The Audi TT RS is the latest sports car entry from the Ingolstadt-based brand and it’s set to take on the Porsche 718 Cayman/Boxster S and the BMW M2. While the TT RS has more than enough power and performance to keep up with, or even outrun any of the sports cars in its class, one thing the those cars in its class have that the TT RS doesn’t is a manual transmission.
Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic gearbox is genuinely one of the best, if not the best, automatic transmissions in the business, with its rapid fire shifts that are as smooth as they are fast. However, regardless of how fast and accurate its shifts are, the S-Tronic ‘box will never be as engaging or as entertaining as a row-your-own manual gearbox.
Three pedals, six speeds and lever to shift through them, that’s how the car gods intended sports cars to be. Granted, the TT RS will be a blast with its S-Tronic ‘box, and we’re big fans of it here, but the Cayman S and BMW M2 both have the availability of a six-speed manual. That manual option will likely make those cars the choice for most car enthusiasts. Especially when those cars also have the purist benefit of being rear-wheel drive.
Audi’s reasoning for leaving manual transmissions out of cars like the A4, S4 and TTS is pretty easy to understand. The take rate on those cars for manual transmissions was so small that it wasn’t worth making for Audi. But the TT RS is going to be a very low-volume selling car anyway, as most people aren’t going to opt for such an expensive, stiff and impractical sports car unless they genuinely care about performance. So if Audi isn’t going to be selling a ton of TT RSs and the clientele base for it will be pretty much only enthusiasts, why not give us a manual option?
Admittedly, having a manual gearbox in most modern Audi performance cars would be a bit like having a turntable stylus on an iPod, as the cars are so technologically advance, it doesn’t make much sense to have an outdate means of interacting with them. Everything in a modern Audi, the engine, transmission, suspension, Quattro all-wheel drive system and even the differential, is all interconnected via computers. So to take one of those things out of the system would cause some issues. So we get it. But it still would be nice to have the option in such a performance-only oriented car.
Though, we really can’t complain because we are getting the Audi TT RS. Regardless of gearbox, we should just be thankful that it’s coming to the North American market, as we don’t get any of the cool or interesting Audis. So getting the TT RS at all is a breathe of fresh air and we’re thankful for it. Still, it would be nice to row our own gears, regardless of how old-school it might feel.