The RS version of Audi's TT is the most powerful version of this car we've seen yet. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
Audi's TT RS might not offer quite the tactility of some of its best rivals but as a pure road car, it could well make more sense, being fast, beautifully finished and superbly equipped. As usual, buyers choose from Coupe or Roadster bodystyles.
The Audi TT started life as a design icon, an acutely modern trinket to be looked at and lusted after but one that never completely convinced as a driver's car, perhaps, in truth, because it was little more than a Volkswagen Golf with a prettier look. The current third generation version though, is much more its own car, so the idea of a 400PS 2.5-litre TFSI engine beneath the bonnet has quite an appeal.
If you're a real Audi fan, the combination of four-wheel drive and a charismatic five cylinder turbo can really only bring to mind one car: the legendary 1980 Audi Quattro. This RS, the Germans tell us, is its spiritual successor. No pressure there then. Yet you can't deny that it's been equipped for the task. It's a tantalising prospect.
You buy an Audi TT RS for its engine. If you merely wanted a very quick Audi TT, the TTS model with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine more than fits the bill. It's good for 310PS and delivers its power effectively in almost all weathers. The RS is an altogether more charismatic thing, the warbling of its in-line 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine harking back to more famous Quattros of the past. In RS guise, that engine has been massaged to 400PS in its current form, 60PS more than it generated in the previous generation version of this car.
It now only comes mated to 7-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission and will catapult you from rest to 62mph in just 3.7 seconds in Coupe form. The Roadster is only two tenths of a second slower and whether you choose soft top or metal roof, the top speed can be 174mph if you ask your dealer to remove the 155mph limiter.
And through the corners? Well, the progressive steering, whose ratio becomes ever more direct with increasing steering input, is RS-tuned. Targeted spring and damper modifications make the chassis with technically elaborate four-link rear suspension more dynamic and precise. The body sits ten millimetres lower than the base model, and this also applies for the optional 'RS sport suspension plus with Audi magnetic ride' set-up. Here, the damping characteristic can be changed electronically using the Audi 'drive select' driving mode system.
Design and Build
Standout TT RS visual features include the large air inlets and a Singleframe grille with a smart honeycomb grille and a quattro logo. Along the flanks, aerodynamically-shaped side sills aim to emphasise the dynamic design. At the rear, the fixed wing sitting on two thin double struts is a real eye-catcher. Alternatively, Audi can deliver the Coupe and the Roadster with an automatically extending spoiler. Under the striking bumper there's a strongly profiled diffuser insert with four vertical fins, leading to the two elliptical tailpipes of the RS exhaust system at its sides. The result is a lower cdvalue of 0.32 for the Coupe and 0.33 for the Roadster. For the first time on an Audi, 'OLED' (organic light emitting diode) rear lights are being used. These emit an extremely homogeneous, high-contrast light. The light can be continuously dimmed, it does not cast any shadows and does not require any reflectors - this makes the OLEDs in 3D design efficient, light and visually impressive.
Inside, as with other TTs, you get the clever Audi virtual cockpit with its 12.3-inch screen. The driver can choose from three views, including a special RS screen that highlights the rev counter and provides information on tyre pressure, torque, and gforce, among other things. The Audi virtual cockpit also displays a shift light which informs the driver that the engine speed limit has been reached. For the first time in the RS portfolio, the RS sport leather steering wheel with shift paddles has two operating satellite buttons for turning the engine on and off as well as the Audi drive select driving dynamics system, in addition to multifunction buttons. This means that the driver's hands stay on the wheel at all times. The driver can influence the exhaust flap control via the sound button on the centre console.
Market and Model
Prices for this TT RS start at around £52,000 for the Coupe model and you'll need a £54,000 for the Roadster version. So yes, you're looking at Porsche 718 Cayman S and Porsche 718 Boxster S money. Options include the Audi 'MMI navigation plus with MMI touch' package, including free text search and natural voice control, as well as the 'Audi connect' online module with its Wi-Fi hotspot. Using the 'Audi phone box' package, compatible mobile phones can be charged inductively and paired with the onboard antennae for optimal reception. The latest Audi smartphone interface technology displays selected apps from the handset directly in the Audi virtual cockpit instrument display. And the Bang & Olufsen sound system will be a highlight for fans of audio acoustics.
The TT RS Coupe and the TT RS Roadster are fitted as standard with 19-inch cast wheels in a five-arm polygon design with size 245/35 tyres. As an option, Audi supplies 20-inch forged lightweight wheels in a 7-spoke rotor design and tyres of size 255/30. Both wheel types are available in silver, matt titanium look or gloss anthracite black. The recessed hubs of the 20-inch wheels are inspired by motorsport.
Cost of Ownership
Audi has worked hard at improving the fuel economy of this RS model's 2.5-litre TFSI engine and given the performance on offer here, the efficiency figures are pretty impressive. You should achieve over 35mpg on the combined cycle, while the engine slips beneath the 170g/km of CO2 barrier. The might of this award-winning powerplant is channelled via a seven-speed S tronic transmission. The dual-clutch transmission impresses with high efficiency and a large spread - its lower gears are short and the seventh gear has a long transmission ratio to reduce consumption. A plate heat exchanger controls the temperature of the transmission oil; a new angle drive to the propeller shaft reduces the weight by about two kilograms. It all helps.
The TT RS model's cachet will keep residual values sturdy - in the short term at least - though if you go too far in expensive options, you'll still feel the pain come resale time. Insurance isn't going to be cheap. And if you're thinking of doing some trackday tyre smoking, bear in mind that the bespoke tyres supplied will be fearsomely pricey to replace.
Anyone who still thinks Audi's TT is a bit soft is way behind the times. In this RS guise, it can live with the fastest and the best, accelerating as if on a mission, gripping the road like a limpet and it turning into corners like a shark turning towards a meal.
Is it as charismatic as the original Audi Quattro? Perhaps not. Is it a better sportscar? Very definitely yes. But then, bettering a 30-year old design, you might think, isn't too difficult. Matching the cream of the world's finest £50,000 sportscars: well that's a lot more difficult. That this Audi does it so easily should make rival brands worried.