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First drive: Audi TT RS Coupe (2019MY). Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi TT RS Coupe (2019MY)
We’ve found fresh appreciation for Audi’s ultimate TT, revived for the WLTP era and one last swing at the ‘hot coupe’ title.

   



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Audi TT RS Coupe (2019MY)

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Like its RS 3 relation, the Audi TT RS is back after a brief, WLTP-related hiatus. And, also like the RS 3, ostensibly not much has changed... yet we feel like this is unequivocally a better car than ever.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi TT RS Coupe Sport Edition (2019MY)
Pricing: TT Coupe from £31,565; TT RS Coupe from £53,905, Sport Edition from £57,905, car as tested £67,120
Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged inline five-cylinder petrol
Transmission: quattro all-wheel drive, seven-speed S tronic automatic
Body style: two-door performance coupe
CO2 emissions: 181g/km (VED Band 171-190: £855 first 12 months, then £465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 30.7mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited; option to raise limiter to 174mph)
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Power: 400hp at 5,850-7,000rpm
Torque: 480Nm at 1,950-5,850rpm
Boot space: 305-712 litres

What's this?

It's the red-hottest example of the Audi TT breed and if you don't know what an Audi TT looks like after 21 years of its existence, then you must be a Trappist monk who has been living in a particularly isolated monastery for the past two decades. As with other Audi models using the five-cylinder turbo engine, one of the most evocative powerplants the company still has in its armoury, new WLTP emissions regs meant the TT RS had to be withdrawn from sale while homologation testing was carried out. And now it's back.

And, like the RS 3 alongside it, basically it has received a petrol particulate filter (PPF) and a slightly quieter exhaust system, to meet all the latest laws on tailpipe nasties and TOO MUCH POP-POP-BANG-BANG LOUDNESS. At least with the 2019MY TT RS, we can talk about a slight visual and tech refresh elsewhere; the RS 3 has simply returned, unchanged, with the PPF and the exhausts slightly muted. However, as all TTs have been facelifted since the RS briefly dropped off sale, so too has the flagship gained updated looks. In essence, it has new bumpers front and rear, enlarged air intakes in the conk, a refreshed and RS-specific Singleframe grille, the addition of gloss-black inlays for and enlargement of its side sills, a new shape of rear diffuser and a boot spoiler that now features winglets on the side; the old TT RS spoiler has been painted black and is used on the regular TT's Black Edition model instead.

Inside, extra colour coding lifts a familiar, ageing but still-brilliant cabin, while Privacy Glass, Audi Phone Box with Wireless Charging and folding door mirrors join the kit list. The TT RS can once again be had as a Coupe (from £53,905) or a Roadster (from £55,655, meaning a £1,750 premium on the tin-top), with Sport Editions of each adding £4,000 to their respective tickets; Sport Eds, by the way, build on the regular RS's bulging equipment roster with the addition of one-inch-larger 20-inch, seven-spoke 'Rotor' alloys in black, plus more exterior detailing in the same dark colour, carbon inlays for the cabin and the inclusion (as standard) of the RS Sports exhaust. Indeed, our test car for the launch had another load of options on top of this little bundle, bringing the total to an eye-watering £67,120. Oof.

How does it drive?

When the Audi TT RS turned up in later 2016, it probably only had to worry about two cars: principally, it was focused solely on the Porsche Cayman, and possibly as a secondary target the BMW M2. But now the landscape has changed and there are more threats to its 400hp supremacy. Like the Z4 M40i. Or, more pertinently, the related-to-the-Z4 Toyota Supra and the deft delight that is the revived Alpine A110.

So can its particular blend of 'grip hard, go fast' still entice, now there are more engaging alternatives on the premium coupe/roadster menu? Well... as a matter of fact... yes, we think it really can. Mainly because, like some S-model Audis we've tried recently, and also other RS vehicles too, someone at Audi Sport has clearly gone to Porsche, cap in hand, and asked if they can have any tips on how to set up steering and damping correctly.

The TT RS has a simply astonishing front axle now. It just carves into bends at speeds that you think will be insurmountable for the leading tyres to be able to cling on to the road surface, while we only managed to elicit snatches of understeer - in the soaking wet, mind - by turning traction control off, engaging second in manual mode and then deliberately wrenching the steering wheel hard over while simultaneously asking for 'full beans' from the five-pot; anyone who consistently drives like this in the real world ought to have a long hard word with themselves, frankly. The steering itself is also lovely - not exactly at 718 Cayman or A110 levels, of course, but easily some of the best Audi RS steering we've sampled for a long while, with nice weighting, even consistency of response and an off-centre dartiness that makes the TT keen to change tack.

Also, the Audi TT RS - still equipped with the 400hp/480Nm specs, despite the addition of the PPF - remains blisteringly quick. An on-paper 0-62mph time that's well below the four-second line is only half of the story, because it has reach through the gears like you wouldn't believe. The seven-speed S tronic is a much more responsive gearbox than the Tiptronic fitted to other performance Audis and the way it slots ratios home so quickly makes it almost feel telekinetic; barely have your fingers flexed to ask for the next gear than the Audi has gone through the swap and you're being hammered towards the horizon once more by that addictive five-pot engine.

Aaaah, that engine! That wonderful, wonderful engine! You just know it's not going to last forever; emissions regs will kill off characterful units like this before too long. And we've said it before and we'll say it again about the five-cylinder unit: you could almost forgive a car any other transgression, as payment for the gobsmacking performance and sensational noise this thing serves up. Make no mistake, the TT RS feels every bit as rabid and demented under full acceleration as an R8 performance with its V10 yowling away behind your head, and we're not sure what bigger compliment we could pay the TT RS than that.

Suffice to say, during a challenging and thoroughly brilliant day driving it around the eastern fringes of the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland, we fell in love with the 2019MY TT RS in a way we never have before. Granted, its USP remains ballistic cross-country pace at the expense of other dynamic treats: there's adjustability in the Audi's chassis but not a huge amount, so oversteer heroes will have to look elsewhere. And while you might get more joy from the cohesive togetherness of a 718 Cayman, or the gossamer-light touch of an Alpine A110, or the old-school coupe thrills of the new Supra, that doesn't mean the Audi's idiosyncratic way of going about things is necessarily wrong. It is an alternative path to driving pleasure, one which favours iron-fisted body control, mammoth traction and spectacular accessibility as the jewels in the driving crown. In their own way, these traits are no less charming than masses of steering feel or a wayward rear axle, and when you've got a TT RS Sport Edition properly hooked up on the right roads, we challenge you to drive it without a smile on your face. It is genuinely terrific fun.

Verdict

Why is the TT RS now deserving of an extra half-star when nothing has changed, beyond some exterior tweaks and a PPF? Maybe we're going soft on the old warrior, as its future is bleak - the unremitting consumer rush to crossovers and consequently dwindling TT sales means a new CEO at Audi (Bram Schot) has already declared it will not return as a Mk4. Maybe we've changed and we prefer the safer cornering aspects of the quattro Audis in our dotage, rather than the thrills of a rear-driven buckaroo. Maybe Audi UK was cute and picked the perfect location for showing off the TT RS's particular set of dynamic skills in the correct light (Scotland in spring, hence lots and lots and lots of rain and bloody mesmerising roads/scenery).

Or maybe, just maybe, we all need to re-evaluate fast Audis. It is no longer acceptable to do the lazy reviewer shorthand for these cars and say 'they've got numb steering, loads of understeer and a crashy ride'. Because none of these three things are true, and they're certainly not applicable to the TT RS. You'll have to be driving so badly on the roads to get this thing to catastrophically understeer that you ought to have your licence taken off you. Its ride is tougher than you'd get on any other TT and it reminds you of its big wheels/sporty outlook regularly, but the idea of doing 400 miles in one is enticing, rather than terrifying. And the steering, while lacking truly glittering feel, is some of the best RS-spec stuff we've ever encountered.

Yes, you will get more outright thrills with some of the TT RS's rear-driven rivals and yes, £67,000 for the car as tested is bonkers. But there's a lot to be said for the blinding way the 400hp TT goes about its business. Now that we know it is going to die after this generation, we can guarantee you'll miss it - because we will. And we'll certainly miss the superb 2019MY TT RS Coupe, that's for sure.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 28 May 2019



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2019 Audi TT RS Coupe. Image by Audi.2019 Audi TT RS Coupe. Image by Audi.2019 Audi TT RS Coupe. Image by Audi.2019 Audi TT RS Coupe. Image by Audi.2019 Audi TT RS Coupe. Image by Audi.

2019 Audi TT RS Coupe. Image by Audi.2019 Audi TT RS Coupe. Image by Audi.2019 Audi TT RS Coupe. Image by Audi.2019 Audi TT RS Coupe. Image by Audi.2019 Audi TT RS Coupe. Image by Audi.








 

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