The Audi TT RS
Over the years test driving and reviewing automobiles, I have realised that when it comes to cars, being ‘flawless' and staying ‘true to character'
are two mutually exclusive factors. In simple terms, being flawless means that a particular car does its job well. The point, however, is that most car manufacturers today, with the exception of a select few have completely switched to trying hard to make their cars flawless in every aspect. This means loading them with the latest gadgetry, electronic drive interventions and luxury features that take away the character that the car was intended to portray in the first place. Take the mid segment SUVs for instance. There's hardly a difference across brands today. Every car in the market feels the same in almost every aspect. The only noticeable difference being the name tag and the minuscule variations in handling and speed. Muscle cars are another good example. The 60s and 70s were the wonder years because back then it was all about character. Think Chevilles and Challengers and Mustangs which were all about individuality and freedom.
As Toyota revolutionised the motoring world over the next decade, most muscle cars died because the factors that really mattered then were affordability, reliability and fuel efficiency. American Muscle offered only the former. Reliability and fuel efficiency were not factors that were seriously considered. A few survived the fall; a few were revived recently. Today, muscle cars are no different from any other road-going sedans, except for their overrated exhaust tones and overemphasised retro designs. The reason for this is simple. Instead of embracing their core fans, they went the way of the flawless adding gadgetry and electronic stability assistance, among other things. In other words, the only factors that made crude retro cars like these unique were now replaced with modern functionality which not only made them comparable to family sedans, it also drove prices up making them less attractive.
A change in perspective
The basic Audi TT was not a car that caught my attention when a shiny one zipped by every now and then. The reason for this is probably because of my general bias towards rear-wheel drive cars - especially German rear-wheel drive cars. To me, a good German sports coupe had to have its power transmitted to the rear wheels only and in some cases, all four. Front-wheel drive to me was all about better manufacturing economics and overall cost reduction. Sure it was always optional to have it equipped with an on-demand Quattro system, but then I never saw the point. However, German engineering had its advantages in terms of the feel factor and the front-wheel drive TTs always felt like they had better directional stability and lesser understeer than your average Japanese coupe. To me, an Audi had to be Quattro equipped all the way simply to stay true to its ride characteristics. The logic behind the TT was probably to equip the more powerful versions with the Quattro to achieve a perfect blend. The new TT RS since its introduction in 2009 was something that interested me because the TT's body had always looked like it was perfect for a high powered engine with an all-wheel drive system. The RS version comes with a permanent all wheel drive Quattro system, a turbocharged 2.5 litre in-line 5 cylinder engine that produces a peak 340 horsepower between 5,400 and 6,500 rpm and 450 Nm of torque between a wide 1,600 to 5,300 rpm band. The transmission is a six-speed manual with synchromesh and the TT RS can do the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in around 4.6 seconds. This the character that I was looking out for.
The interiors are snug and quite typical of the other Audis, only more compact. The Multi Media and Navigation system with the Bose Sound system doesn't really fall short in any way, but then in-car entertainment took away very little of my attention compared to how the car felt like to drive. The TT RS with its great engine and aggressive manual transmission is really something that any motoring enthusiast would love to drive. Every component is so well engineered to blend in with itself and with the driver that the car actually feels like a well-fitting glove. In other words, it's something that any R8 enthusiast who is really short of money would enjoy too.
What's great about the RS's handling is that one can drive it as smooth as a regular sedan or you can push it to perform like a mini Super Car. The thrill factor is quite high on this one. It doubles as a compact city car that can easily fit into tight parking spaces and also as a long distance cruiser which would do exceptionally well on twisty mountain roads. Straight line driving especially on highways can be a bit boring and tends to get the driver a bit restless because the real thrill of driving an RS lies in the curves.
The front seats are supportive and well designed. The rear row is a little too small for adults and only seat a couple of small children in comfort. The boot space is surprisingly large for a car of this size.
The exterior with its sporty accents, spoiler and the RS badge makes it look really appealing on the road. Although it comes in a variety of colours, I am a little inclined towards the Mugello Blue.
The AUDI TT RS in my opinion is quite the perfect sports coupe. Although I would have really liked a sharper and less curvy body design, everything else about this car feels in order. While driving, it manages to take your attention away from the gadgetry that it offers and gives you a real sense of fine motoring. In short, it stays true to its real character.