HKS Hi-Power Spec-L Review

In essence, a sports car will never feel complete without the symphony from a proper sports exhaust. After a month of deep thought, my contemplations were finally overcome by temptations of the HKS Hi-Power Spec-L cat back exhaust system. 

Having been to the HKS factory in January, I was more than impressed with the quality of HKS products and the exhausts systems produced by the aftermarket giant is by obvious means, no exception. Packed with Instapak conforming foam as a standard in factory packaging, you can be rest assured that all HKS products are shipped well, a testiment to product quality assurance.

Out of the box, the Spec-L is a 4-piece cat back system made from SUS304 stainless steel that weighs about half the weight of the stock exhaust system. If you think I'm joking, you could probably bench press with the stock system if you want Schwarzenegger arms on a budget.

As the Spec-L was a direct fit for the GT86 (check Product Application Chart), assembly was a breeze thanks to the folks at HKS Garage R. All it took was regular bolting and everything was up in less than an hour.

While I will not be wasting much time comparing the aesthetic aspects between the carbon fibre rimmed Spec-L and the stock, it is pretty obvious that the stock exhaust from the Subaru factory was made from cheaper steel, resulting in heavier overall weight and a more restrictive flow by design thanks to the huge muffler. The stock exhaust is in fact as 'quiet' as a mouse; which may not be a bad thing for cabin comfort but it certainly doesn't do any justice to the awesome 86 or BRZ platform.

First impressions on cold start, the Spec-L made the FA20 sound much like a 4G63 found in an Evo. With the idle at 1500 revs for the first couple of minutes, the exhaust note was profoundly bassy with such a ''bad ass'' noise. To me, it was an experience of adrenaline rush that was simply exhilerating from both outside and inside the cabin. Yes, it was pretty loud, way louder than stock.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this loudness goes away after the FA20 was warmed up. What followed was a bassy low note on idle that was not much louder than the stock exhaust. Again, bassy but not loud.

Considering the fact that the cabin of the 86/BRZ had practically no sound deadening material, anything louder would have been unbearable, especially for rear passengers.

On the road, the Spec-L remained bassy when throttled, particularly from the 2500 to 4500 rev range. On higher revs beyond 4500 , the bassy drone goes away and the 86 sounds much like stock in the cabin. While I am sure it was audibly different on the outside, the car certainly sounded stock in the cabin with absolutely no drone whatsoever after 4500 revs, all the way to redline. Perhaps this was due to the higher flow that's now available, way more than what the stock FA20 could deliver. On freeway cruising, there was little to no drone if you keep your foot light on the throttle under the 2000 rev limit, a good thing if you want to enjoy some music from your car stereo.

According to HKS, the Hi-Power Spec-L offers up to 60% reduction in backpressure to accomodate flow requirements for engine outputs up to 350bhp. On a regular chip tuned FA20 with a high flow filter, there was an improvement in mid range torque as the car pulled more effortlessly from 4000 revs.

I must admit that I am a fan of HKS but while that is true, it is without a shadow of a doubt that the Hi-Power Spec-L was beautifully built, sounds really good and is street legal. Retailing around S$2000, the cat back exhaust comes complete with documentation for LTA compliance in Singapore.

Last but not least, with the huge stock muffler under the spare wheelwell gone, you can expect an overall lowered trunk temperature with the new Spec-L cannons.

Love it or hate it, the HKS Hi-Power Spec-L does turn heads both in the parking lot and on the move.

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