Audi's adorable little TT has a bit of an identity crisis. It's so cute that you sort of expect it to be a Hyundai Tiburon for chic, gorgeous women with impeccable taste and generous budgets. Nothing against those kinds of customers -- in fact, any such woman gains ten points for driving a hot Audi like that -- but the TT has never really been taken seriously by the testosterone-laden enthusiast crowd.
Making matters worse was a product lineup that was a little too densely populated for such a low-volume car. Choices are a good thing, but when so many different TTs are on the lot - front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive; turbocharged four-cylinder, VR6; dual-clutch automatic, stick shift; coupe, convertible - it tends to overwhelm customers and work against forming a clear image of what a car is about.
A while back, Audi started cleaning up the TT lineup, dropping the narrow-angle V-6 and leaving the base 200-hp turbo four that we know and love. And then the TTS dropped, with a 265-hp version of the 2.0T and -- what's this? -- a dual-clutch automatic only? Suddenly, having too many choices didn't seem like such a bad thing.
Not that there's anything wrong with the TTS. In fact, there's little wrong with it - it's a fast (0 to 60 mph in as little as 4.9 seconds, says Audi), capable, stunningly beautiful sports car. Unfortunately, it just doesn't stir the soul the way a $50,000 sports car ought to.
Audi engineers recently fixed that problem with the much more powerful, European-market TT RS. And now, it seems, American Audi dealerships might be lucky enough to get this car. Our initial reaction is unbridled excitement. But then a bit of angst creeps in, because the TTS' $46,725 base price is already perilously close to Porsche territory. And even though the TTS can, by some measures of performance, hang with a base Boxster or Cayman, it isn't quite the Porsche's equal on the desirability scale.
If the TT RS makes it over here (and we certainly hope it does), it needs to generate near-Porsche levels of delectability for a whole lot less money. Although Audi of America isn't saying a word about it, we think they're actively working on a way to make it happen.
And to that end, they shipped a TT RS to the States and let us drive it.