Mercedes E500

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Mercedes E550 - Sporty!

Each project we do is defined / catered to each individual customer and their objectives and desires.  For this customer, he wanted to spice up his Mercedes E550.  Better looks, better power, better styling, better exhaust sound and tone, better handling.  That just about covers all the bases.  This is not meant to be an agressive, over the top, upgrade, but the refinement of the car to make it look, sound, feel, and perform in a sportier manor.  The base Mercedes does not illicit much emotional response, either to look at, drive, or listen too.  We mean to change all that.

Unlike some requests we get, the good news here is that the Mercedes E550 offers a great platform to start with.  With some projects, you accomplish all the upgrades in one fell swoop...and some others are in a constant state of evolution and improvement.  That was the case here....we have now done about five major upgrades, as we examine and determine what the next great step would be.


Tunes and software upgrades are most effective when we are dealing with some form of "forced induction".  And that is just what this Mercedes has, and it has known "head room" for tuning upgrades.  There are two primary tuners out there for Mercedes (Weistec and Renntech).  We choose to go with the Weistec upgrades for this car, as they offered a bigger diversity of engine upgrade options and had some of the other elements that we were evaluating for future next steps (which we did, and are documented in this article later).

Weistec offers a software upgrade that works with CA 91 Octane fuel, and produces some amazing results: 540 HP, 715# Torque.  The upgrade is a traditional "flash" of the core ECU / DME software, and also requires the spark plugs to be upgraded (colder temperature range spark plugs).  A few additional benefits are the eliminated the top speed limiter, and improved throttle response.


One might think about the intake, but most OEM intakes these days flow well, are CA legal, and often are a true "cold air intake".  All of the above is true for this Mercedes.  So, we looked to other parts of the intake system that could be optimized.  One of those is the "charge pipe" and either "blow off valve" or "recirculation / anti-surge valve", depending on how the engine was designed.  While the engine compartment is very nice looking, and very densely packaged, this was an area that could benefit from an upgrade.  Weistec offers this as part of their engine performance solutions, and not only that, but it looks awesome in the engine bay.  Here is the stock setup before upgrades:

Here are the parts to add slightly larger intake tubes, and to add the "blow off" valve (the Mercedes stock engine does not have a blow off valve, which inhibits the ability of the turbo to stay spining without back pressure when the throttle is closed).

Strong, reliable, and easy to install.  The blow off valve works off engine vacuum, which is activated when the throttle is closed.  Here is the new system fully installed (but with some of the engine vanity covers still off):

And a closer view of the vacuum / blow off valve area.

The customer ran the car this way for over a year.  But, there was a bigger plan at play.  That is why we picked the intake system from Weistec, as they had built in injector ports to allow for the addition of "Methanol" injection.

"Meth" injection is a serious step, and brings BIG results.  But, the inconvenience of having to fuel and fill the "meth" tank on a regular basis is sometimes too much for many people.

There are several pieces to a "meth" kit - the reservior, the pump, the injectors (in the intake stream), the piping for the "meth", the level sensor (to warn you when the level in the tank is getting low), the injection controller, and the wiring harness.  The "tune" will need to be updated as well to a Stage 2 level tune to support the new "meth" injection.

"Meth" is a fairly safe and relialbe the injection of the Methanol provides two major cools / lowers the temperature of the intake flow, and it adds more oxygen to the mixture.  By substantially cooling the intake charge, you can now advance timing far greater, thereby producing a longer combustion cycle that they produces more power.  Second, it just adds more combustible material....the energy able to be release by the combustion in the cylinder.

To ease the use of the system, we choose to locate the "meth" tank / pump / controller in the spare tire well.  We wanted it as far back in the well as possible to make it easier to fill the tank. We had to do some fabrication and alteration given the height of the tank and system, and amount of area / height we had to play with in the spare tire well.  The install is a fairly time consuming effort given all the wiring and plumbing that needs to be run.

We installed the "low level" warning light in the main center dash right next to the standard center console switches.  Makes it appear near factory, and bring the warning light higher up into the normal view of the users view.

Now that we had the system, we needed to go back and install the injectors into the intake pipes. There are multiple sizes of injectors available, and the size is matched to the desired tune level.

We now are North of 600HP....and oh my, what an amazing difference in performance.  Stunning.


If you are going to add to the engine power, then, the exhaust needs to be dealt with as well.  Not only from a performance stand point, but from a sound perspective.  You want to hear the car....

The stock Mercedes is very quiet, very subdued....not befitting a twin turbo'd engine with 540HP. The main issue with the stock exhaust is the rear mufflers.  Big, large, heavy, and quiet.  Those must go.  Since this is a turbo car, the turbos and the catalytic convertors already tone the exhaust sound way down, both making it quiet, as well as muting the tone.  So, out goes the rear mufflers, replaced with a set of Renntech rear mufflers (much smaller, flow great, perfect fitment, and a much better tone). 

But, even that is not enough.  Much like we do to many other turbo based cars, there is a center resonator in the exhaust system, and we cut that out, and straight piped that section. Now you can hear the engine, and it's not loud, not obtrusive, but it sings to you.

After driving the car for over a year, the customer decided that the exhaust still did not sing the way he wanted, and we were about to add even more power, so, some more upgrades were called for.


There are two sides to the exhaust equation when dealing w both turbo engine and smog requirements.  The turbo "down pipes" are often a source of back pressure and restriction, and they also muffle the exhaust tone.  Therefore, we wanted to replace those w "catless" section and bigger width.  There are not a lot of aftermarket suppliers that make "catless" downpipes for the E500...but the good news is that they are a close derivative from the bigger engined Mercedes E63 V8 AMG twin turbo versions, and, as a result, there are solutions out there.  These are strong, cast downpipes.  Given the tight clearances that we were going to have, we had the new dowpipes ceramic coated to help with the heat as well.  The new pipes flow a heck of a lot better than the stock.

Getting the stock downpipes out is not for the faint of heart.  Mercedes did a heck of a job designing the stock setup and getting them to fit, and to provide proper clearance.  Most everything has to be moved....subframe dropped, steering rack moved away, engine lifted off the engine mounts. Take a look here at what we have to play with to install the new downpipes.

This will give a better sense of the tight downpipes installed.

But, we didn't stop there.  Since we were increasing the size of the downpipes, we needed to carry that back to the rest of the exhaust system.  So, new, larger mid pipes as well.

The goal was to provide better flow, better sound.  The goal was perfectly achieved.  This took several iterations to gain both the performance and sound.  Now it sounds mean, even at idle, you know this is no standard Mercedes, but it doesn't scream.  Just mean all the time.

One of the things that happens in an upgrade process, is that one upgrade often drives the next piece of the solution.  If we now have an engine with more power, and better acceleration and top speed, then we need to think about the brakes.  What should be do there?  What should we do, or what can we do?  Hmmm...I think the only proper thing to do is to go big...big brake kit that is. And since we want this to look completely integrated, well conceived, as if the factory had done the right thing from the start, then we need to go big front and rear.


If we want to stay with the factory look approach, then the only choice is BREMBO.  They offer a complete kit for this Mercedes, and an amazing kit it is.  Just like all Brembo BBK (Big Brake Kits), it upgrades the rotors to a 2-piece, floating rotor design, the fronts using their newer "Type 3" slotted rotors, while the back uses the older "Type 1" slotted rotors.  Calipers are bigger, stronger, greater surface area, longer mment arm for the braking center of pressure...everything you would want in an upgraded caliper.  Plus, they look killer.  New stainless steel lines, sport brake pads (better bite, and 50% less brake dust).  Balanced braking efficiency front and rear, so works perfect with the stock ABS and traction control systems.

Here is the new front setup installed:

Who wouldn't want that as part of their car?  Massive 6-piston front caliper.  Here is the rear setup (4 piston rear caliper, 2-piece floating, slotted rear rotor).


Here is a comparison of the old, original front brake, to the new Brembo BBK front brake system.

The look, the performance, the braking feel, the confidence....just what we wanted.

As we mentioned, often one step drives another.  We knew from the start that we wanted to do the Brembo brakes, and to ensure proper fitmnet inside the wheel, we had to know what wheel we were going to go with.  Just like all the other decisions, the customer wanted the best product available.  If you ask us what the best possible wheels are, that is easy, HRE Wheels. Then that decides it, HRE it is.


Everything you would want in a wheel is available from HRE.  Design, style, style options, fitment (so we can also get wider tires in the stock, unmodified wheel wells....and experience with these cars from other projects we have done, has shown that there is tight fitment in the rear wheel well...but the HRE's fit perfect), color, strong, light weight...but most of all, they just look amazing.

Front HRE wheels w the new Brembo BBK installed -

Rear HRE wheel w the new Brembo BBK installed -

Now, there are a lot of directions we could go with the suspension.  But, this is not a hard core race car, this is meant to be the AMG type upgrade as if it came from the factory.  The handling is fine therefore, but the ride height is not.


There are so many ways to go on the suspension, but, we don't need "coil-overs".  That would not be staying consistent with the objectives and needs of this project.  We don't need to change or upgrade the suspension bushings, the control arm bushings, the sub-frame bushings, the sway bars....we just want to firm up the ride slightly, and lower the ride height.  The easy answer then is to install sport springs.  For the Euro cars, we prefer the H&R sport springs for street cars.  While they don't publish their spring rates, we have tested the springs from H&R and others, and find their choice to be a better result for street cars.

To truly make this a complete "project"...we can't ignore the interior of the car.  We have done little touches to the outside, along with the major visible exterior upgrades (wheels, brakes, trim, window tint), but we want a complete solution.  Given the theme and approach, the interior was too plain, and didn't match the theme of "sporty", the trim inside needed to be upgraded as well.


Given the colors of the car, wheels, brakes, and exterior paint color, the best solution was to introduce Carbon Fiber trim to the interior. 

Funny how sometimes the little things make a big difference.  Since this project evolved over many one point the exterior triim had not been fully blacked out.  But, now w the finished product, that has been completed too, and it makes a huge difference.  Look at the before and after of the trim changes.  Window trim blacked out, tops of the door handles blacked out, front reflectors "smoked", front grill blacked out, rear trunk lid spoiler, rear trunk trim blacked out.

BEFORE all trim upgraded -

AFTER all trim addressed

The NET....success.  As the customer stated, this is JUST THE WAY I wanted the car to be from the factory.  It works in every way.

BRracing - producing JOY for our Customers!



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