Small sports coupés are an endangered species. The modern economic implications of developing a bespoke two-door body for production on a relatively limited scale means there just isn’t enough money in the game any more.
Long rumoured to be next for the chop is the Audi TT, which became an immediate favourite when it arrived in 1998 and is no less adored now, 22 years and two generations later.
Each iteration and variation of this curvy coupé has impressed on the road, even including the seemingly out-of-place diesel introduced in 2008, but few more so than the top-rung RS version of the Mk2, pitched as a spiritual successor to the formidable S2 Quattro.
Its specially developed 2.5-litre turbo engine pumps 335bhp and 332lb ft to all four wheels, so the RS takes care of the 0-62mph sprint in 4.7sec; its Porsche Cayman S cousin needs nearly an extra half a second. Plus, its four-wheel drive system is so adept at dishing out varying amounts of torque to each axle that it is nigh-on impossible to shake the RS off course through a fast bend.
So performance is a high point, but it nearly pales into insignificance compared with the sheer aural joy wrought by that five-pot engine. It doesn’t have the baritone punch of the contemporary RS6’s 5.0-litre V10 nor the ear-splitting snap of the RS4’s V8, but it’s unmistakably rally-honed in its crackling sharpness, conjuring dramatic images of Walter Röhrl pushing his Sport Quattro sideways through snowy hairpins at 90mph.
By now you’re probably chomping at the bit to get away and browse the classifieds for your own example of this overlooked performance gem, but consider this attractive 2011 car first. Listed at £16,975 and painted in the Sepang Blue that’s intrinsically associated with hot Audis of this era, it has a fresh MOT, most if not all of the options you could want and, fantastically, a manual gearbox.
The RS gained a dual-clutch option in 2010 and the latest model ditched the manual entirely, so it’s definitely worth seeking out on a used example.