AUDI’s S range has been an unqualified success. These derivatives nimbly bridged the gap between models with broad appeal and the fearsome RS-badged incarnations. S models offer more performance and sportier styling than the standard cars, without blowing the budget or sacrificing comfort levels like full-blown performance-division vehicles are wont to do. Indeed, so successful has Audi been with the S versions that the carmaker’s approach has all but forced Mercedes-Benz and BMW to follow suit, introducing their AMG Sport and M Performance versions.
The TTS, though, has proved a far more difficult model on which to apply this happy medium. Firstly, the task of subtly enhancing the already svelte lines of the third-generation TT is a difficult, even fruitless, one. As a result – and like the previous TTS – clues to its raised performance potential remain slight. While the optional black styling package (R7 000) robbed our Vegas Yellow test unit of its otherwise distinctive S family chromed mirrors and grille, a 10 mm lower stance, standard 19-inch alloy wheels, quad tailpipes and enlarged air intakes nevertheless add a sporty edge to the package.
Audi continues to raise the bar in terms of class-leading interior treatment, including both build quality and fuss-free ergonomics, and the new TT’s cabin rates as one of the finest examples of effortless, minimalist sophistication. The S version gains sports seats and a bespoke secondary screen, which places the rev counter and digital speed readout front and centre in the Virtual Cockpit display. As with the standard car, most, if not all, infotainment functionality is accessible via a superbly crafted multifunction steering wheel.
One of these functions is a shortcut to the TTS’ standard Drive Select system. Its most aggressive dynamic mode (complemented by eco, comfort, auto and individual settings) not only engages heightened throttle, steering and engine mapping, but also stiffens the car’s magnetically controlled dampers. As we found in our test of the standard car (May 2015), though, the fitment of 19-inch wheels firms up the TT’s ride to a point where road-surface intrusions are fed through to the otherwise calm cabin. In the case of the S, these thuds are felt mostly through the multilink rear suspension. That said, in local conditions, we found the best way to drive the TTS enthusiastically was via the individual setting in which all systems, bypassing the dampers, can be enhanced separately.
Powered by an uprated version of VW’s EA888 turbocharged engine, the TTS transfers 380 N.m of torque to all four wheels via the latest incarnation of Quattro all-wheel drive, including a new electro-hydraulic multiplate clutch on the rear axle. Always active, yet enhanced via dynamic mode, this system wastes no time in shifting up to 100% of torque to the rear wheels. That said, the most effective way to manoeuvre the TTS through tight corners is via an understeer-neutralising slow entry speed, followed by a precise (impressively responsive) turn-in, and then a dollop of throttle once the apex has been met.
Perhaps as a result of this sure-footedness, together with a relatively subdued soundtrack – and despite the presence of 210 kW and a launch-control function on the S tronic transmission – we were somewhat surprised to record a very quick 4,93-second 0-100 km/h sprint time. Some 100 kg heavier than the front-wheel-drive 2,0T FSI Coupé, the S proved more than willing to test its 6 800 r/min redline through all six forward gears, surging from 60 to 120 km/h in just 4,70 seconds. As with the standard car, braking performance was suitably impressive on the day.