Johannesburg  - Audi's new TT RS is the fastest and most powerful version of the coupé yet, and while it’s also by far the most expensive it does come with some genuine supercar-like performance figures to back up the price.

Just like the previous version there’s a turbocharged five-cylinder driving all four wheels, but power is now up from 250kW and 450Nm to 294 and 480, and its internals have been modified to rotate with less friction. It also gets an aluminium block for the first time, relieving the front axle of around 26kg (the whole package is 35kg lighter than the 2009 model) making for a sharper, nimbler handler.

Thankfully none of these extensive updates have had an effect on the five-pot’s iconic exhaust note made famous by Audi’s gravel-chucking Group B rally cars of the 1980s. Press the starter button and the TT fires with a forceful bark, settling to a smooth burble after a series of popcorn maker crackles. This is one incredibly smooth revver, and that offbeat grumble rising with a velvety, turbo impeller-enhanced wail is an addictive experience. Best to keep the active exhaust flap button firmly depressed.

In everyday driving situations the RS gurgles around calmly with an easygoing nature, but there’s always a feeling that it wants to leave the leash and make a run for it. Its torque curve is immense, and at more than half throttle the turbo spools with a weighty whoosh to almost 7000rpm before hooking another of its seven gears and repeating the process.

Things really start to sizzle at full throttle. The once silky exhaust tone rises to a piercing trumpet, and each Stronic dual clutch-assisted gearshift is accompanied by an angry backfire. Just like with the same-engined RS3 the power delivery is deliciously strong, but because the TT body weighs 70kg less the feeling is just that bit more relentless.

The RS gets fairly extravagant exterior plumage to identify it as the top dog of the Audi TT range.

It might not sound like a lot but the weight saving has a huge effect on performance. Audi claims 0-100km/h happens four tenths quicker than the RS3 at 3.7 seconds, and our test equipment verified it. At our test track the TT RS actually beat factory quotes with a best sprint of 3.65 secs, nearly matching the much more powerful, and expensive R8 Plus. At 11.86 seconds it’s only a fraction of a second slower than Audi’s flagship supercar over the quarter mile too.

So, it’s properly quick off the line. How does it handle? Obviously with quattro drive it’ll never hang its tail out like a BMW M2 or Jaguar F-Type, but then powerslides aren’t the quickest way around corners. The TT attacked our handling track with a strictly business attitude, stringing bends together with loads of grip on turn entries and exits. If oversteer’s your thing, look elsewhere. If tidy, consistently quick laps are, then here’s your car.

Out on the road the ride is decidedly firm, but not unacceptably so. Our test car’s optional 20” wheel and tyre combo (R22 300) accentuated a tendency to fidget over ripples, but then its also optional adjustable magnetic ride suspension (R12 500) did help to cancel out some jitter when in softer settings. Saving 35 grand on standard 19s and normal sports suspension would help the ride, and the wallet.

The RS gets fairly extravagant exterior plumage to identify it as the top dog of the Audi TT range.

Aside from a steering wheel with incorporated starter button and drive settings button stolen from the R8, the cabin is pretty much standard TT. But that’s not a bad thing. It’s all made with Audi’s typical high quality and the seating position is as good as it gets in the sports car segment. The rear seats are there for decoration only, but when folded flat the boot does open up to a very spacious cargo compartment.

We still have reservations about Audi’s decision to omit a central screen from the cockpit though, as passengers are relegated to passengering only. Every single function, from adjusting treble, to inputting nav destinations, to choosing radio stations is for driver only via the TT’s standard Virtual Cockpit display. That is unless your co-driver wants to work the controls and lean over into your space for a view of the cluster. Awkward.

VERDICT

At R963 000 versus R750 500 there’s a hefty premium to be paid over the next TT down the line - the 228kW TTS - but to be fair this model’s by far the senior family member. It’s also on par price-wise with competitors such as M2, F-Type V6 and Cayman 718. It also drills every one of those at the strip, by the way. And it’s not too far off the R3-million R8 either.

A genuine giant killer of a sports car.

FACTS

Audi TT RS

Engine: 2.5-litre, 5-cyl turbocharged petrol
Gearbox: 7-speed automated dual clutch
Power: 294kW @ 5850-7000rpm
Torque: 480Nm @ 1700-5850rpm
0-100km/h (tested, Gauteng):3.65 seconds
Top speed (claimed):250km/h
Price: R963 000
Warranty: 1-year/unlimited distance
Maintenance plan: 5-year/100 000km

ALTERNATIVES

BMW M2 AT - 3-litre turbo six272kW and 500NmR995 610
Jaguar F-Type AT - 3-litre supercharged V6250kW and 450Nm R1 040 206
Porsche 718 Cayman S - 2.5-litre turbo four257kW and 420Nm R950 000

Follow Jesse Adams on Twitter @PoorBoyLtd

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