What you’re really paying for is the engine. The TT RS is all about its in-line five, now more potent at 400hp and 480Nm, and lighter by 26kg (with a further 2kg saved in the seven- speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission – the only choice of ’box). Overall the car weighs 1440kg. You’re also getting a very serious set of brakes, with 370mm discs on the front axle and eight-pot calipers. With their stainlesssteel pins adjoining disc to hub, they look extraordinary, and promise considerable endurance.
“The Audi rolls along with a constant aura of pent-up tautness, like a cofee addict queueing for their first espresso of the morning”
It’s soon apparent that the Audi’s steering is curiously inert in its default setting, with very little self-centring action, but it feels much more accurate in Dynamic, which bodes well for tomorrow – once we’ve fiddled around with the Individual settings. Our car runs on optional 20-inch rims, their oversize nature in relation to the body giving the car the lofty, almost cartoon-like appearance of a Hot Wheels toy. Without the optional Magnetic Ride suspension the ride quality would no doubt be challenging, but in Comfort or Auto the variable dampers do just enough to take the edge off the worst of the intrusions. Nevertheless, the TT RS rolls along with a constant aura of pent-up tautness, like a coffee addict queuing for their first espresso of the morning. It’s a sensation thrown into sharp relief by the far more relaxed Porsche.
The 718 Cayman S is cheaper in basic form – $54,000 – but suffers the same dramatic inflation here with options. But where the Audi’s extras seem largely trivial in the main – a gloss-carbon engine cover? – the Porsche’s are largely about go, not show. Amongst a long list, this Lava Orange car has the 20mm-lower sports suspension with PASM, torque vectoring and a mechanical limited-slip differential, PCCB ceramic brakes and a sports exhaust ( – a questionable expenditure, as we shall see). It’s either extra money more fruitfully spent or highlights the traditional stinginess of Porsche’s standard equipment list.
The little four-cylinder engine benefits from the same sort of variable-vane turbocharger tech as the 911 Turbo and makes 350hp and 420Nm from its 2.5 litres. At 1355kg it’s usefully the lightest car here and shares nothing with any more humble platform. Somewhere behind us in the murk the Cayman’s driver is also complaining about its expensive fixed-back bucket seats, but I know from previous experience that without them it’s a surprisingly habitable machine over long distances.
The BMW M2 incomes in at $51,000 with COE with some more sensible options, including a seven-speed M DCT ’box. Personally, I was desperate for BMW to send us a manual (as Porsche did), but a twin-clutcher makes for an appropriate foe for the Audi. With 370hp and up to 500Nm on overboost, the M2 needs all the torque it can muster given it’s also the heaviest at a disappointing 1520kg, despite its diminutive dimensions. Oh, and yes, the kitchen has closed when we eventually arrive.
The next morning I awake early to the sound of rain thrashing incessantly against our inn’s window. Audi conditions. The TT RS starts with a smirk-inducing ka-boom and then gurgles with a note so thick it gnaws at your ears like the wintry air. To be fair, the BMW isn’t far behind for cold-start theatre, with a rich growl of its own, but the Porsche… Well, the 718 just chugs with a tone somewhere between an unsilenced air-cooled Beetle and a Hawkeye-onwards Impreza Turbo.
There’s a typically foolproof quality to the TT in these conditions that positions it as a different proposition to the other two. You can feel it continually losing grip at each corner, but what slippage there is remains fleeting, and peeling back a layer of ESP protection sees the Audi’s acceleration unaffected by any loss of traction or electronic nursing.
And what acceleration it is. The motor is outrageously muscular, with that deep-chested rumble rising dramatically to a fraught, near- hysterical bark so characteristic of a heavily boosted five-pot. Overtaking is ludicrously easy; it’s a gap-commit-growl-gone process, time after time. All it needs is an overlaid scream of pace notes from Christian Geistdorfer to complete a thoroughly authentic Group B soundtrack.