With the introduction of Audi Sport over the last few months, the Germans from Ingolstadt have started to really emphasize on the importance of their performance brand next to BMW M and AMG from Affalterbach. With Performance parts being released for numerous models and the first ever rear wheel drive Audi Sport model, the Germans are back in business.
The launch of the TT RS last year commemorated 40 years of Audi five-cylinder engines, one of the finest petrol engines available on the planet today. Both in performance and soundtrack, but also in the way it delivers it’s power and the ability to put a smile on your face. The 2.5-litre turbocharged motor is now lighter than it's ever been and pumps out a mighty 394bhp or 400hp and 354 pound-feet of torque. Time to give it a go and check out how the second generation differs from the first generation.
The TT RS package is available as either a hardtop Coupé or an open-top Roadster. Power is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, giving some seriously impressive performance figures. Numbers that make the TT RS one of the fastest models in the current Audi line up and among his competitors like the BMW M2 and the Porsche Cayman (S), but more on that later in this story.
On the subject of looks, the RS model TT has been given a more aggressive stance. The most noticeable is the front with its larger air intakes, a honeycomb front grille, and a Quattro logo on the front splitter. There are aluminum- or black-colored accents on the mirrors, splitter and aerodynamically shaped side sills. The subtle rear wing adds a nice touch to the package and never hurts your rear visibility in any shape or form. All in all, the overall set up is a lot more distinguished and immediately showcases clear difference with its TT family members.
On the inside, a similar treatment awaits you. Audi have developed a combination of perfectly finished materials, tactile leather and Alcantara with a minimalist approach to the different controls. Audi’s digital Virtual Cockpit concept, which takes a bit of time to get used to but is well worth the investment of effort, is the best example of Audi's physiology. Furthermore, the cabin offers 12-way power seats finished in Nappa leather with contrast diamond stitching. The steering wheel is lifted straight from the R8, though it’s finished in both Alcantara on the sides and leather on the top and bottom. The only part that feels totally out of place in the cabin is the massive gear selector, which has the length of a manual gear stick and isn't really minimalist. Audi should install the one used in the RS4 or the R8!
In the front of the TT there is enough room for two adults. The Coupe’s rear seats are best left to a couple of bags. You might be able to fit a person on those seats during a short trip, but on a longer trip even a smaller child would start to complain about the available room. The decently proportioned boot isn't particularly deep, but it is long and square, and, with the standard split-folding rear seats, it's more practical than you might imagine.
With our first static look out of the way it is time to jump behind the wheel, start up the lovely sounding engine and discuss the performance, handling and driving characteristics of this little TT. First up, I have to comment that the vehicle handed over to Audi AG was fitted with winter tires, but I drove a TT RS before in Dubai and this gave me a good comparison between both cars and their capabilities.
Let's talk performance first, the available power is 400 horsepower from 5,850 to 7,000rpm and 354lb-ft of torque from 1,700 to 5,850rpm. It feels immensely quick and immediate, meaning it pushes you back in the seat and catapults you off the line, especially when you use the launch control feature. Audi quotes 0 to 60mph in 3.6 seconds, but it is definitely faster than that. The all-wheel drive system can send nearly all of that power to the rear when you need it, which is particularly noticeable off the line.
It becomes even more interesting the moment you start entering corners! Where the previous generation RS had the tendency to understeer, this TT RS is capable of bringing a surprising smile on your face without any immediate noticeable slide over the front wheels. The MacPherson struts in the front and a four link rear suspension is partnered with either Audi’s magnetic ride suspension, which you can switch between a smooth or firm ride or a fixed sport suspension via the Audi Driving Select button on the steering wheel.
The TT RS is absurdly easy to drive quickly, and feels less tame and civilized than its RS3 Sedan and Sportback brothers. The cornering abilities of the RS make it one of the most fun cars to drive in Audi lineup, and some might say the most fun of them all. The sporty coupe doesn’t exactly dive into bends incisively, but after its lovely initial turn-in it does corner flat and fast and with impressive directness. A type of directness and precision I have not seen before in an Audi in this price range. There is a level of connectivity between the driver and the car I also have never felt before in a car coming from Ingolstadt.
With the vehicle in Dynamic mode, not only are the optional adaptive dampers, steering, gearbox and throttle more aggressive, the engine note via the exhaust is turned a notch up to it’s angriest level. The best mode in my opinion! I would never switch the exhaust to quiet. The Dynamic mode really wakes up the vehicle and it’s engine and transmission, holding lower gears and increasing throttle sensitivity. This is good because it helps mitigate the noticeable turbo lag that you might feel in Comfort mode.
The Audi TT RS is a fast, raspy, agile machine that is fun to drive on twisty mountain roads and the autobahn. While using it on a daily basis it will dawn on you that the TT RS is like a mini R8 V10, but with a front-mounted engine set up. Something Audi does not want you to notice, but which is the immediate effect of the sheer capabilities of the little machine. The RS can cover ground in such a staggering rate, that it often feels a lot more rewarding for your wallet and your petrolhead heart than it does inside the R8 V10. Add this to the fact that the TT RS is a lot more usable in daily life, has more interior space, and has a more reachable performance potential and you start to ask yourself if this might well be the best performance orientated Audi in the current portfolio of the Germans. I personally think it is with future test drives going to reconfirm or alter my statement.
On that bombshell, we are left with one more conclusion to make! What about its direct competitors? On both ends of the spectrum you have the BMW M2 Coupe and the Porsche Cayman (S). You could argue that the M4 is the competitor to the RS, but it is a touch more expensive and looking at its stature it is not the same kind of car. The RS' price tag puts it right in between both M cars and fully spec-ed up the Audi out-prices itself in comparison to the M2, which offers a lot more fun, similar performance potential and a manual gearbox for a way lower and more reasonable price tag.
The Porsche Cayman S however is more in line with the price tag of the RS. It is down 50hp but offers a still-superior driving experience, a similar 0-60 time, and the option of a manual transmission. The biggest downfall is the absence of a superb-sounding engine next to the absence of four-wheel drive, which can come in handy in winter driving. Out of the two, the RS is a lot more a daily driver than the Cayman is, but in most cases the decision will be based on brand perception, looks and more importantly the sound track coming from the exhaust.
2017 Audi TT RS