I have an unusual habit of picking up test cars using public transport. I once took a Golden Arrow bus to Century City Mercedes Benz to pick up R2.2m worth of S65 AMG Limo Spec, which is almost exactly the opposite of public transport. It has a two TVs and a fridge for goodness’ sake.
The morning I was due to collect the TT-RS I surprisingly had few lift options and so made use of the highly efficient and well-mannered minibus taxi service offered in Cape Town central. Sitting in the taxi waiting for it to fill up, so we could leave, I suddenly remembered all the advice about getting into an empty taxi. You literally wait. Until. It fills up. And then you leave. When the taxi driver has finished his lunch.
This gave my current vehicle a 0 – 100km/h sprint time of 24 minutes. Which is exactly 23 minutes and 54.4 seconds slower than the Audi TT-RS I was about to be driving for a week.
Yes, the Audi TT-RS is quick. 0 – 100km/h takes just 4.6 seconds but to be honest feels faster, as turbocharged cars normally do. It’ll keep going, all the way to a limited 250km/h. Or, if you tick the delimited box on the options list, 280km/h.
But performance is not a measurement or a series of numbers. It is a feeling, a sense of sporting prowess that has to be engineered into a car, either by accident, in the case of Alfa Romeo, or after millions of man hours, research and development and test drives by Driving God Walter Rohrl, in the case of Audi.
For the TT-RS, the Audi went back to the future, to a golden period in the Four Ring’s history. The Audi Quattro was simply revolutionary. The inspired idea to put all wheel drive to use in a road car was Audi’s own and literally changed Group B rallying, destroying the competition and laying the foundation for what would become the marque’s unique offering in the premium market.
The part they’ve drawn inspiration from most it seems, thankfully, is the engine. Audi developed a new inline five cylinder especially for the TT-RS, although it is such a marvel I imagine we’ll be seeing it in a few other models in no time at all.
In the ‘80s, turbocharging was a fairly crude affair. Just ask anybody who died in a fiery ball of Lancia Delta Integrale. Today however it is almost black magic; the car suffers minimal turbo lag and that familiar surge from blown air doesn’t back off until the red line. The sound is just glorious, invoking that bombastic waffle-waffle that Group B suicide-rally-watchers would have heard just before losing a leg.
The torque available from the little 5-pot is monstrous. At 450Nm, it’s more than you get in a Hummer H3. The best thing is it’s available from 1600rpm, which allows you to overtake in 6th gear or shoot out of a corner like a stabbed cat in 3rd.
As a machine, it is a masterstroke of engineering. As a sportscar, it would fill the Christmas stocking of Ralph Schumacher with aplomb. As a car, it is decidedly average. Firstly, visibility is terrible. It’s like looking out of Mauritian swimming goggles. You can’t see any of the four corners of the car; so don’t skimp on Park Distance Control if you treasure the shape of the bumpers.
There is no button/latch on the boot, which means you have to either climb into the car and flick the switch or take the key with you, pressing the release button for what feels like an archeological period, which makes the boot open. Why?
Once you gain access to the boot, you will discover it will comfortably fit one laptop, lying down. Maybe two, if they’re netbooks. The backseat is good for luggage but is filled with seats which are pointless, take up vital space and no doubt add to the bottom line. My test car had no CD player. Oh sure, it had a an AUX jack and fancy SatNav which could do a somersault and accept SD cards, but no CD player. Have we reached that point? Really? I don’t have Led Zeppelin on SD card, I have it on CD. And my iPhone was stolen, a sore point in my life of which this car reminded me by not having a CD player.
I was actually starting to loathe the TT-RS. It’s too expensive, the wing mirrors are too silver and the ride was too harsh in the city. But then I was invited to dinner in Franschhoek, something which happens almost never. Hmmm. That would mean traversing Hells Hoogte pass, a road which literally changed my life in the Audi R8 V10 a few months ago.
The TT-RS was so good up this pass that I went back down just so I could go back up again. There was endless traction from the tyres, with the intelligent drivetrain ensuring the car stuck to the tarmac like traffic fine glue to your side window. The engine note was so glorious, I completely forgot that I couldn’t listen to anything but radio. The engine performed like it was descended from Walter Rohrl himself. Audi made this transmission bespoke for this car, and it shows. It’s damn-near perfect.
I understood now. The city is no place for what is essentially a caged rally car. Buy a Polo or something and save fuel for that sort of driving. And it’ll probably have a CD player. But you really could do worse than the TT-RS as a weekend toy. The acceleration inspires giggles in people without testicles, the cornering is exemplary and I have it on good authority that it is brilliant around a track.
For a bit more money you could have a Porsche Cayman S. But then you’d be driving a Porsche. I’ll leave the tone of that sentence up to you.
Myself and my lovely female companion, who I was assured was now “into cars”, stayed on a friend’s wine farm that night, frolicking back to the city the next day, smiling like idiots. It was as if we’d just had a dirty weekend away in the winelands, driving a properly thrilling sports car.
Prices and Specifications for the 2010 Audi TT RS 2.5 FSI quattro
Price: R707 100
Power: 250kW @ 5400rpm
Torque: 450Nm @1600rpm
0 – 100km/h: 4.6 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 250km/h or 280km/h delimited
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