Drop-top version of the hot five-cylinder TT ramps up the aural drama
The Audi TT RS Roadster takes the hard-top TT RS’s formula of brutal, R8-chasing pace but lops off the roof to open you up to the elements. Of course, as well as adding a closeness to Mother Nature, the removal of a fixed roof affects the car in other ways. Chiefly, it brings a weight penalty for the necessary structural reinforcement, in this instance making the drop-top 90kg heavier than the coupe. The knock- on effect of that is a 0-62mph time of 3.9sec (0.2sec slower than the coupe) and marginally worse fuel economy. The open-top TT RS also costs £1750 more than the fixed-head one.
The good bits? Well, for starters, you get an aural sensation that’s rare among soft-tops in this price bracket. Everything else remains the same as the coupe, so you get Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, fancy OLED tail-lights and the 394bhp turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine.
We’ve already driven the coupe and found that, for all its brashness and pace, it didn’t quite translate into the supremely competent sports car package that its price demands. So the question here is whether the roadster can improve things.
The best thing about having a convertible TT RS is that it removes a barrier between your ears and the hilariously brutish engine. At speeds of up to 31mph, a simple hold of a button on the centre console sends the three-layer acoustic hood down automatically in just 10 seconds, while another button sends the windbreaker up. Turn the exhaust setting to Sport mode, plant your right foot and prepare to be attacked by an orchestra of warbles and pops as the five-pot’s soundtrack harks back to Group B rally cars of old.
“This is a properly quick car, hitting 62mph for just 0.3 sec slower than the £130k R8 Spyder”
Peak power of 394bhp is reached at 5850rpm, at which point the noise is at its best, but the mid-range doesn’t offer much of a punch. Although peak power is up by 39bhp over the previous-generation TT RS, torque has risen by only 11lb ft. Even so, this is a properly quick car, hitting 62mph from rest just 0.3sec slower than the £130,000 R8 Spyder.
This missile-like performance is aided by a quattro all-wheel drive system that has been tailored specifically for the TT RS. It offers great traction off the line and on the move, and it can send up to 100% of drive to one axle if it sees fit. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission can feel a bit lethargic if left in automatic mode, but the shifts are smooth and the tactile steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters offer rapid manual changes.
The roadster’s reinforced structure enables it to offer a very similar driving experience to the coupe. The ride is good on adaptive dampers and standard 19in wheels, and there’s enough travel in the suspension to avoid crashes and thuds on UK roads. The steering isn’t particularly involving, though, and the nose will run wide on corners eventually, even if this TT RS is a more agile car than its predecessor.
However, although the boot is bigger than that of the previous- generation TT Roadster (thanks to an increase in wheelbase), it’s quite a stretch to call it practical. The load bay goes back quite far, but the opening isn’t very big and it’s not that deep. A couple of weekend bags will fit, but that’s about it.
At £53,550, the TT RS Roadster is expensive, but you do get supercar pace, mind-bending grip, a theatrical soundtrack and the wind in your hair. Whether it’s worth the premium over the coupe will depend on personal preference, but bear in mind that although the drop-top drives as well as the fixed-roof TT RS, it’s less practical, fractionally slower and more expensive.
The bigger question is whether you should have one instead of a Porsche 718 Boxster S. For all its outright pace and in-your-face noise, the TT RS’s chassis fails to exhibit the poise and delicacy of its closest rival. The TT RS may have the Boxster S for breakfast in terms of pace and grip, but the Porsche is an altogether more rewarding proposition. If the Porsche is the sophisticated medical student of the family, the Audi is the yobbish college dropout. With both cars priced similarly, we’d point you towards the slower, rear-wheel-drive Boxster S. Despite its disappointing engine note, it’s the better, more involving sports car.
Adds roof-down sensory delight to the brutish TT RS package but still plays second fiddle to the Boxster S
Engine: 5cyls, 2480, turbo, petrol
Power: 394bhp at 5850-7000rpm
Torque: 354lb ft at 1700-5850rpm
Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
Kerb weight: 1530kg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Economy: 34.0mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 189g/km, 35%
Rivals: Porsche 718 Boxster S, Mercedes-AMG SLC 43