Audi doesn’t make many RS-badged cars. Since 1992 it has only applied them to five high-performance, low-volume models: the original RS2 estate, and two versions each of the RS4 and RS6. Each had a monstrous engine shoe-horned into a saloon or estate body, and made BMW’s M-cars and Mercedes-Benz’s AMGs look pretty common by comparison.
So any new RS model deserves your attention. This new TT RS marks the first time the badge has been applied to a sports car; you can have it as either a coupe or a roadster. And when Audi bills this car as an homage to the iconic fast Audi – the original, 1980 Quattro – your expectations are nudged a little higher still.
The Audi TT RS will need more than 200bhp this time…
Audi doesn’t currently make a five-pot as used in the original ur-Quattro so the RS gets a virtually bespoke 2.5-litre five that shares only the design of its block with a US-market Volkswagen engine. In the TT RS it makes a massive 335bhp between 5400 and 6500rpm and 332lb ft of torque between 1600 and 5300rpm. But its combination of direct injection and turbocharging is also good for efficiency: Audi claims average fuel consumption of 30.7mpg, and carbon dioxide emissions of just 214g/km for the coupe.
To handle the torque Audi had to borrow the six-speed ‘box from the Volkswagen Transporter van. And they’ve deliberately left off the black plastic cover that hides most modern engines. Instead, when you open the bonnet you get an eyeful of red cam cover studded with five HT leads: very '80s.
Any other tweaks?
The brakes grow to 370mm at the front and 310mm at the back, the speed-sensitive steering has been recalibrated and the car rides 10mm lower than standard on firmer springs, with Audi’s swtichable magnetic ride as an option. And the four-wheel drive system sends power to the rear wheels slightly earlier.
>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Audi TT RS first drive
Same sledgehammer performance as the other RS cars?
Oh yes; the TT RS is properly fast. Its Quattro four-wheel drive traction slings you off the line, you’ll hit 60mph in 4.6 sec, quicker than any of its rivals, and because torque is capped from just 1600rpm its responses are almost equally urgent regardless of where the tacho needle is pointing.
The noise is equally impressive: like half a Veyron on full reheat. The top speed of 155mph can be raised to 174mph for a fee, but even that is limited. Fully derestricted the engineers say the RS will do around 180mph, uncomfortably close to the 186mph v-max of the eight-cylinder R8. Our test car was limited, but felt utterly planted at a 155mph cruise.
Does it handle like an R8 too?
Not quite. The ride quality is surprisingly good, the steering is quick and accurate if slightly anaesthetized and the brakes are suitably sharp and hard. The ESP is infuriatingly intrusive; you can kill it altogether, but an intermediate option stops the engine intervention completely and raises the braking threshold so you can drive hard without interference. Now you have an exceptionally competent - if not thrilling – chassis. It’s not a match for a Cayman, but what is?
Looks surprisingly subtle…
The visual changes are low-key, and include bigger front intakes, flared sills, a choice of 18-, 19- or 20-inch rims and RS badging on the callipers, the nose and the boot. The fixed rear wing can be swapped for the standard car’s retractable type. The cabin gets more RS badging, a lap timer and digital gauges for boost and oil temperature in the binnacle, sports seats and optional winged hard-backed chairs.
The TT RS has masses of grunt, some genuinely impressive performance figures, a chassis that’s up to the job – and all without compromising the base car’s essential metrosexual appeal. We like the TT RS: it might not be as seminal as the original Quattro that inspired it, or as complete a sports car as the Cayman S it competes with now, but it deserves that RS badge.
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