Some test drives last too long, some are far too short. For reasons of my own doing, I had to give up the TT RS after only 4.5 days. Thinking back to the car, it’s probably a good thing that it was returned prematurely as the odds of me getting into trouble increased every time I got behind the wheel.
Only moments after I left the pick-up point, I realized that this was not even remotely a TTS except that they kind of look alike. The TT as a whole does not get enough credit for being a good road car. Even in its lowliest form, it’s still a hoot but the TT gets dismissed for being a TT… As does the RS. On a few occasions, namely once while following a Sonata loaded with teenage boys merging onto a highway, I didn’t get the warranted double-take. The RS’ front fascia screams R8 and because of this, it got the attention it deserved only to be, once more, dismissed once we were side by side.
In a blink of an eye however, I was very gone. And I think this is what is most appealing about the car: It’s a TT with more performance than an early R8 V8. In a dream, I’m at a track event where late model BMW M3s, M4s, Porsche Caymans, and modded Mitsubishi Lancer EVO Xs are getting the spanks from me and my TT RS…
The front end is covered in a massive honeycomb grille and equally ginormous air intakes. The signature wheel-well flares beautifully cover the openings. A TT RS giveaway is the fixed rear spoiler which sits proudly atop large dual black exhaust tips as part of the optional RS sport exhaust.
Black is not the right color for this car, especially with the black optics package. Everything is camouflaged, and it’s all wrong when there are amazing shades available such as Vegas yellow, Catalunya red and Aras Blue. Nardo grey is also good.
To note, my tester was spec’d out with the 20” rotor design wheels but given that winter tires are mandatory in Quebec, the car sported 19” 5-spoke wheels with winter rubber. The different offset pushes the wheels well within the flares for a fantastic winter-rallye warrior look. Love it.
The 2018 TT RS’ interior is entirely driver focused. The Audi Virtual Cockpit is a brilliant if not distracting tool that displays all the information, and I do mean all of it. This leaves the dashboard quite nearly empty, and extremely unburdened. HVAC controls are built into the vents and the only element on the center tunnel is the MMI rotary wheel.
The cabin is ideal for two, no more. Consider the +2 rear spots as extra storage to complement the limited amount up front. The trunk is decent at 305 litres and with the rear seats down, two golf bags and more kit can effortlessly fit.
The TT RS is a cockpit on wheels; you essentially put it on. Its snugness is comforting as are the standard sport seats. Fit and finish are excellent, as we’ve come to expect from Audi.
A base 2018 Audi TT goes for $53,100. A TTS, $63,400. The TT RS could be described as a bargain R8 so at $72,900 to start, it’s quite affordable-ish. A Mercedes SLC 43 is the same price but a far tamer automobile. A Porsche 718 Caymans S is $4k more and not as fast. And that’s about it for the competition now. The next BMW Z4 M40i might be interesting but we’ll have to wait and see.
My tester featured a number of choice options including the front ceramic brakes, Sport exhaust, and the Technology and Audi Sport packages for a total of $86,000. Also included in the price are navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth and much more.
I might be comparing pineapples to apples but the 2018 Audi TT RS is as fast to 100 km/h from a standstill as a new Lamborghini Urus; a 650-horsepower, 627 lb.-ft. of torque AWD hyper-crossover SUV. Truth be told, the Lambo’ll cover the sprint in 3.6 seconds while the TT RS, 3.7 seconds. Close enough.
How’s this possible? Easy. Slap a turbocharger on a 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine and tune it to make 400-horsepower from 5,850 – 7,000 rpm and 354 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,700 – 5,850 rpm. Connect it to a 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch automated transmission, quattro and watch the 1,500 kg car catapult itself forward.
The 5-pot is unnervingly lively. The sound it makes, with or without the sport exhaust (albeit “tuned” and digitized) possesses the mind and the senses. The initial cold start-up got me so excited that I got on throttle far too soon the first time… Response and speeds are so spontaneous I spooked myself.
Essentially, the 2018 Audi TT RS never lets off. It pulls, and pulls and only stops when you lift off. Meanwhile, the S tronic dishes out gear after gear with equal verve. I love how the gearbox slips from cog to cog at part throttle. It reminds me of Yoda when walking with his cane – when to go-pedal goes down, Yoda throws down with super-ninja-Jedi skills.
My tester’s Sport Package includes the RS fixed Sport suspension, which replaces the Audi magnetic ride dampers. Although it seems like a chaotically bad idea, this fixed track-inspired suspension is incredibly compliant and must be thrilling on the track. The other option box I would tick is the one that adds front ceramic brakes. Unlike many of the type, they’re never grabby and pedal response is prompt.
Audi drive select drive modes allow the driver four “moods”. Comfort is fine in all situations but keep in mind this is a TT RS, not an A6. Dynamic and Auto are fairly self-explanatory and that leaves Individual. I always prefer to tailor my mood but with the absence of adaptive dampers, the only customized feature that isn’t set to dynamic is the fake engine noise.
The 2018 Audi TT RS is many things, from a sports and performance car crusher to an instant classic. This is the type of car that is under-appreciated now and that will become something of a cult hero. There are no other cars like it now and if we’re very lucky, there will be another in the future.