When Audi dusts off that fabled RS badge and sticks it on any of its cars, it’s a good time to be alive — but when it finally appears on the already brilliant little third-generation TT, you know you’re going to be in for a real treat. Having thrashed the mighty pocket-rocket — which is lighter and faster than the previous model and retains that punchy five-cylinder turbo and Quattro all-wheel-drive — it proves, as expected, to be an absolute blast.
The first-gen TT RS was fab, but it had a propensity for understeer in spite of the best efforts from the magicians at Quattro GmbH. The front-biased layout more or less restricted it to straight run thrills which it duly provided accompanied by the beautifully brassy harmony of the blown fiver — but it weighed heavily over the front axles and as a result the TT RS wasn’t as agile as you’d have hoped. Now, blessed with the all-new 2.5-litre aluminium block which is 26kg lighter than the old motor and delivers its peak torque of 480Nm from just 1,700rpm, the 2018 TT RS really shines.
Gone are the days when the model had a reputation for being all style and not enough substance. This one ticks all the performance boxes; it has 395bhp (around 60 more than the old model) that reach all four wheels via Audi’s seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch transmission and grips like a vice, and as an added bonus, it still looks ever so good in a wicked sort of way. Featuring large air inlets, a singleframe grille with a new honeycomb design and Quattro logo, lowered suspension, 20in wheels, rear wing, diffuser insert and those two oval exhaust tips, you already know what you’re in for before you even crank it to life. It exudes a sporty/menacing look and that is exactly the way it drives. Adding to this are the new Matrix OLED rear lights in 3D design that emit a more precise and brighter light and are being seen for first time in a production Audi.
The driver-focused cabin is dripping with tech and kit with the highlight being the fully digital Audi virtual cockpit; it has the best TFT instrument panel that I’ve seen. You can select between three views on the 12.3in screen (the RS screen is the best; it showcases the tach and provides information on torque and g-force) while the chunky, flat-bottom leather steering with shift paddles feels perfect in your hands. With a large red engine on/off button, the Audi drive select dynamic handling system, along with a host of multifunction buttons, you’d think the three-spoke wheel would look rather cluttered but somehow it’s anything but. And when you account for a huge amount of high-end infotainment technology including MMI navigation plus with MMI touch and a Bang & Olufsen Sound System, the interior — replete with power sports seats that aren’t overly snug — is exceptional, but it is bettered by the sheer performance at your disposal.
This one ticks all the performance boxes and as an added bonus, it still looks ever so good — in a wicked sort of way.
The 2.5-litre TFSI is a terrific unit, of that there is no doubt, but it is aided ever so well by that aforementioned seven-speed. It swaps cogs at lightning speeds and you’ll never run out of grip thanks to the Quattro permanent all-wheel drive and its multi-plate clutches (which are bigger and have a new housing to help it cope better with the extra firepower) distributing the grunt variably between the front and rear axles. This makes for immense driving pleasure, especially when the roads get twisty and the wheel-selective torque control comes into play making the sprightly Audi even more agile and chuckable. It turns in ever so eagerly and swaps directions in the blink of an eye. Overall, it is 35kg lighter than the predecessor and this has given it a new found zest for life. It can hit 100kph from rest in just 3.7 seconds but it feels much quicker than that with the way it pins you back and shoots for the horizon.
The RS sport suspension (with four-link rear axle and 10mm lower ride height compared to the TT) is on the firm side even when you’re in the Comfort setting but serves as a constant reminder that this isn’t your regular TT. With four drive modes on offer, my advice is to leave the TT RS in Dynamic; this sharpens up the throttle and transmission, tightens up the steering and best of all puts a silly grin on your face with the way it cackles and pops on downshifts as does seeing the tach fly with every dip of the throttle. Unbelievably, there’s no lag whatsoever. Like, none, zilch, while helping rein in all of that power are ventilated and perforated steel discs. Hit the brake and it feels like you’ve thrown the anchor.
Audi calls this a “compact supercar” and it isn’t kidding, in fact the BMW M and Mercedes-AMG divisions will be sitting up and taking notice of this one. It has everything from incredible handling to a terrific sound track but at the heart of it all lies that turbo five-pot, and it is a true automotive icon. Close your eyes and rev it, you feel like you’re in one of the Ur-Quattro rally beasts of the Eighties. The TT RS has the same spirit as those legendary cars. It might just be one in the making too.