Fire up the, er, TT
Posted on: 17th Oct 2012
The Audi TT RS is a car that challenges your motivations for such car purchases and here's why. Every car magazine that got hold of that car compared it to a Porsche Cayman or Boxster and the Audi invariably came second.
So it's a worse car? It's not quite that simple. If I had the choice of cars for a weekend that included track work and throwing them up a deserted set of mountain switchbacks, the Porsche would certainly get the nod. At the very limits of its handling envelope, it's a more talented package. If I was then asked which of the cars I'd take if I had to run them for a year, commuting to work, using them as leisure vehicles at the weekends and taking them on driving holidays, the Audi would get the nod every time. It was, and remains, a car that tends to be bought by people who've thought their decision through quite seriously.
Audi, it seems, isn't content with appealing to the cerebral minority and with a third generation Boxster and Cayman being launched, it has responded in kind with some more extra firepower for the TT RS. Say hello to the RS plus.
You buy an Audi TT RS for its engine. If you merely wanted a very quick Audi TT, the TTS model with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine more than fits the bill. It's good for 272PS and delivers its power effectively in almost all weathers. The RS is an altogether more charismatic thing, the warbling of its in-line 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine harking back to more famous Quattros of the past.
In RS plus guise, that engine has been massaged from 340 to a full 360PS which, in coupe form and with the optional S tronic twin-clutch transmission fitted, will catapult you from rest to 62mph in just 4.1 seconds (six-speed manual version 4.3 seconds). The Roadster is only a tenth of a second slower and whether you choose soft top or metal roof, the top speed is electronically limited to a distinctly liberal 174mph.
As well as the additional power, the RS plus gets a sportier exhaust system. Don't think that the five-pot engine is a hefty old lump either. It achieves excellent economy figures and weighs just 183kg which contributes to a kerb weight for the manual Coupe of just 1450kg.
The TT's Audi Space Frame chassis blends lightweight aluminium with steel where it's required for strength and this relatively light weight helps deliver excellent acceleration and agility. Peak torque is rated at 465Nm and it's deployed to the road through Audi's quattro all-wheel drive transmission.
Design and Build
Whether you choose Coupe or Roadster, you get the same 19-inch five-arm "Rotor" design titanium-look alloy wheels which replace the 18-inch five double spoke examples fitted to the standard TT RS. The single frame radiator grille gets a matte aluminium surround and also a polished anthracite diamond-pattern mesh which serves to distinguish the TT RS plus at a glance.
Because of the amount of bright work on the nose, paler colours seem to look a bit more discreet. Other RS plus exclusive bits include the carbon fibre-reinforced polymer door mirror housings and black oval tailpipe trims.
Pop the bonnet and you'll spot a carbon design package, while the interior gets a TT RS plus logo on the gear knob.
Some things don't change though. There remains very little space in the back of the Coupe for anything other than babies or bags, although the boot is at least a useful size. Build quality remains as brilliant as ever and it's still a reassuringly expensive-feeling cabin.
Market and Model
Equipment levels are generous and prices are pitched at a premium of around £3,000 over the existing TT RS. That means you'll pay just under £50,000 for a Coupe with a manual gearbox and just over £50,000 for one with an s tronic transmission. Roadsters tack around £2,000 onto those prices.
So is it worth it? Are you really going to feel that additional 20PS that you've paid £3,000 for when it represents a power gain of about seven per cent? Maybe not.
You will appreciate the bassy rumble of the sports exhaust and the RS plus also gets more equipment fitted as standard. Suddenly the value proposition doesn't look at all bad.
The Roadster model is pitched around £5,000 more than a Porsche Boxster S, but when you consider the amount of standard equipment Audi gives you as well as the additional power of the TT RS plus, it doesn't seem bad value at all.
Cost of Ownership
Audi has worked at improving the fuel economy of this engine and its combined economy figure of 31.4mpg for the six-speed manual Coupe (and 33.2mpg should you spring for the S tronic gearbox) is excellent for a car of this potency.
It's only when you step up from this model to vehicles like the BMW M3 and the Mercedes C63 AMG that you realise quite what a good job Audi has done keeping a cap on day-today running costs. Carbon dioxide emissions are pegged at just 197g/km with the S tronic 'box which beggars belief. Even if you opt for the six-speed manual, you'll still emit just 209g/km.
An insurance group of 40 also contributes to comparatively low running costs, as do strong residual values.
The Audi TT RS plus is one of those cars that is easy to dismiss. The lazy view is that it's not as good as the latest Porsche Boxster or Cayman, relies on a dated five-cylinder turbo engine and is ferociously thirsty.
While it will drink at a fairly frightening rate if you drive pedal to the metal everywhere, there's much to be gained from the TT RS from just surfing the torque of that charismatic engine.
Pricing is sensible in relation to its rivals, even if the thought of a £50k+ Audi TT can be difficult for some to countenance.