Audi TT RS

Similar recipe but an all-new taste sensation

MIKE DUFF

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

THERE’S always been something compelling about a car with a wilful excess of power.

And while it’s hard to say exactly what the TT-RS 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 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 sibling. 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, nose-heavy handling thanks to the 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 VW 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, the only way to stop the front from ultimately running wide being to ease off the throttle. It’s no Cayman S.

The new 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 – although in ‘drive’ the standard twin-clutch gearbox always kicks down to eliminate this – but the power delivery makes it feel properly exciting.

Quattro engineering boss Stephan Reil admits that it would have been possible to generate a similar output with a four-cylinder, 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 load space 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 costs, although the RS will come with generous standard equipment including LED headlights, 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.

PLUS & MINUS

Not an all-out corner carver; something lost in AWD translation Even better to drive; snarly five-pot poke; more practical than two-seaters Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Audi TT RS 2480cc in-line 5cyl, dohc, 20v, turbo 294kW @ 5850-7000rpm 480Nm @ 1700-5850rpm Seven-speed dual-clutch 1515kg 3.7 sec (claimed) 8.4L/100km (EU) $145,000 (estimated) Mid-2017

Bloodlines

Audi introduced its first five-cylinder engine 40 years ago, a 2.1-litre that produced 102kW. A diesel version followed, but the oddball layout really got on the map when Audi added a turbo, first in the little-remembered Audi 200 5T (127kW) and then, in 1980, in conjunction with all-wheel drive in the original Audi Quattro.

The road-going 10-valve knocked out 150kW – pretty serious back then – but competition versions soon boasted 335kW and powered Audi to two World Rally Championships.

OR TRY THESE...

Porsche Cayman S $145,590

The TT Coupe’s small rear seats give it the edge on practicality over its main German rival, and it’s quicker and sounds better. The Porsche remains a far sharper steer, though, and still has the option of a manual.

BMW M2 $98,615

Less power, but offers considerably more on-the-limit amusement thanks to rear-smoking handling balance. Can’t match the Audi’s pavement-stopping design, though; to most it’s just a butch 2 Series.