Choosing the correct type of headers and the correct exhaust configuration is very important because it will avoid many headaches in the future. Will it be too loud, not ringing, if the performance is worth the $$$? They are probably questions that go through your head. We’ll make it as simple as possible to explain the differences and benefits of a UEL versus EL header exhaust setup for the Toyota 86.
Should You Get Aftermarket Headlines First?
Headlines are probably the best option for your investment in terms of performance upgrades for your Toyota 86, plus a tune. However, the cost is in the comfort of your daily commute because the exhaust will definitely be louder and will most likely hum at high revs. Depending on your aftermarket exhaust, the noise / drone could be unbearable.
Before switching to aftermarket headers, I was asking myself, how strong is my exhaust now? Can I take it if I was stronger? If not I would definitely go back to using stock exhausts or switch to quieter aftermarket exhausts like the Q300s. I will definitely write an article in the future explaining different ways to silence your loud exhaust.
My personal experience is that going from Magnaflow exhausts to JDL UEL headers it was noticeably louder. Using a free decibel meter iPhone app, it measured between 75-80db with just the Magnaflow exhausts on the highway and 85-90db with the headers. It might not sound like much, but to put it in perspective, a jump from 70 dB to 80 dB is actually 2 times stronger. From what I can tell it didn’t feel twice as loud, but I can definitely tell the difference.
I’m a pretty young guy in my 20s, so the noise wasn’t a killjoy for my daily commute, but for those with a family or kids they bring along, I would definitely take the jump in noise into consideration.
Yes I want headlines but I only care about performance
The general statement and the truth is that EL headers work better than UEL headers. The reason behind this is mainly due to the layout of the headers. The 4-2-1 designs for the EL heads make it more efficient and performs best at medium RPM, which the 86 desperately needs due to the drop in torque.
Although the general statement is true, my take on it is that UEL and EL headers cannot be compared solely in the design of these headers, because differences in brand and quality play a large variable in performance.
For example, Drift-Office did an excellent comparison on the performance differences of the most popular UEL heads for the Toyota 86 / Scion FRS. In short, they eliminated all variables in their study: all the cars were 6MTs, ran on the same fuel, and had similar exhaust configurations as the UEL headers.
These cars with different UEL heads were then tested on a Dyno, which measures power and torque as the car goes through the RPM range.
Result of the study shown below: Source: http://www.ft86club.com/forums/showthread.php?t=60586
The conclusion is the following. When choosing headers for performance, it’s not just about deciding between 2 easy EL or UEL options. It’s really about researching a list of popular headers on the key criteria for what makes a header perform well (i.e., dynamometer + weight performance).
To help narrow down this search, my recommendations in terms of performance for the Toyota 86 / Scion FRS would be the JDL UEL headers or the Ace 4-2-1 EL headers.
I want my escape to sound good
This section is a bit more difficult to explain because how good an exhaust sounds is purely subjective. What I will explain is the main difference in terms of escape notes between the UEL and EL headers. The UEL headers produce an exhaust note that most people are familiar with like the “Subaru Rumble”, on the Toyota 86, while the EL headers do not.
The general consensus is that most people like din. I personally have a UEL header, so I can attest to Subaru’s love of noise. Again, this is a personal preference, and I would highly suggest going to a local FRS / 86 meeting and hearing in person the different exhaust settings that people have. Videos can only give you a general idea of the sound note an escape produces, but they lose the ability to tell you how loud the heading / escape setting will be in person.
The 30-second summary
– Upgrade to the aftermarket headlines only if you don’t mind your exhaust being a little louder.
– EL headers work better overall, but performance is very different depending on which brand you decide to choose. So do more research on the product, not the design.
– Only the UEL headers will have the Subaru thunder and will be a louder track than the EL headers.
In short, this is how I would make my decision between the 2 options. If you go for a track-focused build that squeezes every HP / Torque out of this engine, you would definitely go with the EL headers. For most of you using this car as a daily and / or weekend warrior, I would base my decision on which headlines sound best to you. Do you want that rumble go up? I guess so!