At long last, Audi’s slick, modern TT coupe gets the engine its racy style has always begged for. Compared with the last-gen TT RS, the 2.5-liter turbo five in the new-for-2018 model breathes better (thanks to new cylinder head with variable valve lift and duration timing on the exhaust cam), weighs nearly 60 pounds less (an aluminum block, magnesium upper sump, and other fat-reducing measures), and makes considerably more power, the byproduct of new port fuel injection and an increase in boost pressure from 18.1 to 19.6 psi. Output is now rated at an even 400 horsepower (compared with 360 in the old car), with 354 pound-feet of torque (up 11) available at just 1,700 rpm. Drop all that muscle into a machine weighing slightly more than 3,200 pounds, and the TT RS finally goes like it looks. Which is to say, like a finely polished rocket.
I’ve always loved the TT’s shape; the curves and taut lines look like something you’d find parked in a sculpture garden. The aggressive silhouette was enhanced by my test car’s optional 20-inch anthracite forged-alloy wheels and 255/30 summer-performance tires, part of the $1,750 Black Optic package. Also adding to the exterior’s visual allure is its Mythos Black metallic paint job ($575) and black-tipped sport exhausts ($1,000). If you parked this rig in front of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, you’d probably never get a ticket. The parking police would just think the TT RS was on exhibit.
Cool as it is outside, inside the TT RS is even more fetching. This is a coupe cockpit done to near-perfection. Spiced-up with the RS design package ($900) and carbon-fiber inlays ($600), my tester proved a brilliant marriage of functionality, user-friendliness, and bravura style. The leather seats were cross-stitched in contrasting red, the steering wheel wore a delicious wrap of Alcantara right where you place your hands, the climate controls were brilliantly integrated right into the front dials of the air vents, and Audi’s intuitive MMI controller sat within easy reach on the center console. A few extra goodies arrived via the optional Technology Package ($3,500), including MMI Navigation Plus, a smartphone interface, and a superb Bang & Olufsen audio system. And then there was the standard Virtual Cockpit, a configurable, 12.3-inch high-res color screen behind the wheel that can simultaneously show engine info, speed, a stunning Google moving maps display, and much more. Try it once, and you’ll wonder why everybody else doesn’t do multi-information displays like this. Three cheers, Audi.
So, even standing still, the TT RS is already a star. But press the red starter button in the center of the wheel, and the turbo five lights off with an enthusiastic rumble. Right away you know: This thing was born to run. And run it does. Feeding its oomph through a 7-speed dual-clutch shifter, the engine can gun the all-wheel-drive TT RS to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds with launch control engaged. It sounds fantastic, too—relatively muted at low revs, but climbing to an electrifying snarl as the redline approaches. Paddle shifts are near-instantaneous either up or down, and with 7 cogs you’ll never find yourself outside the meat of the power band. You’d be hard-pressed to find another coupe at the TT RS’s roughly $66,000 base price as quick as this one.
My tester included the optional Dynamic Plus package ($6,000), which adds a carbon-fiber engine cover, OLED taillights, and carbon-ceramic brakes. The package also deletes the standard magnetic shocks in favor of a fixed sport suspension—and raises the speed governor from 155 to 174 mph. The carbon binders were definitely a welcome addition, proving extremely powerful and, during my extended romp through the mountains, never succumbing to fade. The sport suspension, though, revealed itself to be awfully stiff at times. On some broken sections of L.A.’s I-405 Freeway, the ride was almost painful. And just climbing a speed bump required the finesse of a diamond-cutter. Just a bit too much throttle and … wham! The TT would crash down hard. For sure, some of the ride issues owe to the short 98.6-inch wheelbase. But I doubt a little relaxing in the suspension’s firmness would detract much from the overall handling response. TT RS drivers would likely concur.
That said, this TT is a gas to push hard. The reduced weight of the engine makes for a livelier front end, though with the mill sitting entirely ahead of the front-wheel centerline—and the natural bias toward push from the Quattro all-wheel-drive system—the TT RS tends to understeer resolutely at the limit. It’s pretty minimal, though, with Quattro feeding more torque to the rear wheels as-needed and the summer tires wringing out gobs of grip. Still, you need to be mindful of carrying too much speed into turns—lest you torture the front rubber into shreds. Be patient, and the car will reward you by blasting out of corners as if kicked by an elephant.
At just over $80K as-tested, the TT RS I drove carried an admittedly steep sticker. But few coupes combine such performance, trim packaging, all-weather capability, fabulous looks, and sumptuously appointed tech. This is a car you could drive to work every day, to the opera or the gallery opening at night, and to blissful extremes on the weekends. Or look at the new TT RS this way: it’s 75 percent as much of a blast as the Audi R8—at less than half the price.
2018 Audi TT RS Specifications
|PRICE||$65,875/$80,200 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||2.5L turbo DOHC 20-valve I-5/400 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 354 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||19/29 mpg (city/hwy) (est)|
|L x W x H||164.4 x 72.0 x 52.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.5 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||174 mph (electronically limited)|