2012 Audi TT-RS Review [Video]
It's rough around the edges and demands to be treated that way
Go for a performance driving lesson and any instructor will tell you, driving fast on a race track requires skill, precision and a light touch. That is, unless you happen to be driving the Audi TT-RS.
|1. Adding one cylinder 25 percent more displacement, the TT-RS makes 160-hp more than the standard TT, with 360-hp and 343 lb-ft of torque.
2. Audi claims an official 4.1 second 0-60 time, three tenths of a second faster than the Audi R8.
3. Available only with a 6-speed manual, the TT-RS is priced from $56,850.
This high-performance Audi rewards an aggressive handler. We discovered this at our usual test track, when a somewhat sloppy lap resulted in an improved time. Pushed harder, the lap times continued to drop.
That’s not to say it wouldn’t be even quicker when driven with the utmost finesse, but the car’s combination of power and all-wheel drive make a fast driver out of an angry one.
In fact, this is more than just one aspect of the car, it’s a theme. The TT-RS has quite the personality. One might even say a personality problem.
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LOOKS MEAN AND DEMANDS TO BE DRIVEN HARD
It’s more raw-edged than even the 1M Coupe with bolder looks and an even louder exhaust note. Leaving for work long before the sunrise each morning I worried that the 1M might wake my infant son. The TT-RS actually did. It’s cold start exhaust note proved so loud I had to park it down the street. Blasting down the front straight at Toronto Motorsports Park, it matched volume with a Corvette Z06 at full throttle.
What makes all that noise is no burly V8. Heck, it doesn’t even have six cylinders. Powering the TT-RS is a turbocharged 2.5-liter 5-cylinder making an incredible 360-hp and 343 lb-ft of torque. For the record, that’s 160-hp more than a run of the mill TT, an increase of 80 percent.
It’s not as finely tuned as the 1M’s turbo powerplant. You won’t notice much, if any, lag when driven hard, but during regular street driving there’s still that typical turbo delay.
A beast on the track, on the street its hard-edge character is perhaps more evident. Push the sport button and along with improved throttle response the magnetic ride shock absorbers firm up to chiropractic levels. Clutch engagement is immediate and even when not in S mode, just touch the gas and the car wants to fly. Most modern stick-shifts make driving manual a breeze. Not here. Even long-time manual-lovers should be warned not to drive the car in gridlock.
That said, no warning should be required. The TT-RS certainly puts its attitude on display. From the massive front grille to fixed rear spoiler and 19-inch wheels it looks half-way between a tuner car and a DTM racer.
AN AUDI THAT DOESN’T UNDERSTEER? HALLELUJAH!
Back on the track the TT-RS impresses as much for what it does do, as for what it doesn’t. We are, of course, talking about understeer. Even the much-loved and highly praised RS4 was pretty terrible for it, but on this high-performance machine it’s absent. Finally, an Audi with near-absent understeer! This car is a true testament to what Audi’s RS division is capable of.
Dive into a corner hard and the TT-RS has lots of power to get you out the other side. And it’s hard to overstate the capability of quattro AWD. A suspension that’s been lowered by almost half an inch also helps keep the car’s weight down low, and it transitions excellently.
On the street Audi claims a 0-60 mph time of just 4.1 seconds. That’s over a half a second faster than BMW’s 1M and three-tenths quicker than even the R8, despite being down 70-hp.
Go beyond that, however, and it’s even more impressive. The acceleration through third and up into fourth (that’s as fast as TMP’s front straight will allow) is just as powerful. Driving a serious German car always leaves us yearning for some equally serious autobahn.
About the only area where the TT-RS is lacking is in the brakes. Despite some massive binders and a light 3,300 lb curb weight (particularly impressive when you consider it is AWD), added stopping power would help. Improved bolstering on the seats wouldn’t hurt either. True, they’re good, but they don’t squeeze you like a Russian circus bear, or like the BMW 1M.
The rest of the cabin is also a bit less glamorous that we’d expect from Audi’s RS division. Sure there’s a thick rimmed steering wheel, embossed RS seats and RS logos. And yes it’s generally very, very nice. It’s just missing the cream leather and carbon fiber we’ve come to expect.
Offering almost unrealistic levels of grip in the dry, we had the unique opportunity to pilot the TT-RS around the track in the rain – an unpleasant reality of tracking a car in the late Fall. Handily out-matching superior cars thanks to added grip, the TT-RS proves itself an all-weather performer. It might not feel fast in these conditions and you can’t go all-out either, but it still lets you maintain some effort with the serious advantage of getting back hard on the throttle early.
Looking at all the factors, one could say the real issue is that at $56,850 the TT-RS is $10,000 more than a 1M. Then again, it’s also half the price of an R8. Plus, it’s outrageously fast, looks wild, sounds incredible and has the capability to transform a driver with enough guts into Timo Scheider.
And while only Audi fans might get the above reference, perhaps that’s part of the car’s charm. Rather than an imitation BMW, it’s a carefully crafted gift to the Audi faithful, delivering serious performance while embodying the uniqueness of the Audi brand.