The first time we saw an Audi TT with RS badging, it appeared as if an engineer (perhaps even a bean counter) within the Ingolstadt establishment had decided it was something that ‘needed’ to be done to counteract the argument that the TT was a poser’s coupe. As opposed to planning for a stove-hot version of the TT from the outset. In the case of the 2020 Audi TT RS, though, there’s little doubt it was planned from the get-go.
The new TT RS is now in Audi showrooms around the country after something of a false start. Initially refreshed back in February 2019, we had expected to see the focused coupe on sale later in 2019, but that on-sale date was revised.
That delay was mainly tied to WLTP fuel-use testing, which was accompanied by changes to the raspy five-cylinder engine, along with overwhelming demand for the new RS3. The latter is a good problem to have. The TT RS is finally here, though, and a local road drive on regional NSW blacktop awaited.
Bucking almost every trend we tend to see these days, the new TT RS hits the market cheaper than the pre-facelift, 2017 variant, which started from $134,900 before on-road costs. Our striking Kyalami Green launch-drive model has only two options beyond that – the gloss-black exterior design package ($2390) and OLED tail-lights ($2454). As tested, then, you’ll pay $139,744 before on-road costs.
MORE: TT RS price and specs
Performance is undeniable, and perhaps unsurprising given the legendary five-cylinder engine, seven-speed DCT and quattro AWD platform. Peak power is 294kW between 5850–7000rpm, while peak torque is 480Nm, and is on offer across a wide 1950–5850rpm. 0–100km/h comes up in just 3.7 seconds, and the combined fuel-use claim is 8.0L/100km.
In short, then, the TT RS is a properly fast coupe, and it feels it. Unleash its performance potential on a twisty road, and only the most expensive supercars will outrun it with any authority. The surety of the quattro system and the intrinsic balance of the platform make for a fun banzai run, too. Pretender? No. Definitely not.
Styling is aggressive without being ridiculous. The TT RS retains the sleek sports coupe roof line and styling it has always been synonymous with, but larger air intakes, a revised grille and LED matrix headlights give it a sharp focus. The 20-inch wheels are standard, as are the 370mm front rotors and red eight-piston calipers.
We’ve stated this in reviews before, but the TT and R8 benefit most obviously within the portfolio from Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which looks right at home in front of the driver inside a sporty cockpit. That’s very much the case in the instance of the TT RS.
The 12.3-inch digital display neatens the dash as well, keeping things very driver-focused. It has a larger tachometer, coloured shift lights, a g-force gauge and lap timer, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The system also provides for voice commands and you get wireless phone charging.
Forget the rear seats exist, and assume the TT RS is a two-seat sports car, and you’ll be on the right track. In fact, fold the rear seats down and enjoy the useful nature of what is then a large boot. The hatchback makes accessing your daily cargo, or bags for a weekend away, quite practical.
In that vein, the front section of the cabin has plenty of room for adults, and visibility isn’t compromised by the sloping roof line and low-riding seat position. What you can do as the driver is get into the right position to suit the drive you intend to take. If you want to have a bit of fun, drop the seat height, move a little closer to the wheel, and hook in.
The engine, gearbox and AWD system represent a fearsome triple-threat of pace and ability. Shifting is snappy and precise no matter how fast you’re travelling, but it’s the way in which the front end grips hard and fires through corners that most impresses. Roll-on speed is properly fast, and seemingly effortless, too. You can easily add more of the ‘cruise’ and less of the ‘missile’ to the mix if you want to, but should you wish to drive quickly, the TT RS rewards in spades.
Audi’s RS sport suspension plus with magnetic ride control is exceptional as speed increases. It’s firm around town, but you’d expect that if you’re buying this kind of car. Out on the open road, it becomes sharp, focused and precise. The RS always feels sucked down onto the road, stable and direct.
Find a road with plenty of tight corners and you’ll be blown away by how effortlessly fast the RS is – especially how balanced it remains. Severe mid-corner ruts on our typical coarse-chip B-roads will be felt through the chassis, but not in such a way as to upset the sense of composure.
Nail the throttle from a dead stop, and the TT RS blasts off the line and keeps piling on speed relentlessly. The engine increases in urgency as the revs rise – we love that about five-cylinders – and the exhaust note firing out of the standard RS sport exhaust system is intoxicating. Roll-on overtaking is just as effective, and despite the edgy styling, the TT RS is still something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The TT RS is covered by Audi’s three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Then, buyers can opt for a three- or five-year capped-price servicing plan when they buy a TT RS, which costs either $2320 or $3420 respectively.
There’s no doubt at all that the TT RS is a competent sports coupe, with real pace and ability. Underestimate it at your peril in regard to the size or styling, which seems to make some wags assume it’s a pretender’s car. It’s actually nothing of the sort. In reality, the TT RS is a genuine driver’s car, not to mention one of the more accessible on the market.