Lincolnshire

Five minutes with an Audi TT RS

What is it?

The Audi TT RS, the ultimate performance version of the German company’s performance-car style icon. You can actually have the RS as a Roadster as well as the hard-topped version we’re driving here, but we’re focusing on the Coupe as it’s the one which promises the most driving thrills.

While basic models of the TT come with 180- or 184hp petrol or diesel engines, they’re not exactly slow – and above those cars is a 230hp petrol or the 310hp TTS model, which is more than fast enough for most people’s tastes: 0-62mph takes as little as 4.6 seconds and top speed is the limited 155mph Teutonic maximum.

But this RS is more powerful again – and it promises to take the fight to genuine sports car giants like the BMW M2, Jaguar F-Type Coupe and Porsche 718 Cayman S.

Why are you driving it?

Because you’re looking at an Audi TT with a colossal 400hp and 480Nm, courtesy of a 2.5-litre, inline five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine.

In something that weighs little more than 1,500 kilos with a driver onboard, fitted with a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox as standard and with power going to both axles (it is a quattro, after all), 0-62mph takes a faintly scandalous 3.7 seconds and – with an optional £1,600 pack – the speed limiter is raised from 155mph to a heady 174mph.

It gets various RS-specific styling addenda, like the beautiful 20-inch, seven-spoke alloys, that fixed rear wing, twin oval tailpipes (instead of the quad exhausts of the TTS) and silver body detailing, while inside is an Alcantara-clad version of the steering wheel from an R8, complete with start/stop and Drive Select buttons mounted either side of the centre boss.

Various components are necessarily uprated, such as the suspension and the brakes, to cope with all this grunt.

What do you like about it?

The TT, traditionally an exquisitely pretty car, hasn’t always been as good to drive as it is to behold. Various ‘hot’ versions have been punted out over the years but they’ve typically been dynamically inert, with numb steering, overly tough suspension and plenty of understeer – this is a trait that sees the front end of the car plough straight on in corners, even if the front wheels are turned in the intended direction of travel.

It’s a safety device, in essence, as it’s easier for most drivers to control/rectify understeer than its more fun counterpart, oversteer (which is the back axle swinging out during a corner), but it does sap enjoyment from the driving experience.

However, the TT has been getting steadily more and more involving for the person behind the wheel as it has evolved over its three generations and the current model is a great thing to drive in standard format. Luckily, adding a 400hp engine to the mix hasn’t ruined the chassis’ deft balance.

The RS is not only as blisteringly quick in a straight line as its performance figures suggest, but it’s also pretty tidy and likeable in the bends. The steering is beautifully weighted and sharp in its responses, traction in all conditions is mammoth, the mighty brakes bite cleanly and powerfully throughout all deceleration situations, body control is from the top drawer and the balance of torque distribution is adjustable mid-corner on the throttle.

So the result is that the TT RS is a superb performance car, one of the best RS models to emerge in the division’s 23-year history. We’ve not even mentioned the haunting, hollow howl the five-cylinder engine emits during hard acceleration, either.

Any issues?

On those stunning 20-inch wheels – and despite standard-fit adjustable dampers – the ride of the TT RS is not particularly comfortable. It feels very firm at all times and is only really at its best when the car is loping along a motorway.

Then there are the looks; the TT is a pure shape as standard and that fixed rear wing isn’t the most sympathetic item in the world – in fact, we’d definitely say we prefer the more understated fast-car appearance of the TTS.

And that’s an apt juncture to examine that TTS in a little more detail. It’s the best part of £12,000 cheaper than the RS. It’s more finely balanced, as its four-cylinder engine is lighter in the front of the TT’s body than the five-pot mill of the hottest model, so it’s a thoroughly rewarding car to drive quickly.

And it’s definitely more comfortable to live with on a day-to-day basis. So while we love the TT RS very much, we adore the TTS just a little bit more.

What’s it like as a business vehicle – are there any tax benefits?

You’d be much better off with the TT TDI diesel than this RS if you want to run one as a company car. That potent 2.5-litre engine attracts the highest possible Benefit-in-Kind tax of 37% and, under the 2017-introduced VED laws, the RS is not cheap for road funds.

One bright spot is the cruising fuel economy, as – on one long motorway trip conducted at a steady 70mph – it gave back an indicated 37.5mpg, way above its quoted 33.6mpg combined figure. But again, that’s not going to compare favourably to what an Audi TTS would manage in the same circumstances…

Where does it rank in class right now?

The Audi TT RS is a storming car and if you want bonkers performance in all conditions with the sort of unimpeachable brand image that four-ringed logo brings with it, then the 400hp variant is clearly the ideal choice.

Yet, good as it is to drive, it’s not as well-rounded and cohesive as its two chief rivals, the BMW M2 and Porsche 718 Cayman S – but, perhaps more crucially, it’s definitely not as nice to drive as the TTS, which starts from around £40,000.

So if you really do want a fast TT, in terms of hotness you need to aim a little lower on the Scoville scale with the Audi: in essence, what we’re trying to say is that the pleasant heat and tastiness of the Piri Piri (TTS) is perhaps preferable to scorching all of your taste buds to death with the ‘ghost pepper’ TT RS.

TECH SPEC

  • Model: Audi TT RS Coupe
  • Price: TT RS Coupe starts from £52,100; car as tested £59,870
  • Drivetrain: 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder petrol, seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
  • Economy: 33.6mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 192g/km – £800 VED first 12 months, then £450 per annum next five years, then £140 annually thereafter; 37% benefit in kind
  • Top speed: 174mph (with £1,600 optional limiter raise from 155mph)
  • 0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
  • Power: 400hp at 5,850- to 7,000rpm
  • Torque: 480Nm at 1,700- to 5,850rpm