Are all-wheel drive sports cars underrated?
And is the Audi TT RS too safe to be fun?
Back in the 1980s, car manufacturers were busy thinking of the next big thing in the sports car world, and some clever German folk had an idea. Why don’t we connect all of the wheels to the engine? Why don’t we make our next sports car all-wheel driven? So, they did. Waves made by the Audi quattro and the Porsche 959 pushed the car industry into a whole new tier of performance, so why is it that modern all-wheel drive sports cars don’t get as much credit as they deserve?
Maybe it’s because they’re a bit boring, a bit uninvolving, a bit too safe? These are criticisms often levelled at the AWD sports car, but none of them sit right with me. With the performance on offer in this day and age, it’s incredibly difficult to believe anyone would find a modern AWD sports car boring, and safety is something we ought to be proud of, yet it seems to be a quality many are quick to turn their noses at and dismiss. Are AWD sports cars distant? To find out, we were going to have to spend some time with one, so we borrowed the new Audi TT RS to find out once and for all if all-wheel drive sports cars are under-appreciated.
A TT? Yes, an Audi TT. This is not any old TT though, this is the TT RS. Quite simply, it’s the fiercest, meanest TT Audi has ever put into production, and yes,it is a sports car. Under the bonnet is Audi’s 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine which somehow manages to produce a whopping 400PS. 400PS, the famous ‘quattro’ all-wheel drive system and the 7-speed flappy paddle gearbox combine to send the formerly frumpy TT to 62mph in just 3.7-seconds – and that’s bonkers.
On my drive a few years ago was the first generation TT quattro, so this was a bit like meeting up with an ex-girlfriend to find she’s done really well for herself – it’s remarkable to see how she’s changed in the few years since we were an item. Like my old flame, the new TT RS is a shade of grey – Nardo Grey to be precise – an exclusive colour just for this car. However, gone are the curves I used to know, replaced by sharper lines and a lower, more muscular stance that’s dressed with aerodynamic garnish. It’s still her, it’s still unmistakably TT, but there’s something genuinely menacing about the appearance of this RS. It seemed my once gentle partner had gone away and transformed herself into Ronda Rousey. Understandably, I was slightly intimidated.
Perhaps that was an over-reaction on my part as Audi’s most extreme performance cars all have one thing in common – they’re all accessible and welcoming. They can be driven by just about anybody and while some enthusiasts might groan about that, let’s take a moment to give the brand some credit for taming huge power and making it something we can all live with on a more regular basis.
It may not be the most severe all-wheel drive sports car – it’s not as mighty as a Porsche 911 Turbo or its weaponised stablemate, the R8 V10 Plus – but its compact proportions, powerful engine and coupe or roadster configuration make this the perfect car to explore the all-wheel drive sports car genre. Will it prove my theory that all-wheel driven sports cars are undervalued? Or will it get shown up for a lack of flair and a much discussed over-indulgence in security and safety?
Spring time, rural roads and landscapes, and a 400PS sports car. Well, it’s not going to be difficult to enjoy this one, is it?
Next week, we’ll take a more in depth look at the TT RS.
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