What's New for 2013
The 2013 Audi TT RS is essentially unchanged.
Audi finally decided to import its TT RS model to North America last year after much clamoring and support from Audi enthusiasts. The RS is the alpha male of TTs, maintaining a top position in the TT lineup in terms of desirability, performance and price. Because availability is limited, you won't see many on the road, and it'll be difficult to distinguish it from lesser TTs unless you know how to spot one.
To do that, you'll need to look for the unique 19-inch wheels, more aggressive-looking front fascia, side sills, large rear wing and rear diffuser. Mainly, the RS improves upon the regular TT's all-around performance with an extra 149 horsepower thanks to a unique 360-hp turbocharged five-cylinder engine. That's also 95 hp more than the already upgraded TTS (265 hp). Besides more power under the hood, the RS also receives a lower ride height, firmer suspension tuning and standard adaptive suspension dampers.
But this sort of performance doesn't come cheap. With an as-new starting price just shy of the $60,000 mark, the TT RS costs roughly $18,000 more than the base TT coupe and nearly $11,000 over a TTS. While the TTS is slower than a TT RS in a straight line, it can effectively match the RS's pace around corners.
The larger worry, however, is that there's just a lot of great stuff you can get for this price. A Porsche Cayman S comes to mind thanks to its more enjoyable handling, while the Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG packs an impressive V8 punch. For superior long-distance touring ability and a roomier rear seat, the BMW M3 coupe makes a whole lot more sense.
Then again, none of these cars offer all-wheel drive or the rarity of the TT RS. We suspect the latter by itself is more than enough to keep Audi enthusiasts happy and to guarantee a sold-out run.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Audi TT RS is available as a 2+2 coupe only. There is just one trim level. Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, performance summer tires, adaptive suspension dampers, xenon headlights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, cruise control, automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, eight-way power sport front seats, leather/faux-suede upholstery, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. Also included is a Sport button program that alters throttle calibration, suspension settings and the exhaust note.
Available options include the Tech package, which adds adaptive xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, a navigation system, a 12-speaker Bose sound system with a USB/iPod interface and ambient interior lighting. The Sport Exhaust option adds a free-flowing (louder) exhaust system and the Sport Exhaust Titanium package adds to that a unique grille and wheels. Stand-alone options include special exterior trim and two-tone upholstery options, heated front seats and power-folding carbon-fiber exterior mirrors. And if you prefer a cleaner rear deck lid, the standard rear wing may be deleted at no cost.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2013 Audi TT RS is a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-5 engine that produces 360 hp and 343 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and no automated version is available. In Edmunds testing, the RS shot from zero to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds. That's quicker than an Audi R8 4.2. Despite this impressive capability, the TT RS's fuel economy is still pretty decent, with an estimated 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg in combined driving.
Standard safety features on the 2013 Audi TT RS include antilock brakes, hill-hold assist, traction and stability control, front side airbags (to protect the head and thorax) and front knee airbags. In Edmunds braking tests, the TT RS stopped from 60 mph in 111 feet, a few feet longer than average for this type of car with summer tires.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like its Audi TT brethren, the 2013 TT RS sports a tasteful, mechanical-themed interior made of top-shelf materials. The placement of the navigation system's controller on the dashboard isn't ideal, nor is its operation as intuitive as systems offered by other manufacturers, but most other controls are straightforward and within easy reach. The TT RS avoids the flashy available two-tone color schemes of the TTS, instead sticking to all-business black and brushed aluminum for an air of seriousness. Sporting a TT RS insignia, its sport seats are the main styling cue that sets the RS apart from the standard TT models.
The fine leather and faux-suede front seats in the TT RS provide very good lateral support and sufficient comfort, but rear passengers don't have it nearly as good. The cramped rear quarters are barely adequate for children and are better suited to trunk overflow than people. These 50/50 seats fold flat, expanding the trunk's capacity from an ample 13 cubic feet to a capacious 24 cubes.
Thanks to 360 hp, all-wheel drive and a curb weight of 3,300 pounds, the 2013 Audi TT RS delivers eye-opening acceleration. Even the most jaded enthusiasts will find the TT RS's turbocharged five-cylinder engine a bit of a revelation. It supplies a resounding surge of unexpectedly linear acceleration, not to mention one of the most memorable and vociferous exhaust notes we've heard in a while.
The TT RS's all-wheel-drive system does an excellent job sorting out where best to send the power, shifting both side-to-side and fore-aft. Unlike the rest of the TT lineup, the TT RS's sole transmission option requires manual shifting. Thankfully, the short-throw shifter moves freely among the gears, reminiscent of the Audi R8 supercar's shift linkage.
The TT RS's five-cylinder engine is perched atop the front axle where fully 60 percent of the car's total weight is concentrated. The result is a tendency for understeer at the limit and aggressive wear of the front tires. But that's not to say the TT RS can't attack a winding road with confidence. The steering feels a little lifeless through the flat-bottom steering wheel, but it's supremely precise and free of friction. Also, the car's ability to leap out of a corner with all four tires clawing at the pavement is a unique treat.
As a long-distance companion, the TT RS is less appealing. That vociferous exhaust note can become an annoyance on long drives, and the pronounced road noise and stiff ride get old after a couple hours in the driver seat. But among all the versions of the Audi TT, the RS is the one that's most like a sports car, not just a style car.