onto them with my lowered cars.

You need to get these if you plan on installing yourself.  They will save you broken knuckles and tons of WD-40.

Snap-on Exhaust Hanger Removal Tool

You really only need a few basic tools for install.

I removed the Akra center section and compared circumference.

The 3″ piping warrants a modified under-body brace.

Removing the OEM exhaust valve controls/hangers and installing them onto the SwitchPath.

Simple, yet effective design.

 

I didn’t take any photos of the install underneath the car as it’s only ten inches of the ground.  Also since I had a massive head cold, I didn’t want to prolong the pain of laying under the car.  I’m sure AWE instructions will be better than my install guide would have been.

Since I’m going solo on this project, I used the jack to position the axle-back section.

I always wipe down the stainless steel with WD-40 to avoid making permanent finger prints.

Install Notes

Installation was very straight forward.  I removed the entire Akra, then proceeded to work my way from the downpipes back.  The x-pipe section is pretty easy to install with one exception.  The top passenger side bolt is a little tricky.  I had to use a deep welled 1/4″ socket with a 10″ extension.  The OEM and Akra middle sections allow for a 3/8″ extension and socket to fit between the two pipes.  The AWE is too wide without enough space to allow the socket to fit between.  I simply pushed the socket up between the downpipes and landed it on the x-pipe.  Then I shoved my finger in between and was able to attach the extension.  Finally, tighten the bolt and knock the socket back through.  It was a dream compared to the B8 S4 install.

As you work your way back adding pipes, make sure to put your Accu-Seal clamp around the piping, but just let it sit loose.  It is super easy to line everything up when it’s all in place as long as you haven’t tightened anything.  I installed all of the rubber hangers as I worked my way back.  When you do finally tighten everything down make sure you the piping isn’t resting on any metal parts of the car.  You should easily be able to make it float in between some of the tight spaces.

I will say this.  I understand why AWE gives you three different sections instead of one giant one like other manufacturers.  It makes it much more economical to ship.  The disadvantage is that it requires a bit more skill to install.  It’s not hard, just a bit more time consuming.  You don’t have to worry about alignment between the under-body brace and the heat shielding with the Akra or OEM, but you do on the AWE.  You just have to push and pull on the piping to get it lined up.  Again, not hard, you just have to be a tad bit smarter/handy.  If I can do it, you can too.

The best part was the new collar design on the tips.  I’ve had many battles with AWE tips in the past.  The Porsche ones were a bit of a nightmare to try and get on the pipe.  The separate collars proved difficult to know if they were torqued properly.  The new design is awesome.  Dare I say the best I’ve encountered for an exhaust tip.  Alignment was cake and took minutes.  They were much easier to set-up than the Akra.  The only thing you need to make sure you do is align the main axle-back section prior to bolting it in.  I learned that the hard way.  I was a little off as you can see in the photos below to the right.  It’s an easy fix though.

All in all, I did find the BMW install much, much easier than the Audi.  Porsche was super simple, so that was no comparison.  I’m guessing this will be one of the more difficult F8X exhausts to install, but we are talking a 5/10 difficulty instead of a 4/10.  So no biggie if you want to tackle it yourself.  I’ve heard lot of complaints about slip joints, but they don’t bother me.

The Sound

Let’s start by watching the following video.  First let me say, I’m going to make a serious effort to work on my video skills.  Although better than most videos I see, I’m tired of watching my out-of-focus, noisy footage.  I promise I’m going to work on this soon.  Assuming you are listening on decent speakers, my Rode Stereo VideoMic reproduces rather accurately the sound of the exhaust.  I’m going to get one of these and the new Canon 5DS soon:

Rode Stereo Video Mic X

These, learning editing software, and some practice will help.

Here are my thoughts:

1.  Even on the non-resonated version, there is absolutely, positively ZERO drone at any RPM.  AWE is a master in the drone department.  Pick any RPM you want.  There is no drone.  As a comparison, Akra with the valves disconnected droned ever-so-slightly (which didn’t bother me).

2.  Usually with no drone comes very little sound, but not with this exhaust.  Personally, unless I was getting downpipes, I wouldn’t get the resonated version.  The version I have is very livable.

3.  The S55 makes the F8X a weird sounding car.  I hated the factory exhaust note, loved everything about the Akra except the massive farting when under heavy acceleration.  The AWE solves 90% of this problem.  I think it has to do with the heftier 3″ stainless steel piping and obviously the design of the muffler.  Less fart = more like!  It’s not fartless, but much improved.

4.  Honestly, I could live without the valves with one exception:  cold start.  I bought the BMS CANflap from N54tuning to allow me to open and close them when I want.  I will have them open at all times other than cold start.  There is no reason not to.

5.  When sitting the Akra next to the AWE you can certainly visually see the reason for the cost difference.  I probably shouldn’t say this as I’m attempting to sell my Akra, but I’ll take a $4,000 stainless steel, almost fartless designed exhaust over the higher cost option.  I think putting the Akra up for sale is a strong indication of my satisfaction with the exhaust.

So my honest, slightly biased opinion is that you should highly consider this exhaust.  Although, I was certainly not disappointed in my Akra, I’m glad I made the switch.  I can only hope that in the future the family sedan (M3) and weekend cruiser (GT3) will both be sporting AWE exhausts every time I walk out into the garage.

Onto a few dozen photos (because I’ve earned it after typing this up)…



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