It seems that ever since the Audi TT debuted, it has been trying to break free from a cute and cuddly stereotype. Indeed, Audi has put a lot of effort into making the TT a legitimate sports car, adding supercar elements from the R8 along the way. So we might even call the latest TT an R4! But Audi went with TT RS. Regardless, it is the most powerful production TT yet.
The 3rd generation Audi TT arrived for 2016, on Volkswagen’s then new MQB architecture. It was undeniably more fun than ever, yet still more of a Golf Coupe with all of the trimmings than an outright performance car.
And while we can still see shades of Beetle cuteness, there is ever more high-performance menace lurking beneath all of the RS’s still adorable curves.
Exterior RS add-ons are relatively minor, but very noticeable; including oval exhaust outlets, a big fixed rear wing, red brake calipers, and matte aluminum optic trim; unless of course you choose to replace it with our car’s gloss black trim.
The smooth-running 2.5-liter turbo under the hood is technically not a new design, but it does feature an aluminum block now. Thus, the 5-cylinder weighs less and outputs more; 400-horsepower and 354 lb.-ft. of torque. We’ll stop short of saying it sounds awesome, but with the available sport exhaust system, it truly has a unique roar that is mostly pleasing to the ears.
No manual transmission is available, but the 7-speed S tronic DCT comes with paddle shifters on the wheel, and works well enough to keep us from complaining about that too much.
The TT RS’ Haldex all-wheel-drive system is similar to the one found in Volkswagen’s Golf R, which means less front bias and less tendency to understeer.
In somewhat of a reversal of the norm, it’s the magnetic ride dampers that are standard; the Dynamic Plus upgrade does away with them, going back to conventional shocks with fixed-rate springs. I guess Audi wants to make sure you are up for the lower ride height and stiffer ride that comes with the improved handling aspects. 19 or 20-inch wheels don’t really help the comfort cause either.
Even ceramic brakes are available. Our car wasn’t so equipped, but still brought us to a halt from 60 in 112-feet, with laser-like stability.
We could have used a little more feedback trough the pedal, as well as from the front end when we took to our cone course. Here, it stays noticeably flatter than the TTS, and is perhaps a little more eager to turn in; understeer has been eliminated, but otherwise not a vastly different TT experience.
What does set it apart, is the additional power. A flawless Porsche-like launch mode had us effortlessly hitting low three second 0-60s all day without breaking a sweat; including a best run of 3.2.
Firm, all-business gear transactions result in non-stop torque delivery until you finish the ¼-mile in 11.7-seconds at 118 miles-per-hour.
And you don’t have to be guns-a-blazin’ for it to put a smile on your face, any quick break in traffic can do that; and while firm, the ride is certainly not a teeth jarring one.
There is plenty of Audi awesomeness inside to appreciate. Besides the usual virtual cockpit, climate control integrated into the circular vents, and quilted seats; you’ll find a new flat-bottom steering wheel with the start button and drive select mounted right on it, carbon-fiber trim, and red accents.
One small gripe, with the backup camera display located in the gauge cluster, it tends to get blocked when you’re working the wheel.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 19-City, 29-Highway, and 22-Combined; so our 25.9 miles-per-gallon average on Premium was not bad at all. Though there’s a slightly below average Energy Impact Score of 15.0-barrels of annual petroleum consumption, with 6.5-tons of CO2 emitted.
The TT RS Coupe is total fun, until you realize you can get a mid-engine Porsche Cayman S for about the same base sticker of $65,875. And sorry Audi, we think the Cayman’s even more fun.
And that may not be a coincidence, as both companies do come under the same corporate umbrella, and perhaps they don’t want an Audi overshadowing a Porsche. And it’s not only the Cayman they have to deal with, as there’s a wide variety of other performance cars near its price point. But, no doubt the 2018 TT RS is a more serious car than before, and clearly belongs in any sports car conversation.
Engine: 2.5 liter
Torque: 354 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 3.2 seconds
1/4 mile: 11.7 seconds @ 118 mph
EPA: 19 mpg city / 29 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 15.0 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 6.5 tons/yr