Jun 1 2009 Chris Russon
Refined sophistication - that's the TT RS
IF ever there was a poser for high performance fans it's being served up by Audi in the shape of the TT RS.
The German car maker is claiming this to be the world's first compact supercar.
But whether the RS is really special or remarkably similar is open to conjecture.
With an all new five cylinder engine the first TT to bear the RS marque has the hallmark of the legendary Audi rally cars of the 1980s.
On paper its credentials are impeccable. Boosting the 2.5-litre engine to an almost unimaginable 340bhp - that's 136bhp a litre - the TT RS Coupe completes the 0 to 60 burn in less than 4.6 seconds and has a theoretical top speed of 174mph.
As a roadster it is marginally slower when it comes to acceleration but the top end is the same - although both will be sold normally with a speed limiter restricting the maximum to 155mph.
And that's where the head scratching begins. The TT RS is priced from £42,985 for the coupe and £44,885 for the roadster - almost £10,000 more than two-litre TT S introduced only last year which is equally very, very quick.
Okay, the real enthusiast can opt to have the speed limiter removed and the RS comes with plenty of bespoke goodies to make it exclusive.
It needs to be because there's stiff opposition in the shape of BMW's stylish new Z4, the Porsche Cayman and the Mercedes SLK with AMG treatment.
On the road the TT RS, with four wheel drive and optional magnetic damping, will have the edge when it comes to being sure footed but it lacks the brutal punch of the AMG, the nimbleness of the Cayman and the panache of the Z4 interior.
The eye-popping might of the TT cannot be experienced until it's away from the road and out on the track. Its high speed performance is astonishing and the note from the five cylinder engine at full bore is so distinctive.
Audi has taken significant steps to improve driver involvement. Cars like this need to be worked hard and the reward is maximum fun.
The quattro system has been remapped so it is capable of delivering almost all power to the rear wheels while the effectiveness of the electronic stability devices can be toned down - or even switched off - to make the RS more engaging.
A sport button, similar to that fitted on the Audi RS 4 muscle machine, alters throttle response and changes the exhaust note for a little extra satisfaction while the six speed manual box is rapid through the gate.
The RS is manual only and from an engineering point of view it is highly advanced with its lightweight aluminium-steel body, lowered chassis and potent powertrain - but then all versions of the TT are hugely competent.
Externally the RS is set apart with large air scoops in the front bumper, extended sills, five spoke 18-inch alloys, twin exhausts and a fixed rear spoiler which, for those wanting to keep a lower profile, can be replaced with the retractable version used on other TTs.
Inside there's a heavy dose of RS logos, leather sports seats, a racing style flat bottomed steering wheel and aluminium foot pedals among the special features.
Flagging up its track credentials, there's even a lap timer and engine boost gauge in the driver display.
The standard trim is black with aluminium inlays but white or black finishes are options as are sat nav, larger alloys and bucket sports seats although the sculpted seatback can impinge on easy use of the handbrake.
Compared to its German counterparts the RS is the quickest, has the lowest CO2 emissions at 214g/km and can average 30.7mpg.
As a coupe it also has the edge when touring with a maximum luggage capacity of 700 litres - almost twice that of the Cayman.
The roadster, with its automatically retracting rag top, has a 250 litre boot which although larger than the SLK is not as generous as that offered by the new Z4 which as a coupe convertible has 310 litres of cargo space.
Perhaps the special qualities of the TT RS are understated. Certainly the engine is a mechanical masterpiece and with sales expected to number only a few hundred a year exclusivity is guaranteed.
There is nothing raw or sinewy about this RS. This is highly refined sophistication.