There aren’t a whole lot of aftermarket exhaust options available for the 4th gen Toyota 4runner. The Borla dual exhaust used to be common but has since become pretty hard to find. There’s also the Magnaflow system which is expensive and in my opinion, not the greatest looking design. There was even an uber-rare exhaust offered directly from TRD through dealers, but good luck finding one.
Today, I’ll be reviewing the Gibson stainless cat-back exhaust system for the 4runner (part number: 618815B) – by far the most popular option on the market.
Why is Gibson’s 4runner exhaust so popular? Well, for starters, it’s readily available. You can find it at your favorite performance shop or online at places like Summit Racing and even Amazon.
The other thing Gibson has going for them is a good track record within the 4runner community. The forums at T4R.org are filled with plenty of info about this exhaust system with the majority of opinions being very good.
Gibson stainless exhaust and why I chose it:
After living with the noise of the 3″ performance exhaust (Magnaflow cat with a Flowmaster 70 series muffler) on my previous V8 Grand Cherokee, I honestly had no intention of upgrading the exhaust on my 4.7 V8 4runner.
Compared to the Jeep, the 4runner feels smooth and refined. No squeaks, no rattles, and no inappropriate noises. It was a welcome change from my noisy Jeep (although it did have a nice muscle car sound).
This is my daily driver. Whether I’m leaving the house early in the morning or late in the middle of the night, I don’t want to wake the neighbors. I own two other vehicles that make all kinds of noise. Keeping my 4runner as a stealthy option that allows me to come and go without drawing attention to myself is important to me. I also enjoy the peace and quiet on long drives.
Unfortunately, my 4runner’s plans for itself were different than mine. First, it had a cracked exhaust manifold when I bought it (replaced by a set of Doug Thorley headers). Then the pipe that goes over the axle and holds the resonator cracked – I eventually cut that section off leaving just the mid pipe and muffler pointing straight back.
When I noticed the welds on the muffler were starting to look like I could push my finger through them, I knew that my much loved OEM exhaust had been defeated.
Canadian winters – 1. 4runner – 0.
Any cost-saving fix by a muffler shop would easily suffer the same fate thanks to Ontario’s salty roads in the winter. I went down that road with my Jeep and essentially kept chasing my tail by having different sections patched up. I wanted a one ‘n done fix for the 4runner.
A new exhaust system from Toyota would likely cost an arm and a leg. Although it would last longer than the non-OEM exhaust options, I couldn’t justify the expense for what I considered a lateral move.
Enter the Gibson stainless cat-back. From what I read, it was fairly quiet for a performance exhaust. People also claimed that it was a match made in heaven with my already installed Doug Thorley headers. It wasn’t cheap, but certainly not overpriced. The lifetime warranty on the stainless version was the cherry on top – I was sold.
What’s in the box
There are a few different options to choose from when ordering a Gibson exhaust for your 4runner. You can save some money by going with the aluminized version, but I highly recommend the 409 stainless option. It costs a bit more but will last much longer. The stainless version of Gibson’s exhaust also features a lifetime warranty which is important for a daily driver.
Regardless of which material you choose, the Gibson exhaust follows the exact path of the OEM 4runner exhaust with the tip pointing straight out the back. Gibson has recently added a new option featuring a dual tip that turns out behind the rear wheel. Some people prefer this look, while others like myself would rather keep it more subtle looking.
The final choice you have is the finish of the tip. In my case, the “B” at the end of the part number means it has Gibson’s black coated tip instead of the traditional polished stainless one. The only chrome remaining on my 4runner is in the headlight housings, so I decided to keep going with the blacked out look.
It’s worth mentioning that although the tip on the Elite Black Series version of this exhaust is much less noticeable, the rest of the exhaust still has the raw stainless finish (and the tailpipe section leading to the tip is clearly visible on the 4runner). The “Black Series” only refers to the tip itself.
The stainless rear exit system that I purchased boasts the following features:
- A 409 stainless SuperFlow muffler with a baffled and chambered design without any internal packing
- 2.5″ 409 stainless mandrel bent piping
- 4″ 304 stainless tip with black ceramic coating
- All mounting hardware required (clamps and regular bolts, not spring bolts)
- Made in the USA
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
One part number to rule them all?
This seems strange to me. Whether you order your exhaust for a V6 or V8 version, it’s the same part number. What’s even weirder is that same part number is listed for both 4th gen (2003-2009) 4runners and 5th gens (2010 – current). That’s 16 years, 2 different engines, and 2 different body styles. One part number.
It’s not that big of a deal, but I can’t help but wonder how the same exhaust can be tuned perfectly for 2 completely different engines. They prefer different amounts of back pressure in order to access every single horsepower available.
Either Gibson got lucky and they’re both exactly the same, or one of these is slightly less than optimal. Again, not really a problem especially considering this is an SUV, not a race car.
What I do find a bit annoying is the fact that Gibson includes 2 different mid pipes and 2 different tailpipes in the box. That’s to make up for the minor differences between the different models of 4runner. The idea is that you use whichever one fits.
My issue with this is that we’re paying for the material cost of two pipes that we have no use for as well as the increased shipping cost of an already large box. It doesn’t have to be that way if Gibson gave each model their own part number. This seems wasteful.
Where to purchase
Most performance shops will be able to source a Gibson exhaust for you. You can also easily order it online here:
Burtman Industries is another great place to order from online. He has a very long-standing relationship with Gibson. I had planned to order mine through him but we weren’t able to make the shipping work because I’m in Canada (no fault of his).
Jason still spent over an hour on the phone with me even though I didn’t end up purchasing from him. Great customer service. I ended up ordering mine through Summit Racing because of their international shipping rates.
I had every intention of installing the Gibson exhaust myself at home. It uses a really simple slip-fit design that bolts to the original exhaust flange and uses all of the original hangers. No cutting or welding – it bolts right on. Other users have even reported that they were able to install it in their driveway in about an hour. I don’t see any reason why this wouldn’t be possible.
My 4runner was a special case. When I got under it to unbolt the original system, I noticed that the previous owner had taken it to a muffler shop to have a generic muffler welded on. When they did this, they also chopped off the OEM exhaust flange and flared out the pipe to fit their own solution.
As easy as the install should have been, I had no flange to bolt it to. Since I don’t have a welder, I was forced to have this section repaired at a friend’s shop.
Unfortunately, the only way to know how much piping had been removed (and where to put the new flange), the entire exhaust system had to be in place to see what was missing. I had no choice but to have them install the exhaust and fix the short cut the previous owner took.
This entire problem only applies to my specific 4runner though, and I have no doubt that a DIY install would be really easy for anyone else.
Gibson gives you everything you need to install the exhaust including clamps and new hardware. I decided to use spring bolts on the flange to allow some flex. Toyota used them on the original system for a reason and I didn’t want to risk any issues caused by the exhaust being too rigid.
Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid cutting your original spring bolts off, you’ll likely need to use new longer ones for this.
The slip fit design with clamps works well. You might want to go back and double check the bolts and clamps for tightness after driving for a bit, just to make sure.
All of the hangers line up perfectly with the factory rubber grommets. The angle of the hanger closest to the axle was a bit off, causing the exhaust to come into contact with the cross member slightly. Some owners have reported that jamming something in there as a spacer before tightening the entire system kept it from hitting, while others still had problems.
The angle of this hanger is what causes the pipe to sit where it does, so we ended up bending it so that it no longer put downward pressure on the pipe. Stainless is tough so this required heating it up a bit in order to get it to bend. Will this void the warranty? Maybe. But I’m not so sure it matters that much. I’ll get more into the warranty below.
Fit and Finish
Overall, the fit and finish of Gibson’s exhaust is great. The pipes are all the right length with the right bends. It follows along the existing heat shields from the OEM system perfectly. Aside from the issue of it potentially contacting the cross member, I’d say fitment is about 95%.
The satin black coating on the tip is more of a really dark gray compared next to my black Method wheels. Gibson etches their logo on the edge of the tip (which is a nice touch) but the black coating fills it in somewhat making it less noticeable. If showing off the branding of your exhaust is important to you, don’t worry. Gibson is kind enough to include a free decal in the box.
As I write this, my Gibson exhaust has been installed for about a month. We’ve had some nasty winter weather during this time but I like to rinse off my undercarriage as soon as I can after a messy storm. Despite this, the stainless piping is already showing plenty of orange rust stains.
There’s no rust actually forming anywhere – it appears to only be a cosmetic issue at this point. I expect that it’ll be relatively easy to clean up with a soap pad or steel wool and some metal polish though. I guess I’ll add that to my spring cleaning TLC regimen.
I’ve seen a few complaints online regarding the black coating on the Metal Mulisha exhausts Gibson makes for the Jeep Wrangler. Apparently, there are cases of it flaking and chipping off prematurely. I’m not sure if they use the same coating on these Elite Black Series tips or not. I suppose time will tell if it’s an issue.
I’ll be keeping mine as clean as possible and I even took the extra step of ceramic coating it with Gtechniq’s C5 coating for wheels. That should add some extra protection and make it easier to clean considering I don’t have any mud flaps and it’ll have my rear tire spraying gunk at it.
I consider any increase in performance to be a bonus because it wasn’t my reason for upgrading my exhaust. I don’t expect any huge gains. Any time you allow your engine to breathe better is good though and the 4.7 definitely breathes better now.
I didn’t notice how much the OEM exhaust was choking out the gains from my Doug Thorley headers until I tried out the Gibson system. I understand why people say that these two pair so well together now. Power below 1500 RPM is still nothing to write home about, but it actually screams pretty good above 2000 RPM with the exhaust and headers.
It pulls much harder and much cleaner all the way up to redline. I was pleasantly surprised the first time I merged onto the highway at WOT and had to back off because it was pulling way too hard past the speed limit. Keep in mind my 4runner is also lifted and running heavy 33″ tires.
Gibson claims this exhaust will provide performance gains of 10-15 horsepower and 15-20 ft lbs of torque. I’m not going to bother to dyno test a 4×4 SUV, but going strictly by seat-of-the-pants feel, I have no reason not to believe them. Combined with the headers, my 4runner is noticeably faster than I ever expected.
There are no mentions of any MPG gains from this exhaust. I’d say it’s possible there might be some improvements due to the increased flow but Gibson hasn’t listed any claims. I’ll keep an eye on my fuel economy to see if I notice anything.
This is where it gets a little complicated. I think the biggest problem here is that people aren’t managing their expectations properly. If you’re looking for a loud, straight piped yee-yee machine, the Gibson exhaust isn’t for you. Conversely, you can’t expect a performance exhaust to be as quiet and liveable as an OEM one.
I was really pleased the first time I started my 4runner up with the Gibson exhaust. There is no big dramatic crackle on startup. It sounds very deep yet completely civilized. I would compare it to the startup sound of a full-size pickup with a bigger 6+ L engine. This was a big concern of mine – I didn’t want cold starts to wake everyone up. The Gibson cat-back gets an A+ in this regard.
The idle is very much the same. As a matter of fact, you can barely hear it running unless you’re standing at the rear near the exhaust tip. Here in Canada, we tend to remote-start our vehicles on cold mornings to let them warm up a bit. A vehicle with a loud exhaust can be pretty annoying when it’s idling outside for 10 minutes. Not a problem with the Gibson at all. Another A+.
The Gibson exhaust definitely wakes up as you drive it though. At wide open throttle and higher RPM, it has a very angry sounding wail to it with absolutely zero rasp. There’s no mistaking that the 4runner has a performance exhaust on it.
That being said, it’s still relatively quiet even when you’re giving it the beans. I’d say it sounds similar to a modern V8 sports car with the OEM exhaust flaps open (like a Vette or F-type). For me personally, I prefer this. Loud exhausts tend to scream “pull me over” whenever you’re driving spiritedly. I suppose it could be a little louder at high RPM though. I’ll give it a B here.
Gibson exhaust drone
According to the forums, this is a polarizing topic. It seems like half the owners think the Gibson exhaust has no drone at all, while others complain about it (and some have even removed it to go back to OEM). In my opinion, I can’t imagine how people aren’t noticing it.
There is absolutely a drone around 1800-2000 RPM. It’s quite noticeable. Now, I don’t consider myself to have very sensitive ears. I ride a Harley Davidson with loud pipes and my MR2 has a 3″ turbo back exhaust with an open screamer pipe on the wastegate. I’m very familiar with loud vehicles. This drone that others complain about definitely exists and it’s borderline bothersome at times.
One of my readers had his Gibson exhaust installed right around the same time as mine, and sent me an email shortly after. He was concerned about the drone at this exact spot in the rev range and wanted to know if mine did the same.
We were both a bit surprised that an otherwise subdued exhaust would suffer from this. He even emailed Gibson about it and they told him that they haven’t had any complaints about the drone.
They recommended adding a resonator to quiet it down which I find funny because cutting and welding would certainly void their warranty.
The reason this drone is so noticeable is because its location in the rev range puts it exactly at most highway cruising speeds. That’s where I notice it most. Around town, you’ll only hear it for a second here and there as the transmission shifts through the gears. At around 60 MPH, the noise stays constant.
I suppose it’s possible the drone is covered up with the loud humming of off-road tires or even loud music and that’s why some people don’t notice it. I’m experiencing it with Goodyear Duratrac tires, windows up, and no music on. Turning on the radio and/or rolling the windows down might minimize the drone.
It seems backwards, but I believe the sound of the Gibson exhaust is louder from inside the cabin than it is from the outside. It sounds very clean and crisp from the outside but not overly loud. If you don’t want any negative attention from the Police, this is definitely the exhaust for you.
Outside of the drone spot, the exhaust is still louder in the cabin than I would have expected after hearing it from the outside. I don’t find it annoying, but it certainly won’t be mistaken as an OEM exhaust.
Some owners on T4R have found that adding a resonated exhaust tip from DC fixes the drone, while others say it didn’t help at all. One person blamed his drone issue on his muffler being installed backwards and fixing that solved the problem.
I can’t help but wonder – is it possible that this is a Yanny/Laurel situation and some people’s brains don’t hear this exact frequency? That seems pretty far fetched but I can’t think of any other explanation for two completely different opinions on this.
As time goes on, I’m getting used to the sound. Part of that is probably the muffler breaking in and causing the drone to get slightly quieter. It also seems to be more of an issue in the cold weather, so the temperatures rising might be helping as well. Maybe my ears are just getting worn out (“Shooting without earmuffs used to be loud, but not anymore!”).
The bottom line is that we can’t expect an aftermarket performance exhaust to sound the same as an OEM one. Those performance gains come at the cost of increased sound. Since I’m incredibly happy with the overall sound of the Gibson exhaust, I’m willing to look past the drone.
2023 Update: The video below features my long term review of the Gibson exhaust – check it out!
A big reason why I chose the Gibson stainless cat-back exhaust was its lifetime warranty. I’m sick of dealing with the exhaust on my daily driver rotting out and having to fix it. This warranty showed me that Gibson expects this exhaust to last a very long time, and if not, at least I won’t be on the hook to replace it.
Reading the included warranty sheet tells a slightly different story. I understand a lot of this is just legal mumbo jumbo to cover their back. Jason at Burtman Industries told me he rarely has a problem with getting Gibson to cover any warranty issues and they seem to stand by their product. With that said, here’s everything the warranty DOES NOT cover:
- Products that have been modified or altered (possibly even adding a resonator as they recommend?!)
- Surface rust
- Rust through
- Road hazards
- Lack of maintenance
- Extreme heat or cold
So basically, unless the exhaust rusts through from the inside – out, you’re on your own. Again, I don’t know if Gibson is strict on this policy or not. It’s something to keep in mind though if you think they’ll replace it for free because it didn’t last forever.
I’m very pleased with the Gibson exhaust. So far, the 1800 RPM drone is the only real downside that I’ve found and it’s not a deal breaker for me. This is a fantastic system for those who don’t want to annoy their neighbors or draw unwanted attention to themselves.
I’d call this a “gentleman’s performance exhaust” – it has a very clean and crisp sound with plenty of growl where you want it. The Gibson cat-back really opens up the lungs of Toyota’s 4.7L engine and makes it sound like a V8 should.
Between this system and the Doug Thorley headers, my OEM y-pipe is pretty much the only part of the entire exhaust that isn’t high-quality stainless steel now. I think that’s going to offer a lot in terms of longevity. Whether it can withstand the Canadian winters will be the ultimate test over time.
Lastly, the appearance of the Gibson exhaust is really nice especially with the black tip option. It suits the overall gray/black theme of my 4runner well and looks like a high-quality item. The tip exits in the exact same location as the original exhaust and doesn’t catch your eye as much as other systems out there.
The tailpipe that feeds to the tip is rather noticeable and might look a bit awkward from some angles though. That’s part of the 4runner’s design however and Gibson can’t be faulted for that.
If you’re looking for a mature but throaty sounding exhaust for your 4runner and tend to listen to music while driving on the highway, this might be the exhaust for you. Anyone that wants their 4runner to be as loud as possible or doesn’t want to give up the silence of the OEM system might want to look elsewhere.
Overall, I’d say the Gibson exhaust is a happy compromise right down the middle. It makes noise when you want it to, it’s quiet when you need it to be, it offers increased performance, and hopefully it’ll last a long time. That’s exactly what I was looking for when I realized I had to pull my stock exhaust off life support.
- Great build quality with sturdy stainless steel
- Nice price
- Subtle, yet aggressive sound
- No rasp
- Good fitment
- Simple install
- Awesome combo with Doug Thorley headers
- Stealth appearance with Elite Black Series tip
- Noticeable drone around 1800 RPM
- Slight issue with the angle of one hanger
- Lifetime warranty might not cover all real-world conditions
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: