It's hard not to recommend the Audi TT RS Roadster, for its sheer audacity to dare to be what it is.
Let's face it, the Audi TT RS Roadster is a niche car, a highly engaging convertible that appeals to such a small sub-segment of buyers, it’ll likely remain more exclusive than the exotics with which it shares a few components.
Wearing the gorgeous Nardo Grey colours with 20-inch gloss-anthracite black Audi Sport wheels, there is no denying this is about as much a hairdresser’s car as the postal survey on marriage equality is tax payer’s money well spent. It’s a truly menacing looking car that turns heads wherever it goes, and for all the right reasons.
Priced at $141,900 plus on roads, the most powerful Audi TT ever scores a re-engineered version of the well-loved 2.5-litre, five-cylinder turbocharged unit we’ve all come to admire in the RS3. The new motor uses a bigger turbo (rated at up 500hp but detuned here to about 400hp as to not compete with the base model Audi R8), which provides the sort of torque you expect from a naturally-aspirated V8, but with the associated downfalls of more lag than before.
With 294kW of power and 480Nm of torque, our Audi TT RS Roadster manages a claimed 0-100km/h run in just 3.9 seconds thanks to its all-wheel drive setup, which is within the new Porsche 911 Carrera S territory. If you pick the hardtop TT RS, that sprint time comes down to an insane 3.7 seconds, supercar territory of just a few years ago. It also makes it quicker than a C63 S, M4 and even Audi’s own RS5.
But here’s the thing, while the figures suggest sub-four second acceleration times, it’s almost all made up of Audi (and Porsche’s) amazing launch control system, because in-gear – say from 40-100km/h – it doesn’t feel like a sub-four second car should. It doesn’t slam you back into your seat; it’s fast, but it doesn’t feel as fast as the figures would suggest.
We tested our TT RS’s acceleration claim and it came up at a consistent 4.15 or so seconds, which is very fair considering the Brisbane weather and less than ideal road conditions.
What we found a little frustrating is the noticeable lag caused by that larger turbo down low, which means you always have to find yourself in the right gear at the right time to get the might of the engine to the ground properly.
To be fair, the engine is tuned very conservatively and has an extreme amount of potential, which anyone familiar with this new family of Audi engines will tell you, means an extra 50kW or so can easily be extracted with a basic software tune, and much more with some minor hardware changes.
We engaged dynamic mode and took our TT RS up Brisbane’s Mt Nebo and Glorious roads to test its dynamic competency and found that, while very quick in straight lines and out of corners, it doesn’t possess the same surefootedness of other RS cars we’ve tested.
It seems to mainly come down to the front nose, which feels a tad heavy and has a tendency to understeer if not driven with exact precision. Though one could easily blame this as an inherent nature of the Quattro system, that's not the case. There is a fair bit of diving under brakes which tends to hinder turn in, and if you get a bit more aggressive with later entry and harder braking, the front end will start misbehaving even more.
It’s not something you’d feel unless you’re pushing close to the car’s grip limit but once you find it, it’s hard to ignore. Even so, the TT RS Roadster is well balanced in the long sweepers and the speed that can be carried into such long corners is hard to believe.
Dynamically, the TT RS Roadster is perhaps somewhat compromised compared to its coupe sibling (90kg heavier at 1530kg kerb weight), however given the open air freedom its convertible nature brings (roof operation works at up to 50km/h and takes around 10 seconds), we can look past its shortcomings and enjoy the fresh air instead.
We found the car’s braking ability to be exceptional, with no amount of abuse deterring its stopping power. As for ride quality? Well, it’s firm as you’d expect but given the super stiff chassis that is required to compensate for a lack of a solid roof (hence the additional weight over the Coupe and slower acceleration time), we were pleasantly surprised by how well the TT RS rode over coarse roads. You can feel the sporty suspension working, but we didn’t find it jarring or uncomfortable when the right driving mode was selected.
On the go, the five-cylinder engine is a symphony of sound that is impossible to dislike. It crackles and pops as you’d expect, but it sounds much meaner and angrier than the four-cylinder offerings from German rival, AMG.
The strangest thing we found about this Audi was that we just liked to sit in it. It has, without fail, one of the best interiors of any car we’ve ever been in. Not in regard to what it offers or its list of features or gadgets, but just how it’s put together and how it feels to touch and operate.
In many ways, the build quality of this Audi is the best of any Audi we’ve ever been in. In fact, for this reviewer at least, it’s even a step above the current offerings from Porsche. The fit and finish of the interior and the cabin is the peak of what we’ve seen offered from the German manufacturer. It’s lovely and Audi should be commended for it.
We very much liked the overabundance of carbon-fibre and those sport seats really set the scene of what you’re about to experience before you even get in.
It’s not faultless, though; the Virtual Cockpit is nice but with no additional screen in the centre console for support, some features such as the rear-view camera are limited. For example, put it in reverse and try and look at the Virtual Cockpit screen as you turn the steering wheel; it’s all but impossible.
As we’ve mentioned before, Audi’s MMI infotainment system is excellent in its ease of use, clarity and features. It also works well with Apple CarPlay, however it does have some bugs with Apple Music or other apps that have undetermined playlists, causing both the iPhone and Audi’s system to crash.
Overall, at about $150k on road, the Audi TT RS comes in against some very stiff competition from the likes of the BMW M4, Mercedes-Benz C 63 S and even Audis own upcoming RS5 – not to mention its nemesis, the Porsche Boxster S.
It’s a better car dynamically without the soft roof, however we also think with the Boxster having gone soft with a four-cylinder, the TT RS now presents a very unique and sporty roadster that is hard to beat south of $200k.
2017 Audi TT RS Roadster options
- Audi Sport 20-inch alloy wheels in seven-spoke-rotor design, gloss anthracite black – no-cost option
- Advanced lighting package: Audi Matrix LED headlights including dynamic front and rear indicators; OLED rear lights in 3D design – $3000
- Gloss black exterior styling package – $1400
- Inlays in carbon atlas – $1700
- Extended leather package (black) – $400
- Bang & Olufsen Sound System, 14-channel amplifier, 12 speakers with total output of 680 watts – $1150
Total price: $149,600