One of the great small sports sedans in the past years was the SVT Contour. For a reasonable price, you got a good looking, well-mannered, quick car. As is the case with any performance car, you always want more power. So, how are you going to get more power? Traditionally auto performance enthusiasts begin with exhaust and air intake modifications, and then move to more subtle modifications (or they arenít so subtle, throwing in a turbo!). This article will compare two after market cat-back exhaust systems, Bassani and Borla, on the SVT Contour to determine if you are really getting the power for the price. We began by running a dyno on the SVT Contour stock, without any modifications, then we added each exhaust and ran another test. Remember, we are looking at the performance aspect here, the sound and look of a system may change your mind, but thatís for you to decide.
Bassani Quite Thunder Cat-Back Exhaust
For this particular car we had an average gain of about 2.3% in horsepower (FWHP) and 2.4% in Torque (FWTQ). Now, to be fair, percentages are dependent on total beginning horsepower. If you started out with 400 FWHP then a 2% gain will give you 8 FWHP. Before we tested this particular Contour the car was measuring 160 rear wheel FWHP. Therefore, a 2% increase only yielded 3.2 FWHP. Is this the kind of gain that you are going to feel at the "seat-of-your-pants"? No, I doubt it. Usually, you get different gains at different levels of your RPM range. This system has a virtually flat response except for the last 1000 RPMs that have closer to a 4% increase in FWTQ and this strange blip at about 4700 RPM???
Borla Cat-Back Stainless Steel Exhaust
The Borla system gives you much more on the low end but is very erratic. On average there was a gain of 3.4% in FWHP and 3.5% in FWTQ. However, as you can see from the graph, there is a major increase within the first 4000 RPMs, about 5.6%, and then a fast drop off to lower levels (1.8%) than the Bassani (2.4%) for the remainder of the range. Usually quick dips (like the one at 3100 and 4400 RPM) are a result of timing issues when a sensor gives a bad reading and the computer compensates by reducing the timing. It normally takes an increase of 10 FWHP before you notice a big difference in "seat-of-the-pants" performance so we are getting close with this system. You will especially feel the difference in accelerating from a stop, but not when moving at highway speeds.
Both Borla and Bassani have been around for quite some time and have been making excellent products for years. I have seen cars in the past that have picked up 15+ FWHP from just a cat-back Borla system. So, seeing data like this tells me that the stock SVT Contour exhaust system is pretty good. Now, provided that you are not going to make any other mods to your car, I would say itís not worth putting any of these systems in your car. Both of these systems go for about $590, so in terms of performance only, you are spending a lot of money for five HP. The stock system looks and sounds great and has only slightly degraded numbers. However, if you are going to do additional mods like an air intake system, then you should reconsider. The better your air intake system, the better flowing you want your exhaust. This is simply because you are getting a bigger explosion with increased air intake and you need a more efficient path for the gases to escape. I would be very interested to see a comparison between an air intake system and air intake + exhaust for this car. My bottom line is if this is the only modification you are going to do, the power is not worth the price. If you add more goodies, then it will be worth the money. Of course, if you are going for sound and look then at least you know youíre not losing anything!