There’s a Japanese Tuner That Can Make Your Mercedes Sound Like a Freaking F1 Car
When you take your Mercedes-Benz to attend singing lessonsby Michael Fira, on LISTEN 09:06
Are you one of those that dream of the days when F1 cars would scream past on the straights, their bellowing 2.4-liter V-8s revving all the way up to 18,000 rpm? While the current hybrid units are probably here to stay, there’s a way to bring that soundtrack back into your life without having to go on the internet to find old race recordings. You can knock at the door of a Japanese tuner located in the quaint city of Kawasaki. The shop is called Technical Garage Sasaki and the product we’re here to talk about is the ostentatiously named Brilliant Exhaust.
If you search the internet, you’ll find people asking how to make their 2-liter grocery-getters sound like muscle cars or how to make an ordinary car sound like a generic race car. While you may be insulted by the mere idea of installing an exhaust system that radically changes the noise a car produces no matter the rpm, you can’t argue that it can be fun to stroll in a dull-looking sedan that screams like a Ferrari at will. It’s gimmicky, sure, but it’ll raise many eyebrows and annoy many neighbors. That is especially true if you go for the Brilliant Exhaust, an exhaust that looks normal from the outside but is amazingly resourceful in the sound department.
We’re talking about the good old sound of F1
Let’s say you’ve only got little over $10,000 to invest in your car and you want to spend that money on something that will turn heads at an instant anywhere you go - be it a car meet or down to the shops. You could maybe install a flashy body kit or some big, forged rims from a well-known aftermarket company but none of these modifications will get people on their feet - and wake cheap car alarms up - like the Brilliant Exhaust.
This aftermarket exhaust is made at Sasaki-san's garage and was first installed back in 2011 on a W220-generation (fourth-generation) Mercedes-Benz S600.
At the time, Sasaki had already been in the tuning business for half a decade providing aftermarket exhaust systems for BMWs and Ferraris mainly but the creation of this particular exhaust that makes your car sound like an F1 single-seater is what helped Sasaki’s business to take off. The video of the man himself driving the W220 mule through some empty tunnels at night became a bit of a sensation but Sasaki wasn’t satisfied.
He kept working, outfitting a W140-generation S600 with what would become the Brilliant Exhaust to keep testing various header setups in order to get the right sound. Remember how Lexus worked in partnership with Yamaha’s musical division when developing the LFA’s soundtrack coming from that wonderful naturally aspirated V-10? Sasaki-san is a bit of an artisan of exhaust notes himself and, once he found the perfect recipe, he started applying it to other cars with outstanding results. Soon enough, people flocked his shop with everything from Ferraris to Maseratis, Audis, and even Aston Martins being fitted with the exhaust system that gave them an all-new voice.
Currently, he's got in the shop an extremely rare SL65 AMG Black Series.
This car, one of only 350 units ever made, remains the most powerful SL ever made as it features 12% larger turbochargers (there are two in there) than the standard SL65 AMG allowing the 6.0-liter V-12 to crank out 661 horsepower and a massive 738 pound-feet of torque. 0-60 mph takes just 3.6 seconds and the top speed is electronically limited to 199 mph although the car could theoretically reach a lot more. Sasaki is fitting a one-off exhaust to a Black Series example owned by a Japanese customer who was displeased at the fact that the turbos blunt the V-12’s otherwise amazing soundtrack, urging Sasaki to make the car sound more as if it was naturally aspirated.
Sasaki did the same to a DBS Superleggera, another V-12-engined car whose noise isn’t quite what it should be because there’s a turbo strapped to that big V-12. While working on 12-cylinder engines is what Sasaki loves the most, especially if that 12-cylinder engine comes from the house of Maranello, renown for the care and attention it gives to fine-tuning exhaust notes, he’s worked on just about any engine. However, he hadn’t received any orders for an exhaust system to be fitted on a W140 S600 ever since those videos of him driving his own S600 became viral.
This changed in April when Youtuber Effspot asked Sasaki if he could fit the Brilliant Exhaust to an S600. For the record, this +4,500-pound car is fitted with the gorgeous 6.0-liter Mercedes M120 V-12 with four valves per cylinder that puts out 389 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Coincidentally, this is the same powerplant that was hand-picked by Horacio Pagani to be the heart of the first Zonda, the C12. Effspot, or Gordon Cheng in real life, soon found out why nobody had Sasaki-san fit the F1-sounding exhaust system to the W140: it’s a tedious job that can only be done at Sasaki’s own shop and the exhaust system itself will set you back $12,400. It’s a lot of money if we’re talking aftermarket exhausts but, then again, where else are you going to find an exhaust system that can be bolted to Mercedes-Benz’s mothership from the ’90s to make it sound like Schumacher’s title-winning F2002? You can feast your ears with the end result in the video below that’s already gathered over 2.1 million views on YouTube.
Sasaki says that the exhaust can be mounted remotely if you want it for your Lambo or BMW but the W140 S600’s tight engine compartment makes him reluctant to allow others to do the job. He’s a man with ultra-high standards and the last thing he’d want to see is one of his Brilliant Exhausts mounted by someone who did a half-arsed job that affected the end result. In other words, if you’re not willing to ship your S600 to Sasaki’s shop or to find one in Japan for him to work on, you can forget about having this land barge make the sounds of a 900 horsepower open-wheeler.
What's interesting is that, in spite of the fandom that the F1-sounding S-Class has garnered, Sasaki himself decided he should part ways with his W140.
The silver sedan he used for his tests isn’t the standard S600, but the Japan-exclusive S600 AMG that came with a monstrous 7.0-liter version of the M120 V-12 that put out 496 horsepower (and you could even have AMG fill the engine bay with a 7.3-liter variant for peak insanity, minimum mpg, and 525 ponies).
The car found a new home in the ownership of Mark Riccioni, the virtuoso photographer currently shooting for Top Gear among other gigs. He also owns a tricked out R34 GT-R but the silver Merc will outgun the Skyline in the sound department on any day of the week - and as far as comfort goes, obviously. The fact that there are only two S600s in the world with the Brilliant Exhaust and naught are for sale right now may leave you dismayed but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own if you’re ready to pay - or have Sasaki make you a manifold that will unlock the full-blown Zonda soundtrack from that 6.0-liter V-12.
If you want to make your S600 sound like an F1 car or a Pagani, all you’ve got to do is get in touch with Sasaki and iron out the details - he’s not big on social media but maybe that’s a good thing. As a side note, though, actually owning a 25-year-old S600 for more than a fortnight is a bad idea as you’ll realize the first time you stop at the pump, but you’ll be grinning all the time in-between these interruptions. Praised be the custom equal-length long lube headers!
We know that not everybody’s got the means to go all-in but, at the end of the day, consider your options: $12,400 plus shipping and the cost of actually fitting the pipes to the car or $2.72 million for the only factory-built Mercedes that sounds like an F1 car, the thus-far elusive AMG One. Featuring a 1.6-liter engine that’s basically the same with the one you’ll find in Lewis Hamilton’s championship-winning F1 car from a couple of years ago, the AMG One sounds like modern F1 cars and you might be late already even if you have the money as only 275 will be made when Mercedes and AMG finally cure all of the car’s issues (including some related to emissions, the ridiculously high idle, the electric system, and cooling).
In the meantime, you can try Faurecia’s loudspeaker system that bumps up the otherwise quieted down sound of the engine. To be more precise, a "sophisticated software captures what a car’s engine is doing to drive a loudspeaker contained in the muffler". This way, you can have your own car sound like a Ferrari without having to spend Ferrari money to actually buy a Ferrari. There are also ways to get your ride to sound like a muscle car among a variety of other tonalities and pitches, depending on the tubing, mufflers, and manifold.
Read our full review on the 2009 Mercedes SL65 AMG Black Series.
Read our full review on the 2011 Mercedes S-Class.