Ingolstadt hadn’t built a five-cylinder engine since it retired the epic, Porsche-fettled 2.2-litre unit used in the fondly remembered RS2 Avant.
But Audi instead referenced an even bigger legend: the Ur-Quattro of the 1980s, a name custom-built to generate a fizz in anyone old enough to recall the heroics of Group B rallying – or young enough to have watched the highlights on YouTube.
The all-new 2.5-litre in-line five cooked up for the TT lived up to the billing, producing 335bhp and the kind of rasping, evocative soundtrack that fostered the idea of it being a V10 split asunder.
Sadly, the car around it proved less compelling – a symptom familiar to the TT and one not fixed when power was increased to 355bhp for the Plus model in 2012.
Now the TT RS returns with a new assurance based on the same strategy. Lightened and retuned to produce 394bhp, the engine in the car now delivers pace that merits comparison with the supercar class by virtue of a 0-62mph time that drops below four seconds – or so Audi says.
By making its TT RS coupé (and roadster, for that matter) quicker out the blocks than a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, Ingolstadt has certainly laid down a technical marker. But glowing praise in an Autocar road test needs to be earned by much more than raw speed alone.
To secure that, Audi Sport needs to have found the dynamic finesse and driver engagement that was so obviously missing in the model’s last incarnation, and that’s a task typically requiring time and money.
But with the Porsche 718 Cayman S now hindered by a less than compelling engine, the prize at stake is class-leading status in the sports car segment.
And what an unexpected kicker that would be.