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Audi TT RS

Click to view picture galleryAudi has become the number one
  German premium car brand in the UK
  this year, taking over from BMW.
  And with cars like the just-introduced
  hardcore TT RS model, powered by
  a turbocharged, direct injection, five-
  cylinder petrol engine with 335bhp,
  it really is no surprise

FIRING UP THESE PARTICULAR QUATTROS is an all-new new 2.5-litre, five-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine that produces 335bhp and 332lb ft. Fans of rallying or the TV programme Ashes To Ashes will know all about the legendry quattro of the Eighties and its 2.2-litre, 217bhp five-cylinder petrol engine and, of course, Audi's signature quattro all-wheel drive.

Adding a 335bhp turbocharged, direct injection petrol engine which delivers 332lb ft of torque from just 1,600rpm into the renowned aluminium and lightweight steel hybrid bodyshell of the TT gives a massive 231bhp of power per tonne; but being all-wheel drive just 84bhp of power at each wheel so traction is guaranteed. In its sector of premium brand competitor models such as the BMW Z4, the Mercedes-Benz SLK and the Porsche Cayman, the TT is the only range to offer all-wheel drive.

Describing the new RS versions of the TT is all about figures: power, torque and the 155mph top speed that, derestricted at extra cost by a dealer, shoots up to 174mph for track use. In normal road use the 0-62mph time is a scorching 4.6 seconds.

Audi claims it is the fastest car in its class for top speed and acceleration, the most economical and the cleanest for CO2 emissions. As for price? The TT RS Coupe quattro costs 42,985 and the Roadster, with its electrically-operated fabric roof, will set you back 44,885. Just 160 TT RS Coupe models and 40 Roadsters will be available in the UK this year and 320 Coupes and 80 Roadsters in 2010.

Apart for the R8 V8 and R8 V10 supercars, the new TT RS models are the only cars in the Audi range where quattro all-wheel drive doesn't appear to blunt or absorb too much power. Due to the lightweight bodyshell (61% aluminium and 39% steel), all the 335bhp of power and, more importantly, the 332lb ft of torque — available from a very low 1,600rpm — means this car is the 'real deal' performance-wise.

The weight balance is perfect thanks to the aluminium/steel hybrid body design, and the quattro drive gives optimum traction from all the wheels. The engine is responsive from zero or even from three-figure speeds, so at whatever speed you're driving the performance is just brilliant — and economical. In real-life town, country and motorway, wet and dry conditions this week, my test car averaged 27.9mpg — very close to the published 31mpg figure.

In addition there is the sonorous soundtrack emitted by the exhaust system of the five-cylinder engine — the Sport button not only allows the throttle response to be sharpened further but it also opens a flap in the left exhaust tailpipe to intensify the exhaust tone. When the extra-cost optimal Magnetic Ride damping system is specified, the Sport button also activates this system's sport setting to maximise composure and agility. I'm not, however, a fan of the Magnetic Ride system because, generally speaking, Audi's suspension settings with large alloy wheels and low profile tyres make the ride firm enough without being too unsettled and I don't need it firming up even more.

“Still a fashion icon
but now with
real fire in its belly
The TT RS models, naturally, have an Electronic Stabilization Programme which does not seem to dull feedback to the driver and, more importantly, is doesn't retard engine power output as traction control does because all four wheels are being driven.

So we have a monumental power-to-weight ratio; we have style; and we have 'designer' exhaust notes. Added to that the TT RS models also have large, air-gulping front intakes, extended side sills and 18-inch five twin-spoke alloy wheels, fixed rear spoiler and enlarged oval tailpipes. As Audi says, the latest TTs signal intent but with a degree of restraint that is in keeping with Audi RS tradition.

Customers wanting to keep the lowest possible profile can even opt to replace the fixed rear spoiler — not the car's most attractive feature — with a more discreet version which raises and retracts automatically.

Inside, the TT sports interior is finished exclusively in black, with brushed aluminium inlays and aluminium footrests and pedals providing contrast. RS logos adorn the heated Silk Nappa leather sports seats, the thickly-rimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel, the rev counter and the door sill trims. True to Audi RS form, the standard Driver's Information System has additional displays for boost pressure and oil temperature, and also includes a lap timer for circuit use.

Customers looking for maximum designer tweaks to suit their image can add 19-inch wheels, bucket seats with folding backrests, black or matt aluminium styling packs and even Ibis White or Phantom Black painted interior inlays at extra cost, in addition to the latest navigation and multimedia options.

Buyers after this level of performance won't mind the £43K purchase cost and will no doubt replace the rather brash rear spoiler with the extra-cost retractable one. The only other niggle is that for the long-legged there's limited knee-room under the steering wheel.

Major plus points are the new 2.5-litre engine and its high torque from low engine speeds, the performance (and the fact that it's still relatively economical for fuel consumption) and the safe and consistent handling.

Make no mistake, this TT is still a fashion icon but in RS guise it gives the stylish TT a 'macho' edge and it now has more than enough power to put fire into its belly. "Fire up the quattro indeed" as the saying goes — even TT owners can say that now! — David Miles

Audi TT RS Coupe
| 42,985
Maximum speed: 155/174mph | 0-62mph: 4.6 seconds | Overall test MPG: 27.9mpg
Power: 335bhp | Torque: 332lb ft | CO2 214g/km | Insurance group 20