Audi's TT has come a long way since the initial cute upsidedown bathtub roadster with baseball glove stitching on the seats that showed up more than 20 years ago. It's sharper, more aggressive, and in RS form it's a four-door, five-pot rocket ship. And if the rumours of its demise hold true, one we're sorely going to miss.
The TT RS looks like nothing else on the road. Except maybe a little bit of the Audi R8 in the revised for this year nose. The gun slit windows, angry headlights, and sharply starched body creases make this one mean-looking compact. And catching a glimpse of the fixed rear wing in your side mirrors should bring a smile to the face of all but the most jaded drivers.
It's full of style on the inside, too. Where Audi's said no more to the massive center console screen that dominates the dash of most modern cars. Instead, the infotainment duties are handled by the big virtual cockpit screen that is the entire dash. Great for drivers, not so great for passengers wanting to do navigation duties or to adjust the audio system.
Climate control isn't done through the screen, instead, most buttons are located inside the dashboard vents. The far left and right vents house the seat heater buttons, and the middle trio will change your temperature, fan speed, and which vents are blowing. And though the vents themselves are fixed, clever switches let you control the direction and amount of air independently for each one.
It makes for excellent cabin ergonomics, furthered by the wonderful fixed-back bucket seats. Adjustable in all the usual ways, but you can pull out the thigh bolster for long-legged drivers. Or you can adjust the side bolsters to make this car grip you more tightly in the corners. The comforting hug of the blue-stitched buckets should be able to fit almost any size driver.
That applies to the cabin, too. In a world of tiny interiors, where even compact crossovers can put the head of a moderately tall driver into the headliner, the TT RS offers enough room for this vertically gifted driver to even wear a helmet. And with this much performance, you're probably going to want to spend a lot of time on pavement that requires one. Like racetracks.
The same comfort score doesn't apply if you're looking at the rear seats. If you're comfortable back there, at least with me in the front seat, your skin tone is probably about the same as the turbo blue paint of my tester. This one's best saved for passengers three apples tall. Kids in kid seats in a pinch. Laptop bags more likely.
When it comes to cargo space, though, this is a bit of a surprise. Sure those back seats are small, but the hatch is not. Behind the rear seats, there's a not bad 340L of space. Fold the rear seats, and leave the cargo cover at home, and you've got 712L. That's enough for more golf bags than passengers, and you should be able to fit a mountain bike in there. Though not with the golf bags.
None of those things, though, really matter that much for the TT RS. Not even style. Because sure style is part of the TT, but if all you want is the look you get the base or the S. If you're getting the RS, then the styling is cool but what you really want is performance.
And does it ever deliver.
Thank the 2.5L five-cylinder that sits under the full-width hood. The rumbly machine is turbocharged within an inch of its life to deliver 394 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. It delivers that shove at nearly any RPM. Mat the throttle and the engine pulls forward before erupting with that growl that's part flat-four and part Wankel tear. With the quattro all-wheel drive system scrambling for grip, the TT RS rockets from a stop to 100 km/h in under four seconds. Thanks to the launch control feature, you can do that over and over again.
It's not just from a stop, though. The TT RS feels like its being fired from a cannon with every stab of the throttle. The outright pace might not be as exceptional as the feel, just ask the last-gen Mustang Cobra that stayed absolutely grilled to my rear bumper when accelerating away from a congestion slowdown, but that feeling of gaining speed is amazing.
Part of that feel comes thanks to the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Will purists moan the lack of a third pedal? Of course. Will this car grab gears faster than they could ever dream of doing? Absolutely. The full-throttle upshifts of this box happen faster than you can blink. Giving nearly uninterrupted acceleration. But they're never harsh when cruising. Downshifts are nearly as fast, though toggling Dynamic mode in the drive select system means you won't often need to drop cogs.
The TT RS offers lightning-quick steering response, again especially in dynamic. Give much of that credit to the painted-on rubber that coats these optional 20-inch alloys. It's well weighted too, but what it lacks is feel. At least at any speeds I was willing to approach.
Despite the imaginary sidewalls, Audi's adaptive dampers make for a comfortable ride. It's stiff, for sure, but it's not jarring. At least not by sports car standards. Sure comfort mode's a little more comfortable, but I'd have no problem spending the day with the suspension on stiff.
It never really comes alive the way some sports cars do. At least not at road speeds, but that doesn't mean it's not great fun. The five-cylinder noise combined with the complete lack of body roll and near-instant turn-in make this a great back road dance partner.
How much fuel does it use while you're doing that? Who cares? No, really. This is an $80,000 sports car. Good news if you do care, though, because this one will easily hit its 8.3 L/100 km highway rating. If you let it. But you won't, because you'll want to hear then engine roar. In my driving, it averaged in the mid nines, which is still impressive.
The TT RS doesn't get much in the way of active safety driver aids. My tester had a package that added blind-spot alerts, and there are parking sensors front and rear. But that's about it. It's got a yacht-grade horn, though, so that's a plus. Want radar cruise? Too bad.
On top of those limited driver aids, there's not much in the way of fancy tech features here. The seats aren't ventilated, but sports buckets never are. The big features here are the engine and the suspension. Which it has loads of.
It's hard to call a car with a window sticker of $80,645 a value. Maybe if you skip some of the option packages and just get the Sport Exhaust, that'd keep it just over $74,000. But what other vehicles offer this level of style and interior luxury, let alone pairing it with this car's great performance? I can't think of any.
And that's where the TT RS really hits its sweet spot. It's an amazing car to look at that is also wonderful to drive. With the added bonus of being extremely practical should you want to take it on longer trips. Which you will want to do. It's the five-pot that's the heart of this car, and we hope that Audi is able to keep that engine alive for a long time.