A famous five is revived
More power and less thirst are key traits in Audi’s redesign.
HIGH-powered fives made Audi’s early reputation. Fivecylinder engines are becoming rare but the brand is not about to give up on the layout.
The Germans have just revealed a practically all-new five-cylinder turbo, in an equally new addition to the range.
Engineers worked for four years to design and develop the 2.5 TFSI of the sporty TT RS. This wasn’t cheap and Audi aims to recoup its investment. This takes time, which means Audi intends to keep five-cylinder engines in production for years, perhaps even decades, to come.
In time, the updated five is also sure to be installed in models currently using the older version, the RS3 Sportback hot hatch and RS Q3 small SUV.
The changes made are extensive as well as expensive. New parts include the cylinder block (aluminium instead of cast iron), crankshaft, sump (magnesium instead of aluminium), cylinder head (variable exhaust valve timing added) and turbocharger (larger turbine and impeller wheels). Audi’s engineers aimed to cut weight and fuel consumption at the same time as increasing power and responsiveness.
The resulting 2.5-litre five thumps out 294kW, precisely double the peak power of the turbo 2.1-litre five-cylinder used in the original Audi Quattro road car of 1980. This squarecut coupe provided the basis for a series of spitting, snarling and downright scary all-wheeldrives that were hugely successful in top-level rallying in the first half of the ’80s.
The new TT RS road car is super-fast yet it’s not daunting to drive. Simply engage Launch Control, press on the brake pedal and push the accelerator to the floor, then wait a moment for engine revs to stabilise before releasing the brakes.
The TT RS leaps forward without wheelspin, blares through first gear in a turboboosted flash, then upshifts to second so smoothly the gearchange is more heard than felt. From standstill to 100km/h takes just 3.7 seconds, which only a few years back was the realm of only exotic supercars.
None of the obvious rivals, needless to say, is anywhere near as quick as the TT RS. That this amazing performance is so easy to tap into points to the excellent software that controls the standard seven-speed double-clutch transmission, the all-wheel-drive and the engine — you don’t need the skills of an old-time rally ace such as Stig Blomquist or Michele Mouton to get the most from the TT RS.
Its lighter engine — the redesign shaved 26kg from the turbo five — endows better handling than the outgoing car.
It’s still not a great entertainer — the steering is too numb, for a start — but its amazing cornering grip, great poise, superb traction and strong brakes make it worthy of big-time respect. And the raspy exhaust note that only a five can produce is music for the ears.
Audi chose a great Spanish racetrack, Jarama, for the international launch. The car punched out of this technical circuit’s slower corners like a heavyweight champ.
Later, on public roads in heavy rain, the Audi was as graceful as a prima ballerina. Its huge talent puts it in a different league from any potential premium-grade competitor.
Inside and out, the TT RS also looks the part. With its big wheels, broad rubber, lowered suspension, rear wing and chiselled snout, it oozes a very classy kind of visual drama.
The cabin is special, too. It comes with the same steering wheel as Audi’s R8 supercar, a sporty version of the brilliant Virtual Cockpit instrument display, snug-hugging sports seats and one of the best dash designs in the business.
Audi Australia aims to price the TT RS Coupe at about $145,000. There’s a little vagueness because the car won’t reach showrooms until the middle of 2017, and some details are still to be decided.
Under discussion is whether to also import the companion soft-top Roadster (pictured above), which would be a little more expensive than the Coupe and a little slower.