What is it?
The Audi TT RS Roadster takes the hard-top TT RS’s formula of brutal, R8-chasing quattro-equipped pace and lops the roof off to open you up to the elements.
Of course, as well as adding a closeness to Mother Nature, removing the roof impacts the car in other ways. Chiefly, it brings a weight penalty for the necessary structural reinforcement, in this instance making the Roadster 90kg heavier than the coupé. The knock-on effect of which is a 0-62mph time of 3.9sec (0.2sec slower than the coupé) and marginally worse fuel economy, as well as a price increase of £1750.
The good bit? 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 coupé, which means Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, fancy OLED tail-lights and, of course, the 394bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine are all present and correct.
We’ve already driven the coupé abroad, but we found that, for all its brashness and jaw-dropping figures, it didn’t quite translate into the supremely competent sports car package this price demands. Does the Roadster improve things?
What’s it like?
The best thing about having a convertible TT RS is that it removes the 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-layered acoustic hood down automatically in just a few seconds, while another button sends the windbreaker up. Turn the exhaust to Sport, plant your right foot, and prepare to be attacked by an orchestra of warbles and pops as the 2.5-litre five-pot harks back to Group B rally cars of old.
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 performance punch, and while peak power is up by 39bhp over the previous-generation TT RS, torque has only risen by 11lb ft.
It really is a properly quick car though, catapulting to 62mph from rest just 0.3sec slower than the £130,000 R8 Spyder, and it will keep going to 155mph – or 174mph if you pay extra to increase its limiter.
This missile-like performance is achievable thanks in part to the quattro all-wheel drive system. The sophisticated drivetrain, tailored specifically for the TT RS, offers great traction off the line and on the move and can send up to 100% of the drive to one axle if it sees fit, although it rarely happens either way. The steering isn’t particularly involving and its nose will wash wide on corners eventually, even if this TT RS is a more agile car than its predecessor.
The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission can feel a tad lethargic if left in its automatic mode, but the shifts are smooth and the tactile steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters offer rapid manual changes. The ride is good on adaptive dampers and standard 19in wheels, and there’s enough travel in the suspension to avoid crashes and thuds over UK roads.
The Roadster’s reinforced structure doesn’t detract from the coupe’s dynamic experience, and with the hood up it keeps the cabin very well insulated, with only a bit of road roar to at motorway speeds.
However, while the boot is bigger than that of the previous-generation 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 need to accommodate the fabric roof means the opening isn’t very big and it’s not very deep. A couple of weekend bags will fit, but anything more substantial will be a struggle.
Inside, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster is standard and works as brilliantly as it does on Audi’s other models, giving the manufacturer one up on its rivals. The driving position is also excellent, with plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel.
Should I buy one?
At £53,550, the TT RS Roadster is expensive, but for your money you get supercar pace, mind-bending grip, a theatrical soundtrack and the wind in your hair. Whether it’s worth it over the coupé will depend on personal circumstance and preference, but bear in mind that while the Roadster 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 Boxster. For all its outright pace and in-your-face noise, the TT RS’s chassis lacks the poise and delicacy of its closest rival. The Roadster may have the Boxster for breakfast in terms of pace and grip, but the Porsche is an altogether more rewarding proposition. If the Boxster is the sophisticated medical student of the family, the TT RS Roadster is the yobbish college dropout.
With both cars asking similar money, we’d sooner point you in the direction of the slower, rear-wheel-drive Boxster S. Despite its disappointing engine note, it’s quite simply the better, more involving sports car.
Audi TT RS Roadster
Location Oxfordshire; On sale Now; Price £53,550; Engine 5 cyls, 2480cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 394bhp at 5850-7000rpm; Torque 354lb ft at 1700-5850rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1530kg; 0-62mph 3.9sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 34.0mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 189g/km, 35% Rivals Porsche Boxster S, Mercedes-AMG SLC 43
What is it?