DRIVEN: Sizzling 2021 Audi TT RS Roadster
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JOHANNESBURG - The reaction of people tells you a lot about a car. Stop anywhere in, let’s call it a “normal” car, even a very expensive one, and no one gives it a second glance. However, in an Audi TT RS Roadster, all bets are off. And it’s easy to see (and hear) why because roadsters aren’t that common on the road and when it's an Audi with an RS moniker even more so.
With large front air dams, a fixed wing at the rear, low and wide stance the TT RS is everything that a roadster should look like. It may not be the most practical car in the car park but that’s the whole point. It's meant to be automotive fun, a car that says “here I am” that not only looks the part but when it comes down to driving plays it too.
And it plays it by virtue of its familiar award-winning 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-charged engine that pushes out 294kW and 480Nm to all four wheels with its all-wheel quattro drive via a seven-speed S tronic transmission that delivers power as needed between the axles via a multi-plate clutch.
In layman's language that’s essentially a combination that screams out to be driven not just because it’s incredibly fast but it wants to play on the twisties as much as possible. You get the option of choosing between comfort, auto, dynamic and individual driving modes, but it’s really dynamic you want that opens all the exhaust flaps to give a symphony of sound that only an odd number of cylinders can provide.
With an automatic soft top like the one we had on test it’s even better. It also has the ability to leave more exotic and expensive cars in its wake punching well above its weight in the performance stakes.
With carbon fibre trim on the flat-bottomed steering wheel, door handles and centre console, red stitching on the RS seats and a refreshingly simple layout the interior is all about the driver and enjoying time behind the wheel.
Noticeably absent is any form of touchscreen, again underscoring the driver-focussed cabin with entertainment, Bluetooth and navigation functions accessed via the MMI controls in the centre console or the buttons on the steering wheel. These are all displayed on the 31cm digital instrument cluster and once you’ve got the hang of it it’s easy to toggle through the settings without taking your eyes off the road.
Initially you may think that there’s likely to be limited space for taller people but even for my frame I found it comfortable and managed to enter and exit without looking like a cramped-up old man with a mid-life crisis.
From the moment you press the red stop/start button and the engine burbles to life you just know you want to get out of suburbia and head for the open road which is what my partner and I did heading towards an art gallery out Bronkhorstspruit way using mostly deserted back roads.
The TT RS Roadster is quick, very quick and it gets up to speed without any fuss at all, made even more exciting by being so close to the ground. It handles road imperfections easily thanks to the optional Sport Suspension Plus with adaptive damping and although ride quality is firm it was never uncomfortable, but for everyday use in comfort mode it’s a lot softer.
To say driving it is fun couldn’t be more of an understatement.
Handling is crisp and brilliantly sharp and the chassis combined with direct steering, suspension set-up low centre of gravity and wide rubber allows you to gear down with the paddles with the accompanying exhaust snap crackle and pop, enter a corner and literally power out of it on the red line knowing there aren’t any surprises in store. And then repeat at the next opportunity, just because it’s such a blast.
There’s wind and road noise as you would expect from a soft top, especially at speed but it’s not intrusive and makes you turn down the music to listen to the notes emanating from the tail pipes. At the national speed limit in comfort mode it’s obviously a lot quieter and a conversation is easy while you head to your destination with overnight bags in the boot.
It’s very likely that this will be the last opportunity to get behind the wheel of the TT RS as Audi have said they won’t be spending any more time and money on engine development thanks to the green brigade and the move towards SUVs and EVs.
I reckon the TT RS Roadster is one of the best bang for performance bucks out there and at R1 113 500 also one of the more affordable driver focussed sports cars that will have you smiling from ear to ear every time you push that red button. Every time.