Having spent most of the loan period constantly wanting another go in the 2017 TTRS, it’s fair to say I was smitten with the multi-International Engine of the Year category winning five cylinder unit from Audi. Having never been fortunate enough to sample the engine before now, it’s easy to understand how the engine has dominated its 2.0 to 2.5-liter category. Responsive, powerful and capable of emitting the most amazing noise this side of its bigger V10-brother, it is one deeply impressive package.
But unlike previous generations, based on a USDM sourced five-cylinder, the 2017 engine is an all-new, bespoke item. The block is constructed from compacted vermicular graphite cast iron (GJV/CGI) combination, and is over 25kg lighter thanks largely to the adoption of a new, two-part cast-aluminium crankcase. Bore and stroke remain the same at 82.5mm and 92.8mm respectively, but the introduction of dual injection and Audi’s Valvelift technology has resulted in a stated 17% improvement on the Audi’s performance.
Whilst the major marketing point from Audi seems to be the 400PS output, the five-cylinder’s party-piece is the wall of torque in the mid-range. Regardless of the engine’s rotational speed and chosen gear, the pick-up is immense. The 480Nm is available from just 1,600rpm through to 5,300rpm and thanks to a perfectly tuned intake and exhaust note combination is delivered with an unmistakably quattro-esque bark. Our test car was fitted with the GB£1,000 optional sports exhaust, which did take some of the off-beat thrum away from the five-cylinder, but replaced it with a melodic howl that was reminiscent of a naturally-aspirated V as the revs multiplied. At GB£65,000 (with options), the five cylinder, 2.5-liter, two door coupe with its high-end interior and general feeling of being something ‘special’, it really did feel like a smaller, half-sized, version of the R8.
Audi claims a combined 34.4mpg for the TTRS. We didn’t see anywhere near that, with the dash indicating just 20.1mpg. I, as Editor, single-handedly take responsibility for driving the figure downward quite substantially, but that torque wall and accompanying howl in second and third gear are worryingly addictive. It is to my mind, the only press car that I’ve had to refuel. Twice. And whilst that sounds like a negative, it really isn’t. It’s one of a handful of cars that have made me look for the longer route home, or look for an excuse ‘just to nip out’ again.
That said, the car it’s attached to isn’t quite as flawless as that engine. Whilst Audi’s ride comfort on its sporting models has improved dramatically over the years, it is still too firm, too harsh and wayward on its rebound to make you feel truly comfortable when pressing on. The steering wheel is lifted straight from the R8 and comes complete with barrel-mounted started button to make it feel every bit the miniature race car however, and somewhat unsurprisingly, the steering itself is free from any form of feedback to your fingertips, and airs on the side of light in its weighting.
The character of that five-cylinder though absorbs the negatives with aplomb and with such an engaging delivery, it did two things to me. Firstly, it made me realise how soulless the 2.0-liter TFSI in my own car is and that my previous foreword rant about manufactured exhaust burbles and fuel dumps was a valid one. And secondly, it did make me wonder how annoyed the guys in Stuttgart really are, now that their long-established two seater sports car has been made to sit firmly beneath the TTRS in the engine stakes, in the VW Group Empire. The Porsche four-cylinder simply doesn’t come close in making you feel special, and in this category of cars, that feeling has to be one of the biggest appeals of them all.