There's a harder, faster, leaner version of the Audi TT RS on the way.
WHAT IS IT?
The second generation of the Audi TT RS, and – apart from the inevitable “Plus” version that will come later – probably the most powerful car that will ever be built on Volkswagen Group’s mid-sized MQB architecture.
On paper, it sticks closely to the recipe of its predecessor, with power coming from a transverse mounted five-cylinder turbo motor, although this is now a lighter all-alloy unit that delivers. Performance is pretty much supercar brisk, with a 3.7-sec 0-100km/h time, and traction underwritten by four-wheel drive. The Coupe version will be going on sale in Australia in mid 2017, and is set to wear a pricetag of around $145,000. A two-seat roadster version will carry a supplement of around $5000.
WHY ARE WE TESTING IT?
To see if the TT RS manages to move the game on from its predecessor, a sportscar that managed to be enormously fast all the time but was only rarely exciting. Like its lesser brethren the TT RS is more practical than rivals like the Porsche Cayman, with rear seats and usable boot space, but there’s still a question mark over whether it can deliver dynamic thrills.
Porsche Cayman S, Jaguar F-Type V6
THE WHEELS VERDICT
SORRY if this starts to sound familiar, but the TT RS is another fast Audi that is better suited for making ultra fast progress rather than driving thrills. It’s sharper to steer than its predecessor, and the five-cylinder engine is a cracker, but it still falls some way short of the sort of the dynamic engagement that most sportscar buyers are looking for. It’s a receipe that’s worked well for Audi in the past, of course, and we’ve no reason to believe this RS won’t find its niche and outsell its predecessor.
PLUS: Even better to drive; poke from snarly five-cylinder engine; more practical than two-seat rivals
MINUS: Not an all-out corner carver; something lost in AWD translation
THE WHEELS REVIEW
There’s always been something compelling about a car with a wilful excess of power. While it’s hard to say exactly what the TT RS competes with, it’s fair to say that it outguns anything that could be legitimately regarded as a rival. While few people complained that the last RS TT was lacking in firepower – the later “Plus” version managed 265kW –this one boasts both a new aluminium five-cylinder engine and a boost to 294kW. That’s more than a Cayman S, a BMW M2 or a Focus RS, or indeed the Audi RS3.
The good news is the new TT RS is better to drive than both its predecessor and its hatchback sister. Making faster progress in the first-gen RS often felt more like a challenge than an experience, it was brutally quick but had a punishingly firm ride, a nose-heavy handling balance thanks to the boat anchor weight of the iron-block turbo five hung out front, a punishing ride, and minimal feedback. The new RS is vastly better, sitting on Volkswagen’s advanced MQB architecture and with a new all-alloy five that weighs 26kg less than the old engine.
But while there’s less understeer, and more supple manners when asked to deal with a bumpy road, the new RS is still a car that’s been designed to travel quickly rather than reward its driver for trying hard. Grip is massive, enough to get Velcro referenced, but there’s still not much in the way of throttle adjustability. The all-wheel drive system still uses the familiar on-demand coupling on the rear axle – a development of the Haldex system that Volkswagen has been using for more than 20 years – and lacks the ability to do any of the trick torque vectoring of its Focus RS namesake. The result is a car that feels like a very quick front driver, with the only way to stop the front from ultimately running wide being to ease off the throttle. It’s no Cayman S.
The new five-cylinder engine brings plenty of compensation, though. It’s an absolute cracker: snarly, keen across the board and happy to rev to the limiter. Yes, there’s lag if you go looking for it – although in ‘drive’ the standard twin-clutch gearbox will always kick down to eliminate this – but the RS’s turbocharged power delivery makes it feel properly exciting. Quattro’s engineering boss, Stephan Reil, admits that it would have been possible to generate a similar output with a four-cylinder engine – VW was working on a similarly powerful version of the EA888 2.0-litre motor – but sticking with a five has given the RS vastly more character. It was undoubtedly the right decision.
Everything else is beefed-up TT. The RS gets a far more purposeful look than the anaemic base version, its bodykit and rear wing making even the 231 kW TTS look wussy. The cabin is brilliant with Audi’s class-leading VDU “virtual cockpit” instruments as standard and – trump card time – it’s vastly more practical than any of its two-seat rivals. The RS coupe has small but child-viable rear seats and a reasonably sized loadspace under the rear hatch. The ride is still firm, but it feels far more composed at speed than the crashy first-gen RS ever did.
We have to wait for Australian pricing until closer to the RS’s launch next year, but we’re told to expect it will be around the $145,000 mark. That’s more than double what the most basic TT Coupe costs, although the RS will come with generous standard equipment including LED headlamps, active safety gizmos and the “plus” navigation system. For the chosen, the RS’s sheer speed and class-leading practicality will be more than enough to compensate for its lack of dynamic involvement.
Model: Audi TT RS
Engine: 2480cc 5cyl, dohc, 20v
Max power: 294kW @ 5850–7000rpm
Max torque: 480Nm @ 1700–5850rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, all-wheel drive
0-100km/h: 3.7sec (claimed)
Economy: 8.4L/100km (EUDC)
Price: $145,000 (est)
On sale: Summer 2017