Audi TT RS review - coupe refreshed after an emissions-enforced hiatus - Ride and handling
The Audi TT RS has always appealed by virtue of its excellent powertrain, the very bit that’s been messed with in this mid-cycle update
Ride and Handling
The first time that you floor the accelerator with the sports exhaust cracked wide open it’s hard not to fall for the TT RS. A loud, complex soundtrack fills the cabin, the note changing from deep warble to something harder-edged but still slightly askew as the revs home in on 7000rpm. The five-cylinder produces as distinctive a war cry as any engine and Audi plays it to perfection.
That first surge of acceleration will also leave you in no doubt as to how stunningly fast the little coupe is. The power feels totally contained, however, with the quattro system deploying every ounce of the 394bhp. It’s bursting with energy, in the dry at least, it all being put to good use, with no sense of slip between rubber and road. This is perhaps something of a disappointment because it means that on the exit of bends the TT simply grips and goes. Yes, you can feel the TT driving more from the rear with the Haldex system set to its new Dynamic mode, but the rear simply hunkers down and drives you forward rather than allowing you to really adjust the arc of the back of the car on the throttle. You also need to keep on top of the gears going into corners, because if you are below about 4000rpm there is a little bit of hesitancy when you get back on the throttle.
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Turn-in is very encouraging, with the front end feeling more responsive than on any TT we can remember – something that is undoubtedly helped by the RS’s brake-based torque vectoring. The eight-piston front calipers clamp steel discs as standard, but carbon-ceramics are an option and they were fitted to our test car. They were hugely confidence-inspiring, but did begin to squeal after a long drive with some pretty sustained abuse.
The problem is exaggerated as you find yourself leaning on the brakes deep into corners too in an effort to get the car pivoting into the apex so that you can perhaps open the steering a little early. It is possible, and you can feel the hips start to move encouragingly, but it takes more effort than we’d like and generally there is a sense that the RS is happiest with more of a join-the-dots approach to corners. We’ve enjoyed the TT RS both on the Jarama Circuit near Madrid (it felt great through the really quick corners – nicely agile and up on its toes) and on the amazing roads in Spain and in the UK. The sound is wonderfully addictive and the interior feels like a lovely place to be, with the quilted bucket seats holding you extremely well around the abdomen.
The TT RS covers the ground at a staggering pace and the quick, clean steering makes it mostly easy to place, although just occasionally a fraction more weight and connection with the front wheels would be nice. You can and do end up driving it incredibly quickly, pushing it hard because it inspires huge confidence, but in many ways it’s probably better to step back a notch and enjoy the RS at eight-tenths. Don’t for a minute write it off as a boring, understeering Audi, because it is far, far from it, but at the end of the day we can’t shake the nagging feeling that a four-wheel-drive system like that in the Focus RS, one with a proper torque vectoring rear diff that allows more throttle adjustability, would elevate the TT that last little bit to the star performer it so nearly threatens to be.
Point the TT RS down a worse road surface and the cracks in its capability begin to widen, as the underlying physics of lumping a heavy engine over the front wheels with barely an inch of tyre sidewall become clear. The ride never quite settles, and the secondary bump absorption quickly deteriorates as the wheels crash into variances in the road surface. Push hard over undulating tarmac and the suspension runs out of travel, often struggling to keep the wheels in contact with the ground. On roads that a 718 Cayman would hoover up, the TT RS bucks and fights, hitting compressions with an uncomfortable harshness that leaves you unsure of the state of the 20-inch wheels at the end of a brisk drive.
If you’re tempted by the TT RS Roadster but you’re worried it will be too compromised by the lack of a roof, don’t be. More so than many soft-tops derived from coupes, the RS Roadster retains an impressive degree of rigidity. The lack of a roof also grants you unfettered access to that fantastic exhaust noise and you don’t have to put up with scuttle shake or a rattly interior. The engine’s massive power and torque also means that the convertible’s extra 90kg of weight is hardly detectable either, and it feels just as quick as the coupe on the road.
However, there is a minor downside. The nimbleness the Coupe exhibits under braking into corners is diluted in the Roadster – it’s just not quite as eager to turn in or play. As a result, you have to slow down just that little bit more to make sure the front end bites before turning in. You’ll still have all that grunt to make the Roadster phenomenally quick over a B-road, but an extra level of involvement is removed and the TT RS doesn’t have a lot of that to give up