The Audi TT, a car that represents a golden era at Audi, is bidding a prolonged farewell. The TT RS exited the stage in the U.S. market at the end of the 2022 model year with the Heritage Edition, and now in Europe, the TT RS Iconic Edition is a similar homage to the history of the distinctive coupe. And that's why it's worth taking a look at the past generations before we get to the details of this latest and arguably most competent iteration of the TT to date.
It was 1995 when the TT concept (above) wowed the unsuspecting audience at the Frankfurt auto show. Extremely puristic and geometric, it was a modern interpretation of a Bauhaus aesthetic. The production model came to market only three years later (not till the 2000 model year in the U.S.), remarkably faithful to the show car and still oozing concept-car vibes. The first, stylistically purest TT was offered as a coupe and a convertible. A 225-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter paired with all-wheel drive arrived in its second U.S. model year as the top offering, later exceeded by a 3.2-liter narrow-angle V-6, available with a manual or a dual-clutch transmission that had just launched in the Golf R32.
The second-gen TT coupes and convertibles that arrived stateside for 2007 were a bit less minimalist in design. With this model, however, Audi brought back a five-cylinder engine, a move that fired up brand aficionados. Unlike Audi's original five-banger that debuted in 1976, this one was derived from the EA113 four. It was a close relative of the U.S.-market inline-five that powered the Golf and other models, but it was turbocharged and produced twice the output.
The current, third-generation TT returned to its roots with razor-sharp lines and a more sporting appearance. Ferdinand Piëch himself sent the designers back to the drawing board, when—upon setting his eyes on an evolutionary proposal—he told them, "That is not how to treat an icon." The new TT came to market in 2014 again as a coupe and a convertible; crossover and four-door Sportback versions originally envisioned were dismissed, and the TT has carried forward without any major changes to this day.
For the Iconic Edition, just 100 of which will be built, Audi Sport decided not to dive too deeply into the design heritage of the TT; that would have entailed a different approach to wheel design and décor both outside and inside. While the original TT was defined by its use of aluminum trim, this one reflects contemporary popular notions of sportiness with black wheels and carbon-fiber appliqués.
The menacing appeal of the TT RS Iconic Edition is undeniable. It sits low to the ground, with an aggressive stance, its 20-inch alloys shod with 255/30 rubber. All are finished in Nardo Grey, and the front end is accentuated by canards, blades, and a splitter; the rear end is fitted with a massive wing, and the optional OLED taillights provide a futuristic touch. This model proves that the third-gen TT's design has aged really well.
You step into a cockpit that hasn't changed much over time and is still very clever and driver-oriented. The multimedia interface seems a bit dated only because Audi has moved on to other input strategies in its recent models, but this one works well. And the integration of the climate controls into the central air vents still seems like genius. This special-edition version features nappa leather and Alcantara in a two-tone black and gray with yellow contrast stitching in a honeycomb pattern.
The turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-five—it long ago became a fully aluminum engine even though it started life with an iron block—fires up with a bellow. The European TT RS doesn't sound quite as good as the American one did because it is saddled with a mandatory particulate filter, but the roar is still unmistakable both inside and outside the car. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic works like a charm, providing near-seamless or deliberately pronounced shifts, depending on driving mode and throttle input. The manual transmission has long ago disappeared in the TT RS—it was available only in the previous-model generation—which we see as a regrettable miss.
Making the same 394 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque as in the standard TT RS, the aggressive-sounding inline-five is incredibly pleasing to the ambitious driver. Even though it features only a single turbocharger, the boost comes on quickly enough—and it is relentless. We expect 60 mph to be within reach in just over three seconds from rest, and the top-speed governor is set at 174 mph. We didn't get near that figure this time around, but you can reach triple-digit speeds with incredible ease and a sense of security that presents itself as a constant threat to your driver's license.
With its low center of gravity, performance tires, a claimed curb weight of just 3252 pounds, and all-wheel drive, the TT RS successfully explores the outer limits of the VW Group's ubiquitous MQB platform. We drove it on fast country roads, not on a racetrack, and were still charmed by its overall precision and the nicely weighted steering. The adaptive dampers provide a great spread between a firm, hard character suited to fast driving on smooth asphalt and a more passenger-friendly, compliant setting for less aggressive driving. The rear wing effectively offsets the aerodynamic challenges of the TT's sloping tail, something that got the first-gen TT into trouble before Audi added a mandatory rear spoiler.
The current TT RS has been in production for six years now, and we are happy to report that it still holds up quite well against competitors such as the BMW M240i and the Toyota Supra, it doesn't feel hopelessly outclassed by a Porsche 718 Cayman, and it can probably kick cheaper but newer entries like the Nissan Z to the curb. But since the TT RS is not long for this world, Audi has spared itself the cost of upgrading it with the latest, most sophisticated iterations of the engine and chassis-control systems available in the RS3.
Audi has designed the TT RS Iconic Edition to become a collector's item, and that's why it is fitted not just with a plethora of bespoke options but also with a plaque that states not only that it is one of 100 units, but also exactly which one. Another significant indicator is its price: It comes in at a whopping 113,050 euros, or roughly $120,000, some 41,000 euros above a standard TT RS in Germany. None will come to the U.S. And that's a shame.
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