Audi TT RS review
If you think the regular TT is a little staid and the TTS is quick, but not quite quick enough, Audi has an answer – it’s called the TT RS, and with 395hp, it’s a rival for BMW’s smallest M car – the M2 – and the Porsche 718 Cayman S.
What's not so good
Find out more about the Audi TT RS
Unsurprisingly, it’s the all-aluminium 2.5-litre engine that dominates the experience. Its pops and gurgles grab your attention first – they give the Audi character that the BMW and (now four-cylinder) Porsche Cayman simply cannot match, but it’s the monstrous torque pinning you to driver’s seat that leaves a lasting impression.
It isn’t as laugh-out-loud fun to blast down a twisty road as the BMW M2 or as pin-sharp precise as a Cayman S, but it is capable of fantastic point-to-point pace without asking too much of the driver skill-wise. And standard quattro four-wheel drive means there’s claw-like grip no matter the road conditions.
And the news just keeps getting better. The TT RS has one of the most functional and well-built interiors on the market, with high-quality plastics and turbine air vents complete with their own separate temperature controls. All TTs get Audi’s Virtual Cockpit display – a multifunction screen that replaces conventional dials – it looks brilliant and works extremely well. The TT’s also easy to see out of, decently spacious in the front, and has a wide variety of smaller storage areas.
Even with a characteristically long and pricey options list (you can spend £1,200 on carbon-fibre door mirrors if the mood takes you), the TT RS comes with a lot of equipment including all-round park assist, emergency automatic braking and Audi active lane assist, which automatically steers the car to keep you in your lane.
In carwow’s (admittedly very unscientific) hands the TT RS recorded a 0-62mph time of 3.6 seconds – that’s quicker than a McLaren F1 supercar
With Porsche restricting its Cayman to just four-cylinders, the door to enthusiasts’ hearts has been left wide open for Audi and, as a result, the latest RS makes a more compelling case for itself than the previous model.
For around £50,000, you get a muscular exterior, a spectacular interior, great handling and a level of practicality that’ll suit anyone who doesn’t need space for a family.
A BMW M2 is more-fun on the limit and a Porsche Cayman S has just plain higher limits but, like a contract killer that is happy to walk your dog, the TT RS is hard to fault as a savage, multi-purpose performer.
For a more detailed analysis of the TTRS, read the interior, practicality and driving sections of our review. Or, if you just want to see how much money you can save on a TTRS, click through to our deals page.
Come for the state-of-the-art interior, stay for the brilliant sporty RS seats. They’ll keep you in place through fast corners, and are much more spacious than the tiny rear seats
If you make your friend sit in the back of a TT RS, they might think you don’t like them very much
After a quick glance around the cabin, there’s a definitive driver focus notable mainly by the centre console and dashboard that are angled slightly towards the driver, and the whole upper half is made from soft foam that reduces glare.
This egocentric design along with the infotainment screen now situated behind the steering wheel means that the passenger is left with not much more to do than set the heater and hold on tight. On the upside, they get plenty of space to stretch out in what is, after all, a pretty compact sports coupe.
Things aren’t so good in the back where the two seats are suitable for small children only. The huge front seats take up so much room you’re better off folding them down and using the extra storage to boost luggage capacity.
For £175 extra, you can have the Storage Pack which adds a 12V socket, a removable LED light for the luggage compartment and additional storage nets. Otherwise, you get a couple of cupholders a small-ish glovebox and shallow door pockets, but for a small sports car it’s pretty good.
For a compact two-door coupe, the Audi TT RS is quite usable as an everyday car. The standard boot capacity is 305 litres in size, which is nearly as much as you’d get in a Ford Focus, and the opening is pretty large. However, the load bay is shallow, so in order to fit larger items (including, honest – a bicycle, we’ve tried it) you can fold down the useless rear seats and enjoy a 712-litre total capacity.
The new RS brings a level of composure and neutral handling that was missing from the nose-heavy old model.
The noise is worth the asking price alone
You buy an RS-badged Audi expecting performance and the TT RS certainly won’t leave you disappointed. Acceleration is mind-blowing for this class of car – 0-62mph comes up in just 3.7 seconds – that’s nearly a second quicker than a Porsche 718 Cayman S.
How does it do this? Well, it has a 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine that – with the help of a fairly large turbo – makes 395hp, or 70hp more than the Porsche. Add to that its 354Ib ft of torque (available from a lowly 1,700rpm) and there’s virtually no need to shift down a gear when overtaking. And, for a £1,600, Audi will even raise the speed limiter from 155 to 174mph.
Helping control all that performance is the quattro all-wheel-drive system. It uses trick electronics to keep the TT on the road and can send up to 100 per cent of power to the front or rear wheels, so you get strong levels of grip even under full power.
Meanwhile, the electric fast changes of the seven-speed DSG gearbox mean acceleration is almost seamless and each gear shift is accompanied by an ear-pleasing pop. Even slowing down is fun as the TT unleashes a barrage of crackles and pops to announce your approach. With the BMW M2’s noise seeming synthetic and the Cayman’s positively ordinary, the characterful warble of five-cylinders is one of the Audi’s biggest selling points.
All this talk of performance makes it easy to forget about boring stuff, such as fuel economy, but despite its performance advantage, the Audi’s fuel economy of 34mpg is broadly similar to what rivals offer.
As before, it devours corners and shoots down straights, but it’s more confidence-inspiring than before, making you feel like a driving God, when in reality it’s the clever stability control systems keeping you on the road. The standard quattro four-wheel drive only adds to that feeling of security by providing the RS with tremendous, all-season grip.
What the TT RS does well is combine rocket-ship qualities such as the sub-four-second 0-62mph time with a ride that won’t destroy your lower back. Pick the £1,595 20-inch wheels, though, and the resulting tough ride makes the £1,000 adaptive dampers – and added comfort they bring – almost compulsory.
Perhaps it’s this jack-of-all-trades character that stops the RS providing the final layer of involvement that is available in rivals, because – despite its ferocious ability – the RS doesn’t send its driver into fits of giggles quite like a BMW M2 or Porsche Cayman can – tail-out fun is, sadly, off the menu.
The TT RS keeps the regular TT’s layout and features.
Audi TT RS colours
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*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.