The TT-RS is the best fast Audi money can buy right now
Nobody will hate you for dropping your hard-earned coins on the close-to-one-million-rand 2018 Audi TT-RS, writes Thomas Falkiner
Is this really a full-fat RS product? It looks a little ordinary, if you ask me.
Well, compared to the last one, which was all fixed wings and gaping air scoops, the new TT-RS is a comparative wallflower. In fact, at first glance one could be excused for thinking it was the less expensive and less powerful TTS.
Some people might take issue with this considering the car's close-to-one-million-rand price tag but others (me included) will delight in these relatively stealthy styling cues: a beefier front apron design, special 19-inch alloy wheels and aluminium wing mirrors.
I mean this is 2018 after all; an era in which loud and flashy sports cars tend to attract the wrong kind of attention. I always felt a heel driving the streets in an R8, the public's eyes and necks working overtime, but inside the TT-RS not so much. Here you kind of just dissolve into the traffic, which is cool.
What's it like on the inside? Is it similarly subdued?
Despite the presence of those beautiful (and beautifully supportive) 'S' sports seats as well as some liberal use of Alcantara, the innards of the TT-RS are pretty much standard TT fare.
Fast Facts: 2018 Audi TT-RS
• ENGINE: 2480cc
• POWER: 294kW
• 0-100km/h: 3.7 seconds
• TOP SPEED: 280km/h
• FUEL: 14.1l/100km
• PRICE: From R974,153
However, this is no recipe for disappointment, as this remains one of the best sports-car cabins on the market today. From those impeccably detailed air vents to those aerospace-inspired switches, the TT is a wonderful place in which to eat up the miles.
It's also laced with technology: Audi Virtual Cockpit, MMI Navigation, cruise control and Audi Drive Select being just some of the goodies that come as standard equipment.
The unique 'RS' steering wheel is also a fantastic feature. Inspired by GT racing cars, it houses the Audi Drive Select button for simple and seamless adjustments on the fly. Genius.
Is it fast? For the money it had better be!
This thing is ridiculously fast. How fast? Well, I piloted the new RS5 straight after I handed the TT-RS back, and it felt slow in comparison. Whether launching hard from off the line or simply flooring the throttle in a high gear out on the highway, the way this Audi picks up speed is laugh-out-loud impressive.
Seriously, there are exotic supercars from not that long ago (think Aston Martin DBS / Lamborghini Gallardo) that would struggle to match the pace of this teeny everyday sports coupé.
That lovely 2.5-litre five-pot engine sounds fabulous at high revs too: a hard-edged crescendo of a wail that, like some benevolent shoulder- dwelling devil, just goads you to push harder and harder. There's no manual gearbox on the options list but with the ever-rapid S Tronic transmission holding court, well, you don't really need one. It suits the TT-RS down to a, uh, T.
Let's talk handling. Surely it's not as dynamic as that new Cayman GTS?
No, it's not. With its sticky quattro all-wheel-drive system and front-mounted engine, the TT-RS is not quite in the same entertainment league as the mid-engined, rear-wheel driven Cayman GTS.
The latter remains the purist's choice: one that will - especially around a racetrack - always be the more entertaining steer.
However, don't for a minute think that the TT-RS is bad, far from it. In fact, I would say this is probably the most dynamic and involving TT that Audi has so far built, with vastly more feel and feedback flowing through the chassis and steering wheel than ever before.
And while the TT-RS will never thrill you with great big smoking sideways drifts, its locked down all-wheel-drive poise will ensure that you stay on the road when the weather turns gnarly and that every last one of those 480 torques transfers to the asphalt without any objection.
Does it ride real hard?
Fitted with RS sports-tuned suspension as standard, the TT-RS is very much on the firm side of the scale. You feel bumps and irregularities and soon learn to avoid them as much as possible. With this is mind I'd suggest speccing the optional (R12,609) Audi Magnetic Ride suspension system that should give you a little more pliability over road scabs and a little extra sharpness out on the track.
So here's a question for you - would you pick a TT-RS over an R8?
I've been asking myself the same thing since the TT-RS left our office car park. And if I'm honest, no, I wouldn't bother handing over an extra R2-million for the "privilege" of R8 ownership.
Sure, the R8 badge is more prestigious, more mine-is-bigger-than-yours but when you put the two cars' performance figures next to each other, there's not all that much between them. Trust me.
The TT is also more usable with a proper boot and two little jump seats that can, when not transporting an extra person at a pinch, be folded down to accommodate larger items of luggage. Lastly, it's stealthier than an R8.
Licked in a subdued colour and riding on its stock 19-inch alloy wheels, the TT-RS basically blends into the crowd. It's a sleeper born: an unassuming powerhouse that lets its performance, not façade, do all the talking. Which is why it gets my vote as the best fast Audi money can buy at the moment.
And for that money it's an absolute bargain too.