Can we talk about how misunderstood the Audi TT is? Introduced in 1998, it was hailed as a triumph of automotive design. It was a huge sales success for Audi, and its ultra-slippery aerodynamics made it as lively and unpredictable (read: terrifying) at speed as a Porsche 911. But the poor TT was beset with the same image problem as the Miata, namely that it was all flash; an underpowered sports car imposter built on the humble Volkswagen Golf platform. It was a little too stylish, a real hairdresser’s car, if you catch our drift…
Of course, those detractors were idiots. For nearly two decades, the TT has offered one of the most unique driving experiences in the world, and has gotten better nearly every year, even if it doesn’t quite stand out in the modern Audi lineup like it used to. And at this year’s Beijing Auto Show, Audi has silenced any remaining TT detractors out there with a new, red-hot, 400-horsepower, 385 pound-feet of torque RS.
This is the second RS version of the TT, with the first introduced on the second-generation car in 2009. That ’09 RS made an impressive 360 horsepower from its five-cylinder engine — what a difference seven years makes. Like the last model, this RS rocks an inline-five, a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox (sorry, no manuals), and delivers power to all four wheels via Audi’s famed Quattro system. But it also scrambles from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds, with the roadster version hitting the mark in 3.9 seconds. According to Autoblog, the TT RS will hit European showrooms later this year, and will reach the American market sometime in 2017. At roughly $75K, it isn’t cheap but slots in just above its corporate cousin the Porsche Cayman, re-establishing it in a spot that’s entirely unique in the Audi lineup.
Of course, there is another four-ringed alternative to the all-new TT RS, and that would be a used V8-powered Audi R8. Before you scoff, consider this: The ’08-’14 4.2 liter-powered supercar packed 430 horsepower, 317 pound-feet of torque, and made the zero to 60 dash in 4.2 seconds. And while the buy-in was around $120K new, respectable sales (for a supercar, at least) and a long production run mean high-mileage (50K-plus) models from last decade can be found for around the starting price of the TT RS. Considering that the new car could embarrass Iron Man’s car in a drag race by half a second, we’d probably follow the path less traveled and go with the new car.
Plus, there’s the all-important sleeper factor, one of the greatest joys of owning an unexpectedly fast car. The TT still may not get as much respect in the performance car world, but that means people aren’t likely to notice the revised front fascia with larger air intakes, big oval tail pipes, or fixed spoiler until it’s much too late. It may be too early to know for sure, but we’re looking forward to seeing the TT RS become a track-day spoiler around the world by the end of next year.
When it was introduced in 2008, the R8 was hailed as one of Audi’s greatest triumphs — and with good cause. In many ways, it picked up the mantle left by the first-generation Acura NSX, namely that it was a comfortable, reliable supercar that you could theoretically live with every day. In its current V10-only guise, it’s as good as ever. But the company seemed to lose something by dropping the V8 model, something that’s been picked up by an unlikely inline-five powered bruiser. For unmistakable Audi looks, world-class performance, and a little bit of sleeper car fun, we’d wait for the TT RS to arrive in showrooms next year.