Audi has coined the term “compact supercar” to describe the 2017 TT RS, claiming that the high-powered sports car is the fastest-accelerating car available in Australia under $190,000 - yet the package itself is so unassuming.
The TT RS looks quite a bit like the rest of the TT range, though there’s a few dialed-up touches such as bigger wheels, larger air intakes, and a fixed rear spoiler, but certainly none of the extravagant flourishes you might find on a genuine supercar like a Lamborghini.
The big surprise lies under the surface as Audi’s iconic five-cylinder engine is brilliant not only for tremendous noise it makes, but flatten the throttle and it’ll deliver serious speed. Compact supercar indeed.
Vehicle Style: Sports coupe and roadster
Price: coupe $137,900, roadster $141,900 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 294kW/480Nm 2.5-litre 5cyl turbo petrol | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.4 l/100km | Tested: 8.6 l/100km
As the flagship of the TT range, the TT RS coupe starts from $137,900 plus on-road costs with the roadster asking an extra $4000 on top of that.
At 294kW and 480Nm the 2.5-litre in-line five-cylinder engine blitzes the outputs of the next-step-down TT S by 84kW and 100Nm and allows the TT RS to bolt from 0-100 km/h in as little as 3.7 seconds for the coupe or 3.9 for the roadster - just a fraction of a second slower the $356,200 Audi R8 V10.
That roadster also marks the first time the TT RS has been offered in drop-top form in Australia, with the last generation convertible missing the boat for Australia.
- Standard Equipment: Nappa leather upholstery, electrically adjustable RS front sports seats with seat heating, single-zone climate control with in-vent dials, aluminium trim inlays, sports steering wheel, 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster, keyless entry and start, auto headlights and wipers, LED head and tail lights, 20-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: Audi MMI navigation with MMI touch controller via Vitrual Cockpit display, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, app-dependent smartphone connectivity, 2x USB inputs, nine-speaker audio
- Options Available: Bang & Olufsen 12-speaker audio $1150, wireless phone charging $350, carbon fibre interior inlays $1700, Advanced Lighting Package (Matrix LED front lights, animated OLED rear lights) $3000, carbon ceramic front brakes $8900
- Cargo Volume: 305-712 litres (coupe), 280 litres (roadster)
The current TT isn’t afraid to turn convention on its head, bucking the trend against ever-larger infotainment screens and instead providing an almost screenless dash design, moving the traditional infotainment system to the instrument cluster and turning the circular dash vents into climate control readouts.
It’s a fantastic concept, and the ideal way to show off what’s possible with Audi’s 12.3 Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster which can display traditional instruments, as well as maps, music, or vehicle telemetry - the drawback being that your passenger doesn’t get much to look at or fiddle with.
For the RS, changes include sportier seats that offer support in all the right places with electric adjustment including variable bolstering, seat heating, and additional neck-level heating for the roadster.
A falt bottomed, fat-rimmed RS steering wheel is also part of the package and with an R8-style starter button added. The only standard item missing is carbon fibre trim, with aluminium highlights standard and carbon on the options list making the dash and doors of the TT RS look a little too close to the run-of-the-mill version.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: Turbocharged inline five-cylinder petrol, 294kW @5850-7000rpm, 480Nm @1700-5850rpm
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, permanent all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear, magnetic-adaptive dampers
- Brakes: 370mm perforated and vented discs, eight-piston calipers (front), 310mm solid rear discs, single piston calipers (rear)
- Steering: Speed-dependant electromechanical power steering, 10.96m turning circle
Audi’s five-cylinder engine is an icon, most noticeable for its performance credentials in the Ur Quattro rally beasts of the 1980’s and now part of the modern RS story in both the RS 3 and TT RS.
Compared with its predecessor, the new engine sheds 26kg thanks to a range of new aluminium and magnesium components but boosts outputs by 29kW and 15Nm compared to the TT RS Plus that saw out the previous generation.
Australian specification also includes a black-tipped bimodal RS exhaust which hushes the distinctive five-cylinder soundtrack in its socially-acceptable Standard mode and lends the flagship coupe a gruff bark that’s certain to displease the neighbours in Sport mode.
So despite its visual similarities to the standard TT (lowered suspension and 20-inch wheels notwithstanding) on the drive out of Melbourne towards Phillip Island the TT RS dispels any illusions that it might be as sweet riding and perky as a cooking TT.
This beast is wild. Tromp the throttle and it slingshots from standstill, sink the boot in while rolling and the swift kickdown and wailing exhaust yelp add a signature that the standard TT, not the TT S just can’t match.
There’s also an uncompromisingly firm ride. Even with the adaptive dampers set to Comfort the TT RS reads every imperfection in the road with astounding clarity and transfers that information directly to the driver’s tailbone.
As it turns out, the TT RS may not make an ideal cross-country tourer, but upon arriving at the Phillip Island GP circuit the reason is clear - allowed to fulfil its potential on the racetrack the Audi Sport-fettled coupe demonstrated its ‘compact supercar’ potential.
Where the lesser TT S drives with absolute politeness and unerring accuracy to the point of almost feeling mundane, the TT RS reveals a machiavellian nature charging from corner to corner with spine-melting speed.
Stamp the brake pedal and the optional carbon ceramic brakes act like a thrown anchor, and despite the anti-dive damper the nose pulls downward while the tail lightens up, giving the TT RS a wild feel.
Of the four available drive modes (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual), Dynamic loosens the stability control, allowing the RS to rely more on its natural handling balance and less on pre-programed electronic assistance.
As a result, it’s possible to get things wrong. Pile on speed too early and the front end will push wide, jump off the throttle mid-corner and the rear will step out - it’s a joyful experience from an automaker that can, at times, feel a little lacking for raw driving emotion.
And of course the relentless soundtrack on track, with the throttle wide open, is better than any concert hall experience - it’s just a shame you can’t be outside the car at the same time, where the unfiltered exhaust truly bellows.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The TT RS is the missing link in the Audi range, offering a connection between primal driving passion and respectable Teutonic sensibility.
The appeal is still very much design oriented - you have to want that iconic TT look to shell out over $138,000 when the recently announced larger, more practical, and more powerful BMW M4 Pure could be yours for just $1000 more. But individuality is a hard thing to put a price on.
The TT RS is proof stamped in metal that Audi Sport has the measure of go-fast divisions like BMW M and Mercedes-AMG, and even in a ‘hairdressers car’ like the TT it’ll show those other German’s a clean set of heels.