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Driven: Audi TT RS. Image by Audi.

Driven: Audi TT RS
The TT RS: another near-miss from Audi, or a gem of a sports coupe?

   



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Audi TT RS

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: Great noise, searing performance, high-quality cabin, drives better than last TT RS

Not so good: Not quite as sweet as the 310hp TTS, occasionally crunchy ride, pricey, slightly overblown looks

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi TT RS Coupe
Price: TT RS Coupe from 52,100; car as tested 59,870
Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, seven-speed S tronic automatic
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 187g/km (192g/km with 20-inch wheel option: road tax 800 first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 34.4mpg (33.6mpg with 20-inch wheels, as tested)
Top speed: 155mph (limited; option to raise limiter to 174mph for 1,600, fitted to test car)
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Power: 400hp at 5,850- to 7,000rpm
Torque: 480Nm at 1,700- to 5,850rpm

Our view:

The latest Audi TT RS is based on the third generation of the classy coupe (it's only the second RS version, as the MkI TT wasn't blessed with those hallowed two letters), but when Kyle first drove it last year, he wasn't massively impressed. Nor was I when I drove the 367hp version of the RS 3 Sportback in late 2015, which - with its MQB chassis and five-cylinder turbocharged mill - is closely related to the TT RS. So the fear was that this sharp-looking two-door was another of those tantalising RS Audis that actually turned out to be a bit of a dud.

However, having spent more than 450 miles and nine driving hours in its company, I'm prepared to at least bump it up another half-mark, because it's by no means a dynamic duffer. Key to this is the engine. It's a blown 2.5-litre five-cylinder, true, but it's said to be 'new' by Audi, mainly because the German company has fitted some lighter bits to it - like an aluminium crank case and oil pump, magnesium upper oil pan and lighter pulleys - to improve the weight distribution of any car fitted with this motor. In essence, it should reduce weight over the nose and thus limit fun-sapping understeer in the process.

And this move has worked... to an extent. The feeling of this ballistic Audi's front end wanting to wash wide is not entirely eradicated, yet it takes a lot more provocation, either on the way into bends or trying to power out the other side, to make understeer appear as readily as it did in the 367hp RS 3. Furthermore, you can even feel the torque shifting to the back axle to adjust the car's line, which is a nice touch and one that negates the oft-experienced feeling of super-powered quattro Audis being startlingly fast but massively uninvolving.

Naturally, all of a potent RS Audi's key strengths are in place: traction is immense in the dry and pretty damned impressive in the wet, the engine is an utter gem in terms of lag-free power delivery and the fabulous noise it makes (insert your own 'warbling/Scandinavian forest/Group B' analogy here), and it is blessed with a gorgeous, solidly built cabin that is the envy of anything else in class. The Alcantara-clad steering wheel with the start/stop and Drive Select buttons mounted upon it like an R8's, for example, is a particular highlight.

It almost goes without saying that the TT RS is obscenely quick. We drove the TT RS a week after an R8 Spyder, which packs twice the cylinders and swept capacity of this coupe, plus an additional 140hp, yet it's no exaggeration to say that, if anything, it was the TT which subjectively felt the quicker machine. The RS piles on pace with the sort of ferocious abandon that was previously only the preserve of supercars. The haymaker hit of the 480Nm midrange torque makes the RS leap forward instantaneously from most points on the rev counter. But because peak power is delivered over a wide, top-end band, the five-pot motor loves to rev its heart out. It's a thoroughly intoxicating engine and, thanks to its presence, the TT RS doesn't want for brutal cross-country pace.

Given this is clearly the best TT RS so far, as well as one of Audi Sport's better dynamic efforts, what is it about this coupe that we don't like? Well, some of the exterior detailing is wonderful - in particular, those optional 20-inch alloys, with seven spokes that are each vaguely reminiscent of falchions - but equally some of it is perhaps a touch overblown. There's a lot of silver detailing to drink in, and the fixed rear spoiler is not going to be to all tastes. We're not against spoilers, per se, not even wild ones, but when the TT is so pure of shape as standard, the RS could be said to be a little chintzy.

Then there's the low-speed ride, which is firm to the point of uncomfortable. That aforementioned R8 Spyder rode a lot better on similar-sized rims, mainly because it was designed to have them in the first place, while the regular TT starts off with 18s. Audi's optional Magnetic Ride adjustable dampers (1,000) try to do their best in Comfort mode, but it's not enough to make the RS feel compliant. However, we would say that the ultimate TT was a lot comfier on the motorway than it was on a rutted back road. Perhaps its best 'cruising' trick was giving back 37.5mpg on a steady, long haul up the M5 and M42, with an overall 33mpg during our week with it - none too shabby at all for something with a sub-four-second 0-62mph sprint time.

But the biggest problem for the TT RS comes in a very familiar form: the TTS . With a 310hp 2.0-litre TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder, this thing starts from 40,515 - a significant 11,585 less than the RS. It's certainly quick enough for most people's needs, too, with the DSG-equipped coupe managing a 4.6-second 0-62mph time. And with even less weight over the nose, it feels a sweeter, more balanced car than the RS. The TTS also looks suitably muscular on the outside without going too far into the realms of aggressive fixed accoutrements and it rides a lot nicer on a day-to-day basis.

So the TT RS is a brilliant car, with a fabulous soundtrack, absolutely stonking performance and a superb chassis. Yet, for us, it feels undone not just by more finely tuned rivals - like the BMW M2 and Porsche 718 Cayman S - but by the realisation that the ideal recipe of TT for the performance motoring fan is the 310hp, four-cylinder model that's the best part of 12 grand less. Rather like an Audi S3 is a better machine to drive than an RS 3.

Alternatives:

BMW M2: It's a familiar tale here: blisteringly-quick-in-all-conditions quattro Audi is beaten by less fast but more involving rear-drive BMW. The TT RS is fabulous, but the M2 is even more so. And it's cheaper.

Jaguar F-Type V6 Coupe: Really pricey in comparison to the Audi and doesn't have the best infotainment, nor vestigial rear seats. But, if anything it looks nicer than a TT, and it's an F-Type.

Porsche 718 Cayman S: Sublime to drive, despite the shift to four-cylinder power. Audi has its measure for grip and traction, but Porsche is preferable in other departments to compensate.


Matt Robinson - 10 Apr 2017



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