There’s a sense of finality to much of Audi Sport’s range of late. That RS6 Performance we drove recently week is likely to be the last of its kind with a V8. The R8 supercar, meanwhile, is not long for this world, with the bewinged R8 GT serving as the model’s last hurrah. And then, we have the TT.
The third generation of TT will be the last of Audi’s well-proportioned sports car as we know it. The badge will live on, only to be used for an electric crossover. Boo, and in no uncertain terms, hiss.
Audi is, at least, marking this ending of an era, and with more than one car. There’s the Final Edition, available with various different engines and in both coupe and cabriolet forms, a car we’ll be talking about soon, and the beast you’ll see here - the TT RS Iconic Edition.
What the Iconic Edition brings to the table is easy to spot - it’s littered with angry aerodynamic addendum mostly made from carbon fibre. You get canards on the edges of the front bumper, which has also sprouted a splitter that’s sizeable enough to make you very wary of speed bumps. There are also chunkier side skirts and a new diffuser which wraps around the edges of the rear bumper with surprisingly large winglets. Oh, yeah, and there’s a giant, swan-neck rear wing that’s bordering on being too much for the relatively small TT.
The car thing is treading a fine line between being cool and O-TT (sorry), but in the metal, it just works. You can’t help but appreciate Audi throwing caution to the wind for what is a last hurrah for 25 years of the TT story. It also shows how far this car has come. In its early days, the TT was viewed - not without warrant - as a mere fashion accessory. As it checks out a quarter of a century on, it can be bought as a five-cylinder, near-400bhp mini supercar that looks desperate to sock the nearest Porsche 718 Cayman in the face.
This TT RS doesn’t bring any more power to that potential punch-up, though. The 2.5-litre, turbocharged engine behind the TT’s neatly styled nose makes 395bhp as before, and it still drives all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox or ’S Tronic’ in Audi speak. Then again, straight-line performance never was an issue for the TT RS, with a 0-62mph time of just 3.7 seconds.
The chassis has been left unchanged also, which makes a week with the TT RS Iconic Edition more of a reminder of what the standard car does and doesn’t do well, rather than a detailed assessment of something actually new. And as always, the engine is the star of the show.
While this is a powertrain you can have in other cars - the RS3, RS Q3 and Cupra Formentor VZ5 - in the pint-sized TT which sits you low-ish to the ground, it’s the most impressive. After a perfectly acceptable pause of turbo lag, the five-banger propells the TT forward with enthusiasm amidst a pleasing, offbeat soundtrack. And as much as I don’t want to drop the word ‘warble’ in here, I might just have to.
Since particulate filters arrived for all cars with this engine, it hasn’t sounded quite as meaty, but the EA855 (to use its official, boring name) still makes one of the best noises on the cheaper side of £70,000. It’s an engine you need to rev more than you might expect, with the party really getting started after 4000rpm or so.
The second-gen TT RS had a not entirely undeserved reputation as a straight-line missile that wasn’t much fun when the corners arrived. For the second generation, those nose-heavy, understeering memories were quickly banished, partly down to the newer version of the 2.5-litre engine switching from an iron to an aluminium block, shaving a not inconsiderable 26kg from the front end.
Factor in a well-sorted chassis, and you have a car far keener to change direction than Audi RS products of old. And while the steering is a bit light and doesn’t have a lot of life to it, the setup feels reasonably natural and is fast enough to make the most of this TT’s willingness to change direction.
It’s not the most playful thing, though. Unlike in an RS3 with its fancy RS Torque Splitter, you can’t adjust your line with the throttle here. Instead, booting it mid-corner will result in the all-wheel drive system digging into the tarmac tenaciously, before eventually giving into safe, predictable understeer. You do have to be pushing the TT RS to get to that point, though.
The ride/handling balance is reasonably well sorted. The adaptive dampers can be a little harsh in the firmest setting, so you may well find yourself avoiding the ‘Dynamic’ setting and configuring the Individual mode to have everything in full angry bastard mode aside from the suspension. Even set softer, it’s not like the TT RS rolls a great deal.
When you’re just cruising around, you can appreciate what remains a fabulous piece of cabin design nearly a decade on from the third-gen TT’s launch. Today, when manufacturers talk about decluttering interiors, it tends to involve burying various important functions deep within the sub-menus of a touchscreen, but the TT is minimalism done the right way.
The TT had one of the earliest properly good digital instrument clusters, back when such things more of a novelty, packing in enough features that an infotainment screen wasn’t necessary. The biggest masterstroke of all, though, was integrating the comfort and climate functions with the vents, themselves a neat piece of design.
The Iconic Edition doesn’t do much to uplift this already great cabin, but there are some nice touches including a yellow 12 o’clock marker for the Alcantara steering wheel, gold stitching and a numbered (but sadly plastic) plaque topping the gear selector.
What you’re paying for here, along with the exclusivity (we’ll get back to that) is the carbon aero stuff, for which you have to cough up significantly more cash. At £87,650 it’s a whopping £25,485 more than a standard TT RS. And it’s not like it’s loaded to the hilt with equipment, either, coming with basic cruise control rather than adaptive, and seats that are mostly manual other than the electric lumbar support, and unheated. If I were paying the best part of £90k for a TT, I’d want toasty bum cheeks in winter, thank you very much.
We can’t get too riled up about the price, though. Audi is only making 100 of these, 11 of them coming to the UK, and it managed to sell the lot quite quickly. If you missed out, there’s not cause to worry. As much as we dig the way the Iconic Edition looks (which in any case can be replicated to some extent with official Audi accessories), buying a standard RS, or indeed any new TT is a fine way to celebrate this soon-to-be-dead model. Just make sure you get a move on.