Stick Shift: 2019 Audi TT RS

The 2018 Audi TT RS isn’t the cute, bubbly Audi TT that first hit U.S. shores in 2000. Gone are the round, soft lines and smiling features. The new TT, especially in performance-enhanced RS form, is all edge and anger. This dramatic visual evolution has been instrumental in changing the tone and mission statement of the Audi TT, and the latest version is nothing short of jaw-dropping. It’s the kind of beautiful that you partially forget about when you walk away, only to be immediately swept away again when you see the poised, high-performance masterpiece. 

A large, RS embossed and gaping wide front grille is flanked by enormous air vents. These are tucked below menacing headlights and perched just above a sporty front air splitter. At the rear, a large spoiler sits above a black-tipped RS sport exhaust system. Though the Audi TT has retained some vague profile and body similarities of its former self; every line, seam, light and contour has been reimagined to communicate a machine that means to be far more than just a really pretty face. 

Photo by: Brandon Randall

Once inside, this mission becomes even more crystal clear. There’s no crisis of identity to be had, the Audi TT RS is built for business. The business of speed, and business is good. As a strong first impression, the gorgeously sculpted flat-bottomed steering wheel feels Formula-1 ready in your hands. Grippy, thick, uncluttered and a perfect communicator to the driver of everything going on between the road and you. The steering builds progressively and is RS tuned for extra weight and feedback.

The front dash is equally edited down to include only the most critical of controls. Air vents make good use of every inch of space too with small round digital displays at their center to show climate settings. Carbon fiber inlays and panels are scattered throughout the cabin. This pairs to the otherwise black interior theme perfectly. Crescendo Red stitching adds a punch of necessary color to the otherwise clean, all-business aesthetic. Seating materials are top notch and thoughtfully selected to keep you from slipping around in your seat. In general, the overall design eliminates all clutter. There’s nothing to distract or pull attention away from the quickly vanishing road ahead.

Photo via: Audi

It’s a good thing too, because with 400 hp coming through a 2.5L TFSI turbocharged engine, everything RS tuned, this 2-door coupe is wasting no time in anything it does. The Audi TT RS boasts neck-snapping acceleration. It has a 7-speed S-Tronic transmission that blips off gear changes at rapid-fire speed. The engine spits and snarls the whole time, holding a wholly unholy crescendo all the way up to redline. It’s a rare and wonderful soundtrack that will never get old. 

An RS fixed sport suspension handles the twists and turns like a true professional. Though daily driving comfort disappears almost entirely. Life’s about choices, and the RS chooses performance over a soft, supple ride hand over fist. Such a tight, responsive suspension, combined with big ceramic brakes and that powerful engine, and the TT RS never showed me its limits. Even when I came close to my own, the RS only asked to be pushed harder and faster. I’d suspect an actual race track would be required to really let this thing stretch its legs and show off everything its got.

The 2018 Audi TT RS has come a long way since its cheek-pinching, cutesy beginnings. It uses a carbon fiber engine cover and has a 174 mph speed limiter now just to really demonstrate my point! It’s purpose-built, beautiful to behold and has an engine soundtrack that’s music to your ears. With a behavioral range that can go from simply playful to one of the most race-track ready coupes around, there will never be a dull moment behind the wheel. What’s most clear of all though is the sense that the TT RS knows exactly what it is, and endeavors to be the best version of that with every move and moment you’re behind the wheel. A car to be experienced first hand, built for anyone who truly loves to drive.

Price as tested: $79,625.00

By: Brandon Randall  

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