2018 Audi TT RS

Perhaps the initials stand for ‘Ridiculously Speedy

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

The “duck-and-cover” maneuver — it involves folding your body inside the Audi TT RS hatchback — doesn’t make for the easiest or the most graceful entrance.

The contortions are worth the effort, however, once you’ve pushed the steering-wheel-mounted start button, put the car into gear and tipped into the gas pedal. At this point, prepare to be amused and delighted.

Following a five-year hiatus, the returning top dog in the TT fleet is as potent as ever and steers, stops and corners with confidence-boosting authority. The ride is a tad harsh, but it’s about what you would expect from a near supercar.

The car’s extra-low roofline — a TT feature ever since the first-generation model rolled off the assembly line in 1999 — and an equally low seating position contribute to a cozy environment, enhanced by first-rate leather-trimmed sport seats and a thick, flat-bottom steering wheel. There’s plenty of legroom for those in front, but hardly any for the people piled into the back seat. It’s a spot best used for infants, pets or for supplemental stowage.

The modifiable gauge layout — part of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit display — is a marvel of efficiency and is relatively easy to master.

The control knobs for temperature, climate and the heated seats are smartly located in the center of the dashboard’s five circular air vents.

The exterior has its own distinguishing characteristics, including a fixed rear wing and aero side cladding attached to the rocker panels. Unfortunately, you’re likely to get your pant leg wet and/or dirty as you enter or exit the vehicle, especially in winter. Yes, winter.

Unlike other sports cars that are usually in storage until spring, the TT RS is just as much fun in the snow as it is on dry pavement. Being able to use the car all year certainly helps rationalize the price.

Part of the fun comes from a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that produces 400 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. That’s 40 more ponies and 11 more pound-feet than the previous RS’s turbo 2.5. By comparison, the midrange TTS model has 292 horses and 280 pound-feet that’s produced by a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The base TT gets by with 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet.

The previous TT RS came with a six-speed manual transmission, but this time around a seven-speed paddle-shift manual/automatic is all that’s offered. This efficient unit helps the RS achieve fuel-economy ratings of 19 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway, compared to 18/25 for the previous model.

Audi’s permanently engaged Quattro all-wheel-drive is standard. The system varies front-to-rear power split as needed and sends nearly 100 percent of the torque to the rear tires under hard acceleration. That’s what helps launch the car to 60 mph from rest in 3.6 seconds, a full second quicker than the next-quickest TTS, says Audi.

Another handy aid is Driver Select, which has Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual (set up by the driver) modes. Each has specific settings for the transmission shift points, throttle response, shock damping and steering effort. Serious drivers will likely use the more aggressive Dynamic setting since it’s the one that makes the RS act and sound more like a racecar. The launch control (also a standard feature) produces the quickest possible acceleration with virtually no loss of traction.

At $65,900, freight charges included, this level of performance isn’t cheap, but you do get a well turned-out car that includes a leather interior, heated eight-way power front seats with body-hugging pneumatic side bolsters, stainless-steel pedals and 19-inch wheels.

Among the numerous options are fade-resistant carbon-ceramic brake rotors, navigation, 12-speaker Bang and Olufsen audio, Audi-connect infotainment, diamond-stitched leather seats, carbon-fiber interior trim and 20-inch wheels.

Note that other than blind-spot monitoring, the TT RS has no other active-safety technology (emergency braking, pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning, etc.).

What you do get is a smart, stylish sports coupe that’s docile around town, but is more than eager to flex its bulging muscles when called upon.

Just remember to duck before entering.

What you should know: 2018 Audi TT RS

Type: Two-door hatchback sport coupe

Engine (h.p.): 2.5-liter DOHC five-cylinder, turbocharged (400)

Transmission: Seven-speed paddle-shift manual/automatic

Market position: As with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and other premium brands, virtually all models in Audi’s lineup, including the TT, can be had with high-output engines, sport suspensions, stronger brakes and related hardware.

Points:
• More aggressive appearance compared to tamer TT models.
• Premium interior appointments include comfortable, supportive seats and easy-to-learn controls.
• Clean, almost stark dash layout.
• Five-cylinder engine loves to be pushed hard.
• Hard to fathom why active-safety technologies are not even optional.
• For the same performance in a roomier package, the Audi RS3 sedan has the same engine and transmission package.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning (opt.); cross-traffic backup alert (n.a.); active speed control (n.a.); emergency braking (n.a.); pedestrian detection (n.a.)

MPG (city/hwy): 19/29

Base price (incl. destination): $65,900

By Comparison:

Porsche 718 Cayman S
Base price: $68,750
Superb looks and road Coupers, along with a potent 350-h.p. turbo engine.

Cadillac ATS-V Coupe
Base price: $64,800
Surprisingly quick and agile, assisted by a 464-horsepower twin-turbo V-6.

BMW M4 Coupe
Base price: $67,400
A track-ready performer that’s also one of the best looking coupes around.