| Week at the Wheel | Audi TT RS |
Inside & Out:
Looking at the RS it's immediately obvious that this is not your normal run-of-the-mill TT. The outline is familiar but the standard car's curves are seriously enhanced and the addition of a much more aggressive and deep front bumper, grille and spoiler give the face an altogether more assertive appearance. The non-too-subtle wing splayed across the rear is also a purposeful change. It looks tough, particularly in darkened hues, with the contrasting large optional rims and hence is quite different to the standard TT models giving the RS its own identity and plenty of presence.
The interior is carried over for the most part but the inclusion of a nice set of generously proportioned and supportive sports seats, embossed with logos, is an almost essential change given the performance on tap. A thick sports wheel that is as nice to hold as it is to look at is the main change for the driver, with the useful extra tasks of the multi function computer adding some interest in the form of a boost gauge, oil temperature read out and a lap-timer - no doubt for the Playstation generation who can execute seven functions at once.
Engine & Transmission:
Pop the bonnet on the TT RS and you're greeted with a packed engine bay in which snugly nestles a five-cylinder powerplant with a 2.5-litre displacement. The red engine cover makes it stand out aesthetically but it's the outputs that truly differentiate it from brethren and rivals alike. Turbocharging the compact five-pot has unleashed a peak power output of 335bhp available over a 1,000rpm plateau at the top of the rev range, below which the torque figure of 332lb.ft is available solidly from 1,600- to 5,300rpm. The potency is deployed to the familiar quattro driveline via a six-speed manual gearbox, whose shift action is a little notch-like and sometimes vague, particularly in the central plane.
On the road this translates into some serious pace with immediate response to demands for power anywhere from 1,500rpm to the redline. The attention grabbing figures of 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, 0-100mph in a touch over 11 and an (optional) maximum of 174mph put that performance into context, but to think of the outright numbers is to miss a point. Such is the spread of the RS's engine's ability that you don't have to extend it to make serious progress and in-gear performance is more than strong enough to leave naturally aspirated rivals gasping for breath.
Ride & Handling:
In a TT RS, grip and traction are virtually never in question. On roads that were wet, gritted and cold it truly excelled in terms of security and capabilities. And given the job at hand the chassis does a commendable job of keeping all of that torque in check and grip - especially on the optional 19-inch rubber - is monstrous, as is the traction. When push comes to shove the RS does understeer, which is a shame given the ability to tune the transmission for a more rearward bias, but you do need to be trying very hard to unstick the RS at all.
Unfortunately the TT RS follows in the footsteps of many other sporting Audis; it prefers to take the road and beat it into submission rather that use it to flow with. This was especially evident when travelling in convoy with a Porsche Cayman
whose chassis remained noticeably more composed, reflected in the disposition of the driver, whose head was hardly moving while the RS's pilot's was bobbing like that of a particularly enthusiastic woodpecker.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money:
Such is Audi's confidence in today's market place that the TT RS is priced directly in line with the Porsche Cayman S
and Lotus Evora
. It says much about the image of the brand and the car itself that this does not defy reason, but given the typical buyer and the prestigious image and heritage of rivals it is a policy that will test that confidence to its limit. In terms of ability the TT RS almost lives up to the price tag. Our test car's optional extras, including the wheels and entertainment systems, pushed its list price over the £50k mark. This may indeed be a financial bridge too far though TT residuals are always solid; the RS should be no exception but we'd expect it to suffer more than lesser models. Running costs will be relatively reasonable thanks to long service intervals but the sub-25mpg average economy will require frequent trips to the pumps.
On first acquaintance, in isolation, debate was sparked as to whether the TT RS may indeed be able to take on the Cayman S. Its performance is beyond question. The quality, image, practicality and everyday living proposition are equally appealing and these elements combined add up to a formidable package that buyers could not be blamed for being seduced by. However, upon direct comparison with the Porsche, true driving enthusiasts will find that the lack of sophistication in the way a TT RS goes about its business could be a fundamental issue. And it's that which will be the potential deal breaker, dependant on your personal priority. Ours would see us buy a Cayman S.