Audi’s TT RS Roadster plays in a rather interesting, if somewhat niche, segment. Confused? Let me clarify. When the current TT was launched locally, it was offered exclusively in Coupe body form with the marque citing a low uptake of the previous Roadster to warrant offering it in the current range. As the sales numbers in the segment continue to dwindle, it was perhaps not surprising for the Vorsprung brand to opt to not play in that space. At least in the SA context, that is.
It's 2021 and there has been quite a stir in the segment. What with the Porsche 718 Spyder proving that you can still have the thrills of a thoroughbred sports car blended with the convenience of open-top motoring, which is something the brand manages to blend so succinctly. However, I digress, back to the Audi TT RS Roadster and it is safe to say that this is quite the swansong for the model, as the next TT is likely to morph into an electric four-door coupe. Many might cringe at this prospect, but I reckon it will cast the net wider for the nomenclature in the future and guarantee its future sustainability.
The cabin appointments mimic those of its Coupe sibling with a huge play on minimalism, while lashings of carbon fibre and Alcantara are peppered about. Those RS sports seats not only look great, but also offer excellent support and sumptuous to perch in. But chatting about the TT RS’s design is one aspect that I feel is overshadowed by its performance envelope, which is easily one of the best in the segment.
The Roadster variant of the TT RS might not be the sharpest specimen – the Coupe better wears that accolade – but it does add another layer to the overall driving experience. Design cues remain unmistakably TT with those distinctly rounded-off edges and almost 50:50 front to rear ratio aspect, as opposed to the long bonnet and short rear overhang of the classic roadster design formula.
Nestling in an in-line position is the company’s much-vaunted 2.5-litre, five-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine that pushes out 294 kW and 480 Nm through a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. While those might not be class-leading outputs, the engine’s signature warbly note more than makes up for it. Very few, if any production engines in the sub-3.0-litre category can outshine Audi’s five-cylinder powerplant for sheer symphonics.
It has a rich, bassy timbre at startup and just above idle speeds, enough to keep you enchanted. However, bury the throttle to the floorboards and let the gearbox rummage deeper down the cogs as it finds a more appropriate lower gear. Once done, the engine clears its throat and belches out a note reminiscent of the Ur quattro rally car, interspersed by what is a familiar V10 ensemble right up to the 6,800 r/min crescendo. Hey, Audi, can you please keep this engine for as long as possible and basically shoehorn it into as many cars in your stable before you put it out to pasture?
Handling, meanwhile, is of the neutral variety, but you can get the back to step out slightly with all the nannies turned off, which brings a quotient of fun and playfulness that was never part of the previous TT’s repertoire.
At this price level, the Audi TT RS offers up thorough supercar-baying performance. Being the last hurrah of the current generation TT, and the only roadster derivative of this ilk of the model offered in Mzansi, will make it quite the rarity on our roads. It might not have the poster type of looks, but its performance repertoire is as searing as the best of them and sounds absolutely epic to boot.
Yes, the Porsche Boxster GTS is arguably the sharpest proposition in the segment, and that comes as little surprise. What the Audi TT RS offers, however, is what one would deem a performance bargain of note. It looks special enough to get a second glance. It goes like the clappers when summoned to gallop, but it is unequivocally that delicious, fruity exhaust note that will linger in your mind and keep your ears reverberating for quite some time come.