2012 Audi TT RS Quattro
Call it an imperative, one as old as human nature. The athlete wants to get stronger, the surgeon more skilled, the starlet more photogenic.
It is no different with people who produce automobiles, especially those in which performance trumps price. Thus we have cars like the 2012 Audi TT RS, an all-out driving machine that is as comfortable on a race track as it is on suburban streets and rural freeways.
It’s not as if the German manufacturer did not already have high-performance coupes. There’s the TT with a 211-horsepower four-cylinder engine and a dual-clutch automated manual gearbox that can hit 60 miles an hour in 5.3 seconds, according to Audi’s specifications.
And there’s the TTS with its 265-horsepower four-banger and automated gearbox that can get there in 4.9 seconds. Like the TT, it comes standard with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive.
So what’s not to like? Nothing, except there’s that old imperative making its persuasive powers felt in the new TT RS. This one can do the zero-to-60 romp, according to Audi, in 4.1 seconds with a top speed of 174 miles an hour while also delivering EPA city/highway fuel economy numbers of 18/25 miles to the gallon.
It does that because of its 360-horsepower, 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbocharged engine and a lightweight body structure that is 69% aluminum, which keeps the weight down to 3,306 pounds. Like the other TTs, it comes standard with all-wheel drive.A good chunk of the power comes from the typhoon-like turbo, which nevertheless stays relaxed because of a separate oil supply and fluid cooling. It has a 17.4 pounds-per-square inch boost pressure, which eliminates turbo lag. Throttle responses in any gear are instant.
A major indication of its intended victims is the fact that the TT RS comes with only one transmission: a six-speed manual, which is the type favored by hopeless enthusiasts.
However, the shift linkage is a disappointment. It has a clunky resistance through the gears that varies with the engine revolutions and makes it something of a chore to drive in stop-and-go traffic. Fortunately, the clutch engagement is smooth and progressive. On a track, where you run at higher revs and ordinarily use more muscle to operate everything, the shifter is not so noticeable.
As you move up the performance ladder in any automobile, the incremental improvements become ever smaller, even as they get more expensive. So while the TT has a starting price of less than $40,000 and the TTS comes in south of $50,000, the 2012 TT RS starts at $57,725.
That’s not small change, of course, but in the realm of high-performance coupes it’s priced somewhere in the middle, near the Porsche Cayman and Mercedes-Benz SLK, less expensive than the Porsche 911, Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and Jaguar XK, but priced higher than the Nissan Z, Infiniti IPL G and the Hyundai Genesis Coupe.
The tested RS, which had most of the available options, had a bottom-line sticker price of $64,375.
What distinguishes the TT RS and its less-powerful TT siblings is the Quattro all-wheel drive, which gives it tenacious grip in the corners and, on a race course, makes up for a multitude of driver shortcomings around tight turns.
Standard equipment includes Audi’s magnetic ride control, which features a sport mode that stiffens the suspension system, introduces more aggressive throttle settings and even barks up the aural sensations by way of flaps in the exhaust system. Should you need even more, Audi offers a “sport exhaust” option for a mere $1,500.
The magnetic ride control’s sport mode necessarily gives up some ride comfort, so the TT RS has a better, more comfortable feel on the public roads with it switched off. However, this is still no boulevardier; irregular road surfaces translate into jolts.
In any driving condition, the RS offers first-rate comfort once you’re seated. The heated sport seats on the test car had substantial bolsters and gripped the torso with high-friction surfaces. With 10-way power adjustments and a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a driver of any size could be accommodated. However, the sun visors do not slide and do a poor job of blocking sun from the side.
As with any low-slung sports car, it takes a graceful twist to get into the driver’s seat. But the sport steering wheel’s flat bottom helps.Surprisingly, the RS’s options list—unlike some other cars in this class—is fairly short. It includes such items as a titanium grille and wheels, carbon-fiber outside mirrors, heated seats and a $3,500 tech package that adds a navigation system with real-time traffic reports and an upgraded audio system.
The TT is what used to be called a “Plus Two,” meaning it has two vestigial back seats that are there for who knows what. With the front seats moved far forward, they could perhaps accommodate several small children or two modestly-sized backpacks.
It’s of no consequence in any case because the rear seatbacks fold down to expand the 13 cubic-feet cargo area under the hatch. There is no spare wheel; an inflator is used for emergencies. The battery also occupies some of the under-floor area to help the RS’s fore-and aft weight distribution.