Audi TT RS review: 400bhp quattro coupe driven in the UK

So this is as fast as Audi TTs get, is it?

Yes, the new 395bhp (or a nice round 400PS) Audi TT RS is the top TT. And for £51,800, it’s frankly almost impossible to go faster for less. Maybe a track day toy would do the job. But an Atom won’t warm your backside, play digital radio, or be just as quick in the streaming wet, will it? So far as everyday sports coupes go, the rocketsled RS has total impunity. It is the speed king.

Numbers, if you please.

Engage launch control and Audi claims the standard-fit dual-clutch gearbox will assist firing you to 62mph in 3.7 seconds. That’s a pessimistic estimate – you’ll go sub 3.5 using launch mode, and get 3.7 if you just drive it smartly off the line. Max speed is 155mph as standard, or can be adjusted to 174mph if you’ve got £1600 you’d like to be rid of quickly.

Three things make the TT RS unholy-fast when you set off down the road. First off: the torque, maintained from – get this – 1,700rpm to 5,850rpm. That’s a hugely elastic power band to have on demand. Two: irreproachable traction. It’s quattro – you know the score. Three: well, it’s a TT. Small. Easy to see out of. A doddle to place.

Where an R8 V10 Plus pilot is wincing and holding his breath as the hedgerows close in either side of his £130k investment, the TT RS driver just keeps his foot flat to the floor. And teleports away.

Does it drink like a supercar?

After a couple of hours on Oxfordshire’s A and B-road network, darting between villages and cruising in light traffic, the RS claimed it’d done 19mpg. Audi’s official figure is 34.4mpg. Cracking thirty mpg would take a very careful right foot indeed, especially now Eco mode has been conspicuously deleted from the Drive Select menu…

Sound good?

Oh, better than anything in the class. It’s a rich, evocative noise that’s a bedrock to the RS’s appeal. Squeezing the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine through emissions rigmarole just as Porsche lobs an underwhelmingly characterless flat-four into the 718 is a huge vote-winner for the TT. It sounds expensive and interesting, while an AMG SLC 43 is too overblown and shouty, and a BMW M2 is just a bit more muted, a bit more synthetic to the ears.

You can spend £1000 on a sports exhaust (look for gloss black oval exhaust tips as the giveaway), but besides a heftier dollop of overrun artillery fire, it’s not a night and day improvement. Save your money, keep the standard pipes and make sure to hit the button to open the flaps as routinely as you clip on the seatbelt. 

The Loud Noises button lives where a normal TT’s engine start button lives, because the RS graduates to the R8 steering wheel, complete with spoke-mounted ignition and Drive Select toggles. It’s a gorgeous centrepiece in what remains a titillating and sublimely constructed cabin, easily up to justifying a £50,000 sticker. Which, you could argue, is where potential BMW challengers (and Lotus, at a mighty stretch) fall down.

Are you dictating this from a full body cast at an oesteopath’s?

No, which means this is a fast Audi that you can actually drive quickly on a British road without turning your skeleton into a fine dust. To be fair, Audi’s been working on this for a while, banishing its reputation for skateboard damping with adaptive suspension systems that tailor to your penchant for firmness. 

The TT RS is a firm car, make no mistake – even in Comfort mode – but it keeps its composure while being flung down shoddily surfaced back roads, and the constantly-changing Auto setting is usable too. Dynamic is best left for tracks, though whether or not you’d be suitably engaged once there is another matter…

The magnetic ride system is just about worth having. At low and medium speeds the passively damped car seems just as compliant. Pick up the pace, which, let’s be honest, is never more than a toe-flex away, and you can run out of suspension travel pretty swiftly, so the car’s deflected and hopped more as it barrels along. 

Magne-ride means you can have the 20in alloys (£1,595) guilt-free. Less exotic-looking five-spoke 19s are standard, but ceramic brakes are a big cost option. Save your hard-earned: the 370mm/310mm steel brakes take masses of punishment without losing bite. They’ll grumble a bit, but haul the 1,515kg RS back to safety every time.

Fast, beautifully built, easy to use…this is all very predictable Audi, isn’t it?

Yup, those are the reasons folks buy fast Audis. R8 aside, they tend not to tread very extrovert paths. So no, the TT RS isn’t a revelation in corners. It doesn’t even try to replicate that immersive, balanced, feelsome brilliance of a Porsche Cayman. Neither can most cars – that’s a world-class chassis. 

Fact is, despite putting the active rear diff at the back for better weight balance and sending 100 per cent of power to the back axle in very rare circumstances, the TT RS isn’t a dancer. Even a Golf R (or an SQ7, weirdly) is more playful mid-corner. 

Like every TT ever made, the new RS won’t entertain ideas of neutralising its stance through a corner or making the driver catch its misbehaviour. Neither is it an irredeemable understeering mess (are you listening, RS3?). It’s simply, deliberately, Mr. Difficult To Provoke. 

The TT RS is all about putting 100 per cent power onto the road 100 per cent of the time. Get to corner exit and mash the loud pedal. Speed, speed, speed. How long that stays compelling is up to you. It is an exceedingly fast, exciting-sounding car, after all. But it’s also a one-dimensional machine.

Sounds like faint praise to me..

Because it lacks delicacy, and feels very PlayStation-y? For what it’s worth, it’s miles better than the current RS3 – the 18kg lighter crank case and overall 26kg saving over the hatchback’s engine works wonders for deleting the RS3’s painfully nose-heavy lethargy. Those mods ought to have arrived in the RS3 saloon, fingers crossed.

And though fifty grand for a TT might smack you in the chops, for the performance you’re getting it’s extraordinary value. The RS will demolish any hatchback you care to mention and on point-to-point pace, run with supercars costing three or four times as much. Its owners are going to need lessons in restraint. Or a lawyer.