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First drive: Five-pot RS leads Audi TT charge

Solid performer: Audi chose an iron engine block for its 250kW five-pot screamer, the TT RS.

Audi adds potent and pricey five-cylinder turbo TT RS flagship to sports coupe range

14 Sep 2009


AUDI has confirmed it will further harden the image of its TT by introducing a red hot performance coupe called the TT RS in Australia this December.

Sitting above the $99,500 TT S, the high performance TT RS will cost about $140,000.

While the TT S benefits from Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system and a turbo four-cylinder engine developing 200kW, the new RS model takes the two-door machine into new territory.

Audi has gone to the trouble of developing a five-cylinder turbocharged engine delivering the kind of performance expected from a car wearing the RS badge.

The 2.5-litre direct-injection engine manages to produce a handy 250kW and an impressive torque total of 450Nm.

The new engine is all the more effective because the TT is not a heavy car, using some aluminium to keep the weight down to 1450kg as a coupe. Combining that kind of power and weight, the TT RS manages the 0-100km/h dash in just 4.6 seconds.

Like most German performance cars, the TT RS is electronically limited to 250km/h, although you can opt to have this unlocked to 280km/h.

7 center imageA convertible version of the TT-RS is available in Europe, but Australia will only take the coupe.

The only transmission is a close-ratio six-speed manual with a particularly short-throw shift.

Its constant all-wheel-drive system has been upgraded to deal with the extra force coming through the driveline, adding a heavy duty CV joint before the propshaft and a modified rear axle.

The basic set-up of MacPherson strut front suspension and a four-link fully independent rear has been lowered 10mm and modified with firmer springs and shock absorbers. Audi’s magnetic adjustable damping system is standard to Australian cars.

The Australian TT RS sits on 19-inch wheels with 245/40 profile tyres.

The brakes have been upgraded to match the increased performance and the discs measure 370mm at the front and 310mm at the rear and are latched on to four-piston callipers at the front, with RS-branded aluminium single-piston units at the rear.

The 2.5-litre engine is new, but Audi-philes will remember the rally-bred Sport quattro of 1984 which ran a five-pot engine producing 225kW – a big number at that time.

The new in-line five-cylinder engine, which is installed across the engine bay (transverse), goes back to the future by dispensing with an aluminium block, instead using a diesel-style vermicular-graphite cast iron unit for its strength and light weight.

The intake manifold has switchable flaps to improve fuel/air mixture. Fuel is injected at up to 120 bar, creating swirl to cool the cylinders, allowing a higher compression ratio of 10:1.

The turbocharger generates up to 1.2 bar of boost pressure, while fuel consumption comes in a 9.2L/100km.

The TT RS is also available with a special option that enables the driver to increase the noise volume of the engine by pressing a Sport button that lifts a flap in the left exhaust pipe for a rortier sound. This is yet to be confirmed for Australia.

The TT RS is distinguishable from the TT S by its bigger front spoiler with large, square air inlets with diamond-shaped inserts. It also features xenon headlights with distinctive daytime LED running lights.

The TT RS also has the matt aluminium-look wing mirror coatings of all RS models.

It also has two large oval exhaust pipe outlets and large rear diffuser as well as a fixed rear spoiler. Customers can also order an option retractable rear spoiler.

The interior of the TT RS is all black, with wrap-around RS sports seats lined with Nappa leather.

Interior highlights include a flat-bottomed leather wrapped steering wheel and an electronic display in the instrument cluster that can show lap times, oil pressure or turbo boost pressure.

Australian cars also come standard with DVD-base satellite navigation.

Drive impressions:

THE Audi TT RS is a stunning car. It has a truly wonderful engine with a delicious note, potent brakes, is fast through the bends and has a good level of luxury gear.

The only problem with the TT RS is the $140,000 price tag, but we’ll get to that later.

Let’s dwell on the engine first, because it is truly wonderful.

Audi’s quattro gmbh division, responsible for all the RS models and the R8 supercar, could simply have slipped a couple of turbos on to its existing V6 engine for the TT RS but it decided that this approach, while easier and cheaper, would have made the car too nose heavy.

It opted instead to develop a new five-cylinder in-line 2.5-litre turbo engine from scratch, and what a ripper it is.

The performance is amazing. It slings the TT-RS forward with incredible force, which continues all the way through to the red line, just below 7000rpm.

The sheer acceleration – we don’t doubt the quoted 4.6 seconds 0-100km/h time – is so much fun that the driver is likely to look for an opportunity to stop just to accelerate hard again.

We tested the TT RS near Frankfurt, Germany, on roads that included an open run on a quiet Autobahn, which allowed us to safely and legally test this car’s speed credentials.

Press the throttle in sixth gear at around 130km/h and it will respond instantly. Within a blink of an eye, the speedo races past 160km/h.

The all-wheel-drive system also ensures all the power gets down to the ground in all conditions.

It means the TT-RS will never be a lairy, tail-out machine, it isn’t that kind of car.

The sound of the engine is also a highlight. The fantastic lumpy, meaty note is similar to the note of the fun Ford Focus XR5 turbo, only more ferocious.

It lacks turbo-related whooshing, puffing and popping when backing off the throttle, but you soon get over it.

You can press the Sport button for an even louder note (it opens up a flap in the exhaust), but it still sounds great without doing so. It might, however, be too noisy in city driving.

The close-ratio gearbox takes some getting used to, with a few wrong gears selected, as does the on-or-off clutch.

The short gearing has the engine revving at a substantial 2200rpm – and not all that quietly – at 100km/h.

It is disappointing that no dual clutch S-Tronic (Audi’s name for DSG) automatic is available. This transmission works so well in the TT S that it seems strange Audi did not develop an RS version.

The brakes put up with extended heavy stopping without protest. Audi has fiddled with the TT TS to make it handle even better and it is quite an impressive car in the bends.

Its ability to hold speed through the bends is unquestioned.

The steering still doesn’t give the driver as much feel as some of its competitors, and the sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel can make rapid steering changes feel strange indeed.

The suspension settings that make this car such a treat when changing direction have a deleterious effect on ride quality, thumping and crashing over imperfections in the road.

Around town, the TT RS felt way too hard, and we would not be happy driving it every day.

Our car had the 19-inch rims that will be standard on Australian the car, while European cars come with 18s.

The seats are overtly sporty, wrapping around the driver and passenger. The cushioning is thin but comfortable, even after hours of driving.

It comes as no surprise that the interior looks stylish, leaving occupants no doubt they are in a highly specified prestige car.

A high level of gear includes handy heated seats and high-resolution satellite navigation. As with all other TTs, the RS is technically a four seater, but the rear seats are not much use, only really good for small children.

A regular sized adult will simply not have sufficient rear-seat headroom, with the cranium brushing the rear hatch glass.

This space will more likely be used for luggage, but boot space is reasonable.

It is easy to pick the TT RS, thanks to that rather large rear wing. If it is a bit too over the top for your tastes, a regular retractable spoiler is available.

Extra styling modifications, including the more aggressive nose, help this car to stand out, to the detriment of the TT’s elegant design.

The TT RS is no doubt a great car, but $140,000 is a big ask, especially when you think that level of cash buys a Porsche Cayman, two Nissan 350Zs, two Mitsubishi Evos and comes within $6000 of a Nissan GT-R and $9000 of a 6.2-litre V8 Mercedes-Benz AMG C63.

Some wealthy customers will be able to overlook the price and just enjoy this great car and its fantastic engine. Lucky them.

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