A45 AMG Project Thread: One step at a time

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Well it's been some time since any updates, so I thought I would divulge what recent performance results I've gained with the current tuning set-up. Even if they were not what I was really hoping for, but that's life and I'd rather be up front about what the car does..... good or bad.

First off though I managed to put the A45 on a weighbridge last week, being curious as to how much the car actually weighs in at.

The book figures are 1555kgs..... however, the published kerb weights will certainly be for the standard specification of car. So what do you think mine weighs in at with the following options:

19" wheels
Aero pack
Black paint (lol - that must weigh extra)
High beam assist (not sure that weighs much)
Performance exhaust (does this weigh less, as it uses only one resonator?)
Auto dimming mirrors (fractional weight surely)
Electric mirrors (electrical gubbins)
Heated seats
Intelligent Light System (come on - you serious)
Panoramic roof (this is the single biggest concern!)

On the weighbridge it came in at 1570kgs...... which you probably think that isn't bad. That's until you realise that was WITHOUT me sat in it, and the manufacturers 1555kg kerb weight INCLUDES 75kgs for a driver!!!

Doesn't look so good now does it.

So when all said and done, the actual comparative kerb weight of my "fatty" is actually 1570kgs+75kgs which equals 1645kgs. Not great news.
Which will surely have an element of impact on the next bit. Recorded times down a proper Drag Strip!

Prior to the next phase of mods that I'll be completing, I thought it would be a good idea to rip the car down the strip to gauge a performance baseline, so I shot off to Santa Pod recently.

I was down Santa Pod pretty early doors and one of the first in the fire up lane (my car was given No.1 lol). I don't really like running early on, especially when no events were the previous day. You tend to find the start line will be a tad "waxy" until some rubber goes down and the track heat starts to build up a bit.

First run 12.48 @ 109.65mph
Mmmm... that wasn't a great run with traction issues at the start. The biggest issue was the gear shifts though. An early gear short shifted and I felt the car lose some major forward momentum (almost feeling like it bogged down) and then another gear hung on the upshift. I know an element of the time was down to the poor traction at the start, but it was certainly being hampered more by the Sports Mode gear shifting.

The gear shifting issues is something I have noticed on the road, and when looking at my VBOX logs you can see where speed flatlines for a time and acceleration G's fall off.

I knew on the run this was a problem as I was fixated on the rev counter, so you could physically see the box issues watching the revs. These issues are not uncommon in Sports Mode for the box, and is something I never have when in manual.

Second run 12.36 @ 110.15mph
Ever so slightly better start (tyres were warmer), but still had the same overall shift issues.

I then pulled over and took a break for a while, and decided to drop my tyre pressures to get better traction off the start. I knew if I couldn't get a clean shift run in, I was peeing in the rain anyway, but I just thought I would give it another run.

Third run 12.25 @ 109.38mph
Felt better off the line that one, but probably had, what felt like, the biggest shifting issues.

At this point I decided to stop, as the shift issues were not going to fix themselves.

Whilst I was disappointed with what I ended up with, the positive to take from it was that in reality the final timing was hardly a total embarrassment. If you consider that my terminal speeds were some 4-5mph down on where they should have been, shifting issues sorted, I would hope for quite an improvement in my opinion. But.... it is what it is.

All in all taking everything into consideration, it's not bad for just a tuning box. Then if you consider the weight of the car as well..... it's respectable to be honest.

Car will be having the TCU updates next month for sure (which have never been updated since the build in August 2014). Hopefully this will sort the shifting issue out.

Hopefully when I get down the strip next time, I'll have different mods and will be hopefully reducing my times. I need to get in the 11's!
Stage 2 Development
Well…. it’s been a long time coming, but I have now finally been able to make the move to Stage 2 tune testing on my A45.

Sticking with the approach I have taken to date, I completed as much “staged” mod testing as I feasibly could, based upon the time I had. Effectively this was going to be a day to do as much testing and set-up on my car as possible…… it was a very very long day (as you’ll notice by some of the times on the dyno graphs!)

So what did I test?

Test 1: Tuning Box + Induction Kit
Test 2: Tuning Box + Induction Kit + Decat Downpipe
Test 3: ECU Remap + Induction Kit + Decat Downpipe

Induction Kit
I’ve been some what sceptical of the gains that are generally touted about induction kit performance gains, having tested a fair bit in this area with previous car projects. In my experience you only really see a gain on the inlet side, when you start to alter turbos, going bigger which require more air coming in. Since we’re staying with the OEM turbo for now, it was difficult to see where any gains could be seen by changing the induction side of things. Of course this mindset does change somewhat when you actually look at the OEM inlet closer.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of the OEM induction kit, which is a paper cylinder that attaches to a collar on the inside of the airbox. The thing you notice straight away is the internal diameter of the collar, which in effect looks like it’s restricting air from the filter to the corrugated section attached to the turbo compressor cover. It’s a much smaller diameter base on the OEM filter, which effectively matches the restrictive inner diameter of the collar. What this induction kit aims to do is open up the air filter base to around 4.5” and provide a straight through/unrestricted path to the corrugated section. Theoretically this provides a larger volume of air at an increased pressure.

I’m of the understanding that the filter base and inner collar diameter used on this kit, is the largest currently available, running to 4.5”s. I can’t substantiate that, but thought the size maybe worth you knowing.

CNC’d machined out of a solid alloy block, the collar looks very nice….. and it’s internal diameter is clearly very big!

Fitting takes 10 mins. You remove the OEM filter and the existing plastic collar, which is attached with a couple of screws. You fit the new collar and K&N cylinder filter. Job done!

Here’s the corrugated inlet pipe I referred to previously…… this I suspect is disrupting airflow and along with the OEM collar and filter, is adding to air disruption but also all in all is helping to keep things a touch quieter on the induction roar. I really wouldn’t mind removing this inlet pipe and bashing on some silicon pipework, to stop any air disruption. Another test for another day.

All fitted back into the engine bay.

Decat Downpipe
Yes, this has no cat and no, it won’t pass an MOT. With that sorted, let’s move on. ;-)

I said some time ago when I first looked under the A45, that the OEM exhaust system is not that restrictive. The OEM cat is huge, so surely provides good airflow, especially what we know these cars can make on the 100% OEM exhaust and Tuning Box. The rest of the system has some restriction points, but nothing (visually) of any major importance in my opinion. With that said, making the gas flow as unrestricted as possible, has to help with decreasing back pressure, which will surely help overall airflow through the engine to aid response and spool. Another positive side effect of this is the lowering of exhaust gas temps. Theoretically this is all better for the setup, especially when you’re looking to extract peak performance at any given point. On top of all of this is the addition of more noise. Some will want this and some won’t.

Remember for these tests we’ve only looked at the downpipe. We’ve kept the rest of the system OEM, which is the mid pipe and backend of the system (although a full system is available if you want the full monty), including the OEM rear resonator (the system fitted to this car is the AMG Performance Exhaust, so only one resonator instead of two) and OEM rear backbox.

Perhaps I’m a bit of a nerd, but I love to see well crafted and welded pipework. This downpipe is no exception. Very neatly built, sporting a 3.5” diameter which mates perfectly to the exhaust housing and OEM midpipe.

If I’m being over critical and had thought about it more, I would have asked to see the downpipe either ceramic coated or heat wrapped (both of which could have been done for me). There are a number of benefits to this. Firstly this retains heat in the downpipe, to aid gas flow speed. Secondly it reduces under bonnet temps. I’ll get this wrapped in the near future.

ECU Remap
This is undoubtedly the key element for this development phase and where most of the time has been spent.

The A45 uses the Bosch MED 17.7.x ECU family…… without going into a massive amount of detail, this ECU is one very powerful mofo. The amount of control it can have over how the engine performs is pretty mind blowing. The art of making the car “sing”, utilising/modifying the appropriate calibrations (there are well over 100,000 of these!) and ensuring you’re not hitting the protection tables (ultimately resulting in power being pulled down), is where the time and effort is needed. This is a totally different level of ECU than I have seen, coming from the Subaru marque - which in comparison really is “old skool”.

As well as “pure power” related calibrations, there are also a number of areas that can be accessed/adjusted. For instance exhaust valve opening, throttle maps, rev limits, “pops and bangs”, speed limiters...... the list goes on.

It goes without saying that even from a pure technical and in essence, logical standpoint, a properly mapped ECU should be overall, far better than a tuning box (convenience to one side). Obviously were going to find out by how much, which isn’t all to do with a dyno comparison. I’ll go into this further on.

One of the downsides of mapping the MED 17.7.2 is the fact that currently, the only way of doing this is via a method known as BDM. The process to achieve this is commonly referred to as a “bench tune”, which effectively means the ECU is pulled out of the car and programmed. This also makes tuning a bit of a time consuming effort, assuming you need to alter and test different calibration adjustments. It means you program the ECU (out of the car); refit; log on road/dyno; pull ECU out and make adjustments and refit/log again - repeat until you get bored!

Unfortunately OBD programming access is not currently available.

If I’m being honest I was very surprised how many areas on this custom map had been adjusted over the OEM map. I was guided through many of the changes (I love to know the detail of this stuff - helps my knowledge improve). There were many areas that have been adjusted to increase safety as part of the correction/protection strategies available in the ECU. It’s not all about cranking up the boost and ignition, as you need to work with the protection strategies - not against them. The ethos behind this tune after copious amounts of road logging and adjustments, has been to ensure everything is safe and the engine and ancillaries are happy…….. especially under high engine loads.

The guys I have worked with have developed a set of their own basemaps, dependant on ECU code version and overall level of tune.

So how is the programming done - put simply the ECU needs to be taken apart and the programming box is connected to the main PCB and also to pins on the ECU loom connector. Programming box is connected to PC/Laptop via USB, and programming software is used to write the new map file to the ECU - direct.

A clone of the current map on the ECU can be taken, so this is what was done to mine. This is useful if you should get any problems, where you need to revert back to the OEM map. It is my understanding that this boot method of remapping is undetectable if you had the OEM map put back on. I doubt I have to explain why you may wish to do that!

So that’s an overview of what mods were being done…… let’s get on to some dyno testing.

TEST 1 - Tuning Box and Induction Kit (comparison with Stage 1 Tuning Box)
Whilst this (retaining the tuning box) wasn’t really what this was about, I wanted to see what differences the more basic mods made.

Summary of Spec
MY14 A45 AMG
Tuning Box
Induction Kit
Fuel - Tesco Momentum (99 oct)

TEST 1 figure achieved was 421.8bhp & 420.1lbft @ the flywheel
Comparing this against what was achieved with the Stage 1 tuning box (which is the comparison the graph above shows), we saw the following:
+15.4bhp +15.3lbft (peak) over Stage 1 Tuning Box
+3.7% bhp +3.7% (peak) over Stage 1 Tuning Box

That’s a pretty impressive result for a very simple and relatively cheap bolt on mod. Curve is nice and smooth as well. What impressed me personally were the gains across the whole of the curve. Sometimes you see a gain in peak torque and peak power with induction kits, but this kit provided a consistent gain throughout the rev range from 3k onwards.

Whilst it isn’t loud by any stretch, you do get a slight increase in induction noise, which is quite nice.

All in all I was suitably impressed.

TEST 2 - Tuning Box, Induction Kit and Decat Downpipe
Unfortunately I dropped a clanger here, as I never took the graph away with me. I will get it as soon as I can and insert the graph in here.

However, being totally upfront, we saw no great gains with the downpipe fitted, either in torque or BHP. I never road tested at this stage, but I would have expected to notice a decrease in turbo spool time on the road and a sharper throttle response. That would appear to be a logical assumption based upon the reduction in back pressure. It’s not always about dyno figures when adding mods, so you do need to take everything into account.

One thing that was clear though was the noise increase…… we’ll come on to that later, as part of the road test feedback with the ECU remap.

One element that was suggested, was that gains from the downpipe may only be realised with the combination of the ECU remap. Remember the Tuning Box is effectively only providing boost adjustments…… there are far more areas in the main ECU map that influence power results, which remain untouched until proper mapping takes place.

TEST 3 - ECU Remap, Induction Kit and Decat Downpipe - Dyno
It’s worth pointing out that the guys I’m working with have not used my car to develop their basemaps. The whole process was much more involved, and they wanted to gain as much data and testing of their own, which took a fair few months. Luckily they have had access to several other A45’s in the UK and the continent, to enable them to develop their maps on several differently modified cars. They have also had access to a TTE460 equipped car…. but more on turbo mods in a future project update.

Their latest Stage 2 calibrations were taken from their MY15 ECU code version, so the appropriate tables were copied over to my ECU. I suspect the map development process will be ongoing, although in reality these guys are happy they have developed a good set of maps now for their soon to be released A45 Stage 2 tuning packages.

The process was to flash my ECU with their latest calibrations, run on the dyno whilst logging, review logs / dyno graph and adjust if required for my own car and needs.

As some of you may have guessed I like to “get involved” in things, and because of the relationship I have with these guys, they did ask me what I wanted to try (if anything). One thing that they did make clear to me was that the map which was going to be applied to my car, had gone through extensive road logging and testing. The other cars that had been used to develop this specific custom map, had responded well and they were happy with all the data they had recorded.

So after the ECU was flashed (which takes minutes once the map file has been prepared), the car was strapped down on the dyno.

Now…. saying all of this, we did end up making several adjustments. I wanted to try a few things to see what effect it had on the curve shape, and they were willing to carry out these changes to see the results. After a good 2 hours (which included several map changes and ECU programming cycles) on the dyno we ended up with this:

Summary of Spec
MY14 A45 AMG
ECU calibration
Induction Kit
Decat Downpipe
Fuel - Tesco Momentum (99 oct)

TEST 3 figure achieved was 451bhp & 446.4lbft @ the flywheel
+29.2bhp +26.3lbft (peak) over Stage 2 Test 1
+6.9% bhp +6.2% (peak) over Stage 2 Test 1

Overall Stage 2 Test 3 comparison against Stage 1 Tuning Box
+44.6bhp +41.6lbft (peak)
+10.9% bhp +10.2% lbft (peak)

Overall Stage 2 Test 3 comparison against car as tested standard (baseline)

+74.5bhp +111.6lbft (peak)
+19.7% bhp +33.3% lbft (peak)

TEST 3 - Comments
As you can see from the data above, you’ll probably appreciate I was quite flabbergasted to be honest. I never thought I’d up seeing those kinds of peak power figures from the OEM turbo. The peak flow rate of the turbo was maxed at the top end. I doubt there is anything else left in it, as load on the logs was dropping off quite dramatically.

A couple of things to note is that by the time we achieved this figure the whole car was getting very toasty. We had to pause between a number of the runs as logged charge temps were getting very high. However, nothing in the logs pointed to any issues in reality. Everything was doing as expected. You’ll also notice a dip between 5500-6500, which could have been temp related, so I’ll be running the car back up on the dyno later this month to see. If not, we’ll tweak the map slightly to smooth that area out a touch.

MAHA’s tend to really load the car up, as the runs are quite long compared to other dynos. This is good for logging purposes against high loads, but isn’t great for heat build up. To be honest the charge cooling system is doing a very fine job, even under this high load environment.

One thing that’s immediately noticeable is the way the car revs and still continues to make power. The rev limit has been raised to 7k, yet the power isn’t dropping off at the top end. That should feel very strong on the road.

Another point is perceived HP limit of the OEM turbo. It has been stated by others that the maximum HP capability of the OEM turbo is around 435hp at the flywheel. So you may look at my figures and say “Hold on - you’ve got 451bhp - must be BS then!”. You need to dig a bit deeper……. In the UK we predominantly use DIN power corrections (already talked about earlier on in this project thread). Whilst this dyno can cater for all current correction factors, I stated I would use DIN corrections for this project (apples and apples for us UK guys then). Manufacturers use ECE/EWG correction, which is around 3-4% less than DIN figures. The 435hp figure touted is based on ECE/EWG corrections. If you do the maths my DIN figures then relate to around 435-438hp at the flywheel, corrected to ECE/EWG correction…… bingo!

Whilst the graph below is a bit “busy”, it shows the differences between Stage 1, Stage 2 Test 1 and finally Stage 2 Test 3:

As you can see with the above graph, we’ve seen good increases moving from Stage 1 to Stage 2 Test 3.

Due to the fact that we had started at 9am and it was now 9pm, we decided to call it a day for now. The only thing left to do was to drive the car on road and complete the last round of logging…… just to be sure.

TEST 3 - Road
You might find it weird for me to say this, but I really wasn’t expecting much over and above the Tuning Box, regardless of what the dyno numbers suggested. I’m a bit of a pessimist.

If you read my road testing comments during Stage 1, you’ll see I was pretty impressed with how the car went…….. again I can’t believe how much different the car is now with the Stage 2 mods. Something I really wasn’t expecting.

The first thing I immediately noticed was the noise. Christ this car is loud now! There was a lot of things I wasn’t expecting today and this was certainly one of them. Taking into account I still have the OEM AMG Performance Exhaust from the mid-pipe back, it sounds absolutely crazy. Sounds the same at idle, but on WOT…..

Then there’s the pops and bangs, both upshift (which is so much louder than the OEM sound) and even louder are the pops and bangs as you come off the throttle. This is perhaps the aural party piece on changes made within the ECU remap. If you let off the throttle at any point between 2-4k, it sounds like an old GRP B Rally Car! It’s repeated bangs and cracks, just like antilag in an audio sense. It REALLY IS loud…… perhaps too loud. I suspect the downpipe is helping here, but the ECU has been mapped to provide this sound, using different strategies around overrun fueling and ignition cut. It’s mental! Of course you can ask not to have this feature, and also you can quieten the car down by running in C mode….. if you really must. Aurally though you really wouldn’t need to change anything else on the exhaust side in my opinion. The great thing with these mods is that you get no exhaust drone on cruise.

So is this now all blow and no go?

I want to use words that accurately describe how this car drives now, without sounding like an utter over exaggerating idiot. The car simply drives night and day different to how it was with the tuning box….. it really is poles apart.

The throttle response is ultra sharp and responsive and the turbo feels like it spools immediately…. and the low down torque. Wow. It pulls so strong from low down now, it’s just totally different to drive. You keep your foot in and the engine just pulls and pulls and pulls to 7k. Without doubt, this now drives like no other 2ltr turbo charged car I have driven (modified) to date over the powerband that is available - it is so wide, strong and flexible. Which for me, and the way I drive, was really what I wanted….. but I didn’t think I was going to get it from this level of tune.

For a road car It’s all about the area under the curve to me.

I took it down a back lane that I know in the area, just to see how it went. It was quite manic at times to be honest and I lost traction in a couple of areas, that I’ve never had before with just the Stage 1 tuning box on.

It’s pretty stunning to drive now, but I appreciate it may not be for everyone, due to the nature of the power delivery.

I really wasn’t expecting this to pan out the way it did, but boy did I experience a few surprises.

Forget dyno figures: The driveability, noise and wide/strong powerband just makes this car so much more fun, in essence for fairly basic mod levels.

I’m not sure what else to say.

Basically…. don’t consider having your A45 remapped…. get it remapped!

I love it!

It goes without saying that I will be performing some VBOX logging as soon as I get a chance. I will also be getting back down the drag strip either during September or October. As soon as I get any performance related logs / times, I’ll post them up here.
Brilliant write up Shaun, thanks for the time and effort in doing so.

Those are some seriously impressive figures and if you say it is even better on the road then I know from your Subaru projects you won't be saying that lightly.

How much further are you going to go? Oh and any chance you can bring it along to a meet one day at MSL or somewhere? I am sure a lot of us looking for the next secondhand supercar performance bargain will soon be considering the A45 and it would be good to see the pioneering efforts of all those in at the start... sort of reminds me of the early days of Subaru tuning when people were finding out what could be done and what couldn't of course :)
Hi cb1965,
Thanks for your kind words. :)

How much further are you going to go?

Think of my previous Scooby Projects and replace "Scooby" with "AMG A45". :D Seriously though, I want to go quite a bit further if at all possible.

Discussion (and testing) is already underway around turbo changes, although that isn't as straight forward as some may deem. Assuming I carry on working with the companies I currently work with, I'm hoping past turbo development experience will pay dividends with the A45.

I'm also aware that these individuals are looking to delve into the Transmission ECU, which they believe will unlock further potential.

I also want to look at Air Charge Cooling mods...... a plan has already been hatched, and some parts will be ready soon for testing.

We then have handling/chassis mods. That will surely come at some point.

I said I'd never do this again once I'd moved away from the Subaru's. The pull to the dark side (tuning) is way too strong. :D

Still loads to do and I'm not sure how quickly we'll be able to progress. Will keep you posted. :)

Could certainly pop along to some meets..... I'm always up for talking cars to like minded individuals. :)
Hi cb1965,
Thanks for your kind words. :)

Think of my previous Scooby Projects and replace "Scooby" with "AMG A45". :D Seriously though, I want to go quite a bit further if at all possible.

Discussion (and testing) is already underway around turbo changes, although that isn't as straight forward as some may deem. Assuming I carry on working with the companies I currently work with, I'm hoping past turbo development experience will pay dividends with the A45.

I'm also aware that these individuals are looking to delve into the Transmission ECU, which they believe will unlock further potential.

I also want to look at Air Charge Cooling mods...... a plan has already been hatched, and some parts will be ready soon for testing.

We then have handling/chassis mods. That will surely come at some point.

I said I'd never do this again once I'd moved away from the Subaru's. The pull to the dark side (tuning) is way too strong. :D

Still loads to do and I'm not sure how quickly we'll be able to progress. Will keep you posted. :)

Could certainly pop along to some meets..... I'm always up for talking cars to like minded individuals. :)

LOL, yeah I used to read your threads on SN with interest. Not blowing smoke up your ***, but you always go into things that bit more thoroughly than most and I like it.

Glad you are taking this to the max, yes we will have to find a meet some time soon where we can all get together. As much as I love my SL I think the future of tuning lies in cars like the A45.

What I also like is you are working with people outside of the AMG tuning scene to an extent and I sometimes think having less pre-conceptions than some can bode well.... no disrespect to the likes of EC, MSL etc.

Keep up the good work :thumb:
Great write up Shaunee. it makes for very interesting reading thanks
No more mods done in the past two weeks, but I have some formal performance test data for you.

VBOX Testing
This didn’t exactly go to plan and threw up a few issues…..

I haven’t had that much time to get any VBOX logs due to real life getting in the way and also because of the recent poor weather. However, just over a week ago the weather sorted itself out, so I took the car out with the VBOX in toe.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, but during the last visit to Santa Pod I was still using my VBOX in the car, although the Pod was obviously providing me proper drag times. Something wasn’t right though as the VBOX times were way out compared to the strip times. The VBOX was well under reading, even though I had set the box to take into account the 1ft rollout that the strip timing gear is based on. Effectively on the strip, the official timing gear ignores the 1st foot. I’ll tell you more about the VBOX comparisons further on.

Right… so I found a decent flat and quiet national speed limit road and decided to try a dash to 60 using Launch Control. Conditions were bone dry and it was around 18degs. Unfortunately the car was fully fuelled up…. not the best way to get some numbers, but it was what it was.

First try I engaged LC and car immediately axle tramped, scrabbled for grip and the dash lit up with “4MATIC unavailable”. I kept my foot in post launch and it was pulling from left to right continuously…. horrendous torque steer, which was obviously the grunt it was having to put up with in FWD. Damn….. never had that before on a dry/warm road with the tuning box!

Tried it again….exactly the same, so I thought 3rd time lucky right!? You guessed it…. happened again!

The only thing that’s changed is the move to Stage 2. I’m on 19” rims with Continental Contisport 5P’s. I think these tyres are pretty grippy, but they were not having any of this…. and neither was the 4Matic!

One of two things could be causing this. Either the tyres are shot, or I have more torque now than these tyres can handle. Suffice to say that was the end of VBOXing that day.

In reality it doesn’t have a problem in normal driving, even when pushing it. Since I don’t really use LC, apart from VBOXing and drag strip stuff, it’s perhaps a bit of a moot point. I needed to get some objective data though.

It wasn’t a brilliant start to try and gauge performance increases on the road, and in some ways it was starting to get me slightly concerned in how the car was potentially going to NOT perform on the drag strip.

I double checked my front tyres when I got home and measured the tread depth. 5mm on the fronts!

I can come here and subjectively say this car is ****ing ballistic on the road (it is), but who is ever going to believe me without any objective results. Dyno graphs mean little on their own, so you’ve gotta back things up with other data.

I was going to get some in-gear times on my VBOX, but to do that I really needed to get back down Bruntingthorpe and I was genuinely concerned about the accuracy of my VBOX anyhow.

At the end of the day you’ll get the good, the bad and the ugly with me. That’s what testing stuff and working with others to develop is all about. You’ve gotta take the rough with the smooth. So with all of this I really needed to get back down the drag strip to see if that sticky surface would at least let me utilise LC. I was really apprehensive about going down, purely because of this total lack of traction using LC on the road, especially with a decent amount of tread on the tyres.

At times you’ve just gotta suck it up and get on with it!

Santa Pod
Luckily Santa Pod had a RWYB event Saturday just gone. I’d made my mind up in the middle of the week I was going to go….. assuming the weather held out.

On the Friday night before, I shot out in the car to try and get the fuel down, which was still virtually at the full tank mark. I really needed to reduce this. Things really were not going well as it was absolutely hoofing it down with rain, so I literally only did about 40 miles.

Got up Saturday morning…. and yes, it was very wet out! FFS!

I checked the forecast and it said it was going to dry up apparently, so I got ready and shot over to Santa Pod. It’s only down the road from me, so again, I wouldn’t have much chance to get shot of much fuel. Too late to be worrying about that now. lol

Unfortunately when I arrived at Santa Pod (at 9am) it was about as gloomy as you could ever want. Damp, cold and windy. Mmmmm.

Anyway….. here’s the fuel level at the start of the day:

The track was still being dried out with the guys using what looked like a jet blower. Not sure how long they were doing this before I got there, but it took them another 2hrs to finish the job off! By this time the cross wind and changed to a head wind, which was forecast to be up to 25mph. If anything, at least rain was not forecast for the rest of the day and the sun was trying it’s hardest to poke it’s head out!

Once the track opening I went straight down to the fire up lane….

First run 12.22 @ 111.54mph
I knew this early in the day with a pretty sketchy track surface, the first run wasn’t going to be great. I didn’t appear to be far wrong, especially when my VBOX logged this specific run to be 12.5 @ 116mph!!! Yeah….. my VBOX is goosed, FACT!

Now there was a problem with the track timing gear, in that we were unable to receive our printed results. I did manage to get these later in the day, but never knew what times I was really running until after my 3rd run about 3:30pm in the afternoon. Anyway…. I’ll continue to write this as if I received the times as I ran.

The car was really scrabbling for grip and axle tramping off the launch, but at least Launch Control worked now on the strip surface. Thank God! Something I noticed was that the Traction Control light was coming on after launch. Never had that before on my previous visit with the tuning box. I then thought “Here we go again. More traction issues.”.

In Launch Control mode you already have to switch off the first stage of Traction Control (sports mode), yet it was still kicking in. lol

The official 60ft time of this run confirmed my traction concerns. A rather poor 1.92!

Second run 12.18 @ 113.19mph
Around an hour after the first run (the queues were pretty bad) I managed to get the second in.

Exactly the same issues with the start and the Traction Control light coming on as before, post the launch. It just didn’t feel good, and once again the 60ft time confirmed that. 1.92! However, at least the times were dropping and the speed was increasing.

Third run 12.11 @ 114.33mph
By this time the wind was really starting to pick up, but as the sun was out, the track conditions were clearly starting to improve.

Again, it was a repeat “crap traction” performance of before, this time with a 1.90 to 60ft. But yet again, at least the times continued to come down and the terminal speed was increasing.

At this point in time I just thought any further runs would be an utter waste of time. The track conditions didn’t appear to be great, the wind was against me and I was struggling with grip. However, I thought I would try one more thing to gain some extra traction off the line….. lower my front tyre pressures and give it one last banzai run! lol

Fronts measured around 38psi, so I took them down to 30psi and got back in the queue.

Just as my day couldn’t have got any worse, another runner appeared to throw half of his oil down the track. STOP! It took another hour to clean that mess up, whilst I was stuck in the queue.

As I was getting bored I took a photo of my awesome and light weight fuel level!

It’s now about 5pm and the track closes at 5:30pm. I’m probably around 12 car pairs back, and they throw the next 5-6 car pairs down…. then move over to getting the bikes down. Half way through the bike runs a biker decides to throw him and his bike down the strip…. literally! Ambulance goes down the strip (probably quicker than me to be honest! ha). I thought that was it….. game over for me. Then it came back and after about another 10mins they started running again. 5:20pm (this is like an episode of Top Gear, AND I’m not making this up!) and the track will stop running in 10mins…. they still carry on with the rest of the bikes. You can imagine I’m going off my head at this point. Literally, at 5:30pm I’m on the start line.

Fourth run 12.06 @ 113.22mph
Well… that helped the launch a little bit (still axle tramping), although I still had the TC light coming on.

60ft of that run was an awesome (yeah right!) 1.87s.

I’d be lying if I stated I was over the moon with the results. I wasn’t. However, when you dig into the detail and take everything into consideration, the results were actually positive.

The car clearly has more grunt now, than it did when it was at Stage 1. If we look at the best from the previous Stage 1 runs, to these runs, the differences are marked:

Stage 1
12.25 @ 109mph; 60ft in 1.82s; 330ft in 5.06; ⅛ in 7.83 @ 88.22

Stage 2
12.06 @ 113mph; 60ft in 1.87s; 330ft in 5.08; ⅛ in 7.76 @ 91.62

The difference in terminal speed backs up the fact that I now have more BHP, and the car is clearly quicker down the strip because of this.

The single biggest issue I now have is lack of traction. Now this could be either due to how much torque I have, or purely down to mechanical grip. It’s possibly a mix of both.

There are two things apparent which are alluding to this. One is the 60ft times, which should be lower and the second is the TC coming on after launch.

There is a general guide that every decrease you see in your 60ft time, can equate to double the decrease at your final time. Assuming grip levels are good, these A45’s should be seeing 60ft times at around 1.80 and into the high 1.7’s. My best this time was 1.87, so a possible .07 off where it could be. The 60ft has little to do with outright grunt, but so much to do with grip/traction off the start.

The other thing is the Traction Control issues. How much impact this is having on my times (every 100th counts I’m afraid!) I don’t know, but it certainly isn’t helping me. When TC cuts in, it must be limiting torque, as that is what TC does.

I know I have an overall traction issue now as I can’t use LC on the road. The only thing that has changed is that I now have more power & torque.

The other things against me on the day were the overall conditions of both the track and the environment. They were what they were, but they were far from ideal in my opinion.

You can never assume that you’ll achieve your best times on each visit. This is why I would have preferred to run alongside other known A45’s on the same day. At least then you can compare between all on the same day, under the same conditions.

When I got home I actually looked at my VBOX data to see what the curves looked like. What each and every logged run showed me was quite alarming.

See that big dip in the red line (which is the speed plotted against time). That’s where the traction issues are being recorded in the log, which is pretty bad to be honest. The grey trace is accelerative g’s, and you can see the g’s drop right off (virtually down to 0 g’s) as the traction is being lost, and then start to build back up (but struggling to retain). The traction issue appears to be affecting the run from around 1s through to 2.5s+. So this is impacting both my 60ft (but we knew that already) and beyond.

I think as I approach 1g on acceleration I haven’t got enough mechanical grip due to the torque. The tyres then effectively spin so much that I lose all forward motion, until they manage to grip again. Torque then rapidly builds up at such a rate that the g’s then hit nearly 1.2. As it approaches 1.2g the TC is kicking in, as you see a second dip again between 2 and 3s.

How much time this is losing me I have no idea, but it has to be losing me time regardless.

Strangely enough I actually think all of this is a positive….. as I can now look at areas to try and sort, to improve this traction issue. Power is nothing unless I can get it down on the strip when I need it.

You’ll notice I’m putting a lot of emphasis on my quarter time results here. This is purely from a measurement comparison exercise. This car is extremely rapid on the road, especially in-gear. I don’t do drag starts on the road, so these “issues” are quite a moot point in that way. I’m conscious that many of you want to see real world performance figures, and since my VBOX timing is off, I can’t rely upon that currently (I need to buy a new one for sure). Regardless, none of this should take anything away from the car on the road. It’s quick!

What’s next?
Plenty! lol

Regardless of how the day went I gathered some really useful data. Such is the way when you’re working with others to develop things, and this certainly gives me specifics to look at and improve upon.

I need to see if I can sort these traction issues out and get back down the strip to see the impact.

I have a few ideas before I start pulling the current tyres off for brand new ones, so I’ll see what I can do over the following weeks.

The aim will be to get back down the drag strip (hopefully with some other tuned A45’s) at the end of this month. So we’ll have to see.

After that, I’ll be planning the next round of mods for Stage 3.
Interesting. There are a number of funned 45's with around the 400bhp laying down mid 3's to 60. Why do you think your having trouble launching when they arent?
Hi acej,
Too much torque for the available mechanical grip.

This could be either due to me running a more aggressive torque curve than others, or my tyres are not very good. Possibly a mixture of both.

I never had this problem when I was running just over 400bhp with the tuning box. The before and after dyno runs (between Stage 1 & 2), show I'm running a lot more power and torque now.

Personally, I think my tyres have pretty high grip levels. They are fairly soft and don't take long for you to hear them picking up stones on the road, as they become sticky. That noise you hear of your tyres picking up stones, in my experience, is a clear indicator of how sticky your tyres are. I don't know enough about the tyre compound to appreciate how much block movement I'm getting.

Road launching to one side, the track temperature at Santa Pod was not great. On my previous visit my tyres were getting good heat into them after each run. This time after each and every run, they were stone cold.

One thing I may try is doing a launch prior to pre-stage. Just to get heat in the fronts prior to the real launch.
If you're unsure about tyre temps and it's possible issue (I'd imagine it is on the strip) some data from them to compliment all the other data recorded would seem a logical move. Consider buying an infrared temp gun.

P.s. noticed on Amazon they start from just twelve quid, bargain.
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I've the cheapest tyre temp gauge in the business..... the back of my hand. :D

Seriously though.....I'll certainly look into that at some point, as I'll need one of these to check tyre/brake temps when I eventually hit a race track. I did have one, but I bust it.
Good right up mate your times was getting better each run I think you could have broke into the high 11's... either way flat 12 second is by no means slow that's a very respectable time

Is there anyway to limit boost in first gear just to give you the best possible start off then once your in 2nd you get on full boost ? Are you even running increased boost levels ?

You going to bother trying different tyres or mapping the gearbox to handle the extra power or you happy with these results

Got to say your a45 is lush mate
Hi SquabzZz,
Thanks for your comments. :)

An 11s quarter could have been on the cards, but due to the overall traction issues I doubt I would have seen this on that specific day. Above all, I would rather stick to my approach of "It does it when it does it".

In respect of altering the torque profile in 1st and 2nd. Sure, this is something we can look at, but prior to this I really want to exhaust all avenues around improving traction / mechanical grip. I have a number of things I want to check and try out first.

I intend in looking at some areas and making some changes this week, then hope to re-run the car this weekend down the strip. I'll certainly report back as soon as I have any new data. :)

Unfortunately this type of approach takes time (doing the changes and then getting test data) when you make small incremental changes. I find it's a good way of trying to resolve issues, whilst gathering very useful data at the same time.

Am I happy..... overall yes, but there is some unfinished business for this Stage of tune imo. ;)
good write up mate , i have same car ,Aero pack rear spoiler amg performance exhaust etc etc , not done any engine mods yet but after reading your write up may get around to it soon
Guys…. there’s going to be a lot of “rice” in this update, as I’ve had quite an eventful couple of days.

Pull yourselves up to the table. Get your napkin out. Grab your knife and fork……. tuck in!

On my last update I signed off with the following:
I need to see if I can sort these traction issues out and get back down the strip to see the impact.

I have a few ideas before I start pulling the current tyres off for brand new ones, so I’ll see what I can do over the following weeks.

The aim will be to get back down the drag strip (hopefully with some other tuned A45’s) at the end of this month. So we’ll have to see.

So….. what was I going to do about the traction issues?

We could have jumped straight into adjusting the map, by pulling back the torque in first few gears. I really didn’t want to do that off the bat as I like “secret sauce”. On top of that I wanted to try incremental steps to see what effect they have….. you learn more that way.

Instead of just going out and replacing my tyres with “better” ones, like Michelin Pilot Super Sports or some nice and sticky AD08’s or R888’s, I decided I just wanted to swap the rears to fronts on the existing tyres.

I was quite wary that this may make no difference whatsoever, but it was worth a punt, especially with the rears having 6-7mm tread and a much cleaner tyre block. Whilst the fronts still had 4-5mm on them, the blocks were not that clean, being a tad chewed up.

One thing worth mentioning is the inside edge wear you get on the fronts with the A45. We’ll come onto that further on.

These cars have a Tyre Pressure System, so I wasn’t sure if the CAN system would screw up the readings if we just swapped the wheels around. Luckily nothing needed recoding, and the TPS system worked fine (and read correctly) with the wheels swapped around.

These were the fronts after the changeover. Nice amount of tread and much better block surface integrity.

Something worth checking regardless is the state of factory geometry. We hadn’t put the car on the alignment rig up until now, but since I wanted to see if anything was untoward that would be causing me issues with launch grip, now seemed a good time as ever to check it.

Using the top of the range Hunter Hawkeye Elite TD alignment rig (it looks like something out of Star Trek!), the results were interesting.

First off all of the current settings were within manufacturer tolerances. This is clarified by all the readings being green. However, apparently the tolerances are typical for the German marque for geometry…. fairly wide.

The figures across the top part of the above screenshot are for the front axle, and the lower figures are for the rear axle.

You’ll notice there is some variance for both front camber and toe across axles, front and rear. Effectively each wheel has different geometry, which isn’t great to be honest.

The next thing I commented on was the amount of camber and castor these cars run.

Plenty of castor is good in my opinion, as it aids straight line stability but also provides you natural camber when you turn the wheel…. exactly where you need it. As a comparison on my previous Impreza STI, it had just under 5degs of castor standard. With adjustable top mounts we got that to just under 6degs. The difference in how the car drove was marked. These cars have well over 6.5degs of castor….. standard!

I knew these cars ran quite high camber for a road car to assist with reducing understeer. Unfortunately that means you tend to get increased inside edge wear on the tyre. Something we see on the A45.

Now, the geometry could be cleaned up a tad to ensure all the slack was taken out of the alignment, even without making major changes to the overall geometry. Unfortunately it appears the A45’s camber adjustment is on the struts, and from looking it appears this is fixed based on three adjustments available.

If I wanted to set the car up to perform optimally on the drag strip, you’d need to adjust the camber right back, as the tyres need to be as square as possible on the tarmac to ensure optimum grip. That would then make the car handle worse on the road. Not something I was prepared to do. It looks like we’ll need to look at proper adjustable camber bolts to precisely alter the camber anyhow…. we’ll come on to the handling and chassis setup in the future.

The area we could adjust was just to tidy up the toe, so that’s all we did.

I’d hate to think you guys might have thought I’d changed the camber to set the car up for the drag strip… so here’s the printout after the minor toe adjustments had been made:

So as far as any handling changes had been done to see if we could improve traction, that was it. I wasn’t that confident it would be enough….. we’d find out the following day, when I hit the drag strip again!

Downpipe Wrapping
Something I mentioned when Stage 2 was being applied, was that I wanted to look at wrapping my new downpipe. Since the car was having the above work down, I took this opportunity to do just that.

I think I said before about the benefits of this, but effectively wrapping (or ceramic coating) the downpipe has two key benefits. One is to reduce the heat that is radiated into the engine bay, but the most important is to retain heat in the downpipe itself. The more heat in the downpipe, the better the exhaust gas temps will be retained. The hotter the gases, the quicker the gas flow. The quicker the exhaust gases can get out, the more efficient you can restart the whole combustion process. Pretty simple physics really.

Following this type of simple modification should help with both spool of the turbo, especially when on throttle, coming off and then back on again. No great benefit to the drag strip in reality, but all these little things help for road use…. which is what my car is all about.

As you can see from the picture below, the downpipe had already started to get a nice golden tinge to it, due to the effect the heat has on the metal.

Using titanium wrap, the downpipe then looked like this.

Then mounted back where it should be.

So that was it. The plan was to take the car back down the strip the following day, to see what we could do.

Shakespeare County Raceway
It had been organised for three of us A45 owners to hit Shakey on the same day. Again, I’d suggested on my previous update, that it’s always good if you can run against the other cars you are trying to compare your own against. It’s not always about getting the fast time regardless, as it’s also interesting to see how you fair against other cars, at similar states of tune on the same day. Because these cars have all the electronic gizmo’s, you can all but remove any issues with driver skill. This makes on the same day comparisons even more beneficial.

For reference these two other cars had previously achieved (with a group of other tuned A45’s) 11.90 (ECU tune, full decat exhaust and induction kit) and 11.92 (ECU tune and induction kit) respectively at Santa Pod. With one of these two cars actually achieving an 11.86 pass at Shakey, which as far as we’re aware is the quickest drag strip timed A45 in the UK.

Today’s comparisons would be good!

So… I rocked up at Shakey first thing (7:45am) and was quite amazed at how good the conditions were. It was dry, sunny, cool and importantly….. little head wind. A million miles away from what is was when I ran at Santa Pod a few weeks ago! Unfortunately this means there are less excuses to be had! lol

Not having that much confidence that we’d sorted out my traction issues, I decided to jump straight on to the tyre pressures. I know from past experience that my car has always responded well to dropping pressures on non prepped drag surfaces. Previously I’ve done this after a few runs…. this time I dropped them straight away.

We got the normal scrutineering and signing on out of the way, and because all three of us got there really early, we were the first in the queue!

I’d been at the strip over 2hrs prior to us running, so not only was my engine cool (I had to bring the oil back up to temp by reving it), but my gearbox was getting dangerously close to the magic 50deg. It was 52deg and obviously once it dips below 50degs you can’t use Launch Control. Stone cold tyres and of course a nice cold track with no “today” rubber down, was always going to see a bad run.

First run 12.39 @ 115.43mph
Yeah…. that was **** then!

I know you’re going to roll your eyes, but the traction was utterly awful. Like the worst I have ever had down the strip. The axle tramp was dire, to the point that I was totally surprised the 4Matic never shut down. Again (no surprise) I also had the traction control cut in, as I saw at Santa Pod. Same old **** different drag strip. To be fair this was the first run, but I was still mega pee’d off.

Looking at the timing slip proved this situation. 60ft was a horrific 2.26s!

Second run 12.07 @ 115.26mph
I ran straight back round as the queues were pretty non existent, to at least try to captilise on some retained heat in my tyres.

Same again…. felt awful. Axle tramp. Traction control cut in. However, at least the time was coming down…. things were improving.

60ft was a better (still poor though) 1.97s!

Third run 11.95 @ 115.68mph
Again, I whizzed back round to the start, but decided this was to be my last run for the moment.

Same, same, same!

When I had discovered I had done an 11s pass I was obviously pleased. However, when I saw the slip and found that was with a 60ft of 1.88s, I was pee’d off again. If I could get an 11.95 even with that 60ft time, I knew I could get a quicker time…… assuming I could sort the traction out. Which has always been my problem, and based on these three runs I thought I was hitting a brick wall again.

I checked with the other two guys and their best had been 11.90 (ECU tune and induction kit) and 11.95 (ECU tune, full decat exhaust and induction kit). Both had also seen better 60ft times than me, at the 1.80s to 60ft mark.

I parked the car up with the intention to give it an hour or so for the sun to heat the track surface up, and get some more rubber down. Hoping it would help me (it was a big hope!).

I decided to give the car a quick once over. Opened up the engine bay to see the engine cover completely off it’s mounting points. The airbox had moved back and the snorkel had become detached!! Christ….. that’s some axle tramp to cause that. Luckily it all pushes back on easily enough.

I then rechecked my tyre pressures and they had gone up to 35psi. I thought balls to it…. I took another chunk of pressure out of them, below what I had them at before. I just needed more grip and I wasn’t bothered now about the additional tyre drag!

Fourth run 11.94 @ 115.76mph
That’s a real surprise isn’t it! However, I thought “Right…. one last run, now I have some heat in the tyres”.

Fifth run
Lined up in the staging area…. lights went to green and I dropped the hammer on the launch.

**** me…. now we’re talking. That was by far THE best launch I have ever had today or at any previous time in the A45. There was a slight chirp of the tyres and it just gripped and went like a stabbed rat. No axle tramp. No nothing. Just pure traction………. at last!!!

That run felt good….. but until you see the timing slip, it don’t mean ****. lol


11.80 @ 115.96mph

I was seriously ecstatic with that result, which was the outcome of me finally being able to get the torque down at launch. 60ft was a much better 1.80s.

Unfortunately I had a slight heart palpitation, as I found out when taking the car back to the pits, that the oil filler cap had come off at some point (it was certainly on prior to last run). This had caused a very slight spray of oil out of the filler, on to the underside of my bonnet. This minor panic situation took the edge off the time. Luckily I managed to find the cap at the back of the engine bay. Phew!

Word of warning guys. If you ever have similar repeated traction issues on launch, with bad axle tramp that shakes your engine cover off. Check your cap is tight again! One of the other guys checked his prior to his last run (after he knew mine had come loose). Whilst his was not off, it had started to unscrew itself. It must be the vibration from the axle tramp.

Because of the above I decided to quit whilst I was ahead! lol

Looking at the times though I was 8 1000ths away from a 11.79. As each run saw better times, there may have been a possibility that I could have just nudged into that next bracket with another run. It’s got to be in there surely! lol

The quickest time for the other two was a best of 11.90 (ECU tune and induction kit), which was a PB for the individual that got that one!

Unfortunately one of the guys (ECU tune, full decat exhaust and induction kit) had some issues with the fuel he was running (he’ll be back!), but all in all it was a great morning.

I need to make the most out of this as I don’t know how long it will stand for…. but as far as I’m aware this is now the quickest official drag time for an A45 in the UK.

What’s next?
Stage 3 - turbo time!!! ;-)
Thanks for the updates, enjoyable read. The kermit car in the photo - that is Eddie right?
Hi Shaun,
Fantastic write up & please keep up the good work. Do you have any thoughts on the comparison between the A45 & your Sti's? I'm not looking for a verses thread just your initial thoughts on what the car is like to own / tune as opposed to the Sti at circa 400/440bhp. I appreciate it's a little bit apples & pears given the £15k difference in cost but as an ex tuned Sti / prospective A45 owner it would be very interesting.
Hi Callum66,
Thanks for your kind comments. :)

One key question..... what model of STI are you referring to?

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