New Car Review

2012 Audi TT RS: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Davis Adams October 2011

*Audi's TT in its fastest, most aggressive form

*Limited-run production, with only 1,000 cars built between 2012 and 2013.

*Plans for a full RS performance family

In Neckarsulm, Germany, about 150 miles from Audi's headquarters in Ingolstadt, Quattro GmbH works quickly and quietly on the brand's high-performance cars. Quattro is Audi's in-house performance division, and they're responsible for home runs like the R8. But the RS performance line has been around since 1996 starting with the S6 Plus. Seven models later, the US saw its last RS product in the V8-powered RS4 in 2008. The TT RS changes that for 2012.

Flying Under the Radar

The 2012 TT RS is a case study in design evolution; gone are the days of the first-generation TT's roly-poly cuteness. In its place, a sophisticated sports car that looks strong but not overly aggressive. If you're in the market for a high-performance car that won't draw the envy of your boss, the TT RS might just be the perfect fit.

Audi has taken the TT and RS-ified its angles. Up front, larger air dams accompany the high-gloss black honeycomb grill and RS badge. The side mirrors have been replaced with matte aluminum casings, with the option to upgrade to carbon fiber as a standalone accessory. Five-spoke 19" wheels fill the arches. A fixed wing and larger diffuser have been bolted onto the rear of the car, and the exhaust will look familiar to anyone with an R8.
The RS also gets a handful of new color options, including two that were formerly reserved for the R8. If you're a fan of Sepang Blue (seen above) or Daytona Grey, they're now available on a car that costs half the price of an R8. Plus, Audi has introduced a new blackish-grayish-purplish color called Panther Black Pearl, which has a red shimmer when viewed in direct sunlight.

However, to the untrained eye the TT RS looks like any other Audi. It will likely take the discerning eye of an enthusiast to realize exactly what differentiates the TT RS from everything else on the road.

Not a Boy-Racer

Man, Audi can craft an interior. You'll want to photograph the interior before you sit down because the seats alone are a work of art. Plus, they're model-specific, so you won't find them in anything but another TT RS. Leather, Alcantara and aluminum abound, and every button feels firm but forgiving, like it wants to be pushed over and over.

And that's what differentiates this car from other machines. While some brands would prefer to strip their performance models of a legitimate interior and call them "purpose-built," Audi realizes that most of its buyers will treat the TT RS as a daily driver. With that thinking in tow, they've built a cabin that is functional for the business of driving quickly, but ultimately comfortable for the labor of commuting. Even better is the fact that the TT is configured in a 2+2 layout, so there's room for extra passengers when needed.

Quick and Nimble

The 1980 Audi Ur-Quattro was the first car to mate a high-performance engine with the brand's lauded all-wheel drive system, and Audi has used this formula ever since. Fast-forward 22 years later, and the TT RS pays homage in spades.

This Audi's 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5 produces 360 horsepower - a massive 145 horses per liter. Liter for liter, that puts the TT RS's output on par with Porsche's 911 Turbo S. Couple that with 343 lb-ft of torque and Quattro all-wheel drive, and there's almost no wheel spin. Launching the TT RS hard is both gut-wrenching and graceful, and the top speed is rated at 174 miles per hour.

There's only one gearbox available for North America, and that's a six-speed manual. Europeans will also have access to Audi's DSG dual-clutch automatic. We're almost certain no one will want DSG, though, since the six-speed manual feels heavy and substantial, but still glides gently between gears. Even in stop-and-go traffic, there's enough low-end torque to scoot the TT along in first gear without having to do much more than flutter the accelerator. On the track, gear changes are quick and precise, and the bark from the exhaust pumps extra adrenaline into the experience.

The suspension and all-wheel drive system work brilliantly together, too. The TT RS benefits from Audi Magnetic Ride, which constantly monitors road surfaces to give the driver the best dampening response needed in real time. When the Sport button is depressed, the suspension automatically tightens for performance driving, the throttle is sharpened for better response and the exhaust system opens up with a louder note at lower RPMs. Even on damp, twisty roads, the car refuses to break loose from the pavement. It inspires confidence without the craving for recklessness.

Niche Market

Priced from $56,850, the TT RS offers only two packages and six standalone options. Drivers looking for a full-fledged media experience will want the tech pack with Audi MMI and navigation. That package also gets you the Bose sound system, rear parking sensors and adaptive headlights. For those more concerned with style, there's the Titanium package; it includes gunmetal wheels, grill and exhaust. Aside from that, there are a few appearance add-ons and heated seats available. A loaded TT RS will run you just over $67,000.

Given the price and performance, there's really only handful of cars that compete with the TT RS. On the low end, the BMW 1 Series M Coupe is the most comparable vehicle on the road, and while it's less expensive (loaded for under $55,000), it comes with fewer creature comforts and feels all-around less refined. The M3 is closer in price, but it's both faster and more expensive when dressed as well as the Audi. And then there's the Porsche Cayman S, which has similar performance figures but less usable space and a low-rent interior by comparison. Some may also argue that you can get into a Cadillac CTS-V coupe for the same money as a nicely equipped TT RS, and with its 556 horsepower, we'll admit that it makes for an interesting alternative.

But still, we think the TT RS is a masterful combination of speed, agility, all-weather practicality and class-leading luxury. With the TT RS, Audi has simply figured out how to play the game from every angle.

Between 2012 and 2013, Audi plans to build around 1,000 production cars, and all of the 2012 models have already been pre-ordered. If you think you might be in the market for this car, we recommend shopping quickly because there won't be a surplus of models sitting around on dealer lots. If you'd like to wait, though, Audi promises that this is only the beginning of a consistent RS presence in the US, and the RS5 is right around the corner.

What it means to you: If the TT RS is the car for you, you need to act quickly before they're all sold. But if you're willing to wait, Audi has a whole fleet of RS cars coming to the US soon.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Audi TT RS: New Car Review - Autotrader