Buying a #Audi-TT-RS-Roadster
. Andrew Chapple takes you through the process. Photos: Neil Birkitt. #Audi-TT-8J #Audi-TT
‘ It was interesting to browse the handful for sale and compare what I wanted with what was out there...’
In 2002 a hobby tinkering with cars became a full-time job for me, buying and selling quality Volkswagen Group cars. Since then I’ve never been short of the keys to something interesting from the #VW-Group
, but I still like to have a car I can call my own.
My first Audi was a 2001 S3, heading up a series of fast S and RS cars including a 2.7T S4, and a number of RS 4 Avants. In 2014, fed up with expensive to fix, relatively old cars, I bought my first new car, a Mk 7 Golf R which was a spectacular hot hatch, but I never bonded with it, due its relatively uninspiring 4-cylinder engine.
So, pretty quickly I started looking for something with more of a ‘sense of occasion’. The all-new Porsche Boxster introduced in 2012 was top of the list, but inflated summer prices told me to be patient and resume the search in the autumn. I did, but I could never find the perfect combination of price, colour, mileage and specification, and there was barely any seasonal dip in prices due to relatively short supply.
The Audi TT has always been seen as a Boxster rival, but I’d never considered one for myself until late 2014 when I bought a 2008 TTS Coupé to sell on. This was the first TT I’d driven that had the level of performance I required, but the 4-cylinder engine was a little soulless. Anyway, I wanted a convertible so I decided to go one better and look for a TT RS Roadster.
Before turning to the classifieds I read all the road-test reports and, as suspected, the RS’s 5-cylinder engine was the recipient of as many bouquets as the chassis dynamics received brickbats. I’ve been able to compare the road-test verdicts of a lot of cars with my own, and I consistently perceived a distinct disparity between what many road-testers see as a high priority and what’s important to me in the real world. For example, a Boxster’s agility on track means a lot less to me than the security a TT quattro offers when driving on the road in poor weather conditions. Thankfully, the award-winning 5-cylinder engine is at least a match for the 3.4 flatsix in the Boxster S, both in performance and character, and in the real world the tremendous turbocharged torque trounces the relatively gutless Porker.
So, the search was on. Having never bought or sold a TT RS before, it was interesting to browse the handful for sale and compare what I wanted with what was out there. Satellite navigation was a must for me, and most seemed to have it, but less common were cruise control and rear parking sensors, although both can be retro-fitted relatively easily, unlike heated seats which – thankfully – were standard, a common RS theme.
I’ve never thought the standard 18-inch wheels were worthy of the RS model and even the appeal of better ride quality didn’t help their cause but I didn’t rule them out, because they could be upgraded at a later date.
Bucket seats, Magnetic ride, 19-inch Rotor alloys and sports exhaust would all be nice but, with so few examples for sale, to make them essential would limit the choice of cars massively, as would specifying a particular colour, although Daytona grey would be top of the list.
I quickly focused on two cars advertised on Autotrader, the first a low-mileage #2010
car in Suzuka grey with satnav, acoustic rear parking sensors, Bose sound system and Bluetooth. The seller, an Aston Martin main dealer, had erroneously listed it as having cruise control but, judging by the black exhaust tips, had missed the sports exhaust. Audi UK now provide a ‘spec check’ freephone hotline on 0800 542 3037 and a quick call confirmed the absence of cruise control but also the presence of the rare and desirable sports exhaust option. It was enough to make up for the modest 18-inch wheels which, with a bit of a discount off the asking price, I could afford to replace. As it was a contender, I performed an HPI check which stated there had been just two owners, the first for around three months which, along with the high specification, suggested it had started life as a dealership demonstrator. The check also revealed that the car was subject to a finance agreement known as ‘unit stocking’ where a dealership uses finance to fund the cars on their forecourt.
This is routine and of little relevance, apart from the fact that the finance term was coming to an end, so the dealership should have been keen to move the car on, or so I thought. On speaking to a salesperson I was told in no uncertain terms that the price had already been reduced significantly and wouldn’t be lowered any further, so I made my apologies and moved on to the next car.
Production of the #Audi-TT-RS-8J
ended in early 2014, so finding an ex-demo ‘64’ reg at Southend Audi that had hit the road in October 2014 was quite a surprise, especially at £10,000 less than list price! The specification was pretty basic, however, with just satnav fitted over standard, and with the price stretching my budget I couldn’t justify the expense for a car that only had its newness going for it, something that time would soon erode.
With little else in the classifieds, I decided to have a look at the British Car Auctions (BCA) website to see what was listed amongst the main dealer part-exchanges. Over the last 10 years it has become the norm for main dealers to dispose of their trade-ins at auction to ensure that a fair price is yielded on the open market, rather than being sold directly to motor traders, a process liable to corruption.
I did have a look earlier in the week and saw nothing of interest – no surprise, as the TT RS is a relatively rare car, and at nine days before Christmas there wasn’t a huge amount of activity in the used car market.
So, imagine my surprise when I saw a freshly-listed 2010 TT RS Roadster with 16,500 miles due to be auctioned at BCA’s Nottingham site two days later! The car was listed simply as ‘Grey’ with no images to confirm whether it was Suzuka or Daytona. The vendor was Mercedes Retail Group, a good sign as their main dealers send anything non-Mercedes to auction, even if they meet their approved used car standards, in order to keep their forecourts unsullied by rival brands – others cherrypick the best trade-ins for themselves, auctioning only sub-standard cars.
Another call to the Audi Spec Check line revealed some even better news – it was indeed Daytona grey, with around £10,000 worth of options which ticked all my boxes and more. They also confirmed the service history which consisted of just the one visit when the car was two years old, meaning that the second one was slightly overdue if only on time, not mileage. HPI’s data again suggested the car was an ex-main dealer demonstrator, with its second (of two) owners taking possession when just a few months old.
Purely by coincidence, I’d penciled in a visit to BCA’s Nottingham site on the following day, and so I assumed it would be a simple matter to at least have a walk around the car somewhere on their site, and I could then bid for it online a day later. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as simple as that as the car was being valeted and was tucked away in a restricted area, so the only option was to wait around for that day’s sale to end when the cars for the next day’s sale would be assembled, something which involved a few hours of loitering but was well worth the effort.
While there are many risks when buying from auction, one benefit is that you can take as long as you like to look around the bodywork which is usually presented clean and dry, something not always possible even when buying from a dealership. Risk is also reduced by the mechanical and condition reports which most of BCA’s cars have, to encourage online sales, but you simply can’t beat seeing a car in the metal, especially when it’s an RS. For example while tyre tread depths are listed on the mechanical report, tyre brand is not – so you’d never know if the car had four different makes of tyre fitted, bad on any car but a definite no-no on a quattro! Another example is brake discs, which on an RS are notoriously expensive and yet the mechanical report doesn’t even mention them – buy a car with worn front and rear brakes and you can be looking at a bill in excess of £2,000 on some models, enough to make you wish you’d gone for an Audi Approved used car.
But that would be too easy and anyway there was nothing in the dealer network which fitted the bill so it was just as well that, from what I could see, this example appeared to be at least as good as anything an Audi Centre would deem fit for stock. It had four good Michelin tyres (three of which were the originals), barely worn brakes, blemish-free bodywork and even the tricky to refurbish Rotor wheels were perfect. Another good sign was that the number plates were still the originals fitted by the supplying dealer, Birmingham Audi, where my enquiries confirmed that the car had indeed started life as a demonstrator.
There would still be a significant amount of risk involved in buying a car I hadn’t even heard running, let alone test driven, but my professional verdict was that it would be hard to find a better example, especially one with this perfect combination of extras; all I needed to do was decide how much it was worth to me, before the next morning, and then get online and bid.
Over the last few years online bidding at car auctions has become widespread, but the fact of the matter is that the cars are rarely cheap enough to justify the risks involved without a physical inspection, as only around half the information needed to fully assess a car is supplied and even this is quite often less than accurate. On this occasion, however, having already performed the legwork, modern technology would save me a long and potentially fruitless trip back to Nottingham.
With the popularity of online auction sites, the process of bidding will be familiar to most people, the difference with BCA’s Live Online website is that it is possible to receive audio and video feed from the auction hall, making it feel as if you are physically there. It is all too easy, though, to miss the slot when your car is receiving bids, so make a note of the start time of the batch of cars yours is in, and its lot number. By allowing around a minute for each preceding car, you can get a reasonably accurate idea of when yours will be coming through.
I wasn’t buying this car to sell on, so I could be a little more bullish with my bidding than usual but there was no point paying more than I could buy from a dealer or even a private seller, so I used the TT RS at Aston Martin as my basis for pricing, figuring that if I could get this far superior example for a similar price I’d have done well. As it happened, bidding was buoyant and I had to go beyond this figure to secure the car, something I justified on the basis that upgrading the Aston Martin car to my desired spec would cost significantly more. Also, some extras such as Magnetic ride would be impossible to retro-fit, while others such as bucket seats and sports exhaust would be tricky to find on the used market, and then there was the less appealing colour. As a result, I was happy that I’d secured a well-equipped example in absolutely tip-top condition for around £2,500 less than a dealer would be selling it for. All I needed to do now was drive it!
Even after 13 years of buying cars for a living, I still get excited about driving a model I’ve never driven before but, when buying from auction, nervousness tends to be the dominant emotion, usually in direct proportion to the amount of money at stake. So, after a fitful night’s sleep I found myself at BCA Nottingham again where, after a swipe of my debit card, I finally got my hands on the keys.
Opening the door for the first time, I was greeted by the sweet smell of leather and those gorgeous bucket seats that looked as good as new. I’d never driven an RS 3 or TT RS before so I was really curious to hear if the 5-cylinder engine could challenge a six for character, and as soon as I turned the key I had my answer: oh yes! The fast idle which the engine performs when cold was surprisingly loud and, once it settled down, selecting Sport mode produced an audible click from the flap in the sports exhaust and a mischievous burble from the tailpipes which turned into a fruity rasp with a blip of the throttle – perfect!
Once on the road, my attentions turned to the ride quality as I wasn’t sure whether Magnetic ride would be sufficiently capable to make up for the 19-inch wheels but I need not have worried. Adaptive suspension like Magnetic ride is often incorrectly perceived to be the same as the standard ‘passive’ set-up unless it’s switched into one of its other modes, but Magnetic ride is a bit cleverer than that as the suspension damping is continuously adjusted to the current driving situation, whether in normal or sport mode.
One way in which the Boxster trounces the TT, and most other sports car rivals, is in the area of luggage capacity by having both front and rear boots. The Series 1 TT Roadster was pretty dreadful in this respect, especially quattro models with their raised boot floor, but the Series 2 is ‘loads’ better with an increase from 180 litres (Series 1 quattro) to 250 litres, the same for all Series 2 roadsters whether front-wheel drive or quattro. This 39 per cent boost makes the later car a far more suitable companion for touring holidays, and on returning home I was able to test this by easily slotting in a moderately-sized suitcase, leaving space for a fair bit more, something I needed to take into consideration with a European road trip planned for the summer.
One small fly in the ointment was a very strong smell of petrol on parking in my garage for the first time. Then I noticed that my house had filled with petrol fumes, meaning something was very definitely amiss! Armed with a torch and a keen sense of smell, I quickly spotted a leak from a sensor screwed into the high-pressure fuel pump which simply needed tightening as it was leaking fuel directly onto the exhaust manifold – my letter warning other 2.5 TFSI owners of this potentially catastrophic flaw was published in the February 2015 issue of Audi Driver.
As mentioned earlier, a service was due so I visited South Hereford Audi where master technician Damian Davies did an excellent job and afterwards joined me for a passenger ride during which that special engine won him over also.
The 2.5 TFSI has gained quite a reputation for its tuning potential and for just £650 an MRC Tuning Stage 1 re-map will increase the power from 340 PS to around 400-415 PS, with torque following suit, turning what many still disparagingly call a hairdresser’s car into a true giant-killer – RS 4 owners beware! MRC can also program the exhaust flap to stay open all the time in sport mode, rather than being dependent on engine speed or load, a process which can prove a little frustrating especially with the sports exhaust option.
So should I have pushed for the Porsche or does quattro GmbH’s influence turn the TT into a true rival for Stuttgart’s finest? It’s early days yet, but so far the signs are very good indeed. I could have easily bought a similar age/mileage Boxster S, but the last generation ‘987’ Boxster just doesn’t do it for me, partly because of its ‘push me pull me’ styling, but also because, while heavily updated cosmetically, its chassis has barely changed since the 1997 original. With the #Audi
TT RS, I have a more advanced car that is a pleasure to extract from my garage even in the depth of winter, when it can still apply most of its power with ease, and with an exhaust note that never fails to make me smile. Having already lost half of its original value, I should be able to keep on smiling as the depreciation, which is one of the biggest costs of motoring, should now be fairly gentle, and while Audi parts and service are never cheap, they are less likely to induce a grimace than those from Porsche. Roll on summer!
Andrew is proprietor of Volkswizard, based in Birmingham. www.volkswizard.co.uk
‘It’s early days yet, but so far the signs are very good...’
Options (Basic car £44,885)
• Optional colour (Daytona grey)............... £525
• Front bucket seats in Fine Nappa leather.............................................................£1,960
• 19-inch Rotor alloy wheels in Titanium....................................................£1,360
• Satellite Navigation system – DVD-based and Audi Music Interface (AMI)................ £515
• Sports exhaust................................................ £890
• Top-speed restriction raised to 174 mph....................................................£1,360
• Bose surround sound system .................. £485
• Acoustic parking system (rear only)....... £305
• Mobile telephone preparation, Low, with Bluetooth and voice control ..................... £145
• Cruise control ................................................. £225
• High beam assist ........................................... £125
• Interior light package.................................. £125
• Matt aluminium Silver styling package... £680
• Magnetic ride.................................................. £970
• Tyre pressure loss indicator..........................£75
• Audi hill-hold assist .........................................£90
Total of £9,835 worth of options
Price of car £54,720 in total
‘ Production of the TT RS ended in early 2014 so it is a relatively rare car...’
‘ There would still be a significant amount of risk involved in buying a car I hadn’t even heard running, let alone driven...’
‘ I saw a freshly-listed 2010 TT RS Roadster with 16,500 miles due to be auctioned two days later!’