£54,230 Price range
The Audi TT RS Roadster is the fastest version of the TT convertible. Its monumental performance comes courtesy of a 400hp five-cylinder engine under the bonnet that powers all four wheels for dizzying acceleration. It rivals other fast roadsters such as the Porsche 718 Boxster, Ford Mustang GT Convertible, and the Mercedes-AMG SLC43.
Inside, the new TT RS keeps the same layout and features as the standard TT meaning the three air vents, mounted in the middle of the dashboard also house the climate controls. The minimalistic interior design continues with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit in place of the speedo and rev counter dials and a flat-bottomed steering wheel stolen from the R8 supercar which houses the starter button, and a pair of supportive leather sports seats.
Unlike the TT RS coupe, the roadster doesn’t have rear seats – all the space is now taken by the retractable fabric roof. Up front, however, there’s plenty of space and the driving position is exactly as you’d hope from a sports car. Even the boot is decent by roadster standards, offering a similar volume to that of a supermini.
It may be an uncompromising performance machine, but the TT RS still offers some neat practical touches. Microphones integrated into the seat belt ensures chats via Bluetooth-enabled phone calls can be clearly heard even with the roof down and the fabric roof can be folded electrically at speeds of up to 31mph.
As far as the driving experience goes, think of the TT RS as a drop-top rocket ship. It combines a 395hp engine with Audi’s famed Quattro four wheel drive system to deliver dizzying acceleration. There are several driving modes to choose from on the fly, allowing the driver to tweak the suspension, gearbox and steering settings according to the conditions via a steering-wheel-mounted button. A flap installed in the exhaust system opens when the most sporty ‘dynamic’ mode is selected, increasing the volume of that wonderful five-cylinder engine.
Even the most basic versions of the Audi TT flaunt a cabin beautiful enough to shame those in much more expensive alternatives, and the spruce-ups granted to RS models only improve the atmosphere further.
The uncluttered cabin features liberal applications of polished steel or, for a more sporty feel, you can replace those with carbon fibre trim pieces for £805.
Audi TT RS Roadster passenger space
As two-seat sports cars go, accomodation levels are more than adequate. A pair of electrically-adjustable sports seats trimmed in soft leather not only look great, but support you in all the right places. The steering wheel, a gorgeous flat-bottomed item trimmed in leather and alcantara, is lifted from the R8 supercar.
It’s quite spacious up front, so drivers and passengers of all shapes and sizes fit without much difficulty. The low convertible roof doesn’t hamper headroom, unless you’re Abraham Lincoln, and you can always fold it away for millions of miles of space.
Unlike the TT RS Coupe, the Roadster is a strict two seater. The seats in the back of the coupe model are next to useless anyway, so this is not such a huge loss.
Audi TT RS Roadster boot space
To make way for the fabric folding roof, overall loading space has taken a slight hit compared to the TT RS Coupe – the Roadster’s 280-litre boot is 25 litres smaller. The Coupe’s hatchback-like opening is sacrificed too, so it’s harder to load bulky items. By cabriolet standards, it’s still pretty usable though.
Just like the coupe, the TT RS Roadster gains a host tweaks and upgrades to make it a more focused driver’s car than the lesser models in the range. It’s firmer than a standard TT, but not spine-shatteringly so, and the overall ride quality has softened, compared to the previous TT RS Roadster.
However, the main difference compared to the coupe is weight – lopping off the metal roof might lead you to believe that some weight has been lost, but actually, at 1,530kg, the Roadster weighs 90kgs more than the coupe due to chassis reinforcements. Although that difference may be as much as a well-fed human adult, few drivers will be able to tell the difference.
It’s the engine’s strong pulling power combined with the seemingly-unending grip that impresses the most – the TT RS Roadster is an incredibly quick point-to-point car. The RS Roadster is also a car that doesn’t require much talent to be driven quickly, and for many people that will be a big reason for getting one.
Those who appreciate a more delicate chassis balance – or those who just want to feel more involved in the driving experience – would be better off with a Porsche 718 Boxster, but the TT RS sounds far better… On the plus side, the standard brakes on the TT RS Roadster are brilliant – strong, resistant to fade, and with a nicely-weighted pedal.
An optional upgrade replaces the standard steel discs for carbon ceramic items, improving stopping power further. The adaptive dampers are another worthy option, especially if you’re interested in the larger 20-inch forged alloy wheels. Even in their firmest setting, they deliver a comfortable ride quality without compromising the handling.
Any criticism of the chassis is easily forgotten once the engine is given your full attention. At a time when the closest competition from Porsche, the 718 Boxster S, makes use of a strong but ultimately drab four-cylinder engine, by contrast the five-cylinder unit under the bonnet of the TT RS has bags of character.
The noise dominates the driving experience. The characterful bellow from the five-cylinder is even easier to appreciate with the roof down, so any break in the clouds becomes the perfect excuse to whip the fabric hood open. It’s not only when accelerating that your ears are treated to a symphony of sounds – when slowing down each gear shift is accompanied by a barrage of pops and bangs that announce your arrival to unsuspecting onlookers.
The 2.5-litre engine kicks out 395hp and 354lb ft, and paired with the Quattro four-wheel drive system and a dual clutch automatic gearbox, it’s enough to get the TT RS Roadster from 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155mph, or 174mph for models equipped with the Performance Pack Plus. The seven-speed auto shifts smoothly and responds quickly in manual mode even if you sometimes miss the extra involvement in a BMW M2 equipped with a manual gearbox.
The TT RS Roadster costs more than the coupe, which in turn costs more than most of its rivals. Yes, we can argue that the Porsche is slower, rear-wheel drive only, and can’t match the Audi’s cylinder count, but we haven’t mentioned the prices of the TT RS options yet.
Spec up the Roadster with some extras and the price can very quickly head north at a serious rate. There are a couple of features well-worth considering though. For £1,600, the Dynamic Pack adds adaptive dampers and a fruitier exhaust system. The OLED tail lights look cool, adding a 3D effect to the lighting graphics, but for £800, along with the £1,600 carbon-fibre wing mirror caps, aren’t a must-have.
Despite the performance, running costs aren’t too excessive, provided you take Audi’s word for it. The TT RS is claimed to manage 34mpg, but expect a more-realistic 28mpg if you frequently drive into town.
In terms of pure performance, there’s little else that can match the Audi TT RS for the money. From a standing start it delivers acceleration figures which trouble supercars costing three times as much, and through the corners, it rarely feels anything other than utterly composed. That it also looks stunning on the inside, striking on the outside, and is packed with loads of tech means it’s a car which is very easy to fall for.
The only criticisms leveled at it come from the serious driving purists. As quickly as it can take the corners, it never feels as thrilling as a Porsche 718 Boxster, nor will you feel like you’ve achieved as much in doing so. But for most folks that’s just fine.
While the Porsche might have more appeal for track day enthusiasts, the TT RS’ all-round ability makes it easier and more fun to live with on the road which will land it a lot of fans.