When I had the entire 2018 Audi RS lineup at my disposal for a weekend, I automatically filed the TT RS, quite honestly, straight to the bottom of the pile.
When someone stands in front of you with keys to the likes of a brand new R8 Spyder, a fully-specced RS6 Avant, and even the hot-off-the-boat RS5, the TT RS doesn't get a look-in.
Despite having never driven any form of the TT in my life, presumptions towards this car were tainted from the get-go. I couldn't even tell you why, there are no tangible excuses for my naivety. Perhaps the power, presence and pizzaz of its almost heroic big brothers and their cult-like hype overwhelmed me to the point I'd already happily shrugged off the TT in favour of the mind-bending V10 or the bark of an infamous Avant.
Our convoy of Audi's made their way to and from Bathurst for the annual 12-hour GT3 endurance race (of which Audi's eventual win was one well overdue). Despite all the driver and car changes under the sun over the course of the weekend, it wasn't till a full two days later as we meandered over the rolling, straw-coloured hills of Oberon bound towards Sydney, that I had no excuses left but to finally give the TT RS a start.
I got taught two very sharp lessons that afternoon. Bigger is not always better, and don't knock it till you try it.
Despite having a smile on my face from ear to ear as I screamed into the sunset behind the wheel of the R8 Spyder the evening before, the TT RS woke me up to one hell of a realisation. This is no hairdresser's car - no more, at least.
The TT RS absolutely hunts. The five banger turbo-charged 2.5-litre engine harks back to the glory days of Audi's rally legacy, somehow delivering a staggering 400 horses to a car of its size. Transferred via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the 345 lb-ft of torque sends the petite chariot to 100km/h in just 3.6 seconds.
As we pulled out of the town and overtook the multi-trailer headaches slowing us down at the bottom of some juicy, twisty hill climbs, the taps opened up with one hell of a soundtrack that syncronised with the other RS weapons as we chased each other towards the top.
Digging the TT RS into those corners was, quite simply, the most enjoyment I had the entire weekend. Unlike the infamous understeer of the RS3 or the ludicrous power of the R8, the TT RS has a nose on it you can point and shoot into any bend with a cocky confidence. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover Audi's commonly stubborn Quattro all-wheel-drive system now knows when to let you go, giving drivers a sense of untamed excitement and nimble playfulness from the back end of the TT seemingly on command.
I'm a pretty big bloke, big enough to quickly discover my comfort limits are around the 45-minute mark in an R8 Spyder. While the cockpit of the TT RS affectionately copies its R8 brother, the way the driver moulds into the seats of the TT, however, is undeniably more attractive and infinitely more comfortable.
The third generation Audi tech interface is probably the most user-friendly of the whole range, keeping the necessities on the steering wheel and cutting out the bullshit on the centre console. Simple interior design cues can put you in the racing mindset of the R8 but for a quarter of the price. This shared DNA is noticeable in the aggressive, maverick-like D-shaped steering wheel that boasts two extra buttons only found elsewhere on the R8 - one for ignition and another for drive select.
Like a snake shedding its skin, the TT RS has ditched itself of any hairdresser stereotypes when you observe the front end - swapping it for a menacing, pincer-like profile bookended by sharp LED headlights. I personally hate the silver metallic fuel cap on the rear right wheel arch. It has absolutely got to go, it's just too tacky anymore for a car that could look a solid 10.
Other than that, everything about the TT RS is bang on point. It's just gotta get a start.
2018 Audi TT RS Coupé
Price: $137,611 (plus on-roads)
Engine: 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h: 3.6 sec