5 for Fighting : Audi TT RS Roadster

Car Specifications
Engine: 
2480cc, 20-valves
Cylinder Layout: 
In-line 5 cylinder
Top Speed: 
250km/h (electronically limited)
Transmission: 
6-speed Manual
0-100km/h: 
4.7 seconds
Power: 
340bhp at 5400-6500rpm
Torque: 
450Nm at 1600-5300rpm
Features: 
  • Fruity 5-cylinder note
  • Turbo torque hits hard

When news first broke at the 2009 Geneva Show that the hottest RS version of Audi's iconic TT Coupe and Roadster would be powered by a turbocharged 2.5L in-line 5-cylinder engine, we didn't really give it a second thought. In today's context, as the TT RS Coupe and Roadster start to arrive in Singapore, we find ourselves actually heaving a sigh of relief as we think, "Thank God it isn't another turbo'd 2L!"

See original release HERE

To qualify ourselves, there's nothing wrong with the Group's turbocharged FSI engine (whether longitudinal/transverse and in all its myriad of guises), especially in light of Singapore's punitive taxes against larger capacity cars.

Strong points in its favour include a road-tax friendly capacity (or good bang-for-buck), decent power/torque numbers (forced induction has always been a popular way to eke out more grunt from relatively small capacities) and of course, its tunability. 

However, would it have been right for the flagship of the TT range to have such a 'common' engine ignobly shoehorned (albeit re-tuned, de-tuned, or whatever have you) into its shell? Sometimes, the appeal of any range-topping model is a certain degree of inaccesibility to the masses.

After all if it's easily enjoyed by the mass-market, does it still count as being 'exclusive'?As always, Audi has its marketing spot-on, even if it took some time for this to hit us.

I guess, the key is a concept of 'exclusivity'; at the time of its unveiling, the TT RS Coupe and Roadster remain the only cars to be animated by this lively turbo'd 2.5L 5-cylinder engine.

Previously, the VW Mk V Golf R32 might only have been 50+bhp more powerful than the Mk V GTI (250bhp versus 197bhp; this gap closes when one compares the outgoing Golf5 R32 against the Golf6 R, even in de-tuned guise), but the sounds that the R32 (and for that matter, every VR6 before it) made were deliciously addictive and stirringly soulful.

Sometimes, it's never about something as 'crass' as racing from one traffic light to the next, but rather, the emotional appeal that comes from knowing one is at the helm of something special, rather than a boost-up upgrade.

In Audi nomenclature, the 'RS' tag is an evocative one. RS cars have traditionally been fully-sorted affairs, so one can generally expect more from RS cars than mere straight-line acceleration. Audi's RS renaissance can be squarely attributed on the RS 4, which sadly, has been recently discontinued. <More about Audi's 'RS' history HERE>

We sampled the RS 4 at its international launch on both road and the Pirelli Test Track and were blown away by how engaging and far removed it was from what we had come to expect from Audi at that time, in terms of engine, chassis and overall 'feel-good' vibes. Since then, every 'RS' model has never disappointed in terms of driver appeal.

In certain quarters, the TT is regarded as being a sort of a pose-mobile, even more so in rag-top convertible guise, but the TT RS Roadster has developed a healthy set of fangs now to suck the life out of all the detractors who ever dared to say, "it sucks".

In light of its RS pedigree, the TT RS Roadster boasts subtle touches that differentiate it from the rest of the madding crowd. These include 'silvered' wing mirrors (S models have these too, but we think it sets off this electric shade of Sepang Blue particularly well!), appropriately gaping intakes to facilitate air-flow (including front and rear skirtings feature aluminium finish), extended side-sills, a downforce-inducing rear wing (deployed at the touch of a button) and 18-inch alloy wheels (from under which peek out an oversized brake kit with 4-pot callipers: 370mm front, 310mm rear).

But these aesthetics and the tasty interior are just bit players to the main attraction: a charismatic turbocharged 2.5L 5-cylinder, which is a nod to the 5-cylinders that used to see plenty of slippery, sideways action (in the ur-quattros) in the World Rally Championship during the 1980s.

Apart from its compact proportions, this engine weighs in at 183kg; coupled to the TT's hybrid aluminium and steel bodyshell, the TT RS Roadster's kerb-weight is kept to a hair's breath above 1500kg.

Apart from the striking crackle-finish red cam cover, the burbly 5-cylinder boasts rather impressive vital statistics: 340bhp and 450Nm. There's just a smidgen of turbo lag, before the car blitzes a manic blue streak towards your destination. Unlike the RS 4, which requires some dedication to drive hard, the TT RS Roadster makes driving fast so easy.

There isn't the heavy clutch or muscleman steering that many like to associate with sports cars (mistakenly or otherwise). In this regard the TT RS Roadster feels like the latest Nissan GT-R, which has made supercar-slaying performance accessible to anyone who can afford one... which can be a double-edged sword in many regards.

Of course, the fact that the GT-R has a blinding fast twin-clutch transmission also means there's less stick-shifting going on than the conventional manual transmission in the TT RS. However, what is amazing is how easy Audi has made it to drive stick (although it's likely we can expect a S Tronic version before too long); the clutch is light and the gear-shifts are short-throw yet not overly notchy.

From standstill, the TT RS Roadster effortlessly storms to the 100km/h mark in well under 5 seconds (4.7 seconds to be exact; the TT RS Coupe will hit the same speed in 4.6 seconds)... literally in the blink of an eye. Moreover, sprinting away from the stop-line doesn't even require tricky clutch balancing and 'launching' techniques; just floor the gas, remember to change gears and the car is off!

Fans of the RS 4 will notice that the TT RS has that familiar 'S' button too. Apart from sharpening throttle response (like on the previous generation BMW Z4 M's 'Sport' button) and hardening the exhaust note (a flap in the left exhaust opens), Singapore cars have also been specc'd with AMR (Audi Magnetic Ride) as standard, which stiffens up the chassis for some serious rock-and-rolling.

The steering is a little too light for our liking (we prefer a meatier feel to the steering), but we imagine this would go down well amongst those who like a lighter weight to the helm. However, in case you're wondering, this doesn't have an adverse effect on the steering communication, as it weights up convincingly as the cornering loads build.

However, switching between 'S' and the normal mode requires some goose-stepping with the gas pedal since it becomes noticeably more sensitive. It's not as 'hair-trigger' as we recall on the Z4 M, but nonetheless, trying to modulate the pedal at low speeds (and the car's smooth progress) in 'S' mode will require some practice.

The chassis feels satisfyingly rigid and the suspension is firm, but never overly hard (even over stretches of badly pockmarked roads around the Ubi area).  The brake pedal offers ample feel and the car's braking prowess is heart-stoppingly effective.

Coupled to quattro all-wheel drive, the TT RS serves up much confidence under all kinds of surface conditions. In fact, its cornering limits are so high in the dry they're likely never to be breached on normal roads, unless one is incredibly ham-fisted and lead foot in steering inputs and gas application.

The cabin is cleanly styled and uncluttered... perfect for the dedicated driver. But this isn't to say the TT RS is lacking in decent amenities. Climate control and a thumping in-car entertainment unit keep both driver and passenger comfortable and loosened up even as they luxuriate in the soft ivory Nappa leather clad sports seats.

Despite its snug comfort when the going is good, these seats are more than adequate to keep you in place even when the red mist descends and one is in the mood for a bout of spirited driving...! Thankfully, the seats are supportive, hold you in place, yet not overly restrictive.

Top down (a quick button press away), the occupants are really given a chance to appreciate the vocal theatrics of the 5-cylinder at full-throttle ('S' engaged, of course). In fact, we found ourselves doubling back to re-enter tunnels just so that we could enjoy the car's charismatic soundtrack.

photos by Audi Press & mp

Summary
At time of upload, the TT RS Roadster retails for S$290,800 (versus S$285,800 for the TT RS Coupe), which is quite a pretty penny, even for something as pretty as this... pretty aggressive we mean! Even though this puts it squarely in Porsche Boxster S territory, if one isn't hung up over an emblem, the TT RS Roadster's butch and delightfully belligerent looks, mated to an engaging turbocharged 5-cylinder engine and built-for-fun 'RS' chassis certainly make for an entertaining distraction- mp
Photos: 
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