If the 2018 Audi TT RS is indicative of what Audi Sport is and where it’s going, then I say let’s have more of it.
The latest entry in Audi’s ever-expanding roster of high-performance vehicles, the TT RS embodies everything a sports coupe should be: sexy, powerful and oh so fast.
As some may recall, I recently ran the 2018 Audi RS 3 through the TWPC process and came away impressed with that car’s impressive performance pedigree, its abundance of technology and sharp styling.
I have similar feelings about the TT RS, which is closely related to the RS 3, as both are built on the same MQB (modular transverse matrix) platform that underpins numerous cars within the Volkswagen Group, including the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and even the seven-seat Volkswagen Atlas SUV.
Not only does the TT RS share a platform with the RS 3, but it also has the same drivetrain: a 2.5-litre turbocharged inline five-cylinder engine that cranks out 400 horsepower and 354 lb-ft. of torque mated to a seven-speed S tronic (dual-clutch) automatic transmission and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system.
Like the RS 3, the TT RS is a very fast car—faster even: 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds (compared to 4.1 for the RS 3) with a top speed of 250 km/h. An optional sport package (a $1,750 extra) boosts that number to 280 km/h, but my tester isn’t so equipped. See below for the full list of optional equipment.
While the RS 3 is attractive for a sedan, the TT RS is a simply gorgeous car, and much of it owes to its sleek coupe format. The TT has been a looker since the first generation debuted in 1998 and it remains so almost 20 years later.
The look of the third-gen car is reflective of current Audi design language so, in practical terms, this means lots of lines that run at sharp angles in squarish patterns, which give the car a creased, lean appearance. Despite the design evolution, this car is still evocative of the first gen. Not as bulbous and cutesy, sure, but the outline of the old car is clearly present. Credit Audi designers for leaning into the TT’s classic form and keeping it fresh.
My tester is the TT in its most aggressive form, and while I’m generally not fond of white cars, the glacier white finish looks great. The black optics package ($850), with its blacked-out mirror caps, front blade below the massive hexagonal grille and large rear diffuser perfectly offset the brightness of the paint finish. If you’re considering white for your TT RS purchase, I recommend the black optics package. The contrast it creates is striking.
Elsewhere, my tester is replete with details that endear: the metallic TT-emblazoned fuel filler cover, red brake calipers ($400), OLED rear tail lights ($1,200), and anthracite seven-spoke 20-inch wheels ($900) help give the TT RS a truly distinctive appearance. A lot of this kit is optional, but worth considering if you want your TT RS to really stand out.
As appealing as the TT RS is on the outside, its cabin is even more inviting, and if you’re a fan of the R8, you’re going to love what Audi designers have done here because the nods to the big car are plentiful.
From the steering wheel hub-mounted red starter button to climate controls mounted in the air vent hubs and the stunning 12.3-inch TFT (thin film transistor) display to the sport seats complete with diamond-pattern red stitching, the TT RS borrows liberally from the R8 and to great effect.
The seats offer great support, are quite comfortable and wrap nicely around occupants. I especially like the ability to extend the seat cushion for extra support even though I am not especially tall. A comfortable driving position is paramount for any car and the TT RS offers plenty of adjustability.
I will admit that you might go searching for the climate controls and switches at first, but once you’re acquainted with where they are, using them will become second nature. Same goes for Audi’s multi-media interface (MMI). The console-mounted metallic knob, like interfaces used in other cars, works intuitively with inputs that become ingrained after a short time – scrolling, pushing down, tapping up / left / right, etc.
Not having a separate infotainment screen to look at feels a bit strange at first because most cars have a screen affixed to, or imbedded in, the centre stack. Not so with the TT RS, as the virtual cockpit in the instrument cluster displays all: navigation, stereo, speedo, tach, you name it.
As it is in other Audi products, the virtual cockpit’s TFT screen is beautiful – pin-sharp resolution with gorgeous colour contrast and sharp graphical design. It’s the most dazzling automotive display I’ve seen, and I’ve seen some good ones.
I must admit it can be a bit distracting at first if you’ve been staring at white-faced analogue gauges for years, but once you get used to it – and let’s face it, most of us are already used to staring at similar screens every day – it won’t seem unusual.
And Audi hasn’t forgotten how we like to be entertained by screens, either. Like the RS 3, the TT RS display also features a boost gauge that displays real-time horsepower and torque output. As I said about these in the RS 3, they are functional but they’re also there to entertain – and they are entertaining.
As for the drive, the TT RS doesn’t disappoint.
Like the RS 3, the TT RS is bad fast in all modes, from regular drive with the drive select in normal, all the way to sport combined with dynamic mode, this car is easy fast.
Fiddling with steering wheel hub-mounted drive select changes the car’s personality (louder exhaust, sharper throttle response, more aggressive transmission shift points), but it's only by degree – there is no slow mode here.
The only questions are how twitchy do you like your acceleration, how farty do you want the exhaust note to sound and how fast do you want the S tronic gearbox to shift through its seven cogs. The 2.5-litre turbo five is a hot tamale of a powerplant, so regardless of which mode setting you choose, the outside world blurs quickly.
Like all Audi Sport models, the TT RS is stiffly sprung by design, so you’ll want to take care over rougher roads, but the car’s handling is knife-edged, responsive and quick – just what an RS model should be. I haven’t had the good fortune of tracking the TT RS (yet), but it is indeed track-ready out of the box.
As for drawbacks, I didn’t really find much wrong with the TT RS beyond the usual compromises one must accept when purchasing a coupe: reduced rearward visibility, limited cargo capacity and a tight back seat better suited to transporting small objects than people.
Otherwise, the TT RS offers a compelling package of performance, technology and style.
With a $72,900 base MSRP, the TT RS isn’t inexpensive, but most of the options on my tester are of the cosmetic variety – you can safely forgo them and still enjoy the car’s impressive core performance profile.
As I said at the outset, Audi Sport is in its ascendancy with more exciting and dynamic models on the way. Performance enthusiasts rejoice!
Next week: 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti
SPECIFICATIONS – 2018 Audi TT RS
BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $72,900 / $84,330 (incl. $2,095 destination)
FINAL ASSEMBLY: Győr, Hungary
ENGINE: 2.5L turbocharged inline 5-cylinder
HORSEPOWER: 400 hp @ 5,850 – 7,000 rpm
TORQUE: 354 lb-ft. @ 1,700 – 5,850 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 1,500 kg
CONFIGURATION: front-engine, all-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 12.3 / 8.2 / 10.5
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000
ALTERNATIVES: BMW M2, Mercedes-AMG SLC 43
Technology Package ($1,450)
- Audi side assist
- Bang & Olufsen sound system w/ 12 speakers
Black Optics Package ($750)
- Black exterior mirror housings
- Black front blade with quattro script
- Black diffusor strip and base of fixed spoiler
Accessories and / or Stand Alone Options
OLED rear tail lights ($1,200)
Carbon fibre inlays ($900)
20-inch 7-spoke wheels (anthracite) ($900)
Glacier white metallic ($890)
Sport exhaust ($850)
Red brake calipers ($400)
Total – $7,340
Photography by Lee Bailie