Boys flashed thumbs-up at the Audi TT RS tester and big boys wanted to know horsepower, how fast and how much. The 2018 TT RS is new for 2018 and debuts a new 400-horsepower, 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine. It is the most powerful production TT ever, Audi says, that can launch to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds.
It is the halo of the TT lineup with 2+2 seating, standard quattro all-wheel drive and a race-tuned seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The TT RS starts at $65,875, including the $975 freight charge from Gyor, Hungary. The tester was $78,725, with upgrades most enthusiasts would want — but at a $12,850 commitment. Among them was the Dynamic Plus package, $6,000, which includes a carbon fiber engine cover, front ceramic brakes, RS sport suspension, OLED taillights (organic light-emitting diode) and a top speed limited to 174-mph, up from 155 mph. The ceramic brake upgrade, known for reduced brake fade, adds 14.6-inch ventilated discs front and rear with gray-painted calipers that are more than 8 pounds lighter than the stock cast-iron rotors, Audi says.
And certainly the $1,000 sport exhaust is important, with those giant oval pipes at the rear and a console button to open the sound. It’s a generated sound that is virile but never obnoxious. The Technology package, $3,500, includes a navigation system, Audi connect, smartphone interface, side assist (blind-spot monitoring), 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system (680 watts); Black Optic package, $1,750, includes 20-inch 7-spoke anthracite forged wheels an 255/30 summer tires; black exterior trim kit and high-gloss black side mirrors; carbon fiber inlays $600.
The Audi TT line (Tourist Trophy) includes hardtops and convertibles, with a serious premium for the TT RS hardtop, which is not offered in a convertible (yet). The hardtop TT is sold in base and TTS models. Pricing starts at about $45,000 with the entry 220-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder or $54,000 for the TTS with a 292-hp version of the 2.0. Both have six-speed S tronic transmissions and AWD.
While halos are OK, the TT RS does not let it get in the way of a good time. Drive it as your daily commuter, then tug the shifter into Sport mode and punch up the Dynamic setting to enjoy its streetfighter skills.
The interior materials are sport luxury with much use of leather, Alcantara and carbon fiber trim, but tastefully done. Assembly of panels and plug-ins are precise and satisfying to see. The eight-way power seats have inflatable side bolsters, four-way lumbar and manual thigh extenders.
You might not think when looking at the fastback roofline that cabin space would be so accommodating. But there is adequate front headroom (37.1 inches) and legroom
(41.1 inches) for a 6-foot-6 driver.
The view out the front and over the fenders is wide open for speedy cornering. Rear views are constricted, but the camera with guidance lines makes up for any lost view in the parking lot. The turning circle is tight at 36 feet and there was little tendency to scrape the chin on steeper driveways or transitioning cross streets.
The center console and 12.3-inch wide gauge array, called the Audi virtual cockpit, is a digital dashboard with 3D graphics that can be configured to highlight your preferences, including the navi map.
I also like the clever multifunction of AC, temp and fan controls integrated into the turbine-style air vents, with seat-heater controls in the side vents. The design is simple and direct to maximize space in a compact cockpit.
Back seat space, with upright seatbacks, is better for gear than people with a scant 33.8 inches of legroom and headroom cropped to 28.9 inches. The 50/50 folding seats extend the 12 cubic feet of cargo space. With the front seats at the longest reach, there ain’t no rear legroom. But there should be enough room to haul youngsters to school, if those in front can scoot a bit forward.
It is the fifth cylinder and a half-liter of displacement over the now-common use of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes the TT RS engine a little brute of performance. With max turbo boost of 19.6 psi and 354 foot-pounds of torque from 1,700-5,850 rpm, Audi cites 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds (in the Dynamic driving mode) and some magazines have clocked 3.4 seconds.
The engine and seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission work in complete harmony to grab gears and give rev-matching downshifts.
Fuel economy ratings are 19 mpg city, 29 highway and 22 mpg combined, on premium fuel. I was averaging up to 30 but long-term was 19.4 mpg.
The standard suspension is an adaptive magnetic-ride dampers (usually an upgrade in other cars). But the Dynamic Plus package replaces the electronic suspension with a stiffer, fixed suspension and traditional shock absorbers. It feels like a track-ready setup, which can feel steely over rough road.
There are four drive modes: comfort, auto, dynamic and individual. Each mode allows the driver to change shift points, steering, throttle response and damper control (when equipped with magnetic ride).
There will be comparisons to the Corvette (V-8 powered), the Porsche Cayman (with a 2.5-liter flat four cylinder) and Jaguar F-Type (V-6 or V-8), all of which have some assets to outgun the TT RS. But the Audi is a sharp blade in a tight package — 11 inches shorter than the Corvette and more than 7 inches shorter than the Cayman but a little wider.
It is a luxury speedster that will even the odds or settle the score.
2018 Audi TT RS
- Body style: subcompact, 2+2 seat all-wheel-drive hatchback
- Engine: aluminum 400-hp, turbocharged and direct-injection 2.5-liter 5-cylinder; max turbo boost 19.6 psi; 354 lb.-ft. torque from 1,700-5,850 rpm;
- Transmission: 7-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic
- Fuel economy: 19/29/22 mpg city/hwy/combined; premium recommended
- 0-60 mph: 3.6 secs; top speed 155 or with upgrade to 174 mph
- Drag coefficient: 0.32
- Fuel tank: 14.5 gal.
- Cargo space: 12 cu. ft.
- Front head/leg room: 37.1/41.1 in.
- Rear head/leg room: 33.8/28.9 in.
- Length/wheelbase: 165/98.6 in.
- Curb weight: 3,306 lbs.
- Turning circle: 36 ft.
- Standard equipment includes: smartkey locking and steering wheel push-button start button, rearview camera, 8-way power front seats with inflatable side bolsters and 4-way lumbar, 8 air bags, 19-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels with 245/35 R19 93Y XL summer tires, LED running lights and taillights with dynamic turn signals, Nappa leather upholstery with heated front seats, heated side mirrors, LED interior lighting, leather-alcantara steering wheel, parking-system plus
- Base price: $65,875, including $975 freight charge; price as tested $78,725
- Options on test vehicle: Dynamic Plus package, $6,000, includes carbon fiber engine cover, direct tire-pressure monitoring, front ceramic brakes, OLED taillights, RS sport suspension, 174-mph top speed limiter; Technology package, $3,500, includes navigations system, Audi connect, smartphone interface, side assist, 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen (680-watt) audio system; Black Optic package, $1,750, includes 20-inch 7-spoke anthracite forged wheels an 255/30 summer tires; black exterior trim kit and high-gloss black side mirrors; RS Sport exhaust, $1,000; carbon fiber inlays $600
- Where assembled: Gyor, Hungary
- Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles with free first scheduled maintenance