For starters, let’s thank the deity who decided the TT RS should even be on this side of the Atlantic. After years of disappointment at the words: “no plans to bring to the US”, it took the overwhelming response of a Facebook campaign to convince Audi that the TT RS was worth the effort.
For Michael Abens, he already has a Mk1 TT S tuned to 300hp when the Mk2 TT was unveiled. So inevitably, he didn’t see the need to get one. After all, the Mk2 wasn’t going to be much faster, nor did it have the same iconic shape.
Then came the RS, the Facebook campaign and Audi’s announcement. Abens said he handed his local Audi dealer a deposit before they knew what to do with it. He didn’t know how much the car was going to cost, but knew he had to have one: “The RS was a completely different animal,” Michael told us.
It’s believed this Daytona Grey example was the second to be delivered in the US. The first one, if you weren’t awake during that news cycle, was delivered to long-time Audi racer Dan Istook.
Originally, Daytona Grey wasn’t going to be offered but after voicing his opinion on one of the Audi forums, Michael got an email from an Audi representative telling him they’d try to incorporate it into the options. And, shortly after driving off the dealership floor, Abens got an email from Todd Sager at AWE Tuning asking if he was interested in becoming part of their TT RS tuning program.
If you’re like most of us, the first thing you thought when Audi announced the RS was how much could the tuners squeeze out of it. Well, the Germans (who had a two-year head start) were claiming an extra 60-70hp with software and an exhaust. However, it wasn’t until March of this year that APR released an ECU upgrade for US models; and now we have this AWE package that includes an intercooler and exhaust to accompany new ECU code.
Although accomplished in stock form, Michael felt it lacked that elusive edge. The “Sport” setting livened things up but at the cost of a harder ride and sensitive throttle. So he began to discuss with AWE what they were going to do. In what he described as “a very good partnership,” they talked about likes, dislikes, limits and goals.
Fotunately, Abens shared AWE’s ambition for a healthy bump in performance without compromising drivability or reliability. The company likes to create everyday supercars and Abens confirmed the mods transformed it. “They listened and then delivered,” he said.
AWE’s technicians found the stock intercooler was one of the weaker links. So their front-mount intercooler has 80% more cooling area to lower the intake temps up to 22˚F on stock software. The dyno also showed it was good for a 15hp gain.
The second area was the exhaust, where the stock catalytic converters were restrictive. These were replaced by Cat Delete pipes that work in conjunction with AWE’s SwitchPath exhaust system. It has the option of a “Touring” position that adds a touch of aggression for town driving. Get to full throttle and the system opens up, bypassing the central muffler and resonator. When put into the “Track” mode, it’s wide open all the time and you row through the revs just to hear the five-cylinder sing.
The intercooler and exhaust necessitated software tuning as well. Working with its software partner, GIAC, they developed a Stage 2 program that increased power from 360hp to 415hp at the crank, while torque jumps from 343 lb-ft to 419 lb-ft.
Not having driven a stock TT RS, we can’t offer a direct comparison, but the AWE TT RS is a surface-to-surface missile, with a nose for searching and destroying straights and corners.
Power comes on early as you can feel the torque from low revs. There aren’t any noticeable dips or gaps in the power curve, and it punches hardest in the mid-range before it tapers slightly near redline.
There’s a unique five-cylinder rhythm emanating under the hood, which blends harmoniously with the howl of the SwitchPath exhaust.
Quick blasts from highway cruising speeds to mid-triple digits seems to happen in an instant as the power-to-weight ratio works in its favor.
As an indicator of its speed, I followed the RS in AWE’s 750hp 997 Porsche Turbo and found myself dipping deeper into the throttle just to keep up with the Audi, up to a point.
The HRE P40 wheels, which are apparently 7 lb lighter than the stock 19s, help to reduce unsprung weight – Abens confirming the ride is noticeably smoother. Measuring the same 19x9” as stock, the offset is a slightly more aggressive 50mm instead of 53mm. The tires are the original 255/35 R19 Toyo T1.
Both the brakes and suspension have been left alone. The car’s magnetorhetoric dampers are hard to beat and, while shorter springs were tempting, Abens’ RS is a daily driver on some battered East Coast roads…
There are allegedly RS models running around Europe with bigger turbos pushing 600hp, but the team didn’t want to affect drivability or reliability. About the only thing he might change is the rear sway bar if he finds the car understeers too much on the track. But that track day has yet to come becasue the car was only recently finished.
In our brief time we did notice some push but it didn’t feel excessive. The limit was impressively high and the car beautifully composed, from turn-in to track-out.
When you consider the base price of $57K plus a total of $5800 for the AWE parts, you’ve got a car that can harass far more expensive machinery, including Audi’s own R8. And you can bet, Michael Abens will be wearing a perma-grin when he chases them down on his first track day!
Michael Abens 2012
Audi TT RS
Kennett Square, PA
GM & EVP AT Pentec Health
2.5-liter TFSI, turbocharged, in-line five-cylinder with AWE Tuning front-mount intercooler cat-delete pipes and SwitchPath exhaust system, AWE/GIAC software
six-speed manual, quattro all-wheel drive
Wheels & Tires
19x9” HRE P40 wheels (ET50), 255/35 R19 Toyo Proxes T1 Sport tires