Currently reading: 40 years of Audi Sport: TT RS meets legendary Sport Quattro
As a fitting finale, the last-of-the-line Audi sports car meets one they made earlier

Audi has ended production of the TT for good, bringing to an end not just 25 years of the model line itself - but more than four decades of five-pot, four-wheel-drive Audi sports cars, dating back to the 1980 arrival of the original Quattro.

Appropriate, then, to consider how our range-topping TT RS long-term test car stacks up against one of the earliest examples of the breed. 

The old-timer on hand here is the more raucous Sport Quattro, its wheelbase shortened so extensively as to give an almost square footprint and comically outsized overhangs, its engine block swapped for a lighter alloy lump and topped by a bespoke 20-valve head, and its body panels – now fashioned from ultra-light Kevlar or carbonfibre – sprouting ludicrous swellings and aero addenda.

There are obvious (and commonly hailed) conceptual links between the two cars, but delve into the technicalities and what becomes evident is just how faithful the TT RS remains to the original Quattro formula.

Both have two driven axles, of course, and a blown five-pot that breathes its unmistakable soundtrack through generously sized exhausts, and, just as the TT’s layers can be peeled back to reveal much more humble, Volkswagen Golf-derived underpinnings, the Sport Quattro is fairly obviously related to the much more sedate B2-generation Audi 80.

It has an engine with genuine character and verve, not wanting for the gratuitous synthetic aural enhancement that rivals often deploy to inject some added charisma into the driving experience; it is breathtakingly fast when you want it to be, but easy to get on with when you don’t.


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Audi Sport's 2.5-litre five-cylinder swansong is a true sports car and proves the TT isn't just style over substance

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Plus, because the power gulf is a relatively trifling 89bhp and the older car weighs around 400kg less, the Quattro feels nigh-on as quick as its offspring in the real world, if only after the screeching KKK turbocharger has awoken and kicked you violently down the road.

Whether the Quattro is quicker or not on paper (it’s not) is somewhat beside the point. Driving this rally-bred car is, of course, a much more visceral experience, one that places a great deal more demand on your concentration, your hand-eye coordination and your confidence.

It rears up on its haunches under load and nosedives hilariously under braking, its lively rear end is only semi-predictable in fast corners and the three-bar turbocharger takes nearly full control of the steer ing wheel above 4500rpm.

You feel your forearms tensing to keep the bonnet pointed in the right direction through the corners, and each gearshift is a Tetris-like exercise in predictive dexterity – not to mention raw strength.

The TT, of course, is at once more predictable, more malleable and – crucially – less unnerving. It changes direction with pinpoint accuracy, unbreaking in its rigid commitment to your chosen line, and stays flawlessly composed even on greasy, shattered country lanes.

Is it as fun as the Group B refugee? Of course not – it was never going to be.

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This is Mozart versus Mötley Crüe. What it gains in predictability and raw technical prowess you can argue the TT has lost in charisma and romance.

But that would do a disservice to its propensity to make an occasion of every journey, and the unignorable notion that – in day-to-day use – the RS gives about as close to a supercar experience as you can get for the price.

It is all but completely unflappable in corners, irrespective of your forward momentum or the state of the road; and it can be had for scarcely more than, say, a run-of-the-mill, mid-sized SUV.

So the steering perhaps lacks that final tenth of tactility, the switchgear is starting to feel its age and the low-speed ride quality is pretty dire.

You also might raise an eyebrow at the sheer inutility of the rear seats, which are far more useful as a luggage shelf than as passenger accommodation, and would-be street racers in hot hatchbacks flock to the RS on the motorway like moths to a flame, but these concerns can swiftly be deemed trivial in light of its capacity to entertain, safely but scintillatingly, in all conditions.

A six-pot Toyota GR Supra would be comparably practical in everyday use but falls short on outright pace and poise, the Alpine A110 is the better driver’s car but markedly less rebellious and the Porsche 718 Cayman has all of them licked in just about every respect – but… well, it’s a bit obvious, isn’t it?

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There is one car that offers a pretty good approximation of the TT RS formula, nearly matching it for noise, speed, balance and kerb appeal. You might struggle to get hold of it, though – it’s worth about £700,000 and Audi locks its heritage fleet workshop at night. 

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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xxxx 22 December 2023

If I could have just one car throughout my driving lifetime it would be a Audi Quattro.