CAPE TOWN – Reality has a way of shattering boyhood dreams. Take, for example, the frankly silly goal of one day owning a supercar like the Audi R8. Then life happens, and brings mortgages, bills and school fees with it…
But what if an alternative car came along that offered 90% of the dream but at a third of the price? Well, that brings me neatly to Audi Sport’s new TT RS Coupé, which feels something like a baby R8.
Zero to 100 km/h in a claimed 3,7 seconds and a top speed limited to 250 km/h (a figure that can be upped to 280 km/h on request). These are indeed supercar-like figures, made possible by the latest iteration of the 2,5-litre, five-cylinder turbopetrol engine that has won multiple Engine of the Year awards in its category.
It is 26 kg lighter than before but now delivers 294 kW and 480 N.m – making this the most powerful TT ever produced. What the figures do not convey is the emotional appeal of the five-pot on full chat, complete with antisocial pops and burbles on the overrun.
Ride and handling
The TT employs the renowned MQB (transverse engine) platform also underpinning many other Audi and Volkswagen products, including the A3, Q2, Golf and Tiguan. This is a good thing as it offers an excellent balance between comfort and performance.
The local launch included a tight gymkhana course where the TT RS was put through its paces against the new Audi RS3 Sportback and RS5 models (launched on the same day). It was clearly the lightest (1 440 kg) of the trio, allowing it to deliver the most impressive maneuverability of the bunch. And because of the low centre of gravity, it displayed the least body roll, too. The end result was quicker times than the other RS-badged machines could muster.
The ride is on the stiff side, but the optional magnetic dampers on the test units certainly helped. In dynamic mode, for instance, the bumpy Du Toitskloof Pass upset the balance of the car when close to the friction limit, but toggling to a softer setting on the individual mode (while keeping the powertrain in its angriest setting) improved matters considerably. Grip limits are high and it is difficult to detect that traditional Achilles’ heel of some all-wheel-drive systems, namely understeer, in road-driving scenarios.
The famous Quattro system employs a centre clutch to distribute torque to the rear axle when slip is detected at the front wheels. The advantage of this set-up is that the driver can flatten the accelerator exiting a junction with the steering wheel turned without risking life and limb, something that would not be advised in a powerful rear-wheel-drive car under similar conditions (when you’d likely land up backwards over a kerb).
As with other TT models, the cabin is a class act and is foremost driver-focused. The RS gains an R8-inspired steering wheel with a satellite start button and drive mode select switch. The “Virtual Cockpit” digital instrumentation is standard and adds to the sophisticated feel of the interior. The RS-branded figure-hugging front seats are beautifully crafted and trimmed in Nappa leather.
It is easy to get comfortable behind the wheel thanks to the reach and rake adjustments offered, along with the electrically adjustable seat. It does indeed feel like a mini-R8 in there, and by pushing the exhaust flap switch on the centre console, the TT RS provides real aural delight as well. The progressive steering is accurate and it is easy to place the car on tight mountain passes.
Audi has managed to give the sleek appearance of the third-generation TT more bite in RS guise by adding side-sills, an aggressive front bumper/splitter design, large diameter twin oval exhaust pipes and an electronically operated rear wing (which can be swapped for a fixed unit at no extra cost, if the owner so desires).
At the rear, you’ll find LED lights for the first time (LEDs do duty up front as well), complete with the striking sweeping indicator operation. If the exterior is still not aggressive enough, then the owner has the option of adding official performance parts available at selected Audi dealers from 2018.
The TT RS takes the Audi RS3 concept (and powertrain) and transforms it into a more dynamically adept and visually exciting package. It is closer in spirit to the R8 than ever before … and might just be proof that lowering your ultimate life goal is not always a bad thing.
Engine:2,5-litre, inline five, turbopetrol
Power:294 kW at 5 850-7 000 r/min
Torque:480 N.m 1 700–5 850 r/min
0-100 km/h:3,7 secs
Top Speed:250 km/h
Fuel Consumption:8,2 L/100 km
Maintenance Plan:5-year/100 000 km