Is it just me, or are Mercedes-Benz doing all sorts of great things these days? Take a look at their line up and you’ll quickly see that they cater to every single type of car out there – from grandpa-spec sedans to ultra high-performance machines that make us froth at the mouth. While many of the high-end models remain prohibitively expensive, these days you can pick up an entry-level AMG for a palatable amount of money.
I am, of course, talking about the A 45 AMG and CLA 45 AMG models – the hot hatch and saloon combo that in the short time since their introduction have brought a lot more people into AMG ownership. From a sales perspective the two models have done very well in Japan, so it’s no surprise that local tuning companies have taken an interest. It may seem wrong, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll know that there’s something so right about a European car modified the JDM way. Which brings me to this: an A 45 AMG by Varis.
After my behind-the-scenes tour of the Japanese aero maker’s workshop, I just had to find out what the angry-looking AMG parked out front was all about. And what better way than to take it for a strop through some local mountain roads – which is precisely what Yahagi-san and I did.
This particular car – like the many BMWs that Varis have designed kits for in the past – is dressed up with a variety of parts from the ‘VRS’ line. This is the brand name Varis uses for aero parts it makes for any vehicle that’s not of Japanese origin.
And like all of Varis’s goodies, there’s the choice of having the parts produced from FRP or carbon fiber – or a variety of both materials depending on the piece. Seeing that this A 45 AMG is one of the company’s demo cars, it’s no surprise that every addition here has been sculpted out of carbon. Up front there’s a new lip spoiler designed with an integrated square central section, and beneath it an extended lower lip that follows the same contours to really set off the front end. The factory AMG canards are retained, but Varis have added carbon trim panels for the two side intakes.
Right from the start the idea was to match black wheels with the black exterior, and in partnering with RAYS, Varis found exactly what they were looking for in a set of 19-inch Volk Racing G25s. Totally by chance, the RAYS logo on the center caps matches the big red AMG calipers, which is a nice little detail.
While AMG cars come with sports-tuned suspension from the factory, Varis really wanted to step things up in this department. And by fitting adjustable Spirit coilovers they killed two birds with one stone – first by equipping the car with the on-the-rails handling it deserved, and secondly by dropping it closer to the ground and allowing the fenders to really hug the 235/35R19 Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres that feature front and rear.The VRS Carbon Touches
The glossy carbon additions continue along the skirts; VRS side diffusers making the whole car seem like it’s sitting lower than it actually is.
The factory red highlights along the grille and side mirrors of this Edition 1 car add more visual drama and bring continuity to the exterior. But it isn’t until you take a few steps back that you realise just how menacing this car actually looks. That twin front splitter really works wonders up front.
Seeing and hearing it in action really makes you appreciate what AMG have achieved with smallest car in the Mercedes line up. This is a genuine hot hatch.
Lifting the lightweight VRS aero bonnet reveals why this car is just so damn fun to drive on touge roads.
It may sport half the numbers cylinders of what we’re used to seeing from AMG, but with 360hp on tap the 2.0-liter four-pot punches well above its weight class when you look at the numbers. I’m not mistaken, the soon-to-be-released C 63 AMG has eight cylinders and twice the capacity, but only makes 503hp in comparison. Throw in a seven-speed AMG Speedshift twin-clutch transmission and an AMG 4MATIC AWD drivetrain, and you could look at the A 45 AMG as Germany’s answer to the Lancer Evolution X. Seven years late I know, but I’m sure you get where I’m coming from.
Seeing the engine has its turbocharger mounted at the front – much like the way older 4G63-powered Evos did – Varis thought that cooling was definitely needed. That’s why the bonnet features these generous louvered openings, which are fitted with drains to collect rain and direct it right into the factory water channels.
More venting on the sides of the bonnet helps rid the engine bay of more hot air, and on top of being functional looks rather good.
To further boost the Edition 1 touches that the car came with, the rear gets a comprehensive list of VRS goodies too.
Take the roof spoiler for example. The VRS version builds on the stock item with an accentuated contour and also adds carbon fiber wing stays into the mix.
The biggest visual touch however is the lower section, which fits into the stock rear bumper like a glove. The general contours are much the same as the original AMG item, but the VRS piece adds a center diffuser section with three integrated fins. It’s also designed to fit the two AMG exhaust trims for a perfectly integrated upgrade.
It may be the company demo car but Yahagi-san really enjoys taking the A 45 AMG out on proper driving roads – which means pretty much any road close to the Varis factory. Talk about lucky!Comfort & Aggression
In the last chapter I made a comparison between this car and the Evolution X, but while the two cars are mechanically similar the A 45 AMG takes the win when it comes to the interior. That said, in Japan it does cost $10,000 more than the range-topping Evolution X GSR Premium, so it should come with nicer materials and a better fit and finish. (In fairness though, the Evo X RS sells for the equivalent of US$29,770 in Japan making it a true performance bargain)
One would expect nothing less from an AMG-spec Mercedes, and in factory form the cabin is a very nice place to park yourself.
The little touches always make the difference.
The seats are nice and supportive with plenty of adjustability built in. Sure, they probably weigh a lot, but they totally fit the whole ‘luxury sport’ bill that AMG cars are renowned for.
Cruising the long way back to the Varis workshop was like going for another complimentary slice of dessert after a satisfying meal. After giving the little A 45 AMG a proper workout on some perfect mountain roads it gave me more time to admire and appreciate why the JDM touch – when applied to European cars – just works so well. Am I right?
Dino Dalle Carbonare
Varis’s Mercedes-AMG A 45 AMG
AMG 2.0L four-cylinder turbocharged
AMG Speedshift DCT 7-speed transmission, AMG 4MATIC all-wheel drive
RAYS Volk Racing G25 19×8.5-inch +38 front/rear, Bridgestone Potenza S001 235/35R19 front/rear
Varis VRS full aero kit comprising of: front spoiler + extension lip set, front duct trim, vented bonnet, side skirts, rear side skirts, rear diffuser section, rear wing