Growing up in a bedroom community of New York City, I didn’t pay much attention to cars. But there were two that could always turn my head and make me long for the wealth and independence of adulthood: the Mercedes-Benz SL and the Audi TT.
Half a lifetime later - that’s to say, last week - I finally climbed into the driver’s seat of a midnight black TT, as sleek and inviting as I’d imagined. It was worth the wait: The one to which I held the key was the high-performance TT RS version, reintroduced for the 2018 model year after a brief debut half a dozen years ago. It wasn’t the roadster of my childhood dreams, as the RS is only available as a four-seat coupe, but I forgot all about the roof once I hit the start button and invoked the trill of the exhaust note.
But the 400 horsepower under the hood provided sufficient distraction enough from this fact. The RS gets a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine and a satisfyingly smooth seven-speed automatic transmission. Normally, the TT can reach 155 mph, but mine came equipped with the $6,000 Dynamic Plus package, which includes upgraded brakes, a fixed sport suspension, and the ability to hit 174 mph.
I picked up two friends, who work for a different carmaker, for a spin. As they climbed in, they marveled at the diamond-pattern stitching on the Nappa leather-upholstered sport seats, but “seats” would soon prove a generous term for the space behind the front row. The RS’s back seat is no place for an adult. The car did, however, have adequate trunk space for a week’s worth of luggage.
The $64,900 starting price for the RS is heftier than the $43,950 TT base model. Mine clocked in at nearly twice that, bearing a sticker price of $80,200. But still, it’s an accessible alternative if the six-figure Jaguar F-Type SVR exceeds your budget. It’s about as quick as an F-Type - the TT RS takes 3.6 seconds, an extra hundredth of a second, to hit 60 mph from a standstill - and more fuel efficient.
As we wended through a tame suburb of Metro Detroit, the car felt like an impatient pet on a leash. If it had its own way, it would be making a beeline for the nearest racetrack. Meanwhile, its dramatic silhouette, sporting a toothy grille, large air intakes and 20-inch wheels, attracted some attention from passersby. When we parked, my friend bent down to ponder its oversized tailpipes and then offered his analysis.
Lightning-fast suspension? Check. Throttle blip on downshifts? Check. Wearing a tendency toward the melodramatic on its sleeve? “The wheels,” he said, “were meh.”