SADLY, increasing congestion on our roads and an ever-rising accident rate in South Africa at least, have collectively triggered the introduction of more and more speed limits. All this suggests that buying a car capable of leaving the “Rocket Man” of North Korea in its wake is a waste of throttle movement.
But this view is myopic as much pleasure can be derived simply from having so many horses under the right foot – provided of course, extra responsibility is exercised when unleashing all the energy that lurks under the bonnet.
Mind you, I am not an implicit believer that speed is the cause of all road-accident woes. Anyone would think that adherence to posted speed limits, many of which are absurdly low, ensures immunity from collisions, but that’s not the case at all as it’s stupid driving at any speed that is at the root of all calamities involving wheeled devices.
I’ve raised all these diversions in the aftermath of two idyllic weeks driving two of the fastest machines available to man; the Audi TTRS and the Audi RS5 Coupe.
Although the badging of both may be familiar, the source of propulsion in these latest iterations is not. The TT is galvanised into instant action by an extraordinary in-line 5-cylinder turbo petrol motor that has undergone a bit of weight reduction work and general tweaking. Its peak power output of 294kW is pretty amazing for a mere 2.5 litre displacement but it offers usable grunt and not just top end as the 480Nm toque plateau available all the way from 1 700 to 5.850 rpm telegraphs.
The RS5 also relies on a new powerplant. Sadly, the sonorous yet wonderfully smooth 4.2 litre V8 that did such yeoman service in the previous generation has been retired to enjoy a well-earned rest. But hold on – the transition to 2.9 litre bi-turbo power is not cause for mourning at all as this V6 not only matches its predecessor’s 331kW but outguns it in the torque stakes by delivering a tar-lifting 600Nm.
Without any shadow of doubt, the engine in the TT RS has already acquired “all-time-great” status and not just because it’s a giant-slayer. Owners of V10-powered R8s need to be aware that the diminutive Audi coupe with half the number of cylinders and less than half the displacement will have their measure up to 100km/h. The factory talks of a mere 3.7 seconds for the sprint, but I’ve seen independent tests that shave two-tenths off that.
From behind the wheel, and especially with launch control engaged, it’s easy to imagine you’re aboard a rocket-powered sled but that sled wouldn’t sound nearly as good. Thanks in part to an unusual firing order, the RS motor does spin like a turbine but it sounds far more convincing.
The deep, vaguely off-beat thrum is accompanied by an exhaust note to die for and the melody is topped off by a series of burbles and pops from the huge oval tail pipes that have occupants grinning like Cheshire cats and bystanders looking on in utter amazement.
It’s an intoxicating and utterly addictive powerplant that gives its best in Dynamic driving mode with exhaust flaps open but one that calms down and cruises at high speed without a murmur in Auto or Comfort mode.
Although thirst tracks the number of horses deployed, an overall figure of 11.1l/100km over a week is truly remarkable as is a carefully-tracked figure of 8.2l/100km on a 50 km motorway run. Just for the record, that overall figure marginally betters the thirst of a 2.0 Alfa Stelvio used in identical circumstances just a week earlier.
Clearly, the RS5 would have its work cut out to replicate or even approach the controlled thunder of it’s smaller sibling. That it gets close is a tribute in itself and just for once, the engine down-sizing forced on engineers by clueless politicos hasn’t wrecked the party.
I can make this statement with utter conviction having covered thousands of kilometres in Europe in earlier V8-engined RS4 and RS5 models. Often described as one of the most convincing V8s ever shoe-horned under a bonnet, the normally-aspirated 4.2 sounded ballistic and delivered with creamy smoothness but let me tell you that this stonking bi-turbo V6 lacks for little and it’s even more malicious in terms of pure speed.
Sure, the V6 doesn’t sound as brawny as the V8 and the surprisingly muted exhaust note is off the pace by comparison, but the mechanical symphony generated from under the bonnet is nonetheless marvellous. So too is the sheer pace as a 0-100 time of a mere 3.9s demonstrates.
Most importantly, that hefty torque plateau ensures that the V6 delivers its shove more easily and more consistently such that regaining momentum or sling-shotting out of tight corners is even more rapier-like than before.
As for transmission of all this power, both utilise Ingolstadt’s famed quattro system so traction problems don’t exist but there the similarities end as the TT RS uses a lightning-fast, ultra-smooth, super-responsive 7-speed S tronic dual clutch box while the RS5 relies on an 8-speed tiptronic auto with optimised shift times. This too works with alacrity and for the most part, feels like a dual-clutch device as slip is virtually absent.
Wheel-selective torque control is a TT RS feature with four variable drive responses available at the touch of a finger. Past Audis have been accused of being somewhat wooden when pressed but that criticism no longer applies. The variable-response steering always feels alive and delivers decent feel while the chassis provides a decent ride — particularly in Comfort mode — given the ultra-low
profile 255/30ZR20 rubber fitted to the test unit. Most importantly, it reacts quickly and faithfully when direction changes are called for, its resists roll with unusual determination and thanks in park to its tight dimensions, it simply feels chuckable and grips with limpet-like assuredness.
The RS5 is a slightly different beast. It is not a sports car as some observers seem to believe but a high-speed grand tourer that devours huge distances with disdainful ease. It is, after all, quite a big machine that unashamedly focuses on projecting a suave image. It does so at the expense of rear seat space that’s tight enough to deter even average-sized adults from taking anything more than a short drive. By contrast, the boot is huge so the selfish couple up front will never feel the need to cut down on luggage on their way to a weekend at The Ritz.
Now a tad slimmed-down on its predecessor, the RS5 distributes drive in a 40:60 ratio which assists dynamic handling as does the new 5-link rear suspension. I didn’t provoke this test unit at any time but let me say that in normal use, it feels responsive, grips with incredible determination but does feel just a tad ponderous on turn-in compared with the even more athletic TT RS. It too though, rides with equanimity even on its giant but shallow-walled 275/30ZR20 tyres.
As for fuel use, how long is a piece of string? Given its power reserves, the RS5’s thirst is a function of how much you want to indulge yourself which means that 17l/100km is not uncommon but around 14l/100km is more normal. And on an 80km motorway run, the digital read-out showed an encouraging 9.1l/100km.
Both cars are notable for their superb finish, inside and out. The paintwork glows beautifully and the RS5 looked especially fetching in an impractical shade of deep metallic blue. Interior execution lacks for nothing with sensuous, quilted nappa leather swathing the cabins of both models which also share the brilliant 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display that tells you everything except what the “Rocket Man” is up to.
Detailing is out of the top drawer and while some may find the overall execution a tad clinical, I admire the simple elegance on display, And for Audi, both cars feature thoroughly generous standard equipment levels which I suggest are best checked over by heading for www.audi.co.za I should, however, make the point that while the TT RS pretends to be nothing other than a sporting compact coupe and offers the most vestigial seating in the rear, it does provide wonderfully generous and easily-accessible load space for two occupants.
In summary, while both cars share a performance platform that few others can match let alone surpass, it’s the progress that Audi has made in tweaking the feel and handling of
its more recent road rockets that really impresses. There’s a new sharpness to exploit and that extends to the styling detail of both RS models.
For anyone to even mention the word “hairdresser” in relation to this TT is sacrilege but whatever haircut an RS driver might sport, it’s nice to know that far more expensive, more overtly sporting machines will more than
likely be blown away by both Audi rocket ships.