31bhp. Doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? But, in a welcome reminder that cold hard facts and figures never tell the whole story, I’m hurled back into the sumptuous quilted leather seat my buttocks currently call home. I find myself marveling at the shocking forward momentum I’m experiencing with eyes widened and mouth agape. God, this Audi TT RS is quick.
Yes, I drove one a few weeks ago at the car’s UK launch and yes, I’ve already done a few hundred miles in the example I’m driving right now, but I’ve just been given an excellent frame of reference for the RS’d TT’s straight-line performance. And that would be? The BMW M2, of course.
We’ve already pitted our M2 longtermer against the mid-engine, rear-wheel drive four-cylinder Porsche 718 Cayman S, so it only seems right that we also put it in a ‘ring’ with the new kid on the block: the front-engine, four-wheel drive TT RS. Have three rivals ever presented such different answers to the same question?
But anyway, let me get back to that speed. Because the M2 is not a slow car, nor does it feel slow. Its 364bhp, 343lb ft output gets it from 0-62mph in just 4.5 seconds, which is a more than satisfactory time for the benchmark sprint. But the TT does it eight tenths quicker, but more importantly, whether it’s from a standstill pratting around with the launch control system or hoofing it on the move, this dinky coupe feels more supercar than sports car.
While I suspect it’s partly down to the 395bhp and 354lb ft, a lot of that ferocity is down to the power delivery. From 2500rpm upwards you’re presented with a relentless wave of firepower. Yes, this is a car with a strong mid-range that you don’t necessarily need to rev the balls off, but there’s very little perceivable drop off as you smash the needle up to the 6800rpm redline. So you may as well.
Yes, the M2’s 3.0-litre turbocharged six is a little more eager and a little revvier, but it doesn’t have the tactical nuclear weapon feel of the TT’s 2.5-litre five-pot. Doesn’t sound as good, either.
The seven-speed dual-clutch ’S Tronic’ gearbox (there’s no manual option) certainly helps though, with seamless, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shifts, whereas with ‘our’ M2 and its frustratingly rubbery manual shift, you’ll struggle to get a fast and smooth shift. A DCT is optional, though.
It’s at this point you’re probably expecting me to tell you that this where the TT’s assets end, that it’s little more than a point-and-squirt car that disappoints in the corners. But that’s not at all the case.
As mentioned after our launch drive, the super-quick steering has actual feedback to it. It’s still not the most feelsome setup, but it’s a long way from the usual numb Audi racks.
The car feels nimble and feels far lighter than its 1515kg kerb weight (35kg down on the previous generation, by the way). It rolls less than the M2 thanks to a much stiffer setup, and the grip is monstrous. It’d take a long time to tire of the venomous way it spits you out of corner exits.
Stepping back into the M2, I’m immediately missing the TT’s explosive engine, and much plusher interior. But a few over-ambitious corner exits later, and I’m reminded of something the Audi doesn’t have: a moveable, exploitable arse.
Unlike the downright aggressive M4, the M2 offers up a masterclass in manageable over-the-limit handling every time you play around with the straight-six’s mid-range. Dial back the electronic interference to a minimum by sticking it it in Sport Plus, and you’ll feel that back end trying to move forward frequently.
"The TT RS is the most likable and charismatic fast Audi since the sadly deceased 4.2-litre V8 RS4"
The rear axle on the TT RS on the other hand remains stubbornly affixed to the tarmac no matter how hard you push - the first thing to go during exceptionally hard cornering will almost always be the front tyres.
As well as being more playful than the Audi, the BMW’s also by far the better looking car here. Its muscular proportions are spot on, whereas the TT looks unfortunately tall and stubby, no matter how much the angry honeycomb grille and questionable rear spoiler try to distract you.
The next thing that wades into battle for the BMW’s defense is price. It’ll set you back £44,070, which sounds like rather a lot, until you find out that the Audi is £51,800. Sure, when you option the M2 with a DCT to match the TT’s only transmission choice that ups the asking figure to £46,580, but that still amounts to a difference of over five grand.
But screw the difference: the TT feels worth the extra, especially in the cabin and under bonnet firepower departments. It’s the most likable and charismatic fast Audi since the sadly deceased 4.2-litre V8 RS4, and driving it is more of an occasion than the BMW thanks to its rabid speed.
So, which is the one to have? It all comes down to personal preference. Do you want a car with a fluid, rear-wheel drive chassis and a penchant for fun, or a lesson in four-wheel drive neutrality and savage point-to-point pace?
I’ve always thought the former was more my bag than the latter, but with our test at an end, I find myself reaching for the key to the Audi.