2012 Audi TT RS: Money Can Indeed Buy Happiness3
There are two things that I have daydreamed about for years. The first is an Audi RS 4 Cabriolet in my garage. The second is to have a place to drive that RS 4, like, say, maybe, my own personal race track? My dream got about as close to reality as it ever will a few weeks ago in a remote part of the Catskill Mountains.
No, I wasn’t flogging an RS 4, I was busy pretending I was in the magical 1% that the Occupy movement is ready to spill blood over. I was at the second (maybe third or fourth) home of Alan Wilzig; a man who stole my heart. He is in the 1% but he is the most down-to-earth guy I’ve met in a long time. Sitting across from a guy at lunch whose left sock was worth more than my 401K was a terrific experience. First of all, he doesn’t come across as a phony bologna or gives off the impression that he is better than anyone else. His wife and kids mean the world to him. Charities also seem to take up a lot of his time and money. He is just a guy living building his dream. Making millions in banking, Alan has moved on to greener pastures, literally. Alan bought about 275 acres of lush playground in New York with the intention of building a museum to house his extensive collection of cars, carts, bikes, and his own private racetrack. After a five year legal battle with his neighbors, the $7.5M track finished construction in November 2010. It’s the largest private raceway in the country and it even has a banked turn. Alan has built a man’s amusement park and it surely beats my Hot Wheels racetrack.
A day earlier I arrived in Connecticut and I was greeted by gorgeous Autumn leaves and the some of the most scenic roads in the country. With the TT RS at my disposal I hopped in for an hour drive to get a sense of what the car handled like on the road before we drove it on the track. Connecticut is all about Land Rovers, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and BMW so no one would really notice a TT RS, right? Surely the boys in blue wouldn’t notice an Audi with a top speed of 174 MPH, right? I mean, no one even knew what the RS was. I’d blend right in with the Range Rover on the way to piano recital, that is, until the TT RS unleashes a head turning exhaust note. The exhaust note is difficult to describe because the TT RS is a five-cylinder with a hefty dose of turbocharging. It’s more refined than a four-cylinder without the Civic coffee can exhaust boy racer sound but not as throaty or deep as a V6 or inline-six might be. It’s a unique sound inside and out. It’s about as unique as the TT RS is. Chances of me seeing another one on the road? Slim to none. They are currently sold out and only 1,000 will make it to U.S. shores.
So why would you want to keep reading knowing that you’ll likely not have the chance to own one of these fine machines? Because it is a case in point to proves that Audi is committed to offering exemplary driving experiences coupled with over-engineered German precision. It all started with the 1984 Audi Sport Quattro. A wicked fast hot hatch that I had a chance to baby around the track. When I compare the TT RS to the Sport quattro, the TT RS is one badass bargain. You had to be in the 1% to get behind the wheel of a 1984 Audi Sport quattro. While I can see the potential that was under the hood of the Sport quattro, I was actually scared to death of it as it heaved, shuttered and moaned. I didn’t want to be responsible for its demise so I opted to leave the punishment for the TT RS. It’s pretty incredible to see what a super hatch was like in 1984 and how far cars have come in terms of materials, technology, and refinement. The Audi Sport quattro was almost as fast as the 2012 TT RS, if that is any indication of the engineering passion that was poured into that car. That same attention to detail was given to the TT RS.
The TT RS is a bit of an odd duck in the Audi lineup. It’s basically a low price halo car that you’ll never be able to buy. Want an R8? Sure, you can have one of those. TT RS? Keep dreaming. With so few due to arrive here they’ll be a true unicorn on the road if you see one. The TT RS is powered by a 360 HP inline-five banger. Think Jetta engine with Botox, Viagra, and all of Mark McGwire’s leftover ‘roids rolled into one. It’s nothing like the Jetta. The sound might be slightly reminiscent but the power is almost to the point of being silly. Mated to a six-speed manual transmission only, the TT RS can zip to 60 MPH in about 4.1 seconds. I believe that Betty White conducted that test in L.A. traffic because the TT RS feels much faster on the butt dyno. Maybe I’m in the minority but I would have loved to tried out the DSG version that is sold in Europe. The DSG TT RS gets launch control and a significantly faster 0-60 MPH time. Rowing my own is fine but launch control unleashes a bout of uncontrollable giggles. Giggles are embarrassing. OK, I’ll stick with the 6MT. And it’s a damn fine manual. The clutch is superb and won’t require reconstructive left knee surgery 18 months down the road.
So, piloting around the Wilzig Racing Manor (WRM) in the über rare TT RS, I discovered that quattro AWD is really what makes all the difference on the handling intensive course. Sure, the TT RS looks like a Biggest Loser contestant next to a Cayman R but the quattro provides ferocious grip that would leave the Porsche back at the third apex at the WRM. Of course the cars were all rigged with stability control that was under lock & key for my safety but the consumer version will have three modes of stability control settings, ranging from teddy bear safe to running of the bulls crazy scary. I realized just how intrusive the ‘teddy bear’ stability control setting was when I was trying to keep up with the pace car (E.U. spec car with stability control off) and the stability control really zapped the juice from me. Probably for my own good. I’d hate to be “that guy” who had an incident. The Toyo tires and magnetic suspension provided predicable fun for novices (me!) and professionals, like Mr. Wilzig. If only 14.6-inch cross-drilled brakes, with four-piston calipers were standard fare on every car….
If you have your heart set on the ‘platinum’ member of the Audi lineup, the R8, settling for the ‘white gold’ TT RS won’t disappoint. The TT RS isn’t as fast as a GT-R, but for $30,000 less I think I can give up one second to 60 MPH. If I had to pick between the BMW 1-Series M, the Cayman R and the TT RS…my cash would be headed for the four rings. Why? AWD, limited production, crazy stupid acceleration, and it’s just as fun on the track as it is off. If the value of the RS 4 is any indication of the residual values for RS-branded cars, then TT RS owners can take it to the bank. If you’re in that lucky 1%, I can attest to the fact that money can indeed buy happiness, whether that may be building a one mile long raceway in your backyard or enjoying a 2012 TT RS. Ahh, sure was nice to be in the 1% for 24 hours. Back to reality…