Audi's turbocharged five-cylinder engine - ya ever heard of it? You should have by now. It's what made the company a motorsport legend during the fire-breathing, grim reaper-taunting Group B rally era of the 80s. Nowadays, that same heritage is what led to the commission of the new five-pot turbo, but most people care little for the nostalgia that is associated with the motor. What matters today is not whether the car was developed on track so much as whether it can decimate opponents between the lights. Luckily, the Audi TT RS doesn't disappoint, and its 2.5-liter mill is more than happy to sing its beautiful song as it blows back the hair of its competition. The diminutive but muscular sports car produces 394 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, which is sent to all four wheels exclusively via a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. With sharp but classy styling, otherworldly performance, and a steering wheel borrowed directly from the R8, one can't help but wonder if this is the best two-door barnstormer Audi offers.
Not much is new for the Audi TT RS this year. It's a brilliantly capable vehicle that is now in its second generation (which is based on the third-gen TT) and has been lightly refreshed and improved year-on-year. For 2020, only the addition of a new and highly visible paint option called Pulse Orange is noted. In addition, it now has red brake calipers as a standalone option. Otherwise, the facts and figures of the 2019 model are carried over unchanged.
See trim levels and configurations:
|2.5 TFSI quattro||
2.5L Turbo Inline-5 Gas
The TT RS isn't just a straight-line missile. With adaptive magnetic dampers as standard and a more hardcore static sport suspension setup available at no cost, it can handle twisty stuff with aplomb too. The standard quattro all-wheel-drive system acknowledges any loss of grip on any corner of the car and instantly sends power to the other wheels to pull it out of a potentially slippery situation. In regular cruising, the system likes to send most of the engine's output towards the front axle, but in more spirited driving scenarios, the rear supposedly gets as much of the grunt as possible. The system is marketed as one that isn't particularly biased though, with no pre-defined torque split, which means that it's always active and doesn't hesitate to reassign power. However, in reality, a maximum of 50% of the output is all the Haldex-based system can send to the rear.
In terms of comfort and compliance, the fixed sport suspension setup should be reserved for those with a penchant for track time. In real world test drives, it can get a little too crashy, particularly if you spec the 20-inch wheels. For most owners, the standard setup is far better, absorbing bumps and imperfections with respectable grace. When it comes time to bring the party to a close, massive 14.6-inch brake discs at the front are clamped down on by eight-piston calipers, while the rear features 12.2-inch rotors with smaller calipers. Easy to modulate and sharp, the stopping power of the RS rounds the package off with almost no faults on the performance side. The only gripe one may have is that there's less driver involvement in the TT RS than in, say, a rear-wheel-drive Porsche Cayman.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
The TT RS is fitted with an engine so hallowed and loved that it deserves to be considered a great car on the grounds of its power plant alone. Unfortunately, that kind of praise is reserved for one-trick ponies that are generally hopeless in all other respects like handling and comfort. The TT RS is different. Over the years, the base TT has managed to keep an aging shape relevant and contemporary, with the bits beneath the skin evolving at an even quicker rate. The TT RS is the height of this evolution, providing monumental performance and acceleration that is balanced by impressive comfort, stomach-churning handling, balanced by a supercar level of class and quality. Sure, there are other options that shout about their abilities more, but the TT RS is relatively restrained, with a subtle wing and styling upgrades that aren't a massive departure from the base TT model. Only when the exhaust is opened up and you hear its melodic chime do you have a real clue as to how incredible a machine this is. The TT RS is legitimately one of the greats of our time, and will go down as a car that took the good and made it great. It's just sad that people don't buy enough of them - one day, they'll be collectors' items.
The Audi TTS is a fine-looking alternative to the TT RS, and with a base price of $54,500, one might wonder if the extra $13k-odd is worth spending. The styling isn't all that different unless you're an Audi buff: you still get 19-inch wheels, adaptive dampers, a similar color palette, and a number of the same options. However, the TTS is almost a full second slower from 0-60 and only makes 288 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Its 2.0-liter turbo four-banger is a great engine, but it lacks the character of the five-cylinder. It also isn't much more economical, gaining only two mpg on the EPA's combined cycles. Plus, you don't get the sport seats as standard, or the sheer ability of the RS version. The TTS is good, but the TT RS is just a magical beast that sets your soul on fire.
Yes, we're seriously comparing a $68,000 sports car with 2.5 liters of capacity to a Lamborghini-powered V10 supercar. By our calculations, the R8's base price of $169,900 can buy you two and a half TT RSs. That's one for the track and one for the daily commute, plus more than $30k in change to spend on upgrades and tires. So, is the little sports car really that good that you'd give up a V10's howl for one, or two TT RS coupes? Well, it arguably sounds just as amazing, albeit with a vastly different note. But when it comes to the figures, personal opinions count for zip. 0-60 mph in the TT RS takes just 3.6 seconds. In the R8, it's 3.2. I don't know about you, but that sounds like bang for buck to me. Yes, the R8 can crack 200 mph, but who's really gonna test those kinds of limits regularly? Many of the R8's optional extras are available to the TT RS, and the little coupe also adds a pair of rear seats and a usable trunk. I know where I'd rather drop my cash, and it's not on a Lambo-wannabe, however good it is.
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