Audi TT RS

Does hottest-ever variant storm to top of class?

Never short of style, the TT is still one of the most desirable coupés money can buy. But as the line-up has expanded, with prices now ranging from £25,000 to nearly £45,000, the challenge for the designers is to distinguish the flagship RS from lesser models. And in general, we’d say they’ve been successful.

Wider sills, a unique front bumper and Audi’s distinctive daytime running lights set the new car apart. And at the back, a lattice diffuser and twin exhausts combine with a fixed rear wing to give an aggressive edge.

Our model’s attractive 19-inch wheels are another effective style statement, but they’re a £1,300 option. And overall, the RS doesn’t have the exclusive appeal of the Porsche.

Inside, the cabin is largely identical to lesser TTs, although buyers aren’t likely to feel short-changed, as that means a superbly designed dash, great detailing and faultless quality. Brushed aluminium inlays and a scattering of RS logos mark out this car.

The driving position is great, there’s plenty of space and the cabin feels the part. The tiny rear seats are too small for adults, so don’t give the TT any real advantage over the Cayman. Fold them, however, and you get a very useful 700-litre load space, while the hatchback tailgate enhances versatility.

Where the RS really stands out is under the bonnet. The 2.5-litre TFSI engine has the classic five-cylinder layout made famous by the original Quattro. It’s smooth and refined at idle, but Audi fans will love the tuneful warble on the move – it sounds fantastic.

Peak torque of 450Nm arrives at only 1,600rpm, and the RS delivers astonishing pace. It was faster than the Cayman S in all our in-gear measurements, and while this power means the twin-clutch S tronic box isn’t an option, the short-shift six-speed manual is so good it doesn’t matter.

The Audi covered 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds – that’s two-tenths down on our Cayman S PDK, which has launch control. But on the road, the TT feels effortlessly punchy, while the 4WD ensures it’s incredibly sure-footed. It delivers impressive grip and traction, and its handling inspires confidence.

Yet while the steering is well weighted and fluid, the front-engined Audi can’t rival the ultimate agility of the mid-engined Porsche. Plus, its Haldex 4x4 system doesn’t transfer power to the rear as in the R8 or RS6. As a result, the TT can’t quite match the Cayman’s driver engagement and feedback.

Then again, it’s cheaper, at £42,985, and is still fast and hugely desirable.

It’s a worthy addition to the RS ranks.

Details

Chart position: 2WHY: The Porsche is the sports car benchmark – but has it met its match in the shape of the four-wheel-drive Audi?

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