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Road tests

New Audi TT RS Iconic Edition 2023 review

The last and most expensive Audi TT ever to be sold in the UK will be limited to just 11 units

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Verdict

Audi’s TT RS Iconic Edition is extraordinarily expensive, yet brings no real benefit to the driving experience. So in any rational sense the Iconic Edition is a hard sell, but for the 11 customers that will take the plunge here in the UK, its significance as the ultimate TT - bolstered by its long list of dramatic styling additions - will be more than enough to compensate. 

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As the TT reaches the end of its life as a small two-door coupe, Audi is hoping that a few of its most passionate fans will be convinced by the ultimate expression of the iconic Bauhaus-inspired coupe: the TT RS Iconic Edition.

This low-volume special is limited to just 100 units worldwide, with 11 of those reaching the UK at a startling £87,650 price tag. If you’re wondering whether this quite astonishing amount is how much a modern TT RS costs these days, you’d be wrong, because the Iconic Edition is a staggering £25,485 more than the top-specification TT RS Audi Sport Edition – or the cost of a mid-spec Audi A1 S-Line for context. 

For your premium supermini’s worth of extra cash, there isn’t much to speak about under the skin. The technical package is as per the standard TT RS, which means it shares the same 394bhp turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine connected to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and Haldex-style all-wheel drive system. It does feature the uprated magnetorheological dampers and 20-inch wheels, the latter of a familiar design painted black and wrapped in a fairly mundane Pirellli P Zero tyre. This is a high-spec tyre, but not for a near-£90k sports car

Audi’s changes are instead more focused around the design, which when you think about it makes perfect sense for a style-led model like the TT. All units are painted in Audi’s Nardo Grey, highlighted by black-coloured elements on the badges, bumpers and mirror caps. The front bumper also features some distinctive canards, which are supposed to balance out the extra downforce provided by the new carbon fibre rear wing. Perched high above the rear deck, this wing hangs from new swan-neck supports inspired by those on Audi Sport’s customer racing R8s, and definitely gives the Iconic Edition a more exotic and specialised look, especially when you catch sight of an end plate in your wing mirror from the driver’s seat. 

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The changes inside are limited to colour and trim, but the overall effect is very impressive as it builds on one of the best sports car interiors on sale. The standard TT RS sports seats are now finished in a two-tone black Alcantara and grey Nappa leather trim offset by pale gold stitching. Alcantara is also used on the steering wheel and gear selector, and helps the TT RS feel almost worth its price tag. 

That is until you press the red starter button and the five-cylinder engine fires. There’s no doubt this engine has character, but recurring small changes designed to help it meet stricter emissions regulations have slowly dulled its edge. The exhaust pops and bangs are mercifully gone, but so too are the impressive response and turbocharged induction noises that used to be a trademark of the five-cylinder, muting the engine’s distinctive voice. The turbocharger’s responses have also been dulled over time, with the exhaust’s petrol particulate filter having a noticeable effect on spool time, making turbo lag a real problem. 

This is only heightened by the transmission, which is slower to react and more conservative with its high-speed changes. Whether this is on account of emissions, or a desire to preserve clutch life we’re not sure, but those who were lucky enough to drive the very earliest example of this third generation TT RS would certainly feel the difference. Instead, you need to drive the Iconic Edition almost as if it’s an old fashioned sports car, preempting the turbo lag by hitting the throttle much earlier in corners, and using the paddles behind the steering wheel to control the gearbox’s sometimes dim-witted decisions. 

The magnetic dampers do an admirable job of controlling the TT RS’s body, but on anything other than smooth German roads there’s just not enough compliance to give you the confidence to really commit to corners. The springs are too stiff and their travel too limited, and while the 20-inch wheels fill the arches nicely, there’s just not enough sidewall on those rubber-band thin Pirellis to offset the suspension’s lack of cushioning. 

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Yet despite these compromises, the TT RS is still able to rocket along back roads with fierce pace when it’s wound up. The on-paper 3.7-second 0-62mph time feels about right, and when in the meat of the mid range you remember how immensely powerful this engine really is. The all-wheel drive system lacks any rear-bias, so it’s not quite as engaging as a modern RS 3 with its clever rear differential, but it does feel the quicker car on account of its lower weight figure and sportier driving position. 

At very high speeds, the Iconic Edition’s additional aero seems to make little to no difference to the handling, with the car’s balance at pace still compromised by the short wheelbase and front-heavy weight distribution. Turn into a high speed corner without any power and the TT’s infamous snap is still there, albeit underneath the ESP and traction control systems – driver aids we suggest you don’t disengage. 

So is the TT RS Iconic Edition a brilliant sports car? Not quite. And at nearly £90,000, any pretence that it’s worth the extra money over a standard TT RS should also be thrown out the window. But for true TT die-hards it will make sense on account of their passion and not their rationality. For the rest of us, it’s a hard sell. Yet credit where credit’s due, it is special to look at and sit in. We just wish it was also special to drive. 

Model:Audi TT RS Iconic Edition
Price: £87,650
Engine: 2.5-litre 5-cyl turbo, petrol
Power/torque: 394bhp/480Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel drive
0-60mph: 3.7 seconds
Top speed: 174mph
Economy/CO2: 31mpg/207g/km
On sale:Now
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Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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