x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

2010 Audi TT RS Coupé

The German car maker has given its sporty coupé the performance it deserves.

With quattro all-wheel drive to keep it planted, the Audi TT RS makes it difficult for drivers to find its limits, even with the traction control turned off.
With quattro all-wheel drive to keep it planted, the Audi TT RS makes it difficult for drivers to find its limits, even with the traction control turned off.

Many car makers offer products with exciting styling and a powerful engine; the vehicle is purported to have a "sporting" character and to offer a driver exhilaration and bragging rights at a stop light. Some even go so far as to insinuate (though rarely state outright) that their models would be best for hooning around a race track. But few of these cars are truly deserving of a checkered flag; the Audi TT RS, however, is one that is.

The German car maker has always trumpeted the sport characteristics of the TT, but this model is the first that is truly deserving of the praise. The turbocharged, inline five-cylinder engine is a marvel, and gets the car to 100kph in a segment-leading 4.6 seconds. There's a slight degree of turbo lag, but it's only noticeable because of the surge of seemingly endless power as the turbo kicks in. Full torque comes on very quickly and smoothly; passing cars is effortless and the power will not disappoint either at a stop light or on the track. But it's also composed and refined enough for normal driving around town.

The engine is mated to a six-speed manual gear box, the only transmission available for the RS. It's a pleasure to row through the gears with, especially with its light clutch. But, as good as the engine and gearbox are together, those are not the reasons alone to hoon this car around a track. No, to really see how much fun you can squeeze out of this TT RS is to take it into the tightest, twistiest curves you can find (not an easy task here in the Emirates, but possible). Because its handling will tell you that this is a real sports car.

Extremely balanced and weighted, it's very difficult to find the limits of traction even in higher-speed, tight curves. It's certainly one of the most agile and lithe vehicles I've ever driven, and there are a few reasons behind its superb handling. First, it's very light, at just 1,450kg, thanks in part to an aluminum chassis. Audi has also developed magnetic ride shock absorbers that self adjust to road conditions. In normal mode, it had an excellent balance of comfort and stability; turns were flat and stable, while bumps were sufficiently soaked up. The Sport mode is really better off left for a track day; the ride stiffened up so much that it was buckboarding down the motorway, banging my head against the headrest and transferring every single crevice and pebble to the cockpit.The suspension's normal mode was sporty enough for me, thanks.

Contributing to its stiff ride were the optional 19-inch wheels. Oh, yes, they look cool, all dark carbon, five-spoked and low-ridin'. But they don't offer much give when it comes to a comfy ride; better for the track, but the 18-inchers may be more ideal for the street. Perhaps the biggest contributor to its poise and grip, though, is the quattro all-wheel-drive system. Biased to send just a tad more torque to the rear wheels, it is stellar for traction in straight-ahead acceleration as well as keeping it on line clipping apexes in a corner.

Of course, there were a few things I didn't like about this car, and they centred around its Multi-Media Interface, the entertainment-info nerve centre on the dash. For one, its sat-nav system was extremely complicated to use; input is through a controller knob and buttons, and it forces the driver to scroll through page after page to find a destination or route. I felt it would take me less time to stop and ask someone who didn't speak English for directions than it would take to find my way with the nav system.

Also, Audi insists on using its own input cable for auxiliary devices such as iPods or, well, whatever you want to plug in for music. But there was no cable with the car, and there was no USB port that most vehicles nowadays seem to come with as standard. C'mon, Audi, don't be so proprietary! Well, if you don't opt for the nav system, then I guess the last gripes are moot. The TT RS is a great sporting car, and it comes up very, very well against - in fact, I think ahead of - its main competition, the Porsche Cayman S. The RS version also gets some styling cues, such as a boy-racer rear wing and flared nostrils at the front, to differentiate it from the regular TT.

Yes, it's a little pricey, but considering its overall performance, that's to be expected; and it comes in around the same price as the Porsche. For this price, it's like getting two cars: one for a refined and stylish ride in town, and another for wild weekends at the Autodrome. Sounds like a bargain to me. nvorano@thenational.ae