By Iain Robertson
No less than 25 years have flown by since Iain Robertson’s inaugural test drive of the enigmatic Audi TT coupe and his initial fascination for the car has never dissipated, with the TTRS becoming notionally his ‘Performance Bargain of the Century’.
While I may have to modify my plaudit slightly, as Audi flexes its indomitable marketing muscles by way of restrictive profiteering (the company is asking £87,650 for the Golf platformed, two-plus-restricted-rear-two seats ‘beetle-browed’ coupe, which I believe to be a bit cheeky), the correction will only be minor. From the first sight I had of the TT, as a 1995 prototype show car, I wondered how close the company could make the production version of it, without losing the vital ‘Bauhaus’ inspired styling elements. It was shockingly lovely.
Three years later, the world received its answer…apart from creating the rear quarterlights, to improve outward vision, the changes were minimal. Devoid of spoilers and aero-fripperies, the original TT, available with 180 or 225bhp engines, was a revelation. Its form was pure and uncompromised. From inside the cockpit, it felt more like a Porsche Speedster, even with its fairly rudimentary Golf GTi power units, forcing me to duck below the cant rail just to get into the driver’s seat. Once there, its circles and tubes design language was true to Teutonic form. It was stunning, spacious for the driver and front passenger, and as taut as Phil Collins’ snare drum.
Yet, the company experienced a well-publicised early issue; it could be ‘unstable’ when braking from high speed. One German fatality was enough and the company recalled the entire spoilerless early production models for modification. It had to be a quick fix but, fortunately, apart from the cost aspect, it could not stem the flow of orders. Revisions to the brake balance and the addition of a tail spoiler on the twin-piped 225 model were deemed enough, even though the purity of the profile was now corrupted only marginally. Personally, I loved its pre-modded ‘im’-balance, as it was far easier to set the car up for fast and exciting cornering.
The first time I drove a DSG (Direct Sequential Gearbox) was in the Audi TT and the Porsche-like image returned, the twin-clutch, automated unit feeling as quick as the Porsche PDK (Porsche Doppel-Kuplung) original. Through the second and more recent third generations of the TT, my fascination and respect for the model has grown. The fact that its design presence has remained virtually unaltered only serves to underscore its iconic status. In fact, the last TT I drove was also a TTRS, complete with its quattro-esque intake and exhaust symphony, courtesy of the several times ‘Engine of the Year’, the 5-cylinder 2.5-litre turbocharged unit, driving through a 7-speed DSG transmission. To state that they go together like the proverbial ‘horse and carriage’ is an underestimation.
Armed with 400bhp, as are each of the 100-off commemorative examples, the TTRS simply blitzes from 0-60mph in a supercar taunting 3.4s, the special edition’s top speed being capped at 174mph. However, the manner in which it covers ground so speedily and competently lies in its judiciously engineered and extremely rigid platform. Bear in mind that we are talking Tesla and EV-quick here. Yet, there is no drama. The TTRS simply gets on with the job, putting its prodigious power-to-weight ratio to pristine effect, with not even the merest hint of scrabbling from either front or rear tyres. Of course, on a gravel strewn layby, it can spin in its own length, like Colin McRae’s Subaru rallycar, if treated harshly enough, but its overall manners are normally impeccable. It can also return significantly more than its stated 25.8mpg.
Typically British rough road surfaces can make the ride feel a little nuggety at times but the rapid steering and adaptive damping help to keep progress on an even keel. The alloy fuel filler cap and metal trim rings (all made for Audi by Bang & Olufsen, by the way) are model recognition points carried into the delightfully appointed cabin, where the cross-hatched skinny seats provide unerringly supportive positions for both driver and front passenger. On the anniversary car, yellow contrast piping on carpets, steering wheel and dashboard trim add interest. However, I love the way that the heating and ventilation controls are contained within the turbine-like airvent centres, which means that Bauhaus minimalism can be applied to the rest of the centre console.
As the punchiest model in the TT range, the aerodynamic addenda externally are understandable, from the end of front airdam flics, the deeper spoiler, the airflowed undertray and the boot-mounted wing, complete with TTRS winglets. While Audi needs not confirm it, they are purposeful enough to provide essential downforce at motorsport rated levels. Personally, with a future round of model enhancements due soon, I hope that Audi does not change the outline too radically of its wonderfully enigmatic sports coupe. It is compact enough to remain highly agile, tipping the scales at just 1,475kgs, and provides much valued and enjoyable feedback to occupants. There is enough space in the boot for most motoring adventures and the rear seats flop forwards to increase luggage capacity for the automotive Grand Tour.
Conclusion: In terms of value-for-money, £87,650 is a lot to ask for a Golf-based 2+2 coupe, even though it boasts supercar performance. Yet, with just 11 examples of this model’s 100-off run destined for the UK, I can fully understand it being sold out instantly. I adore it!
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