The Audi TT RS is a car of highs and lows. The engine is wonderful and the Quattro’s hallmarks are all there to see. It just lacks the finesse of the Cayman.
What is it?
The TT RS is the brawniest TT yet, and the first time Audi has applied the RS treatment to the TT.
Available in coupe or roadster form, the TT RS gets an all-new 2.5-litre turbo charged five-cylinder engine producing 335bhp. Drive is sent to all four wheels, through a six-speed manual transmission. Audi are working to beef up their S-Tronic twin-clutch gearbox to handle the 332 lb ft of torque, but currently the TT RS is manual only.
To ensure there is no mistaking this £42,985 TT with anything from the cheaper end of the price range the RS gets a range of attention seeking body modifications.
What’s it like?
Loud. Or at least it is with the ‘S’ button depressed. This changes the throttle map and opens the exhaust baffles to tell the world that there’s something more potent than a four-pot lurking under the bonnet. The five-cylinder arrangement gives a characteristic off-beat thrum under full throttle and the occasional pop and splutter on downchanges.
The surprise here is quite how boisterous the engine is for the usually super smooth Audi brand. It can get intrusively bassy when loaded from low revs, but switching 'S' off, trims this back to an acceptable level.
Sounding the part is one thing, but the better news is that the TT RS has the performance to match: 0-62mph takes just 4.6sec, and unrestricted it will run to 174mph. To say it has a strong mid-range is a bit of an understatement, with that peak torque available from 1600rpm all the way to 5300rpm. But equally it is not shy of revving right to the redline.
The only real downside is that unloaded at higher engine speeds, a little vibration can creep into the cabin. That and the fact the throttle map in 'S' is a touch abrupt for smooth slow speed progress. Normal is better, but then you loose that soundtrack.
In truth the engine dominants the TT RS experience so much so that in many ways the rest of the car struggles to match up. Not that it is unruly, quite the opposite in fact. Compared to a regular TT the RS' steering, handling and gearbox are all improved, with more feel, precision and weight, but they lack the intensity of the engine.
For instance the TT RS never feels anything but a classic Audi 4wd, rather than the infinitely more entertaining rear-biased drive Audi delivered with the R8. The ride (our car had upgraded 19-inch wheels but not the optional magnetic ride adaptive damping) was in places too firm for the roads of our German test route, which does not bode well for the TT RS' suitability to our roads. There is a chance on standard wheels (18-inch) and with magnetic ride this will be improved, but we can’t offer a definitive answer until we try such a car in the UK.
Although there are no metal work changes, new bumpers, larger twin exhausts and a fixed position wing give an altogether more assertive look. Whether that appeals is entirely subjective, but for what it’s worth, I think it lacks a little cohesion. In particular the rear wing which has whiff of aftermarket about it. Thankfully it is possible to specify the standard-retractable unit as a no-cost option.
Should I buy one?
Tricky one this. On one hand the TT RS does move the TT range forward, and for those that simply want a faster, louder, sharper TT, the RS delivers this (at a price). But with the RS badge comes expectation, at least from these quarters, and especially in light of the brilliance of the last RS4 and R8. Against such successes the TT RS is a touch disappointing. No question it is extremely fast, either in a straight line or cross-country, but engine aside, it isn’t sufficiently compelling, thrilling or rewarding.