Road Test

2012 Audi TT RS

The stats say 360-horsepower and 343 lb-ft of torque. The seat of your pants will say WOW!

2012 Audi TT RS - Front
AT A GLANCE
PRICE
$67,000 base. $76,345 as tested.
FUEL CONSUMPTION
NR Canada (L/100 km): 12.3 city. 8.1 highway. 11.0 combined.
POWERTRAIN
2.5-litre in-line five-cylinder engine with direct injection, 360 horsepower, 343 lb-ft. of torque;
Pros & CONS
  • The sound – oh my goodness, the sound!
  • All-season, all-wheel-drive
  • Typically beautiful Audi interior
  • Not exactly a quiet, relaxed highway cruiser
  • Poor rear and rear three-quarter visibility
  • Optional audio system not suited to North America

First of all a disclaimer. It’s pretty much impossible to behave while at the wheel of an Audi TT RS.

While it may share much of its underpinnings with the humble VW Golf, this hormone-laden TT is equipped with a ridiculously powerful turbocharged engine and can transmit all that power into motion instead of tire smoke thanks to all-wheel-drive system.

To gild this lily, the test vehicle came with an optional "sport" exhaust system. Sport in this case translates into "loud".

The TT has, for whatever reason, a reputation as a "chick car." It does not have much support from hardcore enthusiasts despite its nicely-balanced chassis, excellent all-wheel-drive system and standard 211-horsepower turbocharged engine. Style is a more prominent factor than performance, whether in coupe or convertible format.

But as you get within a few dozen metres of the RS version of the TT, it quickly becomes evident this one is different. The front is distinguished by the trademark gaping grille of an Audi. But on both sides you’ll see other prominent "grilles", necessary to feed lots of cool air to the intercooler.

2012 Audi TT RS - Rear Spoiler.jpgThe RS sits lower, with a mean hunkered-down look. The big 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in performance rubber and filling out the bulging wheel arches, dominate the side view. The rear is quickly differentiated from the normal TT by a silly little spoiler on top and a pair of big, dark anodized exhaust outlets down low and an RS badge in the middle.

The interior is all black. None of the colorful touches available in other TTs. As is always the case with Audi, the design, fit, finish and quality of materials is impeccable.

The flat-bottom steering wheel and alloy shifter knob and pedals lend a performance touch and the instruments are wonderfully legible thanks to careful lighting and readable fonts.

Top of the TT line

This is the top offering in the TT line, so the standard equipment list is extensive. Options on my test vehicle included $650 for Sebring Blue Pearl paint, $1,000 for an aluminum styling package, $2300 for Nav with Audi music interface, $1300 for an audio package and $1500 for the sport exhaust system – which is a more significant audio system to me.

As is usually the case with high-end German vehicles, dipping into the option list can be not only expensive but necessary to get features that are standard on much less expensive vehicles. Even after spending $3600 for the Nav with music interface and an audio package you do not have a back-up camera but do have a 6-disc CD changer and slots for two SD cards. Does anyone still use CDs? Or SD cards?

2012 Audi TT RS - Interior.jpgThe front seats are well bolstered to keep you in place in the corners and supportive enough to keep you comfy over long distances. The rear seats are a joke, unsuitable for human habitation, but very useful for storage. And that is another area where the TT has the edge over the most obvious competition – the Porsche Cayman. It has cargo space, lots of it, easily accessible under a big hatch.

"Skunk werks" treatment

The red RS badge on the grille and rear deck is a big deal. It signifies that this car was developed and nurtured by Audi’s in-house quattro GmbH "skunk werks", the same small team of deranged people responsible for the RS4, RS6 and R8.

 This in-house entity started in the '80s with a two-door Quattro coupe that shocked the performance rally world. The combination of a turbocharged five-cylinder engine and Quattro all-wheel-drive made instant legends of the Audi and quattro GmbH.

This time they have resurrected their experience with that unique turbocharged five-cylinder/Quattro format. Thanks to the advances made since that first version like modern electronic engine management, direct injection and a huge amount of boost (18-lbs) this five produces twice as much power.

2012 Audi TT RS - Engine.jpgThe stats say 360-horsepower and 343 lb-ft of torque. The seat of your pants will say WOW!

That massive amount of torque is available instantly from just 1650 rpm. No turbo lag here – evidence of this company’s quarter century of experience with turbocharging.

In a two-wheel-drive car each powered tire would have to cope with 180 horsepower, a near-impossible task. But thanks to Quattro, each tire gets just 90 to deal with.

Instead of spinning uselessly, generating smoke, or being tethered by the electronic nannies of a traction control system, Quattro allows the TT to launch with vengeance, whether from rest or out of a corner.

The TT RS will go from 0-to-100 km/h in 4.3 seconds, which puts it right in Corvette and turbocharged Porsche territory!

R-model heritage

The TT RS rolls off the same line in Neckarsulm, Germany as the R8 and RS5. It has an ultra-stiff hybrid chassis, 70% of which is aluminum and 30% steel.

The folks at quattro GmbH ensured that in addition to being capable of reaching and sustaining silly speeds, it could erase them as well. Big, ventilated, 370-mm discs up front and 310-mm rears fill out the alloy wheels. This is not one of those cars where you see puny disc inside big wheels.

Only 110 of these TTs are coming to Canada, all with manual transmissions. The Europeans can access a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission that allows faster acceleration times. But that means you don’t get the joy of using this short-throw, close-ratio gearbox. While we lose the transmission choice we do get an extra 25-horsepower over the European TT RS so it seems like a fair trade.

The TT could be described as buttoned down when tackling the turns. It has a distinctive point-and-shoot air about it with light, but reactive steering. The quattro system allows you to feed in more power, earlier than other vehicles exiting a turn. The downside is that at sustained highway speeds that lovely engine note and stiff suspension can become quite tiresome.

The combination of a potent engine, taut chassis, go-kart-like handling and one of the most gorgeous sounds available from a production automobile makes for a very attractive ride for an enthusiast. Add in the all-season grip and this is a year-round sports car, and most definitely not just a "chick" car.

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