Controls and indicators for temperature, fan speed and the seat heaters are neatly located in the centre of the dash vents. Note the start button that’s mounted to the steering wheel. Photo: Audi

2019 Audi TT-RS

The ‘RS’ initials could stand for Ridiculously Speedy

If a fun and practical sportscar is a bucket-list item, the Audi TT RS coupé is definitely to be considered.

It tops the base TT and midgrade TTS in the brand’s pecking order. All three require mastery of the “duck-and-cover” maneuver as the TT involves folding your body upon entry and exit.

The car’s extra-low roofline — a TT feature ever since the first-generation model rolled off the assembly line two decades ago — and an equally low seating position contribute to a cozy environment, enhanced by first-rate leather-trimmed sport seats and a thick flat-bottom steering wheel. There’s plenty of legroom for those in front, but hardly any for the people piled into the back seat. It’s a spot best used for supplemental stowage.

The modifiable gauge layout — part of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit display — is a marvel of efficiency and is relatively easy to master.

The control knobs for temperature, climate and the heated seats are smartly located in the centre of the dashboard’s five circular air vents.

The exterior’s distinguishing characteristics include a fixed rear wing and aero cladding that’s attached to the rocker panels.

Once you’re aboard, the TT RS proves its mettle, after you’ve pushed the steering-wheel-mounted start button, put the car into gear and tipped into the gas pedal. At this point, prepare to be amused, delighted and thrilled.

Much of the fun comes from a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine that produces 394 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. By comparison, the midrange TTS model has 292 horses and 280 pound-feet, which is produced by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder. The base TT gets by with 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet.

A seven-speed paddle-shift transmission is standard fare. This efficient unit helps the RS achieve fuel-economy ratings of 12.0 l/100 km in the city, 8.3 on the highway and 10.3 combined.

Audi’s permanently engaged Quattro all-wheel-drive is standard. The system varies front-to-rear power split as needed and sends nearly 100 per cent of the torque to the rear tires under hard acceleration. That — and the transmission — is what helps launch the car to 100 km/h from rest in 3.7 seconds, a full second quicker than the TTS, says Audi.

Another handy aid is Driver Select, which has Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual (set up by the driver) modes. Each has specific settings for the transmission shifting, throttle response, shock damping and steering effort. Serious drivers will likely use the more aggressive Dynamic setting since it’s the one that makes the RS act and sound more like a racecar. When decelerating, the exhaust burbles and backfires and the transmission’s rev-matching program creates smooth downshifts (and it sounds downright sexy, too).

For extra-rapid acceleration, the launch control (also a standard feature) produces the quickest possible forward motion with virtually no loss of traction.

Once up to speed, the TT RS steers, stops and corners with confidence-boosting authority. The ride is a tad harsh, even in Comfort mode — the softest setting — but it’s about what you would expect from a near supercar.

Although the TT RS is best enjoyed on dry land, with the Quattro system doing its job it can be just as much fun in the snow. Being able to use the car throughout the four seasons certainly helps rationalize your purchase (along with a back seat) over a car such as the Porsche 718 Cayman or the Chevrolet Corvette.

At $75,700, including destination charges, you get a leather interior, heated eight-way power front seats with body-hugging pneumatic side bolsters, metal pedals and 19-inch wheels.

Optional are fade-resistant carbon-ceramic brake rotors, 12-speaker Bang and Olufsen audio, diamond-stitched leather seats, carbon-fibre trim and engine cover and 20-inch wheels.

Other than blind-spot monitoring, the TT RS has no other active-safety technology (emergency braking, pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning, etc.).

What you do get is a smart, stylish coupe that’s docile around town and more than eager to flex its bulging muscles when called upon.

Just remember to duck before entering.

What you should know: 2019 Audi TT RS Coupé

Type: Two-door hatchback sport coupe

Engine (h.p.): 2.5-litre DOHC I-5 (394)

Transmission: Seven-speed automated manual

Market position: As with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and other premium brands, virtually all models in Audi’s lineup, including the TT, can be had with high-output engines, sport suspensions, stronger brakes and related hardware.

Points: More aggressive appearance compared to tamer TT models. • Premium interior appointments include comfortable, supportive seats and easy-to-learn controls. • Standard 394-h.p. five-cylinder makes all the right sounds. • Hard to fathom why active safety technologies are not even available, much less optional. • For the same performance in a roomier package, the Audi RS 3 sedan has the same engine and transmission package for a much lower sticker price.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning (opt.); cross-traffic backup alert (n.a.); active speed control (n.a.); emergency braking (n.a.); pedestrian detection (n.a.)

L/100 km (city/hwy) 12.0/8.3; Base price (incl. destination) $75,700

BY COMPARISON

Porsche 718 Cayman S

Base price: $70,550

Superb looks and road manners, along with a potent 350-h.p. turbo I-4.

AMG C 63 Coupe

Base price: $69,750

A quick and luxurious model, assisted by a 469-horsepower twin-turbo V-8.

BMW M4 Coupe

Base price: $70,150

A track-ready performer with 425 horsepower that’s also great looking.

If you’re interested in new or used vehicles, visit TodaysDrive.com!

-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media.

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The TT-RS has a fixed rear wing (it doesn’t go up and down) and large oval exhaust outlets. Photo: Audi

The turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder is unique to the TT-RS and the Audi RS 3 sedan. It’s rated and 394 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a seven-speed paddle-shift transmission and all-wheel-drive, the engine pushes the TT-RS to 100 km/h from rest in a claimed 3.7 seconds. Photo: Audi

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