We review the last, and most high-performance, iteration of a German design classic. Will it live up to its iconic status among motoring aficionados?
It is likely that at sometime in the midterm future, the vision of our tech rulers in Silicon Valley will come true and cars with a longer be personalised transportation, but rather another form of public transport. Your self-driving electric car will not be yours at all, but will arrive and take you to your destination, before moving on to someone else. No more streets lined with parked cars: cars will be in constant use.
There are obvious attractions to this concept, but one negative is the lack of ownership. As well as being a piece of property, a car has always been a statement about the kind of person you are. Are you functional, flashy, flamboyant, drab?
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A car has also always been a signifier of class, whether or not we want it to be. Some manufacturers’ products were aligned with the working classes (or “masses“ as Karl Marx put it). Other brands, not necessarily more expensive, might suggest you are an architect, a designer, an intellectual.
All of that will stop when our new future comes into play, just as a collection of LP records as a signifier of what kind of taste you have is irrelevant in the era of music streaming.
Which takes us to the Audi TT. Like its little cousin the VW Golf, it’s one of those cars that cross class, income and demographic boundaries. When it was first produced in the 1990s, it was an instant design classic, gathering crowds on the street, despite the fact that it was far cheaper than flashy supercars: the TT is a mid market machine accessible to most of the world is mass affluent. It was the way it looked, inside and outside, that set it apart.
The model has gone through several iterations since then, and is perhaps less of an icon than it once was, Still, it carries a vaguely universal aura. It’s a car that could be driven by a graphic designer, an influencer, or a car enthusiast – a confluence very few, if any, other cars can boast of.
But the sad news is that, technology and the world going the way they are, this will be the last iteration of this modern classic. The TT has always been known a little more for its looks and panache than for its driving brilliance, so we wondered what to expect when stepping into the most driver-focused model, the TT RS. Would it be a poor relation to the excellent range of sports cars that are available at this mid price point?
It certainly feels like a sports car to sit in, seats holding you tight, with a cool, driver focused dashboard, and interior. The engine sounds suitably responsive and growly, like a child making engine noises (something that will soon be a thing of the past).
The positive experience continues as you set off down the road and go round the first corner. The steering feels chunky, muscular, and responsive all at the same time. Many cars these days have swapped that type of sensation for the ease of lightness, so you can drive with one finger. Not so this one. Keep your hands on the wheel, you feel exactly where you are aiming at, and it goes there.
The Audi TT RS has four-wheel-drive, which means that when you start becoming more enthusiastic, it sticks to the road, even if it is damp or slippery. However, the flipside compared to its rear wheel drive rivals is that its cornering is just a little bit less agile, more surefooted, but, or an empty road, less thrilling. So, more sensation at slow speeds due to the excellent steering, But less joy when really pushing on due to its bias towards safety. And that may suit many, on the crowded road spaces of today.
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It’s a fast car also, and feels it, zipping up and down through the gears, with a highly efficient gearbox which you can take joy in snapping up and down with the steering-column mounted paddles, Otherwise it changes gears rapidly and efficiently for you, with no shortage of sensation – again, something that is being sacrificed on the altar of ease and efficiency otherwise.
Unlike some of its sports car competitors, there are even small back seats in the coupe version that we drive – the sharp looking convertible version does without these sadly.
Are we saying that the final iteration of the Audi TT, a reference point for contemporary design in cars, is actually a little old-fashioned? Possibly, and we think it is all the better for it. It looks cool without looking showy, it’s compact, speedy, and fun. There are better cars of its price point if you want to go on a race track or spend your time on perfect country roads all the time, but the TT RS has a charm and focus all of its own, and is a delight to drive around town as well. And it still looks cool.
Find out more: audi.co.uk