It took me about 90 miles to stop driving the Audi TT RS like a power-crazed teenager. From the first time I started the engine and heard the raucous exhaust, I couldn't resist blipping the throttle. I was on the loose with 360 turbocharged horses and a healthy 343-foot-pounds of torque that mainlines from 1,650 rpm to 5,400 rpm. That's basically from second gear through sixth.
As the red mist lifted, the Audi-ness soaked in. There is almost a delicate refinement to the engineering of accelerator action, steering and gear engagement. Then I apologized to the car for being so greedy in my first days of driving, and it responded by showing me new limits that were in supercar territory.
The test car had endured more than 5,000 miles of testing that was, no doubt, similarly rowdy to mine -- and it still felt crisp, tight and eager. This top-line, two-plus-two coupe brings back Audi's RS high-performance treatment, and there are more to come. This summer brings the 450-hp, V8-powered RS5 coupe followed by similar treatments in the S6, S7 and S8.
The TT RS gets a specially engineered version of the turbocharged, direct-injection 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder with a short-throw six-speed manual transmission -- with no option to go automatic. The turbo is a part of the engine, not a bolt-on, which shortens the travel for the air to get pushed through. There is no turbo lag -- and this car is not particularly lightweight at 3,306 pounds. The engine also was fortified with a huskier crankshaft, lightweight pistons and sodium-cooled exhaust valves.
The power just pours on in second, third and fourth. And with the bounty of torque, the driver isn't making continual shifts to stay in the power. Audi claims 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds; it just feels quicker. And when the throttle goes down, there's no wondering if the tires will hook-up, they all do. For an all-wheel-drive car, this one steers easily with the gas pedal to push out the nose or let it drift back. Cornering adhesion goes beyond my fear factor to push ever harder -- at least when not on a track.
Fuel economy is 18/25 mpg city/highway on premium fuel, but I doubt I was getting numbers that high. There is a hill holder, which applies the brakes for a couple seconds as the driver releases the clutch. It helps to abate roll-back-anxiety. The clutch is light, and gear engagement has that absolute feel of hardened steel. Pedal placement is ideal for heel-toe shifting.
A Sport mode opens the exhaust further, tightens the magnetic-ride stabilizer bars and makes the throttle even more blip-happy. The suspension is quite comfortable most of the time, even on concrete Interstate. But in Sport mode, it's much more of a fat-shaker.
The TT RS has fewer cylinders and is faster than its competition, the BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK AMG and Porsche Cayman.
Pricing starts at $57,725, including $875 freight charge, and the test car was $61,125, including $950 for an aluminum matte exterior package and $1,500 for the sport exhaust, which is a must-have option.
A lot of content is packaged with the price, including 10-way power front seats, Silk Nappa leather, nine-speaker audio system with satellite radio and aux. input jack and six air bags, including front knee bags. RS extras include 19-inch wheels and Toyo Proxes T1 tires; 14.6-inch vented front disc brakes with gloss black, four-piston caliper; 12.2-inch vented rear; aluminum-matte outside mirrors with LED turn signals; fixed rear spoiler; multi-function, flat-bottom steering wheel; carbon-fiber engine cover; and unique front and rear fascias with rear diffuser.
There's plenty of front seat track for long legs. Headroom at 37.7 inches may be tight for the big and tall, but there is a double-bubble design to carve out pate space. The shift console includes an ashtray and lighter, but no place to drop a phone. The back seats have room to stuff a grandkid, and cargo space seems huge at 13.1 cubic feet, plus the back seats fold for a bit more capacity.
When you consider its power per liter and the engineering work, the TT RS is a supercar, but simple and satisfying.
2012 Audi TT RS 2.5 quattro
--Body style: subcompact, AWD 2+2 coupe
--Engine: 360-hp, DOHC, turbocharged, direct injection 5-cylinder; 343 foot-pounds torque at 1,650 to 5,400 rpm
--Transmission: 6-speed manual
--0-60 mph: 4.1 seconds; top speed 174 mph
--Estimated fuel mileage: 18/25 mpg city/hwy; premium fuel recommended
--Fuel tank: 15.9 gallons
--Standard equipment: remote locking, automatic air conditioning, xenon-plus head lights with LED running lights, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, garage-gate opener, Bluetooth phone connection, 50/50 folding seatback, lighted and covered visor mirrors, cargo net, front floor mats
--Safety equipment: 6 air bags (including front knee bags), electronic stability and traction controls, ABS, hill holder
--Wheelbase/length: 97.2/165.3 inches
--Front head/leg/shoulder room: 37.7/41.1/53.2 inches
--Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 32.6/29.3/47.5 inches
--Curb weight: 3,306 pounds
--Cargo capacity: 13.1 to 24.7 cubic feet
--Turning circle: 35.9 feet
--Base price: $57,725, including $875 freight charge; price as tested $61,125
--Options on test car, included: Suzuka Gray metallic paint $950
--Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance; 12-month/5,000 miles free scheduled maintenance
--Where assembled: Gyor, Hungary
--Competition: BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Porsche Cayman
Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage. To find out more about Mark Maynard and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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