Audi loves to build oddball cars; the RS6 Avant is a gloriously rapid station wagon the likes of which we rarely get to see, and the Audi TT RS is just as unique with its 394-horsepower, 2.5-liter five-pot engine emanating sounds you'd think could only come from a Group B rally car. This feisty little monster sees a hefty price increase for 2021 and adds many standard features, including the Black Optic package and blind-spot monitoring. The TT RS goes up against some stiff competition, including the fantastic Porsche 718 Cayman and BMW M2, but as the only one with AWD - a front-biased system at that - is the TT RS a worthy competitor or simply out of its depth? In this Audi TT RS review, we see what makes this car so unique and why you should buy one because, in an age when its future is uncertain, you really should.
The 2021 Audi TT RS sees a serious price increase of almost $5,000, but the good news is that it also comes with a ton of new standard gear, previously only available as optional extras. The exterior now features 20-inch wheels, red brake calipers, and the Black Optic package is also standard - adding several black exterior trim pieces. The interior now houses an in-dash navigation system, blind-spot monitoring, carbon fiber trim, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.
See trim levels and configurations:
|2.5 TFSI quattro||
2.5L Turbo Inline-5 Gas
The Audi TT is a highly recognizable sports car, but only hardcore fans and gearheads will be able to tell the difference between the standard car and the RS, especially from a distance. The RS features a rather aggressive front and rear bumper with the front including a stealthy hexagonal mesh grille. Larger air dams help channel air to the larger intercooler. The US-spec RS now comes with new 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 255/30 R20 summer performance tires, the Black Optics package as standard, features like the RS high-gloss black front spoiler and fixed RS rear wing spoiler are all model specific. Other exterior features include dual exhaust outlets and fully auto LED headlights.
When it comes to the TT RS's dimensions, one starts to get an idea of just how compact this German sports car is, especially when a comparison is drawn with competitors such as the Porsche Cayman and BMW M2. The TT RS Coupe measures in with a total length of only 165 inches and rolls on a stubby 98.6-inch wheelbase. It's 52.9 inches tall, and the overall width, including the mirrors, is 77.4 inches. The front track is 61.6 inches, showing the vehicle's front bias compared to the rear figure of 60.8 inches. While the figures for 2021 haven't been revealed by the German marque yet, last year's RS had a curb weight of 3,296 lbs; we expect 2021's figure to remain close, but may see an increase due to the improved spec.
Those interested in driving a TT RS won't want to hide behind mundane colors. After all, the TT RS is a naturally shouty car, and we're not only talking about the glorious noise that a five-cylinder turbo engine emits. With bold angular lines and an aggressive front end, the TT RS looks best in bright colors, and Audi has provided some cool ones to choose from. Nardo Gray is the first no-cost option and looks rather spectacular. Pulse Orange and Turbo Blue are also stunning colors that draw the eye and don't pain the wallet. Colors such as Kyalami Green, Glacier White Metallic, Mythos Black Metallic, Daytona Gray pearl, and Tango Red Metallic all come with a price tag of $595, but if you want a bespoke hue, Audi also offers its exclusive special paint colors at $3,900.
For some unfathomable reason, the Audi TT has been seen by many car enthusiasts as a bit of a 'hairdresser's car,' despite it proving time and time again that it is a capable sports car. The latest generation of TT has once again made it crystal clear that it is here to deliver pure performance driving pleasure, and the RS sits at the top of the pile. What makes the RS so alluring is that it is a real-life sleeper car and will take down much more exotic machinery with ease. The secret lies with its 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbo engine that delivers 394 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. Mate that to a quattro AWD system, and you have a recipe for success, despite its front-biased nature. Audi loves underquoting performance figures, and the TT RS feels much faster than what it says in the specs. The 0 to 60 mph sprint takes only 3.6 seconds, and a top speed of 155 mph arrives not much later. The TT RS launches from a standstill like a bat out of hell, and you'll embarrass much more expensive machinery from the lights, guaranteed.
The performance car market has been flooded with small capacity turbocharged engines, usually of the 2.0-liter four-pot variety. These engines deliver good poke and manage to keep fuel costs down but can suffer from turbo lag, and in some cases, top-end power is compromised due to small turbochargers. The TT RS works around this by adding a cylinder, some extra displacement, and a larger turbo. The result is one of the most characterful modern turbo engines around. The sound alone will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand at full attention, but it is the real-world performance that bowls most over. This 2.5-liter five-pot delivers 394 horses and 354 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The combination of low to mid-range torque and a lightning-fast transmission means that the RS feels faster than the official numbers claim. Highway overtaking speeds are monumental, but the dual-clutch transmission also allows for chilled city crawling and long-distance cruising.
Far from being a straight-line dragster, the Audi TT RS has been set up to hug the road and melt faces through the corners. Its stubby dimensions are complimented by standard adaptive magnetic dampers and quick steering that produces a driving experience that feels planted and agile. The quattro system sends most of its power to the front in normal driving conditions, giving it a predictable feel, but as soon as things get turned up, the system sends some love to the rear, changing the dynamics of the vehicle significantly.
The TT RS is comfortable enough around town, but your average driver will eventually start to complain about low-speed bumps. For those who take their driving seriously, the optional sport suspension setup will perform better than the adaptive system but comes with an even harsher ride. The fact that the RS now rides on standard 20-inch wheels doesn't make things better. Speed is scrubbed off by massive eight-piston calipers in the front and offers fantastic feel. This sports coupe is possibly one of the best point and shoot cars out there, and very little will keep up with it in tight canyon roads, but the RWD Porsche Cayman provides substantially more driver involvement.
With close to 400 hp on tap turning all four wheels, you'd think that this supercar-slayer would be a thirsty beast, but it surprises with frugal fuel consumption figures. The EPA rates that the 2021 Audi TT RS will consume 20/30/24 mpg city/highway/combined. These figures best the 20 mpg combined figure of the BMW M2. The Porsche 718 Cayman does slightly better at 22 mpg. Independent real-world testing has shown that the TT RS will best its official numbers by a significant margin, too, provided you can keep the lead out of your shoes. With a 14.5-gallon fuel tank on board, the TT should have a maximum range of around 350 miles.
Audi doesn't mess around when it comes to interiors, especially in its performance models. The TT RS's interior is a near-perfect balance of premium luxury and sportiness and closely resembles the interior space of the much more expensive and exotic R8. Get in, and it is immediately clear who is the most important person in the cabin; controls and vents are slanted to the driver, and we love the dashboard's clean design thanks to the absence of a standard infotainment screen. The turbine-like air vents are also a cool touch. The TT RS's steering wheel resembles the one found in the R8 and falls neatly to hand, its leather and Alcantara finish inspiring you to grip it and rip it. Keeping the driver and passenger in place is a set of comfortable bucket seats with 12-way power adjustment. 2021 models also benefit from newly standard carbon fiber trimming.
There is enough space for precisely two human adults within the confines of the TT RS's cabin. Sure, it's technically a 2+2, but getting a real person to squeeze in the back will take a few dislocated joints. It is best to see the back seats as additional storage space. Getting in and out of the RS will pose some difficulty for taller passengers, as one has to stoop quite low to gain entry to the interior. Still, once seated, the eight-way power-adjustable sport seats offer generous support, and the driver is placed in a great position. An additional four ways of lumbar adjustment makes it even more comfortable. From the outside, the TT RS looks compact, to say the least, but we were surprised with its leg and headroom. Six-footers will be able to sit comfortably for long road trips without the need to call a physiotherapist. Visibility out the front is good, but trying to look out the back is basically useless, especially when trying to look for cars in your blind spot. At least blind-spot assistance is standard for 2021.
The TT RS interior is decidedly sporty, but far from being a mid-nineties Subaru WRX, the Audi manages to feel seriously premium as well. The seats are upholstered in black Nappa leather with diamond cross-stitching available with either blue, red, or plain black stitching. All three options are matched with a black dashboard, carpet, and headliner. The air vents, shifter console, and door handles are finished off in aluminum, and for 2021, the TT RS comes standard with previously optional carbon-fiber inlays. The RS Design selection interior option adds leather to the armrests, center console, airbag cap, and instrument cluster hood for an additional $1,450 and is available with blue or red highlights.
The TT RS was never intended to be a grocery-getter but is more practical than one might think. Pop open the trunk lid, and you'll be greeted by 12 cubic feet of trunk space. That is enough to pack for a long weekend away and will swallow a decent amount of shopping bags. The only issue here is that the long and narrow trunk lid and trunk opening makes loading and unloading your stuff a rather uncomfortable chore. We've already mentioned the useless back seats in the RS, which are better used as storage space, but to maximize the room on offer, the rear 50/50-split rear seats fold flat for even more room.
The RS's compact cabin offers its occupants a small phone charging dock in front of the center console, wide door pockets, and a storage tray underneath the driver's seat.
The RS's primary focus might be driver enjoyment, but it is still an Audi after all, and customers will expect a decent amount of standard features. Notable exterior features include the adaptive damping suspension setup, heated power-folding mirrors, and auto LED headlights. On the inside, you can expect to find heated eight-way power-adjustable leather seats with four-way lumbar adjustment, dual-zone climate control, a 12.3-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit driver info display, blind-spot monitoring, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with digital compass and HomeLink, and Audi's parking system plus. Optional extras include an electrically-adjustable rear wing, OLED taillights, and RS fixed sport suspension, among others.
Most will prefer the thrum of that 2.5-liter five-pot engine and the symphony of turbo noises, but the TT RS does offer a competent infotainment system for when Mariah Carey calls. The 12.3-inch display offers a slick experience with menus and settings easily accessible and understandable - but they're only visible to the driver as the system is housed in the instrument cowl. Audi's MMI control system uses steering wheel controls, touch controls, or the intuitive touch-sensitive rotary controller for a polished overall experience. Standard features include USB connectivity, two SD card slots, Satellite radio, and wireless phone charging. Sound is channeled through a standard 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Who said high-strung turbocharged performance cars are unreliable? The TT RS's reliability record remains untarnished, and the NHTSA has issued not a single recall since it first landed in the USA. Audi will cover the RS with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, 12 years of corrosion protection, a four-year/50,000-mile drivetrain warranty, and four years of roadside assistance.
Unfortunately, the 2021 TT RS has not undergone an NHTSA review, and the IIHS is yet to give it any sort of rating. This is nothing out of the ordinary, as niche sports cars such as the RS rarely undergo crash safety testing in the US. Over the years, Audi has proven itself in terms of building safe vehicles, and the TT RS should be just as safe as any other contemporary sports car in its class.
There's not much in the way of safety features. However, you get the basics such as traction control, ABS, stability control, a rearview camera, automatic LED headlights, and rain-sensing headlights. There is, however, a full complement of airbags, including knee airbags and front thorax side airbags. For 2021 Audi has made blind-spot monitoring standard.
Building a fast car has become somewhat formulaic in recent years. Manufacturers stick to tried and tested recipes, and while the end result is usually impressive, a lot of new sports cars lack the soul of older, more raw cars of the 2000s and earlier. This leads us into the 2021 Audi TT RS, an AWD turbocharged Group B city-coupe that will eat your Camaro for lunch and return better fuel economy at the same time. What makes the TT RS so great is partly its 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, which adds so much character, but also the fact that it is comfortable, economical, and somewhat practical, all while being comically fast. The RS might not be loaded with the most advanced features, but the 2021 model year gets some much appreciated standard tech. This car is a future classic in the making.
There is only one trim on offer, so what you see is the base price of the new Audi TT RS. However, it isn't necessarily the final price. Depending on the configuration, the cost of the Audi TT RS will vary moderately, and good secondhand deals can be had. Still, spec and mileage will play a significant role in determining the price. Audi will let you have a TT RS for an MSRP of $72,500, excluding tax, registration, and a destination charge of $1,045. That puts the RS in an awkward position, as it costs almost $13,000 more than the excellent Porsche Cayman and over $14,000 more than the superb BMW M2. Fully loaded, the TT RS will cost close to $80k.
There is only one TT RS trim on offer, and it starts at a dear $72,500, despite, technically, being a base model. For that money, you get a 394 hp turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and Audi's renowned quattro AWD system. The TT rides on standard adaptive suspension, features auto LED headlights, and rides on a set of 20-inch alloy wheels. For 2021 the Black Optics package is standard and adds black exterior highlights.
The RS's interior includes 12-way power-adjustable and heated Nappa leather sport seats, which are available with three stitching colors, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, and newly standard carbon-fiber interior trimmings. The R8-derived steering wheel features controls for the 12.3-inch infotainment display, which features a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and satellite radio. The cabin is lit up by LED ambient lighting.
Audi has made a bunch of optional features for 2020 standard on the 2021 car (at the cost of a hefty price increase), so the options list for the new year has been cut, but there's still a lot to choose from. The RS Design selection interior package comes in at $1,450 and adds a ton of leather and color accents to the interior in either red or blue. For some added style, a set of OLED taillights will set you back $1,600, but ditching the fixed spoiler for a more subtle retractable one is a no-cost option. The Audi Care Package adds a maintenance plan and a few other financial benefits your way for only $1,199.
Since there is only one car to go for, we'll tell you why you should go for the TT RS in general. The first reason is simple: that 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbocharged engine adds so much character to the RS and is unlike anything on offer from its competitors. It also endows the TT RS with near supercar levels of performance. Secondly, the TT RS is a well-rounded car: it's both styling and comfortable, returns good gas mileage, and the trunk is actually usable. Sure it costs a fair amount more than its competitors, but with so much character, it is hard to ignore. Give it a bright splash of paint and some OLED taillights, and the TT RS is ready to go as soon as you are.
Audi offers three flavors of TT, with the TTS being the middle child. This sports coupe starts at $59,500, making it $13,000 cheaper than its more powerful sibling. Only true Audi fans will be able to tell the difference between the two, with the TTS getting a set of 19-inch wheels, adaptive suspension, and most of the same exterior color options. The most significant difference comes in the performance of these two cars: the TTS's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-pot engine produces only 288 hp and 280 lb-ft and is a full second slower to sixty. Despite lacking the character of the RS's five-cylinder engine, the TTS will return better gas mileage. The interior shares many of the same features, and obviously, both offer the same room and trunk space. The TTS is worth considering if you're not looking for an all-out sports car, but just a lively everyday driver's car.
It's only natural that these two cars will be compared by Audi fans, despite the glaring differences in price and performance. The Audi R8 is a Lamborghini-powered V10 supercar That goes for a starting price of $142,700. You can buy nearly two TT RS cars for that money, but there's a good reason for that price gap. This mid-engined supercar features a 5.2-liter naturally-aspirated V10 engine sending 532 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. The Performance model takes those numbers to 602 hp and 414 lb-ft while dusting off the zero to sixty sprint in as little as 3.2 seconds thanks to additional AWD, on its way to a top speed of 205 mph. For almost $70k less, the RS will do the sixty sprint only 0.4 seconds slower, which is a pretty good deal, and it has semi-usable rear seats. The TT RS is the less serious car but still offers more performance than most people will ever need at half the price, and you also get a usable trunk. Give us the TT RS for the week and an R8 for the track.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Audi TT RS: