First Drive: 2018 Audi TT RS U.S. Spec
Our first stateside taste confirms what we learned last year: This is one badass Audi
My initial drive of the 2018 Audi TT RS took place in Spain almost a year ago, but the first U.S. drive took place recently on the roads of Connecticut and at Lime Rock Park racetrack, along with our first drive of the 2018 Audi RS3.
Driving the TT RS last year on Spanish roads and the Jarama Formula 1 racetrack was certainly a blast. Lime Rock is not an F1 track, but I've raced there many times, and it certainly demands your attention as a driver.
The original design of the Audi TT was not my favorite, but I like the 2018 TT RS. It has an aggressive stance and looks substantial, despite its short and sporty 98.6-inch wheelbase. Design changes for 2018 include larger air intakes, a honeycomb front grille, and a Quattro logo on the front splitter. There are also aluminum-colored accents on the mirrors and splitter and aerodynamically shaped sidesills. The subtle rear wing adds a nice touch and doesn't hurt rear visibility. These changes aren't major, but they add some welcome definition in my eyes.
The new five-cylinder turbo engine in the TT RS (and RS3) is 57 pounds lighter than the old engine. It kicks out 400 horsepower from 5,850 to 7,000 rpm and 354 lb-ft of torque from 1,700 to 5,850 rpm. It feels quick, meaning it pushes you back in the seat and rocks, especially off the line. Audi quotes 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, but it feels quicker to me. The exhaust puts out an angry, ripping roar unique to five-cylinder turbo powerplants. I would never switch the exhaust to quiet mode. Total vehicle weight is 3,300 pounds for the U.S. market. I asked last year in Spain why the weight was quoted at 3,175 pounds, and Audi said it was probably since U.S. cars include different content — as in more of it as standard.
Every TT we drove on the track had optional 14.6-inch ceramic front brakes (14.6-inch steel is standard), 20-inch wheels (19-inchers are standard) with 255/30R-20 tires (245/35R-19 standard), and a sport exhaust (a must-have option). Track laps in the TT RS were behind a track instructor in an Audi R8 V10 Plus, who guided a lead-follow session (he did a great job).
I was lucky enough to be directly behind the R8. He started off quick, and I stuck right with him. He went quicker, and I was still able to stay right with him. He was really flying on the final lap, and I was still able to stay with him in the little TT RS that could. Unfortunately, the poor journalists who were trying to follow us were lost in transit, nowhere in sight. I was well impressed with the TT and the instructor.
I often write about how important it is for me to be able to rotate a street car on corner entry in order to go fast on a track or to enjoy myself on a street drive. I'm obviously no fan of understeer, but it is easier for regular drivers to control than oversteer. As with the RS3, rotating the TT RS on corner entry at Lime Rock was very manageable, with no surprises while maintaining good speed. I could even add or take away slip angle mid-corner if I needed to. The brakes were excellent, with zero fade and a solid pedal. The suspension setting I used was Dynamic, which is the stiffest, but on track it felt compliant enough. I left the stability control (ESC) on for most of my track time, and intrusion only became obvious when the ESC sensed I was rotating too fast on corner entry, but it didn't spoil the fun.
Driving on the roads outside Lime Rock had the TT in its element. I used the useful Individual function to move suspension to Comfort since Dynamic was much too stiff for my tastes. I also moved the steering to Comfort and left everything else as Dynamic. The seats are excellent, providing great support on the track and no pressure-spot issues on my street drive. I also like the shape and size of the steering wheel. The TT RS was completely unfazed by the roads' twists, turns, and blind crests. I, however, sported a big fat grin.
Here's what sticks out to me: a 3.6-second 0-60-mph time in a $65,875 vehicle. (I bet we ultimately see quicker numbers.) The TT RS is all-wheel drive and will produce this denture-shifting acceleration on just about any surface. There are precious few cars on the road able to mess with the TT RS off the line, and launching it is so simple. Foot on the brake, plant the gas pedal, and let off the brake when you're ready to rip. I think Audi has a certified overachieving giant killer on its hands.