It was almost too good to be true. Audi’s wonderful, charismatic and hugely potent turbocharged five-cylinder petrol engine mounted under the crisp Bauhaus nose of the TT – two of Audi’s most distinctive icons brought together in one desirable package.
Or that was the intention, as typically the TT RS never really materialised into the sports car package we all hoped it would be. The chassis was always capable of putting its prodigious power down, but often struggled when the road became more challenging. It was always a nailed-down, but ultimately flair-free driving experience.
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As part of a mid-life update it’s not the chassis that has been paid attention to though, rather the powertrain. This wasn’t entirely by choice of course, as Audi’s venerable five-pot needed some significant work to pass the latest emissions regulations. As a result, the powertrain has been through a fairly comprehensive update, which we’ll get into in more detail below, but with the very element that defined the TT RS’s character under the microscope, does the 2019 Audi TT RS still emulate the spectacular Group B vibe that made it a unique, if slightly blunt-instrument addition to the sports car class, or has its USP been eroded, leaving nothing but a benign sports car behind?
Audi TT RS: in detail
- Performance and 0-62mph time > The TT RS’s key powertrain features remain; 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder and quattro all-wheel-drive system still dominate the experience
- Engine and gearbox > On paper the updated emissions-friendly exhaust system has had no effect on performance, the RS still reaching 62mph in just 3.7sec
- Ride and Handling > The new TT RS is the most focused, but we wouldn’t say best, Audi TT; its humble underpinnings become more exposed (ie. inept) the harder you push it
- MPG and running costs > Despite the new focus on emissions, actual fuel consumption is worse on paper, but blame the new WLTP test for that
- Interior and tech >A home-run interior from Audi, its minimalist vibe, exceptional build quality and clever, yet thoughtful touches keeping it classless and free of superfluous design
- Design > The exterior changes are subtle, but add a touch more aggression to the new TT RS. A definite improvement on the standard S-Line and TTS variants after their more questionable update
Prices, specs and rivals
Audi’s new TT RS starts at £54,895 for the standard version, which comes with 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, a full MMI navigation system embedded within the virtual cockpit, and some lovely waxy leather sports seats. Individual options are available, but Audi Sport will now bundle these into new trim lines combining multiple colour and trim options. An extra £4000 will get you the Audi Sport Edition, which adds diamond-cut 20-inch alloy wheels, a Sports Exhaust system, black pack (including some dubious black badging) and carbonfibre inlays in the doors and dash.
Topping the range is the Vorsprung, which swaps the Audi Sport Edition’s 20-inch wheels for a different design, and also gets you magnetic dampers, matrix LED headlights and additional driver assistance systems. Although fully loaded, the Vorsprung is a hefty £64,895, only £5k away from an Audi RS5 Coupe.
The Porsche Cayman S is quite a bit cheaper than the RS and it offers a very different experience. The finely tuned chassis makes for a sublime steer which the Audi simply can’t compete with. The Porsche’s supremacy isn’t all-conquering though, as the turbo-four isn’t a patch on the Audi’s warbly five-cylinder. The Porsche’s motor sounds dull in comparison and feels a backward step from the 981-generation flat-six engines. Not only that, the Cayman is the sparser of the two and would require almost £10k of options to match the Audi for equipment.
The BMW M2 Competition fails to shake off its humble origins with a lacklustre interior, but it is some £3k less than the TT with similar equipment. However, the BMW makes up for its ordinary insides with an involving and entertaining chassis, typical of an M-car, a muscular turbocharged straight-six engine (although not as sonorous as the TT’s) and some aggressive looks. Admittedly, it isn’t as fast as the TT, but its new M4-derived straight-six is a far more charismatic unit than it used to be, and it makes for a more satisfying performance coupe.
The new Alpine A110’s attitude couldn’t be further from the TT RS’s. The French coupe trades big power for low weight, and massive traction for accessible limits; it’s delicate and malleable, where the TT displays brute force. It might be far slower than the TT on paper, but the Alpine is truly captivating to drive.