The 2018 Audi TT RS is the absolute hottest production version of the excellent TT compact coupe. For someone who likes the sharp styling and equally precise handling of the R8 supercar, but would rather not get into spending six figures, the TT RS could be an ideal choice.
It comes packed with a lot of standard equipment, including an adaptive magnetically controlled suspension, cool technology like the Virtual Cockpit, and an engine configuration that evokes Audi’s illustrious motorsport heritage (5-cylinder Audi coupes were stars of rallying in the 1980s). Think of it as half a V10, the glorious engine found in the R8.
Audi RS cars are the equivalent of BMW’s M variants and the more energetic AMG models from Mercedes-Benz. So that means they have more sophisticated suspension setups than the regular cars on which they’re based, plus stronger brakes and various other additions — all in the service of high speed and higher levels of driving dynamics.
What’s New for 2018?
The TT RS is all-new for this model year.
What We Like
Unusual 5-cylinder engine configuration and the sound that accompanies it; lots of standard equipment; crisp Audi styling; crisp dynamics
What We Don’t
The steering could be more tactile
A turbocharged 2.5-liter inline 5-cylinder engine generates 400 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. A 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters) sends that energy to all four wheels (Audi refers to its all-wheel-drive systems as "quattro").
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving. Premium gasoline is recommended.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Audi TT RS ($65,875) premium compact sports car comes in coupe form only (the regular TT offers a convertible version as well).
Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels wearing summer performance tires, full LED lighting, TT RS-specific front and rear aerodynamic/cosmetic treatments, a fixed rear wing, oval exhaust tips, rain-sensing wipers, an adaptive suspension, 8-piston front brake calipers, ventilated brake discs on each wheel, keyless entry/ignition, selectable driving modes (with engine start/stop and drive mode buttons on the steering wheel), a flat-bottom steering wheel wrapped in leather/simulated suede, automatic climate control, 12-way power-adjustable front sport seats, Nappa leather upholstery with contrasting diamond stitching, simulated suede-covered shift knob, aluminum cabin accents, a 12.3-in Virtual Cockpit configurable driver’s information display incorporating a Sport mode, a garage door opener, a rearview camera, a semi-automated parking system, parking sensors front and rear, blind spot monitoring, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a CD/MP3 player, AM/FM/satellite radio, HD Radio, a 9-speaker audio setup, voice control, a touchpad with handwriting recognition, two SD card slots, two USB ports and an auxiliary audio input.
An optional Dynamic Plus package includes a fixed sport suspension, ceramic front brake discs, a carbon-fiber engine cover, OLED taillights and a raised top speed from 155 to 174 mph.
Other options include wider 19-in alloy wheels, 20-in alloy wheels, a 680-watt/12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, navigation, Audi Connect Wi-Fi and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration.
The TT RS is not purchased or celebrated for its cargo space, but 12 cu ft. should accommodate a couple of golf bags, especially with the small rear seats folded down.
In addition to the mandatory protective and preventative equipment, the TT RS has eight airbags, including two for the front occupants’ knees.
No agencies in the United States have crash-tested the TT RS, or even the regular TT.
Behind the Wheel
Audi has a way with interior design that encompasses class, elegance and intelligence. The cabin in the TT RS is special even in this exalted company. The flat-bottom steering wheel is complemented by stainless-steel-covered pedals. The driving position is enhanced by comfortable and supportive front sport seats that will hold their occupants in place when the cornering becomes spirited.
Some of the usual driver aids found in luxury cars, like adaptive cruise control and self-parking features, are not available in the TT RS. No doubt the company assumes that people who buy driver’s cars have better-than-average driving skills.
Sprinting from standstill to 60 mph takes a claimed 3.6 seconds. Firstly, that’s breathtakingly quick. Secondly, it’s a full second faster than the 292-hp TTS. There’s also a particular sound to a 5-cylinder engine being revved that should please even the most casual gear nut.
What might not be so pleasing — though at this point we’re looking for hairs to split — is that the electronically assisted steering (which has replaced hydraulic assistance in virtually every vehicle) doesn’t quite transmit to the hands what the front wheels are really up to. More feedback would result in greater involvement and, ultimately, a better driving experience. Even so, the TT RS is a high point in the Audi portfolio.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 BMW M2 — Comes in coupe form only, with 365 hp from a turbocharged inline 6-cylinder and BMW’s traditional rear-drive layout. Not the design statement the TT RS is, but wonderful to drive and less expensive.
2018 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport — Comes with 460 hp from a thunderous V8 set in a lightweight body. This generation of Corvette also has excellent rear-drive handling. Targa and convertible versions are available.
2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe — Slightly pricier than the TT RS, but then it does have 469 hp from a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8.
2018 Porsche 718 Cayman S — Accessible for a Porsche, and the S version has 350 hp, along with a beautiful midengined/rear-drive balance. Like the Corvette, it’s only a 2-seater, but so is the TT RS in practice if not in theory.
Used Porsche 911 — Because whenever someone wants a small ultra-sporty coupe, deep in their hearts they really desire the 911 — a car that has occupied a special place within the automotive landscape since the 1960s. Check out Porsche’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program.
If this is going to be a weekend track toy, think about the fixed suspension option. If the plan is to drive the car each day, the standard adaptive suspension is probably the best call.