Audi TT RS First Drive

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October 11, 2011

By: Kris Hansen

Action Photos: Jim Fets/Audi of America

Is the TT RS for you? Ask yourself the following questions. Do You want a screaming 5 cylinder turbo engine belting out 360hp? Do you want huge brakes, a snarling exhaust, aggressive looks, and you want a 6 speed manual? Do you want to spend less than $60,000?

If the answer to the above questions is yes, then you do in fact want the Audi TT RS. We recently drove the TT RS in the wilds of Nevada, through snarled Las Vegas traffic, and on the track at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, and came away hugely impressed with this Teutonic pocket rocket.

It all began with an online petition. Audi had originally not planned on bringing the TT RS to the USA, but once wind of its existance started reaching our shores, Audi fans here thought it would work in our market. After a bit of time, an online petition began circulating, and finally enough names were taken (along with a healthy number of deposits for cars) and Audi of America decided to bring the TT RS to the USA.

We could not be happier that they did. We’ve always liked the TT, especially the TT Coupe. Its simplistic nature, relatively light weight and sporty good looks make it a fun runabout, and of course, quattro all wheel drive means it’s great to own year round. The TT S model was a nice improvement over the basic TT, though admittedly, we always want more, and the TT RS happens to fit that bill perfectly, without ruining what makes the base TT so fun in the first place.

In typical Audi fashion, the TT RS is not difficult to drive in any way. The clutch action is light and feel is good. The stubby shift lever has short precise throws through its 6 gears. The TT RS has the same hill holder that the R8 does, so no need to fuss with the hand brake on hill starts. The steering is quite light at lower speeds, and increases resistance as speed increases for stability at high speeds. All controls are easy to reach, and in reality, not a lot is changed from the base TT.

Externally, the TT RS wears a very aggressive front fascia, with gigantic mesh grilles, and a matching single frame center grille, along with much deeper sill skirts, and rear apron. The TT RS is also equipped as standard with a handsome and in no way over done rear deck spoiler, which we feel suits the nature of this car. The spoiler has an optional delete package, which replaces the standard TT flip up spoiler in its place. We’d stick with the standard version if it was our car. We’d also opt for the Aluminum trim package, which adds trim to the lower air dam in front as well as the rear apron and spoiler posts.

On the road, feedback through the extra thick rim flat bottom steering wheel is excellent, thanks partially to the good old MacPherson Strut front suspension, which does little to mask road imperfections. The brakes are enormous floating rotor 4 piston calipers at the front, and they are strong enough to put the car on its nose if need be. They also withstood the abuse of Spring Mountain’s track, which while somewhat flowing and technical, had one very hard braking area, for repeated laps.

Acceleration from the TT RS 2.5 liter 5 cylinder twin cam engine belts out 360hp, with 354 lb/ft on tap from 1650 to 5400 rpm. Audi say the TT RS will make the run from 0 -60 in 4.1 seconds, which sounds very realistic based on our seat of the pants experience. Audi also say it will run out to 174 mph, which we didn’t have the chance to verify sadly. There is a bit of boost lag, but only because we have gotten spoiled but the zero lag response of the smaller 2.0TFSI engines. If the TT RS engine is kept up in the revs a little, boost response is nearly instantaneous, and the best part is, quite unlike the 2.0TFSI, the 2.5TFSI doesn’t sign off at 5,000 rpm. No, this raucus 5 cylinder motor belts out boost right up till the rev limiter. This mill makes all of the right sounds too. It is a combination of the R8 baritone with the raw shreik of the old school Quattro rallye cars of the ’80s. To call it intoxicating would be a mild understatement.

On the road, the TT RS drives much like any other TT. Thanks to the Magnetic Ride dampers, the ride isn’t unbearable when you don’t want it to be. Ultra stiff suspension (and more aggressive throttle tuning and exhaust note) are just a push of the “S” (for sport) button away. We preferred the normal mode most of the time, especially on the highway. On the track though, the S mode was the way to go without question. The TT RS was still very capable in normal mode, just less crisp.

The 19 inch wheels and tires don’t ruin the ride at all either. We drove on some “work in progress” roads, and found that the TT RS dealt with these very well for a car of its capabilities. On the glass smooth brand new highway that bypasses the Hoover Dam, the TT RS tracked beautifully, even when we pushed the speeds a little.

The short wheelbase didn’t seem to harm stability, and without a doubt contributes to the TT RS ability to change direction, which it does extremely well. Around Spring Mountain’s 1.5 mile West Track configuration, we had the chance to experience the TT RS to its maximum without having to worry about ending up in jail. In this configuration, Spring Mountain is fairly tight with some decreasing radius turns, one very tight 2nd gear hairpin, and a long right hand sweeper with a dropoff, followed by a bit of a jump mid apex leading into the straight where we were nipping 105mph on most laps. After hard braking, a series of right and left turns leads to another right hand hairpin, and a very quick chicane follows. In all honesty, the TT RS was more than up to the task, though we think for a true track junkie, better brake pads and tires would be in order, as both were being taxed a little on this short course.

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We know the TT RS is going to be a low run car for Audi, but we have no reason to believe that those who find themselves in the exclusive group of owners of this great little car won’t be thrilled with their decision to purchase. We’re looking forward to spending a little more time with Audi’s pocket rocket so we can get a little more in-depth with the car. We’re enamored with it though, and we applaud Audi’s decision to bring it here!


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