2012 Audi TT RS: First Drive

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At first look, the 2012 Audi TT RS could be taken as just another chipped, dressed-up TT, with subtle differences that only a true Audiphile would be able to parse out from a distance.

In truth, that’s not at all a bad thing. About 15 minutes into a drive of the new U.S.-spec TT RS, we’d only been puttering along in traffic and managed to blend in pretty well. But when the road opened up and we dropped the hammer, we truly weren’t prepared to be pinned back in our seats with such force. With an engine that revs willingly, low gear ratios to take advantage of it, a hard-to-fluster all-wheel-drive system, and a meaty torque plateau that caps most of the rev range, the RS can leave you a little speechless, delivering the acceleration of an exotic.

Conservative factory numbers from Audi put the TT RS at just 4.1 seconds for the 0-60 mph dash. That’s faster than the V-8 Audi R8, a normally aspirated Porsche 911, or even the screaming new Ford Mustang Boss 302.

Top speed is 174 mph, and Audi also says that the TT RS not only has the fastest acceleration of any vehicle in its competitive set; it’s also the most fuel-efficient, with an EPA Combined 20 mpg.

The secret weapon in the RS is a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine that’s turbocharged and direct injected, carrying the TFSI nomenclature and making 360 horsepower and a meaty 343 pound-feet of torque as low as 1,650 rpm.

More kick than a V-8!

Below 3,500 rpm, there tends to be a bit of turbo lag while the boost builds to a 17.4-psi frenzy, but above that it’s all business—and it feels like delivers a stronger kick than the V-8 powertrain in the last Audi RS4 (it makes more torque). And that’s all in a (much lighter) 3,300-pound coupe.

Not surprisingly, it’s extremely addictive. We found ourselves again slowing, intentionally, then tapping into all that torque in second or third gear.

To allow us to sample the increased potential of the TT RS without getting thrown in the slammer, Audi set us up with some time at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, where the facility’s tightest 1.5-mile road course really helped prove that the TT RS’s fleet-footed driving dynamics go well beyond vast, wide-open straightaways and high-speed sweepers.

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Comments (3)
  1. I just took delivery of a TT RS, and absolutely love it!
    This article just about nails it on the head with each and every aspect of the car - nice job MA! The only slight disagreement I have is with the writing on the daily driving aspect of the car. I believe the TT RS is the perfect daily driver for any driving enthusiast. I don't know the courseness they speak of, and with the sport mode button in the OFF setting, the car is no worse than other daily drivers I've owned including: 2004 Audi TT 3.2, 2007 Audi A4 SLine w/coilovers and AWE catback, 2010 VW GTI or even a 2006 Porsche Cayman S (3 season DD). Perhaps I'm just used to more edgy cars, but by no means is the TT RS rough around those edges.

  2. Gary, people are simply whiny. They want razor turn-in, poised balance through the entire corner, and race car corner exit in a car with 100 lb. spring rates and 6 miles of compression dampening. It's an impossible task that the engineers just can't do without 200 lbs. worth of auto-driver controls and dampening variability (sport mode? HA!). When I get in my friend's 300 BHP Subaru WRX STi I have to twist nobs and push buttons to get the full power from the engine, turn off traction control (on an AWD vehicle mind you), and tune the center differential. That's every single time you get in it and start it!

    If you want performance, get performance ... If I buy a Porsche 911 the GT3 should be the entry level platform.

  3. I just read your piece, and here is my take. I owned a TT Q Roadster, 2004, and had a blast in the car. Further, I think the new TT is bloatted and not as beautiful as the original design. The original design was unique and functional. I am a freak for architecture, and believe it to be moving art. Do I need to go 150mph, no. Do I want to drive my Audi TT in the snow, yes. Do I want manual yes. Can I get it on a new Audi TT, no. I wanted to buy one but thought is widestance was obtrusive and no manual. I miss my TT so much.

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