This second-generation TT RS stands ready to surprise just about anyone.

It feels like the response of a company that’s defended a popular car for decades against claims that the Audi TT has all the style and none of the substance to be taken seriously by really keen drivers.

New cult hero for a performance niche, but it should be more thrilling

It feels that way because you simply have to take any sports car with an engine this strong, capable of genuine supercar-baiting pace, very seriously indeed.

But for all its knockout performance, the TT RS remains a TT at heart – and that makes it a fast Audi of a well-worn recipe.

Sensationally grippy and secure, direct but isolating and yet much more effective than effervescent, it’s a car made for an owner with a particular set of needs – one who wants to get where he or she is going quickly and have a certain kind of thrill en route but isn’t likely to go looking for special roads or make excuses in order to drive.

Ultimately, the TT RS doesn’t set the vivid excitement of its powertrain off against enough handling balance or driver involvement to make it feel fully formed as a sports car, which is why it lags behind the Lotus Elise Cup 250, BMW M2 and the leader of the pack – the Porsche Cayman S.

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But we expect Audi Sport to make quite some impact with the car regardless.