The new Audi TT RS is like a soap star suddenly demanding to be taking seriously as an actress. At £50k list, it’s more expensive than a Porsche Cayman S. At a shocking £69k in the spec we tested, it’s almost as pricey as a 911 Carrera. And at 395bhp and 3.7sec to 62mph it’s got the legs on both.
Makes a proper noise too, a rich howl like a silky V6 with a gangsta rap swagger and its jeans halfway down its backside, courtesy of a turbocharged in-line five. Sweet irony, eh? The original Golf/A3-derived TT was everything that was good and bad about the late ‘90s platform-sharing boom. It gave us a stylish coupe Audi couldn’t have afforded to make otherwise. But every time you drove it you were reminded that it wasn’t really much more than a Golf. Now, when the car world is drowning in identikit turbo-four-powered engines, Audi defiantly delivers something mercifully different in the form of a coupe with an in-line five.
The last RS had five cylinders too, but this one is new. An all-alloy unit, it’s lighter to the tune of 26kg, which can only be good news given it’s slung out beyond the front wheels. Because the last TT RS was about as sharp as a prison steak knife. Pace, it had, but poise was always frustratingly greyed out on the configurator’s options list.
The new car feels instantly more entertaining, despite the 60:40 weight distribution. There’s the almost unstickable front-end grip you expect, but not the leaden steering that often comes with it. Brake-based torque vectoring helps deal with any looming understeer and the four-wheel drive system means traction is never an issue, even when you might like it to be, given the promise that it can send up to 100 percent of the engine’s mighty 354lb ft to the tail. If you were hoping Audi’s baby R8 might feel like, well, a baby R8, then you’re in for a disappointment. The RS doesn’t have that kind of adjustability. But if you want to get from here to there like a Roman road planner, regardless of the weather, this is a choice weapon.
And it’s as easy to drive as an A3. Audi’s dual-clutch transmission is standard, as is the excellent Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display, in this case featuring RS-specific info including tyre pressures. But if you want adaptive dampers, a sports exhaust that makes the most of that five-pot growl, clever 3D rear lamps, or even keyless entry, you’ll have to get ticking. There’s also a Roadster version, though that’ll add 90kg and relieve you of an additional £1750 and the coupe’s +2 rear seats.
A trademark honeycomb RS grille marks the hottest TT out from the front, as does a set of oval tailpipes at the rear, plus a fixed decklid spoiler that can be subbed for the retractable one found on the regular TT if you prefer a cleaner look. And that’s partly the RS’s undoing. This is still a TT, and punchy and personality laden as that five is, there’s no getting away from the fact that you could get most of the same experience from a visually similar car costing almost half as much. TT RS Mk2 has made a giant leap over the original – this time it’s great to drive, not just to look at - but this is not the TT’s sweetest spot.