Audi TT RS

FIRSTDRIVES

ASH WESTERMAN

Ramps up its powers of seduction, but what about driver appeal?

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

NOSTALGIA, according to the old adage, just ain’t what it used to be.

But that’s no reason for us not to extend a nostalgic rearward glance at Audi’s history with the in-line five-cylinder engine, given that it now arrives in freshly rejuvenated form here in the second-generation TT RS.

Fact is, it’s the turbo five-pot that really defines the RS variant of Audi’s now-iconic coupe, and the moment you hear its raspy, hacking crackle on start-up, you realise it provides the pivotal point

of difference between this flagship variant and the ($37K cheaper) turbo-four TT S.

Think Audi five-pot and your mind probably flicks straight back to the Ur-Quattro coupe, either in road-going homologation form in 1980, or maybe the snarling, flame-spitting Group B rally monster of the early ’80s, being flung through parting waves of mental fans by Walter Rohrl, Hannu Mikkola or Stig Blomqvist.

It helps to buy into the five-pot history at least a little, because the TT RS really is defined by this new-gen engine. It retains the architecture and capacity of the outgoing unit, but is lighter, spins more freely, and improves both outputs and efficiency. The weight cut comes with the use of aluminium for the block (replacing cast iron) and additions such as the magnesium sump, which collectively shave 26kg. Its peak power looks pretty damn generous at a Cayman S-clobbering 294kW, but perhaps more impressive is the plateau it manages to sustain, from 5850rpm, and hanging on all the way to 7000rpm. Real-world upshot is that this is a turbo engine that digs in early – peak torque of 480Nm is there from 1700rpm – but still has an ultraeager top-end, rather than a slightly anti-climactic six-grand breathlessness.

The initial bark on start-up has an almost junior Lamborghini flamboyance to it, which is probably appropriate, given the engine is essentially half of the 4960cc V10 that powered the original Gallardo, right down to identical bore and stroke.

Throttle tip-in and low-speed refinement of the revised, lighter seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is exceptionally well mannered; not quite as seamless as a torqueconverter auto, but not far short.

Launch control is there if you feel inclined, and is integral to the claimed 3.7sec 0-100km/h time.

A further nod to the harder sports focus is the fact it will stutter hard up against the 7100rpm limiter when the shifter is pulled over into manual mode, but fact is the sports calibration is sufficiently aggressive to make manual paddle use an involvement

SPECS

Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Fuel economy Price On sale Audi TT RS Coupe 2.5 TFSI quattro 2480cc 5cyl, dohc, 20v, turbo 294kW @ 5850-7000rpm 480Nm @ 1700-5850rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1440kg 3.7sec (claimed) 8.4L/100km $137,900 Now

option rather than a necessity unless you’re on track.

Speaking of which … we sampled both Coupe and Roadster (see sidebar, far right) on the sublime Phillip Island GP circuit, and came away impressed with both variants’ pace, power-down capability, planted fast-sweeper composure and stopping power.

However, if you want true fingertip finesse and an engaged rear-end; if you live for power oversteer and hip-pivoting samba, then the TT RS may not be ‘your jam’, as the kids say. The steering is quick at 2.0 turns lock-to-lock, and has reassuring weight even in the lighter of its two modes. But it’s still not an especially detailed or nuanced communicator.

So while there’s abundant front-end purchase, you’ll sense the slip angle more through the seat of your pants than the wheel.

Barrel in hot and lift, and there is the first inclination of the back end wanting to help tighten the line, but the ESC, even in Dynamic mode, quickly jumps in to quell it, and keeps the throttle cut for a moment longer than seems necessary.

So the TT RS becomes a tool that requires a very precise touch, rather than encouraging too much creative exploration of line and angle. At least you can get on the throttle nice and early, and the Haldex-type AWD system does a decent job of taking the chassis from a front-driver when lightly driven to a super-tractive all-paw bolter when you’re up it.

The slightly austere on-track demeanour is much less of an issue when there are advisory speed signs rather than ripple strips, naturally. On a fast backroad you’ll have a greater appreciation of the fine body control and almost foolproof ability to carve very quickly. The chassis is 10mm lower and runs a firmer spring and adaptive damper set-up than the TT S, meaning you’ll want to keep it in the standard setting, rather than Dynamic, if you value your fillings and vertebrae.

Fortunately the Drive Select allows discrete control over all the key parameters, and creating an Individual configuration that teams regular steering and suspension settings with sports powertrain and quattro, along with an open exhaust flap, quickly became our road set-up of choice.

The standard 380mm steel front discs, clamped by massive eightpiston calipers, copped track abuse with little complaint, so are all you’ll ever need on the road (see annotation 3.) me tandard , eightn l tation All of which may do little to dissuade enthusiasts from lusting after a Porsche Cayman S, but here’s the flipside: the Audi now makes a stronger case on cylinder count, engine outputs, and arguably design elements.

The interior of TT RS, especially, is stunning, with RS-specific seats and wheel all combining to deliver a style and seduction factor the Porsche can’t match.

As for value, Audi points to a generous helping of now-standard equipment that equates to an estimated $10K increase in added value over the old TT RS Plus, for a base price that’s a few grand cheaper than that car.

So ... faster, better, cheaper, and now with a Roadster option. No need for a nostalgic yearning for the ‘good old days’ then. that s

If you live for oversteer the TT RS may not be ‘your jam’

PLUS & MINUS

Not as throttle adjustable as rear-drive rivals; stiff ride in Dynamic Strong, rev-happy, characterful engine; brakes; b body control; interior

01 UNDER ITS WING

Fixed rear wing is one exterior elements that differentiates RS from TT S, but can be deleted for that model’s retractable unit at no cost if you prefer to keep a lower, er, profile.

02 RED ALERT

Virtual cockpit the standardsetter for driver-centric instrument/info displays.

In Performance mode, the large, central tacho lights up from orange to red as you approach 7000rpm

03 TAKING THE HEAT

Carbon-ceramic front rotors, in the same 380mm size as the standard steel discs, are on the options list for $8900, if your hip pocket runs as deep as your late braking.

Off with its head

If you’re an open-top type, perhaps considering a Porsche Boxster S or Jaguar F-Type convertible, Audi is out to tempt you with the new-for-Oz Roadster variant of the TT RS. Need-to-know is that it loses the Coupe’s kiddie seats, but gains a beaut soft-top that can be raised or lowered in 10sec at up to 50km/h. The weight gain is contained to 90kg, which pushes the claimed 0-100km/h time to 3.9sec. The windblocker, neck-level heating and other soft-top-specific details are executed with typical Audi deftness and precision. Yours for a $4000 premium over the coupe, so $141,900 before options.

OR TRY THESE...

Porsche Cayman S $150,790

If a more sublimely balanced and nuanced sports car chassis exists, please let us know where. We miss the atmo-six yowl, but the turbo punch is hard to argue with. Has the TT RS covered in the bendy bits, if not in interior wow-factor.

Jaguar F-Type V6 S Coupe $156,380

You’ll need to add another $17K to get this Cat in all-paw form, but the rear-drive, blown V6 combo is still a tasty offering. No rear kiddie seats, though, and the interior is much less special than the Audi.