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The Little Audi That Could


For years, I thought the Audi TT resembled a sleek Beetle and was only for a very niche market. This wasn’t exactly helped by those early first-gen TTs that had a reputation for a complete loss of stability and deadly crashes at speeds over 100 mph. While it could be argued that this only affected a small portion of owners who drive at high speeds on tracks or the Autobahn, it still didn’t bode well for a supposedly high-performance machine. Many of those early vehicles were recalled and retrofitted for increased stability, but it had already tarnished the little coupe’s reputation.

Audi ironed out the kinks for the second generation Type 8J from 2006 to 2014, maintaining the 2+2 and roadster formats and produced a much more streamlined body that resembled a baby R8. This time around, they would introduce two performance variants in addition to the 1.8 L base model and somewhat underwhelming VR6. The TT S and TT RS both provided lowered ride heights, improved suspension, standard Quattro 4WD, and seriously upgraded engine configurations - a 296 hp 2.0 L in the TT S and a 335 hp 2.5 L 5-cylinder in the TT RS. Additionally, in 2012, Audi released the TT RS+, upping the RS-s horsepower to 355 and increasing the top-speed limiter to 174 mph. The RS+ also claimed a 4.1 second 0-60 mph launch.

For my money, the S5 has always been the sweet spot with Audi coupes. With the RS5’s 4.2 L V8, which is based on the R8’s V10, and the size and interior appointments, it is truly worthy as a grand tourer.

That being said, the newest 2018 TT RS is a showstopper. A friend who works for Audi recently brought one home for the weekend, and I have to say, I was absolutely floored. Having driven an R8 - quite possibly my favorite car that doesn’t say “911” or “Ferrari” on the back - I wasn’t expecting much. What I got was a vehicle that quite literally felt like it could take off if it had wings installed. The seriously lightweight body, matched with the incredibly beefy 400 hp turbocharged 2.5 L, made every twist and turn on our local Virginia back-roads feel like we were carving up a go-kart track, only our go-kart was doing 100+ on the open road. The Quattro 4WD made turning at speed feel like something straight out science fiction, and the quilted black leather seats with their deep side-bolsters held me as snugly as a swaddled baby (though the g-force on my innards was a completely different story).

In short, the 2018 TT RS has completely changed my mind about all things TT. We met up with another friend who has a heavily-modified second-gen TT VR6 that he claims puts out 400+ hp, and when he started explaining how fun and easy it was to work on, I definitely got the tingles. I even sat down and perused the trades for a second-gen RS that I could tinker with and turn into a track monster. I found tons of enthusiast communities and TT apologists whose cars put stock S5s to shame, and I have a whole new love and passion for a car that I had previously written off. If you’ve every doubted the Little Audi That Could, take a serious second look. They’re definitely worth a drive.

-Trey Fennell

2012 Audi TT RS Coco #53 Black and Grey

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