Mercedes-AMG didn’t plan on leaving survivors after it skydived into the hot-hatch game.
It wanted its A45 perched at the top of its segment’s food-chain. That’s why if you flip one on its roof the weapons-grade hardware would dazzle even a NASA pilot.
John Healey from V-Sport in Sydney knows this. “As a base car it’s a really good platform. It’s probably that next step up from a [Golf R], Evo, or an STI,” he says.
It’s also why V-Sport, renowned for experience with everything up to circuit-slurping time-attack cars, decided a mild tuning package would be the best way to present an A45 before Hot Tuner’s performance tests.
You could glean this from one glance at the A45. Out of our entire Hot Tuner field, V-Sport’s A45 looks the least modified, visually shaping up as, well, an untouched car.
“Basically it all looks standard from the outside looking in,” Healey says of what V-Sport has gifted the car. “Pop the bonnet and it all looks factory, pop the glovebox and, depending on where people want it, is just a control box.”
This “control box” talks to the car’s ECU that’s running a Willall Racing-developed engine tune, known as the Phase 1.5. As a successor to a Phase 1 tune, which V-Sport also offers, the 1.5 gives the A45 the ability to drink ethanol-based fuel while giving the hand-built 2.0-litre turbocharged four a larger, less-restricted filter to gorge down litres of air.Healey says the control module then allows the driver to swap between five engine programs. “One is standard, two is 98 upgrade, three is E-Flex mode, four improves launch control on E-Flex as well, and five is your valet mode… or when you lend it to your mates.”
Unfortunately, Healey says its tune is currently designed for Caltex E-Flex, not the event’s Hi-Tec Fuels stuff, so it’s on 98 today. But for you it shouldn’t matter with precaution.“E-Flex is generally rated from E70 [its ethanol percentage] to E75, whereas if you go to E90 or E85 you need talk to us about it and how that effects how much 98 you need to keep in it for it to work.”
With its ECU wired to milk more power from the engine, V-Sport’s also tossed the car’s stock intercooler for a Willall Racing piece to keep temps frosty and the engine healthy.
Healey explains it’s a case of bigger is better. “It’s basically about volume, so [the Willall unit] is slightly bigger, and a better design – bigger tanks, fin design, and just better overall cooling.”
Being water based, Healey adds the system needs to be bled before the new item is installed, so it’s an in-shop job.
Street- and value-focused, Healey and V-Sport have left the A45’s suspension as AMG intended, choosing rather to round out the A45’s package with Endless brake pads, Endless brake fluid, and rather exotic, high-shelf, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres which cuddle the stock 19-inch wheels.
With other cars bearing small mortgages in go-fast parts, the A45 wades in to battle with little change to its core offering. And the data will reveal whether that’s a winning, or losing, approach.
- Car: Mercedes-AMG A45
- Who: V-Sport Performance
- Where: Unit 1/204 Walters Road, Arndell Park, NSW
- How long: Since 2004
- Contact: (02) 9679 8644
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: vsport.com.au
- Drive: all-wheel
- Engine: 1991cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
- Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch
- Suspension: struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r)
- Brakes: 350mm drilled ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (f); 330mm drilled ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r)
- Wheels: 19 x 8.0-inch (f/r)
- Tyres: 235/35 R19 (f/r); Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2
Parts and Prices
- Tune $3,300
- Intercooler $1,450
- Brakes $1,140
- Wheels/Tyres $2,540
- Total Mods Cost $8,430
- Vehicle Cost (mSrp) $75,800
- Total Cost $84,230
The AMG puts on the hurt with an all-round approach
Braking know-how runs in V-Sport’s veins, and the meagre distance covered by its A45 after Luffy stomped its middle pedal proves that point. Not only does the accomplishment of coming to a complete stop in 33.8m crown the V-Sport-fettled AMG as this year’s most efficient braker, it’s a figure that squashes any braking test we’ve completed with a stock A45.
But its wheels aren’t stuffed full of race-grade hardware. In fact, all V-Sport has done is slip a pad between its four-pot fixed caliper and slotted disc, which proves refining, rather than renovating, an already good product can be key to real gains. “To be honest the standard caliper and disc [AMG is] offering are a really good package,” Healey says.
When asked where its Endless pads differ to the stock ones, we’re told it’s about control and durability – two elements you’re going to need when slicing up a track.
“It’s just a high-temperature rating; more feel, and more control,” Healey tells. “The standard pad’s biggest thing is, ‘I don’t want noise driving around the street’, so we’re trying to get the best of both worlds that you can have on the road and take to the track as well.”
He’s not kidding, either. Out on Sydney Motorsport Park, the descent before turn 11’s hairpin presents the opportunity to assess the brakes. A concentrated squeeze reveals a precise relationship between pedal force and bite, helping you roll off the brake with millimetre accuracy to free the front tyres for turn-in. Whether that’s more the system complementing the pads or the other way around we don’t know, but it works.
And if brakes are only as good as the tyres providing them with grip, V-Sport gave the A45’s brakes some of the best street stuff available: Michelin’s Pilot Sport Cup 2, the dry-grip specialist at the MOTOR tyre test this year.
As the South Circuit’s abundance of low-speed corners rewards agility and acceleration, it’s here the Mercedes-AMG’s firm suspension set-up and new high-grip boots should seize their chance to shine. The A45 devours each corner at a frightening pace; the bald shoulders of the Michelins force it to lean hard with alarming tenacity.
As the circuit straightens, we’re given the chance to discover what Healey means when he describes the car’s torque curve as “punchy” and concentrated on “low-end grunt”.
Despite passing on the event’s control E85 fuel for regular 98 – which hurts its overall power figure – a committed heave on the throttle from a standstill uncorks an explosive mid-range from the mildly-tuned M133 four-cylinder engine.There’s no scream from a protesting rear end or chatter from a hopping front axle; the front-to-even split all-wheel drive system simply turns the swollen mid-range in to a surge of acceleration.
As the surge tapers off in the upper rev range of each gear, though, the experience falls into a more usual one. Each upshift shoots a satisfying blat out of the tailpipes, and as MOTOR’s drive turns to a cruise around the pits to cool the brakes, it hums around at low-speed without fuss, just like a factory car.
Nothing about this car advertises it’s modified in a big way. Instead, our performance tests reveal layers of slight improvement in different areas.
“You don’t have to spend a pile of money to have a really good package,” is Healey’s mantra for the A45, and the numbers prove him right. Despite having one of the lowest modification costs of this field, the A45 snatches two top-three category finishes.
And while V-Sport won’t be able to brag about its power figure or quarter-mile time, its sharper braking, stronger acceleration, and improved grip combine for a decent lap time. It’s the fastest A45 at SMSP in Hot Tuner history, and it’s on street rubber. Like we said: refining a good product, rather than renovating it, can be the key to real gains.
- Overall Result: 2nd
- Test Result Ranking
- 0-100km/h 4.57sec 2nd
- 0-400M 12.78sec @178.25km/h 5th
- 100-0km/h 33.85 metres 1st
- Dyno 194.9awkW 7th
- Track 1 :03.20 sec 5th
“Such an easy car to drive on the limit. The grip levels and the dynamics of the car are just so high that on each lap you just keep pushing harder and harder and it still just wants more. It’s very forgiving in the way it handles and the way it does everything. It’s a great overall package. It goes to show you don’t have to spend silly money to make an improvement that makes a much better car.”