Audi's stonkingly fast 'mini-R8' is back on sale after a year-long hiatus and a facelift. We drive it to see if it's still a worthwhile sports car

What is it?

On the face of it, a lightly updated version of Audi’s ultimate Audi TT. But it’s more significant than it first appears.

Unsurprisingly Audi wasn’t exactly shouting about it, but the TT RS - along with the powertrain-sharing RS 3 - haven’t been available to order for over a year now because the five-cylinder engine was caught in the VW Group’s enormous backlog of variants requiring certification under the new WLTP emissions regulations

But both models are back on sale, now sporting a new particulate filter to keep the nastier emissions in check. Audi has also quietened the exhausts on both as a result of the EU phasing in noise regulations over the next few years.

The TT RS’s disappearance from sale coincided with a mild facelift for the rest of the range, so it now benefits from a lightly altered front bumper, modified rear wing and new diffuser design, alongside reshaped sills. 

There’s also a change of the colour options available inside, while Audi has added wireless phone charging, electric folding door mirrors and privacy glass to the standard kit tally.

What's it like?

Largely the same as it was when we first drove it back in in 2016. But it’s worth revisiting it, given this could be the last time we see the five-pot offered in a TT and, if the rumours are correct, the last TT to arrive before it potentially evolves out of all recognition.

As has been the case with all Audis fitted with the inline five, its the engine that dominates the driving experience and gives the TT RS a uniquely brutish character and soundtrack.

Ah, that soundtrack; it’s a total cliché to say that the warbling, offbeat note vividly evokes memories of Audi’s rally dominance in the 1980s but, as we’re belting through Scotland’s empty, heavily forested Cairngorms National Park on the launch route, its the first thought that springs to mind. It’s an epic noise, albeit one that’s a fraction less dramatic than it was pre-facelift. 

The tone and overall volume is still there, but a few of the characteristic pops and crackles have been ironed out even with the optional RS sport exhausts. Thankfully there’s still enough din to combine with this car’s extraordinary accelerative abilities to make each prod of the throttle a special experience. 

It’s not just as fast as the figures suggest; with colleagues previously recording a 0-62mph time of less than 3.5sec in one run, it’s even quicker, and feels no less so on first impressions with the particulate filter. Yet equally satisfying is the way it becomes as docile and refined as a four-cylinder TT once shifted out of the racier drive mode. MPG in the low thirties is even within reach on a long run.  

Elsewhere, the TT RS retains dynamic qualities that will either impress or disappoint slightly, depending on the type of road, the driver and the climatic conditions. Judged entirely on our experience of typically damp, undulating Scottish mountain roads (as well as several hours behind the wheel on the motorway) it’s a car that excels in offering organ-dislodging traction and expertly tied-down composure over tail-out antics and adjustability. 

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While that is a demerit when judging the TT RS against the finest traditional sports cars like the Porsche 718 Cayman and Alpine A110, the unflappable, effective way it goes about its business has its own appeal. Particularly with the variable weather and road conditions the UK is lumbered with. 

Think of it as a style-led alternative to 4WD mega hatches like the Mercedes-AMG A45 and you’re getting there. Except, by the very nature of being a small coupé, it’s a fair bit more special to look at and sit in. The low-set driving position is superb, the ergonomics largely faultless and the driver-focused cabin is impeccably finished. The TT also has more luggage space than you might expect - you can even squeeze a bike in the back with the seats folded. 

Problems? There’s a few. It’s never uncomfortable, but the almost roll-free TT RS always feels stiffly suspended as a result - even with our car’s optional magnetic ride dampers set to comfort. Road noise is more evident than a regular TT, too. And it lacks the delicate steering of those aforementioned sports cars, with a feeling of heft and precision rather than a helm bristling with feel. 

Should I buy one?

I’ve saved the TT RS’ biggest problem until last: the RS 3. We drove one back to back with the TT, and found it 90% as fast and enjoyable to drive, but more comfortable, a good deal cheaper and, obviously,  more useable as a kids-and-all daily driver. 

To choose the TT RS over the RS 3 requires an acceptance that you are happy to sacrifice practical, rational aspects for the look and feel of a sports car. And we wouldn't hold that against you.

There’s also the inevitable comparisons with the Cayman, A110 and BMW M2 Competition, along with the fresh-off-the-blocks Toyota Supra. The latter will require back-to-back testing, but all would almost certainly provide a more thrilling and engaging driving experience on a track or on the smattering of British roads that allow you to exploit them fully. 

Still, the TT RS certainly has its place, offering genuine supercar levels of performance, incredible all-weather pace and surprising usability for a fraction of the cost. Just be selective with the options - our Sport Edition model already adds £4000 worth of styling bits, but it was also specced up to nearly £70,000 with lots of (largely unnecessary) additions. 

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Audi TT RS Sport Edition specification

Where Aberdeenshire Price £57,905 On sale Now Engine 5 cyls, 2480cc, turbo Power 395bhp at 5,850rpm Torque 354b ft at 1700-5,850rpm Gearbox seven-speed dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1450kg Top speed 155mph (optional limit removal ups to 174mph) 0-62mph 3.7sec Fuel economy 30.7mpg CO2 181g/km Rivals: BMW M2 Competition, Porsche 718 Cayman S

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dws 28 May 2019

Niche Blog Review For Audi

Gret Write for us on this blog about audi TT RS 2019, Easy to understand all secification for autocar with your post. Thanks for always inform autocar news.

Alfastud 23 May 2019

Audi TT is doomed, not Autocar...

Don't agree with Boris9119 - Autocar's future does not hinge on whether or not it continues to review very fast Audis with slightly wooden chassis dynamics.

Of greater concern should be the rumours that Audi will drop the TT when the current generation ends, because it's easier to make money from performance SUVs and crossovers. 

It's the affordable sports car that's doomed, mate...




Boris9119 23 May 2019

Last Paragraph Says It All

Last paragraph says it all; good thought it is the worst in class! I admire its styling and the benefits (or otherwise) of Audi heritage. But a Cayman GTS will own it, and the new GT4 at Goodwood next month will expose it mercilessly. It has a place, but stop trying to measure it against the best drivers cars. It's not the remit Audi builds it against, and it's not what potential buyers consider when cross shopping. Articles like this are why the oldest weekly motoring magazine is doomed. Sad.