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When it comes to off-road capability, our thoughts typically gravitate toward suspension travel, big tires, and locking differentials. While those characteristics certainly factor into a vehicle’s overall ability to handle rough terrain, when it comes to technical elements like rock crawling, the buck often stops at approach and departure angles.
Short front overhangs and lifted suspensions usually address the approach side of the equation, but departure angles can be a bit trickier, and exhaust systems usually end up limiting what sorts of obstacles a particular truck can take on without bringing home some battle scars.
“If you’re going over a larger obstacle while off-roading, with some of these factory exhaust systems there’s definitely a chance that you’re going to catch a tailpipe or a muffler on a rock or some other feature of the terrain,” explains Mark Emerson of Flowmaster Exhaust Systems. “If you look at a factory exhaust system on a Toyota Tacoma, for instance, it kicks out behind the rear wheel. That often ends up being the first point of contact with the terrain at the back end of the vehicle. And of course that can cause a variety of issues, whether that’s just bending the pipe or folding it back into the fender; things like that. But if that exhaust system is designed differently, we can eliminate that issue entirely.”
That led Flowmaster to start looking for ways to address the problem. “We wanted to do more for the hardcore off-road groups,” Emerson says. “You’d see on the forums that a lot of these guys were cutting parts of the factory system off completely to try to resolve this because it’s a common problem. So we thought, why not put together something that addresses this by-design?”
The three-inch Outlaw Extreme system offers a burly growl from its race-bred muffler and is tucked up higher into the undercarriage than the factory system, reducing the chance that the muffler will have an impromptu meeting with a rock along the trail.
When it debuted back in 2016, Flowmaster’s Outlaw Extreme high clearance three-inch exhaust was targeted at late model full-sized pickups like the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, and Toyota Tundra. After discovering the strong demand that existed for systems like this, Flowmaster decided to go back and expand the supported platforms. “This time around we were looking at a segment that tends to need this solution even more – the guys that are getting into serious off-roading and overlanding stuff with Jeeps, Tacomas, and rigs like those.”
The concept followed the same design goals that Flowmaster targeted with the full-sized applications, and one of the top priorities was to get the exhaust system tucked up underneath the truck as much as possible. “The location of the factory Y-pipe flange that we connect to, along with design of the factory chassis crossmembers, limit how much we can bring the exhaust system up,” Emerson tells us. “So if we use a 2016-2021 Toyota Tacoma 3.5L as an example, the factory pipe does tuck up a decent amount past the frame into the muffler, but the overall size of the factory muffler does cause it to hang down just before the axle. But because we are able to use smaller performance mufflers, we can tuck them up higher and out of the way more and keep them above the rear leaf springs for better clearance. And it’s the same for the other applications that we offer these kits for.”
Flowmaster engineers also wanted to make it a straight-forward swap, and these types of vehicles come with outside variables that the team also needed to take into consideration. “These systems use the factory exhaust hangers so there’s no surprises when you’re installing them,” he tells us. “But because we’re using smaller mufflers, they’re not taking up as much room in those areas under the truck. And that means there’s no concern about clearance for modified suspension components and things like that.”
He also notes that there’s an inherent aesthetic improvement to be had as well. “The factory exhaust system often looks a little bit awkward with a high-clearance bumper, which is an update that a lot of these enthusiasts will do. This Flowmaster system just looks a lot cleaner in that regard – there isn’t this big gap that makes the exhaust system look like an afterthought.”
And it should come as no surprise that performance was a design priority for Flowmaster’s engineers as well, so they selected three inch, 16-gauge mandrel bent stainless steel tubing to help maintain maximum exhaust flow for better power. “You’re going to get much less restriction going through with the larger diameter,” Emerson points out. “And the mandrel bending means there’s no kinks in the tubing along the way, so the flow is improved as well.” These systems are also a bit lighter than their factory counterparts in general thanks to the elimination of that extra tailpipe section.
The FlowFX Extreme version of this system offers the same three-inch mandrel bent stainless steel tubing and high clearance design as its Outlaw Extreme counterpart, but with a sound that’s a bit more controlled.
The Outlaw Extreme system uses a race-derived muffler that delivers a deep, authoritative exhaust tone. That can be beneficial not only from the standpoint of simply delivering a more characterful engine note, it can make it easier to keep tabs on the engine revs in situations where ambient noise levels are high, like during high-speed desert blasts.
However, for those who’re looking for a solution that might be a bit more street-friendly, Flowmaster also offers these high clearance systems with the FlowFX Extreme muffler. “The pipes and construction are identical versus the Outlaw Extreme systems, the sound is just a bit more controlled versus a race-style muffler,” Emerson notes. “But both the Outlaw Extreme and FlowFX systems are designed to work with the factory catalytic converters and other emissions systems.”
Flowmaster’s latest additions to these two lineups add support for 2005-2015 Toyota Tacoma 4.0L, 2016-2021 Toyota Tacoma 3.5L, 2007-2018 Jeep Wrangler JK 3.6L, 3.8L, 2018-2021 Jeep Wrangler JL 2.0L and 3.6L, and 2020-2021 Jeep Gladiator 3.6L, along with 2019-2021 RAM 1500 5.7L as well as 2009-2021 (19-21 Classic) RAM 1500 5.7L.
These new applications join a roster that already includes systems for the 2009-2020 Ford F-150, the 2009-2021 Toyota Tundra, and the 2009-2019 Chevrolet and GMC 1500 pickups, but Emerson says they’re not stopping there. “There’s definitely more coming, but we can’t say what those are just yet. These systems have been really successful for us, so we definitely want to continue to expand the number of platforms that we can support.”
The muffler used on the Outlaw Extreme system is a bit smaller than the FlowFX Extreme, and that equates to even more clearance underneath the vehicle.