I finally had a chance to do an extended test drive on the new 2018 Audi TTRS (also known as the 8S chassis, or MK3 body style) thanks to my friend Nigel of Road Test Reviews. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the new model and have been excited to really check it out and answer a lot of big questions I had about it such as:
- Will I miss the manual transmission too much?
- Is it worth double the price of a used MK2/8J TTRS?
- How does it handle and drive?
- Seriously, why can’t I have a manual anymore?
To compare the two models, I let Nigel drive my 2012 TTRS and he let me drive his 2018 TTRS back-to-back so we could really get a sense of how they compare and contrast. It was a tough job doing this “testing” but I’m happy to volunteer my services in the name of science and the readers of this blog! In all seriousness, it was nice to drive both cars hard, as I use my car primarily as a daily driver and at times I forget how fun it can be to romp on it. It’s even more fun to romp on it in someone else’s car, in this case a loaner car from Audi of America. Don’t worry kids, professional driver on a closed course, yada, yada, yada.
Let’s start with the easy stuff, going first with styling. The new 8J TTRS has way more aggressive styling, and Audi really knocked it out of the park here. The two cars are roughly the same overall size and shape, but the new TTRS has much sharper edges and appears more masculine and athletic. It is perhaps one of my favorite cars from a design perspective on the market. While I love how my MK2 TTRS looks, the MK3 wins hands down.
The only thing I can ding it for is the OEM wheels are a little ugly, and I would have loved to see some more OEM carbon fiber bits like my car has with the side mirror. On the flip side, the MK3 has a button to pop the trunk from the OUTSIDE, which shockingly the MK2 is missing (you can only pop using the fob or a switch inside)…it’s a small gripe about the MK2, but another win for the new model nonetheless. Another plus for the MK3 is that the amber reflectors are outside of the headlights and integrated into the bumper instead, making it really easy to delete the amber compared to doing the clear corner mod on a MK2. Last but not least, Audi got rid of the option to have the retracting wing, and instead went with only fixed wings – a good decision IMO.
Interior & Tech
Another clear win for the MK3 is the interior and technology – oh boy, where to begin. The seats are downright awesome, both in how they feel and how they look with the quilted leather and contrast stitching, along with painted seat backs. The seats alone are enough to win the interior category hands-down, but there is so much more.
The steering wheel looks like a fighter pilot with the start/stop button in red and a super small airbag, and the alcantara bits throughout also scream sportscar in a way the MK2 lacks. Most importantly, the technology is leaps and bounds ahead. Gone is the outdated RNSE of the MK2, and in comes the Audi Virtual Cockpit with a digital dashboard and tons of cool visualizations. Likewise, a more advanced driver select module lets you fine tune suspension, throttle, and other dynamics rather than just having an on/off switch for Sport mode as found in the MK2. There are a ton of other nice tech features throughout, and overall the interior the MK3 is as strong as the exterior with handsome yet aggressive styling that is very modern and much improved over the previous generation.
Fun to Drive / DSG Factor
I expected the MK3 to win in interior & exterior styling, as that is something I could judge just by looking at pictures of the two cars on the internet…what I didn’t expect was for the MK3 to impress me so much. As a manual transmission fanatic, I viewed the lack of a 6MT as blasphemous when the MK3 was announced as DSG-only. While this is the trend nearly every automaker is going, I loved that the US versions of the TTRS and RS4 were offered in manual transmissions only and geared (pun intended) towards true enthusiasts. While the MK3 has more horsepower and weighs less, I expected it to be less fun to drive due to this factor alone. The MK2 has a clear lead due to the manual transmission factor alone; so much so that I expected the MK3 to be a total dud due to this fatal flaw.
Shockingly, the MK3/8S is so good, I didn’t really miss the manual transmission. The car feels so much quicker, well balanced, and overall just dialed-in that you forget about it. I instead spent my time grinning ear to ear, laughing, and even having my glasses fly off the top of my head and into the tiny backseat due to how fast this car rips. There is a difference between fast and quick, but in my opinion the car is both. It feels much more nimble and responsive, and I have no doubt that at a track it will outperform even a modded MK2 in terms of driving dynamics. While it’s a bummer to lose the ability to shift your own gears (and despite what anyone tells you, flappy paddles are NOT the same), the car makes up for it in so many ways that the overall fun to drive factor is equal if not better with the new model. I truly hate to admit this, and I’ll cling to my 6MT TTRS for as long as I can, but Audi did a good job at overcoming this handicap by making the car so damn fun to drive you forget about it. I’d still much prefer to have a manual transmissions, but the car makes up for that flaw with so much more personality and speed that you can forgive it.
Here is where the good news ends for the MK3/8S TTRS compared to its predecessor; the vehicle that I drove had a MSRP of about $80,200, and thats before dealer fees, taxes, and so-on. Out the door, you’re dropping a lot of coin on this car. In contrast, a used MK2 TTRS can be found in the high 30s with low miles, and an aftermarket warranty can be purchased to get you comparable coverage and you’d still be paying less than half the cost of the MK3. While you could in theory get a MK3 with no options for about $65k, good luck finding that and even better luck convincing yourself not to opt into some of those options like the sport exhaust and dynamic package. Even worse, you’ll need to spend some money nearly immediately to replace the hideous OEM wheels with stretched tires for something (anything!) else…factor in all of these costs, and a MK3/8S TTRS could set you back close to $100k all said and done between the cost to purchase, taxes, fees, increased insurance costs, and so-on. An MK2 TTRS with the oh-so-sexy titanium rotor wheels is going to cost you $40k, give or take…which begs the question, is the MK3 roughly 2 to 2.5 times better than the MK2?
While I loved everything about the MK3, personally I find it a tough sell versus a used TTRS. To be fair, I’d say the case is true when comparing almost any luxury car to its predecessor where depreciation has already occurred, but it seemed especially true on the MK3 versus MK2 TTRS where the price difference is so dramatic. My impression is that the MK3 is easily 50% better, but at 100-150% the cost, for me personally the ends don’t justify the means. This is clearly a personal decision based on how comfortable you are with spending money and how important it is to have the extra performance, so your decision might be different. What I can say is that for those who think the MK3 is a disappointment for not having a manual transmission – go drive it, you might be surprised. For those of you who have the MK2 and are envious of how much better the MK3 looks and drives, take solace in the extra money in your pocket to do other things you enjoy. Both cars are fantastic, so it’s up to you to decide which is the right for you and your budget, lifestyle, and means.
If you’re still on the fence after reading this, all I can say is go drive one and try it for yourself – like me, you might be surprised at how impressive it really is, DSG and all…at the very least, the interior and handling are worth experiencing, as they truly are incredible. While your left foot will suffer from boredom, the rest of your body will enjoy the ride.