The Audi TT RS packs a punch. This pocket rocket can fire you from 0-62mph in a similar time to vastly pricier supercars, yet still remains practical to drive day-to-day.
The base-level Audi TT starts at $45,500 / £33,145, but if you're looking for that supercar-esque performance you'll need to upgrade to the RS model which starts at $67,600 / £55,995.
We drove the Audi Sport Edition Coupe, which with a few additional extras, came to £63,835 (around $84,000).
It's far from cheap then, and if you're looking for a dinky sports car that doesn't break the bank, the more affordable Mazda MX-5 might be what you're after, but it doesn't offer anywhere near the same performance as the Audi TT RS.
The Audi TT RS gets you from 0-62mph in just 3.7 seconds – which is up there with its Lotus, Aston Martin and Porsche rivals.
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Audi TT RS design
Audi TT RS Coupe Audi Sport Edition
Engine: 2.5L 5-cylinder TFSI
Power: 395bhp (400PS)
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel efficiency: 30mpg
The RS Audi Sport Edition takes the standard Audi TT look and gives it a meaner exterior with additional bodywork including a fixed rear spoiler, large rear diffuser and sizable exhausts, side skirts and huge 20-inch wheels.
Our model also featured the red brake calipers (an optional extra), to complete the sporty aesthetic. It sits low, but not as low as some sports cars, and clambering into the driving seat isn't the same drop in altitude as you get when clambering into the Audi R8 V10 Plus.
Once inside, and you'll feel nicely cocooned with the high door panels and dash adding to the low-appearing driving position.
The TT RS may be compact in terms of overall size, but there's a surprising amount of headroom, and even at 6 foot 2 inches (187cm), we found there was still space between our head and the roof.
Legroom in the front is generous too, and it means both driver and front passenger are able to sit in comfort as the RS sport seats gently hug your sides. The rear seats however, well they're more for show.
Adults will struggle to fit, and they pretty much have to sacrifice their legs if the actually want to be transported anywhere. There are ISOFIX points, which means car seats for small children are possible - but anyone bigger than a toddler will likely struggle with the rear arrangement in the TT.
The rear seats are useful for chucking your bag, coat and any other bits and pieces on, and it provides some additional storage over conventional two-seater sport cars (such as the aforementioned MX-5).
That's just as well, as the door pockets are shockingly shallow – we didn't feel confident resting our phone or wallet in them for fear of them falling out when we opened the door.
But the positive storage story continues when you open up the rear, to find a luggage space which can comfortably accommodate a couple of weekend bags, or a weekly shop without issue. You can fold down the rear seats too, providing you more space, letting you fit larger cases or a set of golf clubs in the back.
The rear view mirror provides a slightly restricted sight line out the back of the window, and the short side windows also means you won't be able to see things such as bollards and kerbs quite so easily – there are sensors and a rear camera though, which we will talk about more later on.
For two adults then, the Audi TT RS offers a pleasing level of daily practicality, but what this car really is all about is the performance. And it doesn't disappoint.
Audi TT RS drive
Press your foot onto the brake pedal, hit the red start/stop ignition button on the steering wheel, and the TT RS roars to life. It also features one of our favorite buttons – sport exhaust.
Pressing the button, which resides just behind the gear shift, switches the RS Sports Exhaust system from standard to sport, providing a more aggressive audible note which will no doubt raise a wry smile as you massage the accelerator pedal into the floor.
Burying the pedal unleashes the TT RS' most entertaining feature – its acceleration. As we've mentioned, it will catapult you from 0-62mph in just 3.7 seconds and will continue to climb comfortably.
There is a slight lag between pressing the pedal and the four wheel drive engaging with the engine to shoot you up the road, but the result is extremely enjoyable.
The automatic gearbox performs well, and for those who prefer a little more control over gears there are paddle shifts tucked behind the wheel.
Steering is light and nimble, with the Audi TT RS' low center of gravity providing great balance through corners. The ride however, is on the stiff side with less cushioning over bumps.
It means you'll feel uneven road surfaces more, and while we wouldn't go as far as to say the ride is uncomfortable, it's noticeable enough, and can get tiresome on long journeys.
Audi TT RS specs and tech
One noticeable omission from the main dash of the Audi TT RS is a central screen – something which has become a staple of new cars.
Audi has instead opted to provide just one display, and that's its digital cockpit which doubles as the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. Audi did the same thing in its R8 supercar, which makes the TT RS feel just that bit more special when you get inside, and less like Audi's core range of sedans and hatchbacks.
The digital cockpit remains one of our favorite infotainment offerings, and in the TT RS it's where you control everything - from driver assists to music and satellite navigation.
This can all be controlled from the buttons on the steering wheel, plus there's a rotary dial and quick-launch buttons in front of the gear shift to get you to key screens quickly, and speed up text input.
What this layout does mean, however, is your passenger doesn't have any control over any of this – music selection and navigation input is purely placed on the driver's shoulders.
The system is intuitive and doesn't take long to master, but for those who'd rather focus on the driving experience, this might be a little frustration.
We found the navigation software was excellent, and its highly-detailed maps and clear directions made journeys to unfamiliar places a breeze.
There's Bluetooth support too, allowing you to connect your smartphone to the TT RS, which lets you stream music as well as make and receive calls through the car's infotainment system – with steering wheel controls allowing you to keep your eyes on the road.
If you want the flexibility of having access to more of your smartphone's applications, the Audi TT RS also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto when you connect your handset to the car via one of the two USB ports in the cubby hole (with retractable cover) which sits at the base of the central dash. There's a wireless phone charging pad in this space too – plus a 3.5mm headphone jack.
However, we wouldn't recommend using CarPlay or Auto in the Audi TT RS unless you're desperate to have a particular apps functionality (such as Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze or iMessage) at your disposal. This goes back to the absence of a central touchscreen display, which is where you'd usually interface with assistive software on other cars.
Instead, CarPlay or Auto would be redirected to the digital cockpit screen – and the on-wheel controls make this usually touch interface trickier to navigate. With Audi's own interface being so good, sticking to the default offering isn't really an issue.
There are a range of driving aids included with the Audi TT RS, including automatic wipers and lights, adaptive lane assist which will gently nudge you back in lane if it feels you drifting too much, and cruise control.
Pop the TT RS in reverse and the digital cockpit will show you the view from the rear-facing camera, along with visual feedback from the parking sensors all the way around the car to ensure you don't bump into anything when maneuvering in tight situations.
You also get cup and key holders in the space between the front seats, plus an armrest which features additional covered storage underneath it (you'll find a 12v port in here too).
One final design flourish which we hope to see in more vehicles in the future centers around climate control.
The turbine-shaped air vents that run along the top of the dash have a nice party trick. The knobs on the middle trio of vents house the climate controls, while the two outer vents (one by each door) provide controls for the heated seats. It's a simple, yet elegant and effective way to keep the dash clutter-free.
If you're looking to go supremely fast, supremely quickly, but don't have supercar money, the Audi TT RS is a highly accomplished offering. Its blistering performance is seriously impressive, and it's fun to drive. You also benefit from a suite of tech which is intuitive and useful, plus those clever climate controls.
- John McCann is getting behind the wheel to give you an alternative look at the wealth of cars – and the tech inside them – available today. From super-fast sports cars to tech-packed hatchbacks, he'll take you through a range of makes, models, power and price tags in his regular TR Drives column.