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Friday, September 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

Audi TT RS sheds its civility a layer at a time

Automakers labor to shelter us from the hard-working machinery that hides away in places we never see.

We like our cabins quiet and our rides gentle. There’s no need remind us of the messy, noisy and generally uncivil activity happening in our cars’ nether regions.
 
Which is all well and good — unless you’d rather commune with the mechanical nature of the beast.

Back, and better than ever

In which case you’d be happiest behind the wheel of a Jeep Wrangler, a vintage muscle car or a pickup with a few years under its belt.

Of a car like Audi’s TT RS whose luxurious accommodations exist in solidarity with its wild side. 

Following a five-year absence, the RS returns to the Audi stable this year in a fit of 400-horsepower glory.

The luxury-sports coupe could happily spend its life as a docile, if sharp-edged, piece of daily transportation. It’s a shapely little car, with an elegantly minimalistic two-person cockpit, a compliant ride and outstanding safety and cabin tech.

A tale of two machines

But by pushing a button here and deploying a rocker switch there (and poking the non-essential but totally worth it Loud button), the driver can strip away much of its civilizing veneer.

Engine revs leap. Transmission settings grow aggressive. Steering responses sharpen and the beefy flat-bottom steering wheel grows heavier under hand. Adaptive dampers firm up, cutting transient body motions (especially helpful when the RS approaches its governed 155-mph top speed) and quelling body lean.

The RS is powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine that makes 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. A launch-control feature enables a 0-60 sprint of just 3.6 seconds.

The transmission is a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual. Left to its own devices, it makes well-timed and lightning-quick shifts. By dialing up its Manual drive mode, the driver can wring the last bit of performance from the powertrain.

A deeper intimacy

Quattro all-wheel-drive is standard. The torque-vectoring system can route 100 percent of available torque to the rear wheels — normally in response to a heavy foot on the throttle pedal. 

Even with its most aggressive track tech deployed, the RS ride quality stays on the polite side of the ride-versus-handling divide.

Steering responses are immediate and accurate. The system feels naturally weighted and effort grows progressively as speed increases. The system has a solid on-center groove but doesn’t communicate much road-surface information. 

For those who want to get intimately involved with the RS machinery, an available Dynamic Package Plus package ($6,000) replaces the active dampers with ultra-firm fixed-rate springs. It’s a track-ready setup that ratchets up handling, boosts top speed to 174 mph and peels off another layer of veneer.

Ride quality takes a nosedive.

Unique, effective controls

Standard TT gear includes LED headlights, heated auto-dimming mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, keyless ignition and entry, selectable drive modes and adaptive steering.

Inside, there’s automatic climate control, leather and simulated suede upholstery, heated and power-adjustable front seats. Audi's MMI infotainment system includes voice control as well as a trace pad which “reads” simple finger-drawn inputs, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a nine-speaker audio system with satellite radio and two USB ports.

RS accouterments include 12-way power seats finished in Nappa leather with contrast diamond stitching. 

The seats are firm and supportive and visibility from the driver’s seat is better than expected, considering the TT’s steeply sloping roofline and thick C pillars.


Audi’s MMI dispenses with the conventional touchscreen, using instead a knob-and-button based system with redundant steering-wheel controls. The navigation display, with its vivid Google Earth imagery, is woven into the “virtual cockpit,” a digital command center located just ahead of the steering wheel, where it is displayed on a 12.3-inch screen.

The remaining expanse of dashboard houses a set of aircraft-style vents. Climate controls — fan speed, vent selection and temperature controls — are integrated into the three central vents. Two outer vents house the heated-seat controls. 

Don’t let its elegant minimalism deceive you, though; just beneath the RS’s civilized surfaces is a machine yearning to run free.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2018 Audi TT RS Coupe
Vehicle base price: $64,900
Trim level base price: $64,900
As tested: $74,025 (includes handling and destination)
Options included MMI Navigation Plus; Audi Connect online services; Audi smartphone interface; Audi side assist; Bang & Olufsen audio; 20-inch 7-spoke high-gloss anthracite forged wheels; 30-series summer tires; black optic exterior kit; sport exhaust system; leather-covered center console and door armrests; red accents on air vents and front seat belts; RS-embroidered floor mats; carbon fiber inlays; red brake calipers.
EPA rating: 22 combined/19 city/29 highway
Premium gasoline specified



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.