- A look at the TT’s past
A chap emailed me about the TT RS recently, and mentioned in passing that the model might potentially be more of a spiritual successor to the Ur-Quattro than anyone had given it credit for. Certainly this wouldn’t be difficult – as the amount of people connecting the dots between Audi’s homologated 1980s icon and its twee latter-day coupé is likely very small – but as our man owns examples of both cars (and was referring mostly to the five-pot and digital dash), his two cents are rather well earned.
For me, the TT, no matter what engine has been shoehorned into its britches, falls well short of the chin-jutting attitude exhibited by a car that I still associate with Walter Röhrl and Stig Blomqvist. Nevertheless, I’ll concede that the RS’s position has undergone a tectonic shift since we took delivery. This has less to do with the car itself, though, and is more about the status of Neckarsulm’s other contenders. In previous years, the TT (and the mechanically similar RS3) were overshadowed not only by larger models but also by the attention- seeking V8 engines that powered them. And while the last-generation RS4 and RS5 (and outgoing RS6) were an acquired taste in some respects, no one questioned their integrity as driving machines; they were uncompromising, stringently fastandevocativeinawaythatwas acutely Audi’s own.
What has followed recently has not necessarily been for the worst – there’s a fine argument which says that the new 2.9-litre V6-engined iterations are better all-round daily drivers than they’ve ever been – but you’d have to be supremely generous not to notice that some of the serrated edge has been judiciously planed away.
The mournful absence of a naturally aspirated V8 soundtrack is even more telling; the turbocharged unit co-developed with Porsche can claim several advantages over its atmospheric predecessor, but intrigue and emotiveness at 8000rpm is not among them. And with the old bombastic RS6 in the final throes of production, the changing of the guard for softer, subtler replacements casts rather a different light on the MQB cars –to the extent that if you asked me which current RS model was likely to provide you with an experience of quattro one might call characteristic, there’s every chance I’d now say the TT.
Well, all right, I’d probably say the RS3 because it has a proper boot, genuine back seats and is better-looking, but you see where I’m heading. The TT, to its coupé-ish credit, is usefully lighter and lower than its hatchback sibling (and very marginally quicker too) and, with the optional adaptive dampers fitted – as you must – I’m not so sure that it doesn’t ride with slightly greater aplomb as well. Either way, I’m referring to the other end of the scale, where the RS will do utterly savage and severe things with the superciliousness of a neurosurgeon. Equally, it will do them while bathing you in the remarkable sound of a tightly wound inline five engine being ceremoniously unwound at the end of every turn.
Factor in the impeccable interior and seemingly indestructible build quality, and you’ve got the Neckarsulm way in a nutshell – one that costs about £35k less than the retiring RS6 Performance. All of this was rather brought home to roost by a colleague (and self- confessed Audi obsessive) who returned from a weekend in the TT’s company with a bemused look on his face. “What do you think,” I enquired. “It’s exactly as I expected,” he replied. “Brilliant.”
Life with an Audi TT RS:
Speccing a modern car is baffling, and the TT RS is no different. I reckon there’s a chunk that could be saved from our car’s £61,080 astested price. Keeping the standard wheels knocks off £1300, while ditching electric seats and forgoing the OLED rear lights saves another £1600. But the sports exhaust, at £1000, is money very well spent.
- The squeaky anchor rumours are true
You might have heard that the TT RS’s brakes squeal. The observation was made recently in a high-profile corner of the internet, although I am inclined to agree. It doesn’t happen all the time and, if you are playing Sister Morphine loud enough, you won’t hear it anyway. But it is there occasionally, distant and irksome. And that’s unarguably too often.
Fussing with the TT’s Virtual Cockpit display
Christmas ought to have been the ideal opportunity to get to know the TT RS a little better, but in recollection it feels like I spent most of the time fussing with settings and screens and other peripheral nonsense.
Some of this fumbling was inevitable, of course: like any other expensive German car, the RS is only slightly less adjustable than a Tempur mattress.
Long gone are the days when getting the seat and steering wheel in the right place was the bulk of the job. I spend about a million times longer simply concerning myself with whether I want the seat to default to either the first or second of its three heat settings. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In the TT, Audi’s devotion to its Virtual Cockpit system is total. The decision to sacrifice the additional pop-up screen on the centre stack (as you’d find in the current RS3) is mostly about accommodating the swoopy dashboard and its trademark vents.
And as good as the instrument cluster-based 12.3in display is, it does take some getting used to – especially if you’ve become accustomed to fiddling with the infotainment system by means of the dial that lives beneath your left elbow.
I suspect the omnipresence of such controllers is the reason why Ingolstadt has retained one because it is almost redundant on the TT, the steering wheel-mounted buttons offering all the functionality you really need.
The upshot is that you very rarely find your eyeballs moving further south than the middle of the steering wheel, which is plainly to the benefit of your general road awareness.
It does, however, mean that (if you’re me) you rather obsess about what’s on the screen in front of you. Audi will let you choose between two basic displays: one that relegates the rev counter and speedometer in favour of the infotainment system and one that puts an oversized rev counter front and centre and sidelines any other media to the left-hand portion of the screen. The latter seems the more natural choice for the RS, but selecting it means putting up with two dials that incessantly chart the engine’s power and torque output as a roving percentage.
As ever, this is the kind of readout that makes interesting viewing for about a nanosecond, and thereafter serves only as a distraction. And unlike the left side, which allows you to scroll through the available options, the right is as immutable as a Teletext page.
The only solution is to have a destination constantly running on the sat-nav, which replaces both meters with on-screen directions – but when the destination is mostly my folks’ house on Christmas Day, this is far too tedious.
So instead I’ve spent the last few weeks staring at a real-time graph of what my right foot is doing.
On top of all this, there’s the inevitable tinkering with the car’s drive modes to be indulged.
In the main, the preset Comfort setting is going to be shouldering most of the everyday burden – partly because the five-pot is fiery no matter what, but mostly because the RS is easily taut enough to make its more aggressive suspensions setting all but redundant on UK roads.
The same reasoning rather takes the edge off the all-guns-blazing Dynamic mode, leading to an ongoing fuss over which bits best fit Individual for when you’re in the mood.
Right now, I’ve opted for Auto for the engine and gearbox (taking for granted that the powertrain recognises what sliding the latter into paddle-shifting manual means), kept the suspension in Comfort and gone with Dynamic for the steering, quattro system and sound.
As far as the steering is concerned, this was unexpected; Neckarsulm tending to over-egg the resistance when asked to try harder.
Not here, though: the mode only being slightly stickier than Comfort and therefore a marginally superior foil for the more stringent diff setting. Or at least that’s what I think at the moment.