Audi tt 2018

2018 Audi TT RS Coupe and Roadster Photos and Info – News – Car and Driver

April 2016 By JENS MEINERS View 12 Photos

The last-generation Audi TT RS was a desirable but fairly brutal machine, powered by an iron-block turbocharged five-cylinder and available to U.S. buyers with a manual transmission only. Now, thoroughly reworked, the 2018 TT RS has catapulted into the future.

There's an all-new engine, the row-it-yourself shifter makes way for a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, and of course the RS version shares all of the third-generation TT's lightweight technology and its futuristic user interface.

There is still a single-turbo 2.5-liter five-cylinder under the hood of the new TT RS, but it has been thoroughly re-engineered by Audi's Quattro GmbH performance subsidiary. The five-banger now has an aluminum block and is lighter than its predecessor by 57 pounds. It’s also more fuel-efficient and makes a lot more power—as in 400 horsepower.

The five-cylinder delivers 354 lb-ft of torque on a plateau that stretches from 1700 to 5850 rpm. With its 1-2-4-5-3 firing order, it delivers a distinctive five-cylinder sound that is unmistakably Audi and harks back to Audi's heritage of five-cylinder engines, highlighted by the accomplished rally cars of the 1980s. Performance promises to be impressive, with Audi claiming a zero-to-62-mph sprint of 3.7 seconds for the coupe—add 0.2 second for the roadster version, which won’t be coming to the U.S. market. (In our tests of the previous-gen model, we saw 40-to-60-mph runs of 4.0 seconds with a 360-hp manual car and 3.6 seconds from a Euro-spec 335-hp dual-clutch car.) Top speed is governed at 155 or 174 mph depending on market and tire rating. More would easily be possible, but there has to be a respectful distance to the upcoming entry-level R8 with its twin-turbo V-6.

The performance division’s contribution goes deeper than the engine upgrade. It also modifies the TT’s steering for a sharper feel; optional carbon-ceramic brake rotors can be ordered in place of the steel units on the front axle. The suspension is lowered, and magnetorheological active dampers are optional. The car stands on 245/35R-19 standard rubber, with 255/30R-20 tires optional. The stability-control system is tuned specifically for the TT RS and can be turned off entirely. Despite the standard all-wheel-drive system, Audi says the car can easily be coaxed into a drift.

From the driver's seat, a few important changes help differentiate the TT RS from lesser TTs. The full TFT screen in front of the driver can be switched to display RS-specific graphics, which feature a centered tachometer. With the transmission in manual mode, a flash reminds the driver to upshift in time to avoid the fuel cutoff at redline. Two extra buttons are added to the steering wheel: one to start and shut off the ignition, the other to switch among driving modes. In fact, the car is designed so that all user operations can be performed from the steering wheel; pretty much every button and toggle switch on the center console is redundant, excepting only the one for the switchable exhaust. But that's easy to adapt to: just make it a habit to switch it to "loud" immediately when you fire up the engine, then forget about that switch for the rest of your trip.

Outside, the TT RS looks sufficiently different not to be confused with a more mundane TT or TTS. The front fascia has large air intakes to serve the engine’s need for cooling, there’s a fixed rear wing (it can be optionally deleted in favor of the more discreet electrically operated spoiler that’s standard on lesser models), and the rear is punctuated by two large oval tailpipes. Given the massive holes in the front end and the fat tires, achieving the claimed 0.32 drag coefficient (0.33 for the roadster) must have been no small feat.

Optional OLED (organic light-emitting diode) taillights see Audi finish a close second to BMW in terms of bringing this technology to market; the limited-edition M4 GTS was the first car to feature them. LED taillights are standard, and the headlights are illuminated via LEDs, too.

This TT RS, indeed, reaches into the future. We’ve asked how far into that future it will be before the car finds its way to the U.S. market. All Audi has said so far is that it will be sometime during 2017 as a 2018 model and that we won’t get the roadster here. We’ll let you know more as soon as we find out.

Overview Photos Build and Price View All Features and Specs 2016 Audi TT Roadster First Drive Review · February 2015 2016 Audi TT Coupe Instrumented Test · November 2015 The new coupe and the perils of indecision. 2018 Audi TT RS Roadster First Drive Review · September 2016 Reading from a familiar script. 2018 Audi TT RS Coupe First Drive Review · September 2016 With the RS, the TT's performance is now on par with its design. Lightning Lap 2016: Audi TTS A perfect set of training wheels for track virgins. 20 Late-Model Cars Destined to Become Classics
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2018 Audi TT RS First Drive Review

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As the ultimate embodiment of the TT lineup, the RS adds even more performance swagger to the third-generation coupe’s brazen face. But unlike the previous TT RS, which at times felt like a brilliant engine in search of a proper home, the new TT RS feels like a much more cohesive package.

It all starts with the sound: push the start button on the steering wheel, and the engine announces itself with a proud woof and crackle. The 2.5-liter inline-five pours out 400 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, and is 57 pounds lighter than the old turbo-five, thanks to an aluminum block, a hollow crankshaft and a magnesium oil pan frame. For those holding out hope to see this engine in a more practical application, you’re basically out of luck. According to Audi, the engine is too long to fit under most modern hoods. As tantalizing as the idea of a five-pot S4 might be, it’s not going to happen. If you want the new 2.5 in something other than the TT RS, your only option is the new RS 3 sedan.

The engine note is distinctive; it’s so sweet, especially when it gets angry. As the revs climb, the raspy growl smooths out and blossoms into a gorgeous whirr of harmonics, finally building to a keening fortissimo that’s as melodic as it is mechanical. The turbo adds to the symphony with a joyous whistle. It’s a shame that an engine with such raucous sophistication will only see use in niche models.

Read more about Audi’s RS models:

  • 2017 Audi RS 3 Sedan First Drive
  • 2018 Audi RS 5 Coupe First Drive

At sedate speeds, the driving experience is typical Audi: a competent ride quality without isolating the driver from the experience. At highway speeds there’s a sensation of solidity that makes even this small sports car feel stable and secure. Right, but where’s that engine note again? Whether on a back road or a highway—or even a racetrack—all you’ll want to do is uncork that glorious sound at every possible opportunity.

Bring up the RS’ Drive Select menu through the dedicated button on the steering wheel, and cycle it to Dynamic. The effect is instantaneous: the exhaust flaps open, and the throttle response is suddenly more immediate. The standard magnetorheological dampers firm up for a ride that’s sharper but not unsettling. As the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission holds gears for longer amounts of time, the impatience of the engine is amplified.

If you’d prefer to control the sound of the engine note independent of the Drive Select settings, there’s a button to the left of the shifter that controls the exhaust flap position. A notification in the virtual cockpit confirms each respective push, but there’s no light on the button itself to indicate which mode is currently selected. Use your ears instead.

Want to get the TT RS all fired up right from the start? Engage launch control. Change Drive Select to the Dynamic setting, pop the transmission into Sport, and stomp on the brake and gas pedals until the engine reaches 3,500 rpm. During this time the engine emits an impatient warble, bleats of exhaust champing at the bit. Release the brake, and the TT RS shoots forward, reaching 60 mph in a fleet 3.6 seconds.

Thankfully, as good as the TT RS is in a straight line, it’s even better while being thrown into corners along the 1.5-mile Lime Rock Park circuit. The upgraded Haldex differential shuttles more power to the rear wheels than before—it can actually send 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels under a heavy right foot—creating less of a push on turn-in and allowing for a better sense of rotation. The off-camber turns of Lime Rock play to the Quattro all-wheel-drive system’s strengths as it claws toward the apex of each corner. On Lime Rock’s deceptively fast straights, the TT RS charges hard through the gears but runs out of steam near redline.

Put the shifter into Manual mode to take control of the situation, and you’re greeted with two plastic squares on the back of the steering column masquerading as paddles. They’ve got the feel and movement reminiscent of snapping LEGOs onto a base sheet. Some genuine metal pieces and upgraded lever feel would go a long way toward improving involvement here.

Inside, the cabin builds on the stark, functional simplicity of the TT family. The RS adds standard niceties such as 12-way power seats finished in Nappa leather with contrast diamond stitching. And although the seats offer firm support, a short, rather flat seat bottom means bracing your legs against the console and doors in tight turns. The steering wheel is lifted straight from the R8, though it’s finished in both Alcantara on the sides and leather on the top and bottom, making for a weird tactile transition between the two materials as you handle the helm. Keep your hands at 10 and 2, and it’s not a problem, but a single-material wheel would be nice, even as an option.

Perhaps that could be added to the Dynamic Package Plus ($6,000), which features both cosmetic and performance upgrades in the way of a carbon-fiber engine cover, OLED taillights, tire pressure monitoring with temperature sensors, a fixed-spring setup at all four corners, and an unrestricted top speed of 174 mph. But the big get in this option pack is arguably the most important: carbon-ceramic brakes. The shotgun marriage of engine and chassis in the previous-gen TT RS left no room for an adequately vented brake setup, much to the dismay of track warriors who encountered blazing-hot rotors and boiling brake fluid. This time around, the RS was designed with dedicated ducts channeling cool air in from the front fascia, which allows for the option of higher-performance stoppers. If you’re going to track this car, the upgrade to ceramics is a wise investment.

At $64,900, the TT RS stacks up nicely against the Porsche Cayman S, which is down 50 hp but offers a still-superior driving experience, an identical 0-60 time, and the option of a manual transmission. What the Porsche no longer offers, however, is a superb-sounding engine. Given the performance parity, it might be up to the ears of the buyer to make the final decision.

There’s more good news: Instead of being a two-year-only special, this RS will be produced through the entirety of the TT’s model run, meaning there are still plenty of opportunities to make a great package even better. (Audi hints at a new lineup of performance parts coming next year, too.). Even so, the TT RS has evolved beyond just being a sporty coupe all ate up with motor. With its sonorous and powerful inline-five and an equally stout chassis, the TT RS is finally comfortable in its own skin.

2018 Audi TT RS Review - News

As I charged down the ribbons of tarmac that hug the Spanish countryside, I couldn’t help but think of Don Quixote, the delusional knight of La Mancha who famously attacked a row of windmills, thinking them giants that he must vanquish.

Unlike our unfortunate knight, Audi has some very real giants in its sights at which it has aimed the new TT RS.

After a hiatus of several years, Audi will launch the second-generation TT RS next summer, likely as a 2018 model, for somewhere around the $60,000 mark. At that price, it has its sights set squarely on such notable sports cars as the Porsche 718 Cayman and BMW M2. Heck, you can even get a Corvette Stingray for that kind of money. Giants, indeed.

To even be considered in that company, Audi pulled out all the stops to create something competitive but distinct in the segment, borrowing on its tradition and innovating upon it to deliver a unique package that can attract not only Audi loyalists, but also those looking for everyday appeal and excitement in their sports car. While Europeans will have both a roadster and coupe to choose from, North Americans will have to make do with the hardtop alone.

Five Revived

While Audi could have turned the boost up on the 2.0T four-cylinder that’s in the TT, TTS and just about every other Audi and VW, the Audi Sport division felt that the previous TT RS’s five-cylinder could deliver a more distinctive and authoritative character for the brand. Basically, it sounds completely mental, with a lumpy, offbeat rhythm that gurgles, spits, burps and howls, cackling like a baritone asthmatic on laughing gas.

Although this 2.5-liter five-cylinder has the same displacement and core design as the one in the previous TT RS, it is completely new, starting from an aluminum block that replaces the iron block (saving 40 pounds just in the block), and using magnesium, molybdenum and other lightweight metals and construction to save a total of 57 pounds (26 kg) in the engine. Curb weight is a total of 3,175 pounds (1,440 kg), 77 lb (35 kg) lighter than its predecessor.

Stiff competition: Porsche 718 Cayman and BMW M2

Reducing weight is only part of the equation, and Audi also revised the cylinder heads, added variable-valve timing on the exhaust, doubled down with port injection in addition to the direct injection and turned the boost up to 19.6 psi. One thing that looks to the past is the firing order of the cylinders, the same 1-2-4-5-3 progression as the original Ur-Quattro, part of what gives it that distinct and slightly offbeat sound. Also deserving credit for the magnificent sound are some flaps in the exhaust that open at higher rpm, or can be kept open at all times via a button on the console.

All these tricks combine to deliver 400 horsepower at 5,850 rpm, and an unnaturally flat torque line of 354 pound-feet from 1,700 to 5,850 rpm. Despite the broad torque band, the engine pulls strongest above 5,000 rpm up to the 7,000 rpm redline, and there’s a hesitation off the line as the engine and transmission, Audi’s seven-speed S tronic dual clutch, figure out how to not blow up the AWD system when launching the TTRS to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 3.7 seconds.

Quattro Legacy

The weight savings are particularly crucial, as the TT RS’s engine hangs way out over the nose, and while mildly improved, the 59:41 weight distribution isn’t what you look for in a sports car, so Audi Sport must turn to power delivery to help maintain balance, and for that, it has the AWD system that is synonymous with its sporting division.

Quattro all-wheel drive has been a hallmark on Audi’s sporting cars since the famed Quattro Group B Rally car dominated the WRC in 1984, lending its aura of invincibility to the Quattro and Quattro Sport road cars of the ’80s, which were also powered by turbocharged five-cylinders. However, with double the horsepower, Audi’s AWD system has to be more robust and more sophisticated to keep from overwhelming the differentials and the tires’ grip.

Perhaps something a little less hardcore? Audi TTS

Torque distribution is handled by an electrohydraulic multi-plate clutch now mounted on the rear axle to help improve weight distribution, with a brake-based torque vectoring system that helps balance power outputs between the inside and outside wheels when powering out of corners. Under normal circumstances, with the car in its basic Comfort setting, 80 percent of power is directed to the front wheels, with sensors monitoring the wheels, driver inputs and car’s position, ready to route more power to the rear wheels, such as when turning into a curve or taking off. In the car’s Dynamic mode, power is split evenly between the axles, but can also shift up to 80 percent of the torque to the rear wheels in aggressive cornering and acceleration.

Three Laps

Audi provided three hot laps at Circuito del Jarama outside of Madrid so that we could push the TT RS to its limits and beyond. Helping to dial the car into a track attitude, Audi’s Drive Select offers different modes for steering, suspension, throttle, transmission and even the AWD system. Comfort for efficient cruising and a more mild ride, Auto to let the car’s brains figure out when to firm and speed things up, and Dynamic to keep everything at maximum performance. There is also an Individual setting, which allows you to mix and match different settings for each available system.

As mentioned, the TT RS gets up to speed with a furious growl and a surge of g-force pressing you into your seat, but it’s not long before you have to navigate the former F1 circuit’s corners, from wide sweepers with late turn-in to tight hairpins and a few dips and climbs to really get a sense of the suspension loading and unloading. As with any track session, tires will ultimately be the limiting factor, so Audi bumped up the rubber compound from the stock Pirelli P Zero to P Zero Corsa on the track cars. That extra grip allowed us to feel even more acutely the way the car shifts power to the rear axle when beginning to understeer, and working in concert with the inside wheel braking to slingshot the TT RS out of corners when pinning the throttle out of turns and up the climbing sections.

The big dog of the Audi Sport family: 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus

The brakes are seriously hefty for a car this size, 14.6-inch (370-mm) perforated, ventilated rotors with eight-piston calipers in front with single-piston and 12.2-inch (310-mm) monobloc rotors at the back. Out on Spain’s smooth roads and in traffic, there is good feel and braking force builds progressively, and even after climbing and descending long, winding hilly roads, they were sure and strong with no signs of fade. Out on the track, in more severe use, they continued to shine, exceeding the tires’ ability scrub momentum, at times eliciting ABS intervention, but also entertainingly unloading the rear tires for a bit of wiggle at the back before settling into a more balanced set for diving into a corner. Even when squirming at the back end, the TT RS felt under complete control, and if anything, this littlest RS is too tightly under control, never showing any inclination to hang its back end out when giving it an extra dose of throttle coming out of corners.

The adaptive steering gets quicker as you progress into your turn, and the car tracks well into corners, making easy work of tucking the car right into the apex and slowly leading the car out of the turn as you get back on the gas or quickly turn back the other way in any esses. However, there were times when the transmission could have dropped one more gear to keep the engine in its peak power band, but switching to manual mode means you can anticipate the necessary gear changes on a familiar track.

While the suspension firms up in Dynamic mode and takes the edge off in Comfort mode, there really isn’t that wide a spread between the two. Although the dampers do a fine job of neutralizing most small bumps, the short wheelbase and sporty setup means that rough roads and large dips will result in some significant body motions, though it quickly settles once you’re through it. Admittedly, Spain’s smooth, pristine roads don’t give us much of an indication of what the suspension would be like on many of our poorly maintained North American roads. At its firmest, the TT RS is superbly matched to fast driving on country roads, but perhaps not quite as firm a setup as we’d like for the track, where we pine for the good old days of rock-hard S2000 suspension.

Two Hands on the Wheel

Audi launched its Virtual Cockpit on this third-generation TT, and in the RS it continues to show itself an intuitive, logical interface and display, with the 12.3-inch screen nested in the gauge cluster. That display can be set up as two large or small gauges with information spread between them, or with a large, central tach pushing the information to the periphery. One upgrade Audi introduces with the TT RS is a shift indicator, in which the tach lights up in green, orange and red segments as the revs climb, then flashes red as you approach redline, which you should be able to catch in your peripheral vision without taking your eyes off the track.

You also won’t want to take your hands off the steering wheel, not only because you can control the entire infotainment system using the scroll wheels and buttons on the left spoke, but because the shape and feel of the alcantara-wrapped wheel is just perfect. Likewise, the TT RS interior is typically high-quality Audi fare, soft to the touch and well designed for intuitive operation. The TT RS we drove even had splashes of color to liven up the black backdrop, with red rings in the circular vents, red trim on the center console and door handles, and red stitching on the diamond-quilted leather seats.

The seats were also a perfect fit, and some models featured adjustable torso bolsters so that once you settle in, you can lock yourself into place for spirited driving. Thanks to the variable dampers and driving modes and comfortable seats, the TT RS would serve adequately as a daily driver. While listed as a 2+2, the rear seats would not have room for legs behind an adult my size (5’11”), so they’re really only useful for children or munchkins.

The Verdict: 2018 Audi TT RS Review

Audi knows that there are legitimate and very real giants in this sports car segment, so it is taking a different angle rather than charging at them directly. While Audi’s previous renditions of the TT could fairly be described as luxury coupes and roadsters, they were hardly sports cars. The core strength of the MQB platform and Audi’s devotion to the five-cylinder turbo and all-wheel drive mastery result in a legitimate sports car with a bundle of character.

Although lacking the purist’s choice manual-transmission, rear-wheel-drive setup that its chief competitors offer and which we prefer for the track, the monster power and furious, frightening engine noises capture a different kind of engagement through speed and sound and make the TT RS a car that can create excitement every day of the year.

First Drive: 2018 Audi TT RS Coupe

MADRID, Spain—The first drive of the new 2018 Audi TT RS began at Spain’s Jarama circuit, an old Formula 1/MotoGP track. I raced in Spain some years ago, but never at Jarama, so I enjoyed learning it. The circuit flows nicely, with decreasing-radius turns and several 90-plus mph kinks per lap; the layout is 2.3 miles of undulating busyness. I cannot imagine racing F1 there, as passing must have been impossible—oh wait, I think we still have that problem in F1…

Regardless, my first impression upon seeing the new TT RS in the flesh was positive. It looks sporty and has a solid, businesslike stance. The new front-end design is sharp, with large air intakes, a honeycombed front grille, and a Quattro logo on the splitter. There are new, aerodynamically shaped side sills, and aluminum-colored accents on the mirrors and the front splitter are a nice touch. The rear wing blends in well and doesn’t scream “Race me!” to every wannabe on the road. Compared to lesser TTs, the larger oval tailpipes come in chrome or black, depending on exhaust options.

The TT RS’s taillights use all-new organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology, so they don’t cast shadows and don’t require reflectors. When lit they can show variable patterns determined by the shape of their inlays and how they are programmed or activated. They look different and are visually impressive.

The main story, though, is that the RS features an all-new turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, and Audi managed to shave off 54 pounds compared to the previous unit while increasing power output. The old TT RS made 360 horsepower, while the new five-cylinder makes 400 hp from 5,850-7,000 rpm and 354 lb-ft of torque from 1,700-5,850 rpm. Combined fuel mileage is estimated to come in at an improved 27.8 mpg. Overall the RS weighs 3,175 pounds, 131 pounds lighter than the old model.

The cars designated for track duty in Spain were optioned with the Dynamic Package, which includes the sport exhaust, non-adjustable performance shocks, and 14.6-inch ceramic front brakes and 12.2-inch steel rears. Cars for the U.S.—don’t expect to see the TT RS on sale here until next spring—will all come with 20-by-9-inch wheels sporting 255/30 Pirelli P Zero tires front and rear. The track-drive cars sported optional, stickier Pirelli Corsa tires.

I initially had to follow a track instructor in another RS for two sighting laps. He was not hanging about and I’d say his speed was equivalent to a very spirited drive on your favorite country road. The RS showed no understeer and followed my steering-wheel input well. Despite the pace I had no ABS, traction/stability-control intervention or any appreciable tire slip. The RS dash told me we were already at 1.1 g laterally, both left and right, and I later saw a maximum of more than 1.5 g laterally.

This was a good sign, as street cars are setup usually to understeer. This makes them easier to control and thereby safer, but managing heavy understeer on a racetrack is about as much fun as watching paint dry. The RS of course has Audi’s Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system, but front-engine, AWD cars usually understeer more than most. It was early, but considering how quick I was going, encountering no understeer was a solid start.

After they let me loose, I turned on the sport exhaust; it was solid without, Audi said, being enhanced artificially as is becoming common. I really like the tune, as low revs sound like a low growl becoming more urgent and loud as the revs rise. I let the RS shift itself in Sport mode and it did so flawlessly, both upshifting and downshifting, and as always you can use the steering-wheel shift paddles if you prefer.

The RS’s turbo blows out a heady 19 pounds of boost at full steam. To me, it doesn’t have turbo lag in the traditional sense, because you do feel acceleration as soon as you hit the gas. Boost pressure takes about a second to peak, and when full boost hits, the RS accelerates like it got rear ended by something quite large. The powerband is intoxicating rather than frustrating.

As I built up to maximum track speed, the RS was flying and I was genuinely enjoying the drive. The limits of traction were transferring to me as slight understeer. However, grip stayed consistent, allowing me to keep up my lap speed; things never generated into some terminal (extended) understeer scenario.

I decided to use a different cornering technique to see if I could make the RS lap quicker. As an example, picture a second-gear, 120-degree corner (though it is possible to use this technique on all corners to varying degrees). I enter the brake zone with enough brake pressure to feel minimal ABS interaction. In the later part of my brake zone I start to modulate off of that full pressure. Before I am off the brake pedal completely, I begin my corner turn-in. The RS responded well, slowly rotating with a slight rear slide. I control the frequency of vehicle rotation with my steering wheel turn-rate.

The split second I was completely off the brakes and the car was almost finished rotating, I mashed the gas. Why mashed? Because the turbo takes time to reach full boost and I felt the AWD could more than handle it. But, as the boost started to peak, I got enough wheel slip to wake up the electronic stability control. (I knew it was the ESC and not the traction control because the TC was off already.) I attempted to turn off the ESC, but couldn’t. The ESC was only holding me back a little, but it cost time. However, the test was a success in the sense that the RS allowed me to use rotation on corner entry, which will produce quicker lap times.

After my 3 laps, I asked an Audi engineer about my issue. He confirmed the “ESC off” setting was disabled for the event—in all the cars. I told him I totally understood, thanking him for his time and his reprogramming. I might have wandered off muttering to myself …

The hot-lap format required everyone to run through the pit lane each lap, as the pit straight was being used for launch-control demonstrations. But even with that break from the action, I experienced slight brake fade on my last lap, but a little extra foot pressure covered it and I made my normal turn-in. Front tire pressures went from 32 psi to 40 psi, so the rubber was obviously heating up but I felt no grip degradation. High-speed stability is very good. Jarama’s fastest right-hand kink (more than 100 mph) is over a slight vertical top (positive vertical g-load), and is followed immediately by a quick left-hand flick under heavy braking, while then turning back to the right. This proved no problem for the RS to cope with.

Outside of the track, my first road trip was a 50-mile route including highway, city, and two-lane roads. There are two colors unique to RS, Catalunya Red and Nardo Grey. Our Catalunya Red RS had the Dynamic Performance package and the standard Pirelli P Zero tires fitted. I immediately attempted to turn off the ESC, with the same result as before. I was beginning to have ugly feelings toward an engineer I hardly knew.

The TT RS has fewer knobs and switches than most cars these days, with a central round controller for the infotainment system. The entire setup is easy to understand and operate. The RS comes with the Audi virtual cockpit found in the R8 and it does look good. The 12.7-inch display is viewed easily through the steering wheel. The navigation was excellent, voice commands being clear enough through the Bang and Olufsen sound system that I rarely had to look down. The Audi’s Sport Performance phone app allows you to move everything you or a passenger need to use/see, directly from your phone to the screen, and the RS also has Wi-Fi capability.

There are four drive modes, accessible through a dedicated button on the steering wheel. I liked the Individual mode as it allowed me to request comfort (lighter) steering, which I prefer to the heavier steering normally found in sportier settings. The ride of the Dynamic-optioned RS was sports-car firm, as expected. However, initial shock compression felt a little too jarring over road imperfections/expansion joints, low-profile tires.

Still, the RS was a total joy to drive on the frequently deserted roads. Steering was precise and the chassis allowed numerous line corrections at speed, with no drama. The RS feels fast and it is fast. I never tired of hearing the sport exhaust’s growl, and the seats are very good with excellent support and comfort on both the racetrack and public roads.

For the next drive I took the same 50-mile route in a magnetic-shock optioned RS with steel brakes and no sport exhaust. I wasn’t even out of the paddock, but it was obvious I was going to prefer the damping in this car. The initial compression jarring was gone. Oh, and I again tried to turn off the ESC. And … amazingly, it turned off. I did leave all the safety nannies on for the majority of my street driving, but it’s satisfying to have the option to deactivate them.

I felt the magnetic-shock RS handled equally as well as the Dynamic suspension version, and I preferred the smoother ride, keeping the shock settings in comfort most of the time. The standard exhaust note is still a nice growl, it just doesn’t sound as racy. I would definitely want the sport exhaust option.

Driving along, there were plenty of deserted places to try the corner-rotation technique with TC and ESC off, just to see how the car responds in those situations. The RS was eager to play. With corner-entry rotation almost complete (and the car still facing the right way for exit), I mashed the gas. Boost pressure built, full boost hit, the engine screamed, the exhaust howled, and the RS rocketed out the corner, all four tires ripping at the pavement. The ability of the AWD RS to corner like this is not only impressive and quick, but about as subtle as a steam hammer at a flower festival; please sir, can I have another go.

To finish the day off, I was excited to try the launch control. Here’s the simple launch procedure: make sure the car is in Sport mode, put your left foot on the brake, then bury the gas pedal. The revs rise automatically and hold around 3,700 rpm. Pull your foot quickly off the brake pedal when ready to rock. Bang! The RS leaps off the line. It felt very Porsche 911 Turbo-like to me. One of the other journos recorded a 0 to 60 time of 3.5 seconds, and there were rumors Audi engineers have seen a time of 3.3secs. I don’t doubt it, as the RS pulled more than 1.1 g longitudinally on my launch according to the Audi in-car recorder. That is quite impressive.

The dinner conversation that night was very interesting. Plenty of people could name a bunch of cars in the $60,000 to $80,000 range that might compare to the RS: Porsche Cayman, Mustang GT350, BMW M2, Corvette Z51, etc. But what came up again and again, causing severe head scratching, was the 0-to-60 time. Three-and-a-half seconds or less is not common at this price point, and it could well be an outlier. If you can actually measure a car’s potential by the head scratching of automotive journalists, Audi may well have a winner in the new TT RS.

2018 Audi TT RS Specifications

On Sale: Spring 2017
Price: $68,000 (base)(est)
Engine: 2.5-liter turbo DOHC 20-valve inline-five/400 hp @ 5,850-7,000 rpm, 354 lb-ft @ 1,700-5,850 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Layout: 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD coupe
EPA Mileage: N/A
L x W x H: 165.0 x 72.1 x 52.9 in
Wheelbase: 98.6 in
Weight: 3,175 lb
0-60 MPH: 3.5 sec
Top Speed: 155 mph (175 mph with optional package)
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First Drive: 2018 Audi TT RS

CIRCUITO DEL JARAMA, Spain – “Wow!” I thought, railing Audi’s new TT RS into Jarama’s way-too-high-speed (at least for me) Ascari sweeper, Pirelli PZeros starting to moan their familiar protest. “This used to be a chick car.”

Never mind that that pejorative was a manifestation — a mistaken manifestation, to be sure — of men imagining that women didn’t want a sports car, only one that looked sporty. Never mind that, as if it were some great mystery, the truth is there is precious little difference between what men and women want out of a sporty coupe. Or, that it took way too long for the automotive industry’s supposed brain trust — again, almost universally men — to finally realize that the soft, squidgy “chick” cars they were trying to foist on women weren’t all that popular with, well, chicks. Dated and erroneous as it may be, however, that descriptor is still the best definition of a sports car that is all style and no substance.

Such was the original Audi TT. Effete in the extreme, the only thing even remotely sporty was the fact that its engine was turbocharged, this back in the day when a turbocharged engine was still something special even among performance cars. Even so, there was only 225 horsepower to be had — even then, only in the higher-boost 1.8L variant — and Audi’s trademark Quattro all-wheel drive was tailored to family sedan-like understeer.

2018 Audi TT RS

Its sporting bona fides weren’t helped by the fact that its high-speed stability — if anything over 180 km/h can be truly considered high speed in a real sports car — was so bad it needed an emergency rejigging of its chassis. A wing had to be added to the rear decklid to increase downforce, suspension recalibrated stiffer to prevent roll and electronic stability control added so the darned thing wouldn’t spin like a top. In trying to make the TT soft and squidgy enough for the perceived needs of its intended audience, all Audi succeeded in doing is making it unsafe.

Fast-forward exactly 20 years and Audi now offers up the 2018 RS version of the TT, as sublimely serious as the original was ponsy. Four cylinders have grown to five, displacement from 1.8 litres to 2.5 and, most importantly, the original’s piddling 225 horses are now a romping, stomping 400-hp herd. What once had a hard time out-dragging a breathed-on Volkswagen Golf (zero to 100 km/h in a leisurely 7.8 seconds!) will now outsprint a Porsche 718 Cayman — yes, all you Porschephiles, even the Cayman S  — by almost a second; a seriously supercar-like 3.7 seconds for the new top-of-the-line TT versus a seemingly middling 4.6 seconds for the new Cayman S.

And doesn’t it just romp around a racetrack. First off, thanks to its unique 1-2-4-5-3 firing order, says Audi, it fairly barks nasty intent once the tachometer passes 3,000 rpm. Audi makes a big deal about adjacent cylinders firing right after one another being responsible for the authoritative exhaust note, but personally I think it’s because they’ve jacked the maximum boost to a whopping 20 psi. Whatever the case, where base TTs sound wimpy, the RS feels sharp and focused, out-rocking – again – the Cayman S.

It feels plenty quick. Oh, though Audi makes much of that launch-controlled 3.7-second scoot to 100 km/h, the truth is that, thanks to the larger turbocharger Audi credits for the 40-horsepower jump from the last five-cylinder TT RS, the latest feels a little flaccid below 2,500. But that just makes the kick in the pants at 3,500 rpm that much swifter. Above 4,000, it’s a veritable rocketship. Row the seven-speed DCT’s paddle-shifters — or just leave the semi-autobox in its sport mode ­— and all those 400 horses, having only 1,440 kilograms to motivate, feel pretty darned supercar-like.

In fact, the only thing spoiling the party is that the rev limiter kicks in pretty sharply at the 7,000 rpm redline; Audi obviously worried about fragging the long stroke — 82.5-mm x 92.8-mm — engine by revving it too high. Exacerbating the occasional frustration is that the little five-cylinder spins so fast that, in the lower gears of the seven-speed dual clutch transmission – sorry, no manual is available – it is sometimes hard to paddle-shift fast enough to contain the engine’s enthusiasm. Better that, of course, than lethargy. But it does mean that the rapid way around a track — or on a twisty road — may be short shifting the S-tronic gearbox.

The TT RS is equally adroit arcing around corners. TTs have always pushed their front ends, understeer being the inevitable result of a forward torque bias and Audi’s natural predilection towards caution. Not the 2018 TT RS. Indeed, it was hard to make it slide any of its tires, so exacting was the computer-controlled AWD system’s distribution of torque. No matter how hard you hammer on the gas — whether in the aforementioned high-speed Ascari or the super-tight, first-gear Nuvolari hairpin at the back end of Jarama’s long straight — the optional P255/30ZR20 Pirelli PZero Corsa tires stick like glue.

Indeed, as one wag lamented, the TT RS sticks so tenaciously to tarmac that it makes it almost too easy to corner. Where’s the drama if something isn’t sliding, seemed to be the complaint. No matter. Whatever your preference in comportment — precision or drama — this much is clear: The new TT RS is a serious competitor — in a straight line or around a curvy track — to Porsche’s Cayman.

It also rides a bunch better, thanks to an optional magnetorheological suspension system. In its stiffest sport mode, the TT RS does a fair impression of a NASCAR escapee, roll during cornering all but banished. But metered back to its normal setting, the suspension offers up a lot less of the low-speed crashing and bashing that plagues the smallest Porsche. It’s not in the Lexus LS’ league of suspension compliance, but considering how well behaved it is on the track, the RS is a marvel of civility on the street.

It’s also got two, if vestigial, back seats, a phenomenal Bang & Olufsen sound system and, for those thinking of winter practicality, the aforementioned Quattro all-wheel drive system, all of which the current Caymans lack.

Indeed, if you’re getting the impression that Audi’s latest TT out-Porsches Porsche’s own Cayman, that’s the impression we were left with as well. Oh, there might be a little more drama to the Cayman’s performance and a little more feedback through its steering wheel, but the new TT RS sees that and then ups the ante with a bunch more horsepower, more supple suspension and, then for the coupe de grace, tops it all off – like all TTs that have gone before it – with enough practicality to not be pigeon-holed as an enthusiasts-only sports car.

 In other words, it engages both sides of the brain, a trait my women friends are always telling me that the female of our species excels at compared with we mere males. Maybe that should be the new definition of a “chick” car.

 The 2018 Audi TT RS won’t be available in Canada until next summer. Don’t look for much change back from $75,000.

2018 Audi TT RS

2018 Audi TT RS vs. 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman S | Automobile Magazine

Hating turbocharged engines is en vogue among purists these days. When Saab in 1979 introduced the 900 Turbo (it destroyed turbochargers faster than front tires), and when BMW launched the 2002 Turbo (it featured what felt like 10-second throttle lag), the world could not have cared less about artificial aspiration. More than 40 years later, though, at the height of the turbo era and on the eve of affordable electro-mobility, hardcore car guys are mourning the apparent demise of pure and simple old-school drivetrains.

I consider myself part of this group, and I reluctantly admit I wanted to hate Porsche’s new forced-induction four-cylinder boxer engine ahead of this test of its new 718 Cayman S and Audi’s new TT RS. This engine has, in both Boxster and Cayman, replaced the normally aspirated flat-six. I’ve been critical of the current breed of let-me-do-this-for-you Audis, thanks to their lack of thrill and enthusiasm. “Androgynous,” “aseptic,” and “artificial” are terms that come to my mind when sampling these near-perfect but cold products from Ingolstadt. But is this a case of personal preconceptions? Join us for a day of surprises, confirmations, and new findings.

“Anticlimax” is the first thought when you twist the Porsche’s lozenge-shaped ignition key and start the engine the old-fashioned way. What disappoints is the noise generated behind your back, a metallic jam-session oddly reminiscent of an Oettinger-tuned Beetle from way back when: plenty of initial clatter and splutter, followed by a hoarse, uneven, and atonal idle. We hoped for a more extrovert performance, even though the tune does get catchier as you select a gear and add revs. There are 7,500 revolutions to play with, plus that optional extra-loud exhaust system acting as mobile speaker array, and yet your ears feast primarily on a dense mix of high-decibel buzz and jarring, bassy rasp.

Let’s move over to the Audi, which adopts the racy steering wheel with the big starter button from the R8. Hit that red circle, and people who live on the same street will hate you forever. If the explosive hard-rock intro is anything to go by, this synthesizer has all the marks of the world’s first external combustion engine. The initial firings could jerk a baby out of its stroller and make grandpa turn down his hearing aid. Like the 718 Cayman S, the TT RS is fitted with the optional hooligan exhaust, which must have been certified by the Albanian branch of Deaf & Dumb Inc. When pushed through its paces, however, the unexpectedly melodic 2.5-liter alloy-block five-cylinder induces goose pimples and smiles so fast that you instinctively clench your first—well done, Herr composer!

Even before we take off, at mile marker 0.0, the Porsche has some catching up to do. To match the Audi’s specification, it is fitted with the seven-speed PDK transmission, not the six-speed manual. In the TT RS, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is the only choice. Next, please erase everything you remember about previous Caymans, because this one is different. High revs required to deliver the goods? Not anymore. At 1,900 rpm, the single-turbo, 2.5-liter engine dishes up 309 lb-ft of torque, and this rich torque menu is available all the way to 4,500 rpm. At the word “go,” the new four-cylinder boxer tears down the wall that used to separate cruise mode from instant grunt, which is no mean feat. The secret to this always-on-the-alert attitude is a variable-vane wastegate turbocharger.

Even at part-throttle, it whips up enough boost pressure by synchronizing wastegate aperture, ignition timing, and throttle position. As a result, the 16-valver drops the hammer hard as soon as the driver puts a foot down.

In a very wise move, Audi—under former research-and-development chief Ulrich Hackenberg—developed a new, low-friction, high-efficiency, all-aluminum five-cylinder unit that weighs 57 pounds less than its cast-iron predecessor. Rated at 400 horsepower in the TT RS, the 2.5-liter engine boasts a broader max-torque band than the Porsche engine, spreading its peak twist action of 354 lb-ft from 1,700 to 5,850 rpm. We expected awesome punch in any gear at any time, but there was a snag. When you coast along, for example, at 60 mph and suddenly feel the itch, throttle tip-in is painfully slow; the gearbox takes much too long to change down from fifth to third. Compared to this lengthy pause, normal turbo lag almost feels like a time-warp experience. Audi is aware of this problem and will reprogram the software for hard and fast downshifts.

In the TT RS, seventh is normally a rev-cutting, waft-along gear. In Dynamic mode, however, the black box will zoom in on the bottom six ratios. Although you can slide the shifter across to the manual gate, the steering-wheel paddles are a much more intuitive option. We have also nothing but praise for the PDK box fitted to the 718. Dial in Sport or even Sport+, and the Porsche will change the shift pattern in an even more dramatic fashion than the TT RS. It has to do with how long to hold onto the gear you’re in through fast corners and at high or low revs, how to time upshifts and downshifts, and how to best manage the power and torque flow. When fitted with the Sport Chrono pack, the Cayman S features a so-called Sport Response button in the middle of the rotary drive-mode selector. Push it, for instance in preparation of a close overtaking move, and the drivetrain switches to high alert for the next 20 seconds. Also worth noting is the coasting mode, which automatically selects neutral under trailing throttle.

Despite all the marketing efforts, these two coupes are not really brand-new cars. The TT RS’s genetic roots trace back to Wolfsburg where Volkswagen developed the MQB architecture now also used by Audi in the 2012 A3 and the current TT. The 718 Cayman is in essence a heavily modified version of the original mid-engined coupe launched in 2006. If you think that’s too harsh an assessment, please consider that neither model offers modern conveniences like a head-up display or sophisticated assistance systems. While Audi is rightly proud of its versatile virtual cockpit display, Porsche has at long last introduced a decent infotainment with a new touchscreen and plenty of fresh features. Ergonomically, the latest Cayman S is nonetheless still a hodgepodge of random push, turn, and touch commands. Some of the submenus—case in point is the Individual program—are awkward to access, the main dials including the digital speedometer are too small, and the center stack is cluttered.

The TT RS cabin is a nicer place to be. Where the Porsche has a firewall, the Audi has two token rear seats that fold down to increase the luggage space. It also sports more head- and legroom, easier-to-use controls, and a more stylish cockpit equipped with more modern materials. While the car from Ingolstadt comes with Quattro all-wheel drive, S-tronic transmission, and 19-inch wheels, the guys from Stuttgart make you pay extra for the dual-clutch gearbox and bigger wheels and tires.

As far as costs go, well, Audi has not yet priced the TT RS for the U.S., but we expect it to start at about the same price as the PDK- and Sport Chrono-equipped Cayman S. For the first time in its life, the 2017 Cayman is actually less expensive than the corresponding Boxster. It may not mean much, but the TT RS loses only two-tenths against the R8 V-10—which costs more than twice as much—in the 0-60-mph trial. In the same discipline, the 718 equipped with the PDK, Sport Chrono package, and launch control beats the base 911 Carrera that carries a 50-percent price premium. There is no doubt: The days when the number of cylinders and amount of displacement determined a car’s performance are over.

When speed is a drug, then this colorful couple will get you hooked for life after a single day’s hard driving. One is almost always going too fast on those empty B- and C-roads in the Regensburg hinterland, and even on the unrestricted Nuremberg-Munich autobahn, the fast lane was rarely clear enough to reach terminal velocity. The Audi normally tops out at 155 mph, but our test car came with an extra-cost 175-mph speed limit.

Even at that velocity, there was still a bit of forward thrust left. Officially, the Cayman S will do 178 mph. We saw an indicated 186 mph moments before another mirror-less and indicator-less holidaymaker pulled out in front. Slamming on the brakes accomplished reassuring deceleration, but the freeze-frame effect was even more mind-boggling in the TT RS fitted with carbon-ceramic reins up front. The Porsche, which relied on steel rotors all round, is also available with compound stoppers. Sadly, they cost about as much as a small farm in Swaziland.

What sets these two cars apart philosophically is one simple fact: The Porsche is a sports car, the Audi is a very sporty car. Compare, for a start, the driving positions. In the 718, you sit low down, close to the road, under a low roof. The TT RS is much easier to get in and out of, the position behind the wheel is more relaxed, the roof peaks at a less extreme height. But the Audi is clearly more A3 than R8, despite the red stitching, the fancy instruments, and that fixed wing in the rearview mirror. What splits the hatchback coupes dynamically is the steering. The Cayman S uses the same rack as the 911 turbo, one of the most satisfying man-machine interfaces. The TT RS benefits from a variation of the MQB steering, which offers three different settings labeled Comfort, Auto, and Dynamic. I give it only 7.5 points on the total immersion scale, where the Cayman scores a solid 10.

Depending on your definition of perfection, the Audi comes close to being one of the easiest cars to drive fast, irrespective of road and surface conditions. Instead of bothering you with too much information, it likes to act as a sublime filter with a twist. The steering is slightly over-damped, over-assisted, and over-eager to step in. Somehow, it seems to have a life of its own, and the mission of that life is to absorb or enhance, depending on the situation. Along with torque vectoring, it will, for example, miraculously pull the car straight again at the exit of a bend or under hard braking into a downhill corner.

But a committed driver might be reluctant to accept any intervention, unless we’re talking true life-saving devices like anti-lock brakes or skid control. Once again, this Audi struggles to fuse maximum active-safety features and total involvement. The Porsche allows more leeway and provides more freedom, it still inspires confidence despite the longer leash, and it has been engineered for absolute interaction. The steering plots the tarmac with rare accuracy, even though this setup accepts, to a certain degree, vibrations, kicks, and nudges. Since the communication is totally authentic, you always know exactly what the car does, and what it will likely do next. And here’s the thing: Porsche still champions the fixed steering-calibration strategy en lieu of a variable-this-or-that gadgetry. This parameter can make all the difference. The main active-safety device installed in the Audi is Quattro all-wheeel drive. In foul weather and on slippery turf, a hard-charging TT RS remains relatively unperturbed while the Cayman S has long entered phase-two twitchiness. Does this focus on active safety make your heart beat faster? Probably not. Does it make the drive home less challenging? Absolutely.

Click the thumbwheel from Comfort to Sport, and the Porsche flexes its muscles instantly. Twist it one notch further to Sport+, and the car prepares for a racetrack visit. Your best bet is thus perhaps Individual mode, which can, for example, blend compliant dampers with fast shifting and eager throttle response.

Better still, dial in PSM Sport, which is, on cold tires, almost as exciting as PSM Off. If testing boundaries is all about putting abilities and ambitions into perspective, then the 718 is a better tool for this job than the TT RS. It simply is the more tactile car, provides feedback in abundance, talks you through the tricky bits with subtle body language, and leaves some latitude before stepping in. The Cayman is happy to indulge in the complete handling spectrum from mild understeer to wild oversteer. It is a classic case of challenge followed by instant reward—or instant punishment.

Having said that, the Audi is on certain days the quicker A-to-B car. Its trick driveline now boasts wheel-selective torque delivery, the cornering grip of the 20-inch Pirelli P Zeros (the Cayman ran on the same tire type) is little short of phenomenal, and in Dynamic mode more grunt can be relayed to the rear wheels in the blink of an eye.

Through fast sweepers, the TT RS is surreally fast, poised, and grounded. Where ripples and grooves start to annoy the Porsche, its challenger continues to be an unreservedly focused, unswerving carver. Even though the 718 received the 911’s four-piston front brakes, it cannot quite match the fast-rewind stopping power of a TT RS with carbon-ceramic rotors. Another forte of the coupe with the four rings is the sprint against the stopwatch. Thanks to Quattro, launch control, and an extra 45 lb-ft of torque, it beats the Porsche by a significant half-second from 0 to 60 mph.

At the end of the day, the TT RS’s handling balance costs it precious virtual points. How come? Because turn-in just isn’t quite as eager, and because eventual understeer is the name of 10/10ths cornering exercises, and because the car likes to be in control. When we entered the zig-zag roller-coaster part of the route, the TT RS started with a tire pressure of 33 psi all-around. About 40 minutes later, rubber melting and brakes fuming, the readout signaled a jump to 48 up front and 38 in the back. Sure, we could have let air out and hoped for the best on the re-run. Alternatively, though, Audi could have agreed on a more adventurous torque split not unlike the setup Ford chose for the remarkable Focus RS. After all, truly fast cornering is not about overt leeriness but about a predominantly neutral attitude that stretches a bit either way when required.

On paper, these two contenders have a lot in common. On the road, however, they display quite different strengths and weaknesses. The TT RS wears a flashy, aggressive outfit, but it delivers when pushed, and its dynamic potential is remarkably accessible. The 718 Cayman S is a more complete car than last year’s GTS, and it ticks all the critical boxes, moving one more step closer to the 911. Despite the paradigm shift toward the turbocharged flat-four engine, it still is the more emotional choice, the more engaging drive, and the sole proper sports car.

2017 Porsche Cayman S Specifications

On Sale: November
Price: $70,550 (base with PDK transmission)
Engine: 2.5-liter turbo DOHC 16-valve flat-four/350 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 309 lb-ft @ 1,900-4,500 rpm
Transmission: dual-clutch automatic
Layout: 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe
EPA Mileage: 20/26 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H: 172.4 x 70.9 x 51.0 in
Wheelbase: 97.4 in
Weight: 3,054 lb
0-60 MPH: 4.0 sec
Top Speed: 177 mph

2018 Audi TT RS Specifications

On Sale: Spring 2017
Price: $68,000 (base) (est)
Engine: 2.5-liter turbo DOHC 20-valve inline-5/400 hp @ 5,850-7,000 rpm, 354 lb-ft @ 1,700-5,850 rpm
Transmission: dual-clutch automatic
Layout: 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD coupe
EPA Mileage: N/A
L x W x H: 165.0 x 72.1 x 52.9 in
Wheelbase: 98.6 in
Weight: 3,175 lb
0-60 MPH: 3.5 sec
Top Speed: 155 mph (175 with optional package)
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