There’s the history of the Audi TT, and the history of the brand’s halo RS performance division to consider here, because to understand both is to understand how their mixture creates a car that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The Audi TT sports car, a dinky two-seater, was shown in concept form in 1995, and went on sale in 1998, with the convertible version, the roadster, arriving a year later. The idea behind it was a sports car “with high suitability for everyday use”. Audi introduced its dual-clutch transmission, the S tronic, on the first TT, and power went up to 250 horsepower.
In 2006 the second wave arrived, with the addition to the line-up of an S version and later, as Audi called it, “a true athlete”, the Audi TT RS, with power at 340 horsepower.
Audi’s RS badge is relatively new: it started life 25 years ago, in 1994, on the RS2 Avant. It was the baby of Audi’s Quattro GmbH performance division, and the two letters stand for RennSport – Racing Sport. In a stroke of genius, the first few models to bear the RS badge were all estates, thus successfully marketing a thoroughbred, petrolhead ideal to the family- and lifestyle-focused consumer masses. In 2009, however, looking towards Porsche and the Cayman, Audi whacked those letters, and an heathy dose of power, on its TT sports car. Et voila.
The TT RS has chiselled and refined its silhouette over the past few years to a design that suits far better the sharp and refined handling that RS cars are known for. Our test car was dark grey, with a carbon engine cover, but with a shock of electric blue accents running through it, and that statement rear wing for downforce.
One smart feature is the rising/falling rear glass window which acts as a wind deflector when the black fabric roof goes down. We’ve been wondering for years who will come up with a better premium solution than the flappy plastic mesh you have to slot in behind the front seats. And here it is.
Audi’s MMI (multi-media interface) system remains one of the clearest and smartest, with the usual satnav, Apple CarPlay and audio functions, and presents itself entirely in the driver’s binnacle, between the speed and rev dials, leaving the entire dashboard empty save the ventilation. It’s a great minimalist solution for a small sports car. The optional Bang and Olufsen stereo comes as part of the Comfort and Sound package, at £1,495.
The top speed of our TT RS was increased from 155mph to 174mph at a cost of £1,600. That’s with a power output of 400PS and 354lb ft of torque from the 2.5-litre TFSI, inline, five-cylinder engine, mated to the S tronic dual-clutch box. The 0-62mph time is 3.9 seconds. Most of the acceleration hits you at about 4,000rpm, so it’s well worth keeping the gears low if you’re after some exhilaration.
The TT may not traditionally have the aggression of its bigger R8 sibling, but in RS form, with the wing and louder sports exhaust note, it turns an endearing roadster into a serious sports car.
The electromechanical steering is speed-sensitive, which puts off some purists but makes sense round town, and you soon get used to it. You lose a little bit of feedback due to the four-wheel-drive system, but on a wet road, we’ll take that compromise.
In all honesty, we never quite understood the appeal of the TT. The styling seemed a bit too curvaceous, the power not enough, the character too docile. But with each successive generation, the curves have straightened out, the power has increased and things have, well, sharpened up. In RS form, the TT is a true Porsche Cayman rival: all sports focus, energy and determination. Package that up with the traditional strengths of Audi’s build quality and interior connectivity, and the TT RS is a fitting celebration of the RS badge’s 25th birthday.