Middle of the road

ANOTHER version of the popular and much-copied TT is here. Do I sound bored? I&rsquo;m not really, it&rsquo;s just that this sector is chock-full of perfectly good cars, many of which have taken a bit of the TT&rsquo;s design and slapped them onto their own product. So, we see lots of this car creeping into competitors&rsquo; examples in this well-served segment. But here we have the original.<br /><br />I am a fan of the TT, but before I drove the RS version I surmised that I might end up writing that the 2.0 litre or the more recent entry-level 1.8 litre is the best TT of them all, because it offers so much torque and agility without being overly stiff for that irksome &ldquo;race-car experience&rdquo;. Ultimately this offers the best value for money in the TT stable. I know, it&rsquo;s not about value for money for all and so for those of you with 50 grand burning a hole in your pockets, here&rsquo;s a possible alternative.<br /><br /><strong>PURPOSEFUL LOOK</strong><br />Firstly, the RS looks purposeful with its skirts, air-intakes and muscular trim, although the rear spoiler looks aftermarket to me. It&rsquo;s a shame it couldn&rsquo;t have been incorporated into the boot as it is in the standard car.<br /><br />The interior is a shrine to quality, fit and styling with hand-stitched panels and body-hugging seats or full race seats from the options list, which are also good if less padded. And for the purists among us, Audi offers one gearbox only, a short-throw six-speed manual, and there are no plans to add an automatic transmission.<br /><br />Permanent all-wheel-drive is standard on the RS and with that comes a five-cylinder, 2.5 litre turbo-charged engine and 340bhp. Fire it up and I must admit I expected more of a greeting, but as you drive off and engage the now ubiquitous Sport button, as if by magic, there&rsquo;s a deeper exhaust note, with popping, via some clever valve work and a boosted throttle response. This is a quick car, helped by its aluminium and steel body construction and when you throttle down there is torque a-plenty.<br /><br /><strong>EXPLORE THE LIMITS</strong><br />If you&rsquo;re lucky enough to have access to derestricted tarmac, you can take your RS back to Audi who will reprogramme the engine&rsquo;s management system for you in return for a fee of &pound;1,300. And now you have a 174mph car coupled with loads of grip and ample breaks as standard, which you&rsquo;ll need if you are to explore its de-limited limits.<br /><br />But you know what? The TT RS just feels a little like it&rsquo;s clothed in a straightjacket. I wanted it to loosen up, to be more supple and involving, but it wasn&rsquo;t to be.<br /><br />Competitors are BMW Z4 sDrive 35i, Mercedes-Benz&rsquo;s SLK AMG 55 and of course, the ultimate tool, Porsche&rsquo;s brilliant Cayman S. In the comparison data Audi&rsquo;s TT RS does well in this group, leading the top speed (delimited) and 0-62mph leagues. But how you get there is just as important and still the Porsche comes out best.<br /><br />Audi are building just 480 between now and the end of 2010 and no doubt, they&rsquo;ll all be snapped up. It&rsquo;s a good car, no denying it. It just didn&rsquo;t light any fires for me. And it&rsquo;s a lot of money, money that I would be delighted to hand over to Porsche for a Cayman S but no, not for this.<br /><strong><br />THE FACTS:</strong><br />AUDI TT RS COUPE<br />6-SPEED MANUAL<br /><strong>PRICE:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp; </strong>&pound;42,985 <br /><strong>0-62MPH:</strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 4.6secs<br /><strong>TOP SPEED:</strong> 155mph (limited)<br /><strong>CO2 G/KM:</strong>&nbsp;&nbsp; 119g/km<br /><strong>MPG Combined:</strong> 31.0<br />