Audi TTS, Peugeot RCZ R, Porsche Cayman GTS: Three-way battle of the power coupés
The new Audi TT should be better than its predecessor. Time to pit the current top-of-the-range TTS in a tough comparison test against the coupé competition. Is the surprise effective?
What a déjà-vu experience: as if it were yesterday, we stand in the pit lane at Hockenheim with the three coupés. A year passes so quickly. Twelve months ago the Audi TTS, Peugeot RCZ R and Porsche Cayman scampered after one another in the comparison test.
At the time the French car was considered the high flyer within the coupé scene, out-performing the soon-to-retire second generation coupé slow-burner from Ingolstadt in the comparison test and taking its counterpart from Zuffenhausen to a tie in the points rating. Bang, the Peugeot punch hit home.
Since then Porsche and Audi have considerably honed their equipment in the Coupé class. Unlike in the comparison test in the 5/2014 edition, this time the Cayman doesn't line up with the 271 HP baasic engine, but rather as the GTS with a 335 HP six-cylinder boxer. Also new to the ring: the current top-of-the-range 3rd generation TT, recently brought to the market. Welcome to the Audi TTS, whose new two-litre turbo (EA888) now rocks out with 306 Hp rather than the previous 268 HP.
The pit light in Hockenheim changes to green. Following its notable success in the last comparison test, the Peugeot RCZ R can now start from pole position in the three-way battle of the coupés. Beforehand, the French 266 HP front-wheeler had once again thumbed its nose at its German competitors even when driving onto our test scales. At 1,355 kilograms, the RCZ R is by far the lightest to be tested today, ahead of the Porsche Cayman GTS (1,413 kg) and Audi TTS (1,438 kg). We have already given it a friendly pat on the back for this clear weight advantage once before.
Peugeot RCZ R with snappy handling
However, with a closer look at the equipment lists, it quickly becomes clear: the RCZ R is only available with a manual six-speed gearbox. Both the Porsche and the Audi line up for the power measurement with optional dual clutch transmission systems. In keeping with tradition, the TTS Coupé also once again features Quatro all-wheel drive as standard. In this respect the newcomer from Bavaria does nonetheless deserve praise.
In spite of the 4x4 system, it weighs just 25 kilos more than the GTS with rear-wheel drive, which also features the optional and lighter bucket seats with carbon back shells. A Cayman GTS with PDK dual clutch transmission that is also in the editorial office, but without the lightweight bucket seats, weighs in at 1,429 kilograms. Viewed in this light, the all-wheel-drive Audi is just nine kilos heavier than the rear-wheeler from Porsche.
Enough ifs and buts - its time to get serious. The Peugeot is the first to storm around the Short Circuit. As was the case in its last performance, the French car impresses with its direct steering. Small steering angles are sufficient, and the RCZ R briskly alters its line. In comparison to the majority of modern steering models, the Peugeot solution seems much more honest with its rustic performance. Honestly speaking, this means that when dashing over the racetrack curbs, the occasional bump reaches your risks as feedback.
Design is a philosophical matter. Other manufacturers filter these bumps almost completely out. Those that take it too far must quickly accept the criticism that from a sports driver's perspective, the steering seems synthetic. We enjoy the snappy Peugeot steering.
The chassis is also similarly uncompromising, which, with harder spring and damper characteristics, is much firmer than in the 197 HP RCZ 1.6 200 THP. In everyday driving, rumbling noises and bone dry suspension comfort continually accompany the driver on bumps and transverse joints. On the race track, the RCZ R surges forwards with little rolling movement, direct steering - and agile self-steering behaviour in the limit range.
Furthermore, the manual six-speed transmission with snappy shift gate precision and short gear shaft travel. The Torsen limited slip differential, the barrier effect of which this time provides no cause for complaint regarding traction problems when accelerating out of corners, emphasizes the sporty performance.
However, there are also points of criticism that the RCZ R must face: "the grip level of the Goodyear-Eagle-F1 tyres is not so good as with the Pirelli-P-Zero tyres from Audi and Porsche" or "the ABS tuning is the most average of the three coupés" are two such criticisms that feature on the test car's card. In comparison to the last test car, the current specimen also requires 1.1 second longer for the acceleration from 0 to 200 km/h.
The elasticity measurement confirms the more moderate torque, with consistently poorer values than in the last R test car. Even with the greatest of motivation, it cannot crack the best value set by the same driver in the RCZ-R on the short circuit. This time the French coupé completed thesport auto- reference course in 1:15.8 minutes – a full second slower than the last time.
Porsche Cayman GTS from 0 to 100 in 4.6 seconds.
Out of the front-wheeler and into the Cayman GTS with rear-wheel drive. Unlike in the 911 Carrera S for example, no power increase in the Porsche configurator can be ordered as an option for the Cayman S. Only those who buy the Cayman GTS can enjoy a power boost from 321 HP to 335 HP.
With the perfectionist PDK automatic start-up, it undercuts its factory specification by two tenths of a second in the sprint to 100 and by three tenths of a second in the sprint to 200 km/h. Thus, the GTS accelerates slightly quicker than the best 981c-series Cayman-S previously tested (0–100 km/h: 4.6 s, 0–200 km/h: 17.0 s insport auto3/2014). With its power advantage, it is not particularly surprising that the GTS also dominates the competition from the Audi TTS and Peugeot RCZ R in terms of longitudinal dynamics.
The Cayman GTS is not satisfied with this alone and naturally also wants to play the lateral dynamics hero. The GTS variant is fitted as standard with numerous drive dynamics goodies, which are only available as options in the Cayman S. This includes the Sport-Chrono package with dynamic gearbox bearings and the adaptive PASM damper system, lowering the vehicle by ten millimetres. In addition, our GTS also features optional gimmicks such as the PTV system with mechanical rear axle differential locking, the ceramic brakes and the Sport-Techno wheels, which have rims that are half an inch wider at the rear than in the standard trim.
When motivated, the GTS rounds the short circuit in 1:12.8 minutes. In so doing it corners accurately and impresses with its agile self-steering behaviour. As always, the driver's challenge to propel the Cayman through the limit range, to a fast lap time, is greater than in the majority of very neutrally tuned 911s. In comparison to its 911 brothers, the Cayman has a slightly more fiery response to load change, without being too much of a beast. Characteristics that provide for a really fun drive on the race track. And when the sports exhaust that the GTS incidentally features as standard yells and splutters its beautiful Boxer song, then there is actually nothing left to criticise.
Actually, with the exception of the steering. In and around the central position, the Cayman steering responds with its usual precision, but in comparison to the RCZ R and TTS it stands out with its smooth running and lower holding force. This may be comfortable when driving in the city, but when pushed to the limit on the race track this movement pattern seems rather synthetic.
And when it comes to steering, the new Audi TTS provides the biggest eye-opener. In Dynamic mode, the standard progressive steering with firmer holding forces than in the Porsche scores points, and now, for the first time, with a convincing directness around the central position. In the predecessor, even greater steering angles were required.
The much improved grip level feels just as good on the race track. Unlike in the previous model with its 18-inch wheels and Bridgestone-Potenza-RE050A tyres (245/40 R 18 all-round), in our test the new model also sets off around the corners with optional wheels, in 20-inch format and all-round Pirelli-P-Zero tyres in 255/35 ZR 20.
With the improved grip level and, similarly to in the Cayman GTS, the very good ABS tuning you can now brake into the corners with confidence. The last test car, the second generation TTS, gave away valuable tenths, as it always pushed sllightly over the front axle when braking. The TTS also manages to narrowly beat the work of art, the Cayman GTS when warm braking. Respect!
While the Audi predecessor was tuned with a tendency towards understeer, the new model now steers noticeably more precisely. Previously you had to talk the TTS into delivering better handling with intentionally provocative load changes. Thanks to the neutral handling, difficulties such as this are now almost completely history. Overall, within the limit range the TTS completes its laps with greater stability, on account of its 37 mm-lonmger wheel base, alongside other factors.
However, if you go into a corner to eagerly, the rear of the car turns inwards in an easily controllable manner, in the event of abrupt load changes. This answers the question as to whether the ESP can be completely disabled. Unlike in its predecessor, this is now possible, or let's put it like this: whether there is actually no intervention is now impossible to say with the control system now operating at such an extremely high level. One thing is for sure: in the TTS you do not notice any control interventions when driving at the limit.
Audi TTS now with 335 HP
Even when accelerating under load, the TTS holds to the ideal line with exceptional traction thanks to its all-wheel drive including the Torque Vectoring System (wheel-selective torque control), while the steering impulse is also supported. As was previously the case, the re-developed Haldex system multi-disc clutch distributes the drive torque between the front and rear axles, but now reacts noticeably more spontaneously.
Even in the previous model there were barely any complaints regarding the six-speed dual clutch transmission by the name of S tronic, thanks to the rapid shifting procedures and precise response of the paddle shifters. Hardcore race track fans will only criticise the autonomous upshift in manual mode when reaching the limit range.
Key term - fast lap: with a time of 1:14.5 minutes, the new TTS completes the Short Circuit a respectable 2.3 seconds faster than the second generation TTS model last tested. If drivers of the 335 HP TT RS find themselves having a bad day, it may even be that the new TTS has driven past them: depending on the tyres, in earlier tests we recorded lap times in Hockenheim between 1:13.1 and 1:15.5 for the TT RS.
After the last comparison test between the TTS, Cayman and RCZ R we took our hats off to the Peugeot. Thanks to the impressive drive dynamics-related development of the sport coupé from Ingolstadt, however, this time it's hats off to the Audi TTS.THE COMPETITION - HOW THINGS STAND
A look back at the last comparison test: back then, in terms of drive dynamics the Peugeot RCZ R was on a par with the basic level Cayman. This time the French car didn't manage to achieve this feat on account of its flagging turbo engine. In the current comparison test, the Cayman GTS is well out in front in terms of drive dynamics. However, the benchmark within the Coupé class is still the Lotus Exige S. We are already looking forward to the dual with the new Cayman GT4.
Date11 July 2015