Audi Builds a Group B Grocery-Getter
OK, Audi fans, it’s time to pony up. Within a single month, more than 11,500 of you petitioned Ingolstadt to bring the TT RS to the good ‘ol U.S. of A though a barrage of Facebook posts. (How’s that for 21st-century marketing?) Audi listened. The car is coming this summer, and yes, it’s brilliant to drive.
How could it not be, you wonder? All the proper ingredients are there. The 360-hp, 343-lb-ft 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine is turbocharged and unique to the TT RS. More important, it unabashedly pays homage to the penta-bored engine blocks of the wickedly capable Gruppe B rally stars of Audi’s past. Audi’s Haldex-type Quattro all-wheel-drive system is retained, making the Audi faithful that much more convinced that a little rally-style hooning is in fact an option. Oh, and there’s just one gearbox choice – a proper six-speed manual. Heck, it’s even got a fixed wing hanging off its tail, held aloft by two gorgeous U-shaped aluminum-finish supports that wouldn’t look out of place in a modern art museum.
Most of the TT RS’ other styling touches wouldn’t look out of place on a racetrack. The front and rear valences are unique with extra vents, as are the rear diffuser, side skirts, and 19-inch alloy wheels that don’t try too hard to conceal the massive four-piston brake calipers and cross-drilled, two-piece discs that lurk behind. Inside, there’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel and plenty of brushed aluminum accent trim, as are customary in today’s more sporting Audis. As holds true for the Jaguar XKRS or Porsche Cayman R, a walk-around of the TT RS drives home the message that this car is something special — something to be experienced rather than just driven.
Our tester came in an interesting hue that most of us assumed to be a pearlescent white, until we saw the optional Suzuka Grey paint ($950) noted on the Monroney. Our car also included the sports exhaust system with oval tips ($1500), the aluminum matte optic exterior package (consisting of a special finish on the rear spoiler uprights, rear diffuser, and front spoiler lip, for $950), and the no-cost black Alcantara/leather interior package. All said and done, the MSRP for our Audi ended up just beyond $61,000 – nearly $2000 less than the base price of a Porsche Cayman S, the car that is perhaps its most direct competition.
And the Audi TT RS is certainly an experience. With a twist of the ignition key (no cheesy start buttons here), all five cylinders burst into life, releasing a mellow growl through the twin-tip exhaust that reverberates off anything – and anyone – lucky enough to be in the vicinity. The clutch action is satisfyingly firm, allowing for good feel and solid engagement as the shifter is slotted into a slightly notchy first gear and the Audi moves forward. As can be expected, comfortable freeway driving is slightly compromised by the 19-inch wheels and low-profile tires — not to mention the firmer and slightly lower suspension — so there’s more road noise than in a base TT and less damping of road imperfections.
Those minor penalties are forgotten as soon as the Audi is driven as it should be: rapidly. The TT RS’ acceleration is ferocious, running our 0-to-60-mph sprint in a near-supercar-quick 4.2 seconds. For the numbers geeks, that’s 0.2 second quicker than the last Cayman S we tested, with (get this) a PDK dual-clutch transmission. Not bad. As speeds increase, the Cayman’s slippery profile gives it a slight edge in the quarter-mile, with the TT RS tripping the clocks at 0.1 second behind the Porsche with a 12.8-second run at 107.6 mph. On the skidpad, the Cayman S does hold an advantage, as one might guess. The fairly neutrally balanced Audi mustered “only” 0.96 g of lateral grip to the Porsche’s near-holy 1.0 g. The Audi also lost nearly a half-second to the Porsche around the figure-eight track, turning in a time of 24.9 seconds and a 0.78 g average. Braking figures from 60 to 0 mph reveal another narrow Audi upset – 107 feet to the Cayman S’ 103.
So it appears the more expensive Cayman S might hold a slight edge, performance-wise, to the TT RS. That’s OK, as the Audi easily stands out as the more practical choice. For example, the TT RS has rear seats that are large enough to hold a couple duffle bags, if not very small children. In fact, with the rear seat folded flat, Audi says the TT RS carries 24.7 cubic feet of cargo, which is just over 10 cubic feet more than the Cayman’s twin trunks combined. Those rear seats could also mean reduced insurance premiums versus a strictly two-seat sports car. And when the going gets slippery, the Audi has the advantage of all-wheel drive, something not offered in the rear-drive Cayman. That said, the Cayman does eek out a not-insignificant EPA rating advantage of 3 mpg combined (20 versus 23 mpg).
In the end, we suspect that only Audi’s most enthusiastic loyalists will be drawn to the TT RS like mosquitoes to a 1000-watt light bulb. And that’s fine. Because they’ll get in on something that a whole lot of people won’t: one of the most engaging, best driving Audis to hit the road since the UR-Quattro. And that’s something to be excited about.
|2012 Audi TT RS|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$61,125|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||2.5L/360-hp/343-lb-ft turbo DOHC 20-valve I-5|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3294 lb (60/40%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||165.3 x 72.5 x 53.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||12.8 sec @ 107.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||107 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.96 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.9 sec @ 0.78 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||18/25 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||187/135 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.94 lb/mile|