I can explain. Before I started working at PH and was properly educated about cars, I'll admit that I was an Audi fanboy and a bit of a badge snob. If you'd told me ten years ago that I would have owned six Renaultsports by now, I would have laughed at you.
Going back a decade to 2009, when I'd just bought my first Audi TT (a 2003 1.8T 225) the TT RS emerged with its 2.5-litre five-cylinder rally-inspired lump and I made it my mission to own one before I turned 35. At the time it was seen as a brave move from Audi, re-imagining the motor from the heroic Quattro of the 80s, which set a very high benchmark not only for the engine but for the rest of the car too.
Growing up as a teen in Herefordshire and from a family of Audi owners, I would take any excuse for a trip to Hereford Audi. When the new S3 came out in 2006, I was at university studying photography and plucked up the courage to ask them if I could borrow their demo car to take some photos. Like a young lad asking his crush for a dance at the school disco, I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a hand.
The team's kindness there led to me returning for the release of the TT RS and the V10 R8 to be given the keys both times. Not for a drive sadly, but even to sit in these cars allows a boy to dream. So, unsurprisingly, it was Hereford Audi that got my business when I bought my first TT. My last was the run out Mk1 TT quattro Sport; I loved the timeless interior, the Recaro Pole Position seats, the look of it and as an inexperienced sports car owner, I was fairly happy with how it drove too. In hindsight and with exposure and the opportunity to drive much better cars since, the brakes were woeful and the handling and steering feedback left a lot to be desired. As a result my expectations for the RS were already set at a lower bar.
I test drove a Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy back to back with the TT RS, but decided it was time for a break from hot hatches. I wanted a sports car. With my Impreza and Clio both sold, I also opted for the first time in six years to go back down to one car. And yes, I know for the money there are better sports cars I could have bought. A Porsche Cayman, a prime example. Or perhaps an E92 M3 or a C63 AMG would have been a good solution to downsizing the garage, all of the above cars on my wish list, but in reality to get the example I'd want, I'd have to spend considerably more. Let's see how I'm feeling in six month's time and after I've had a drive in James' M3. And Mike's Cayman. Now that would be a good group test.
So what exactly have I bought? It's one of the first from 2009 and a manual, given that S-Tronic wasn't introduced until 2011. The 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine produces 335hp and 332lb ft, the latter seemingly available anywhere in the rev range. 0-62mph happens in 4.6 seconds for the traffic light racers and it'll go on to a limited 155mph. The engine alone makes the car worth buying and it's no surprise that the 2.5 TFSI has won the International Engine Of The Year award nine years running.
It came with a huge amount of paperwork, full Audi service history, and has spent its last two years as a garage queen. I've already driven more miles in the past month than the previous owner covered in the last year. Must haves for me were the 19" five-spoke alloy wheels and Lunar Silver leather. The bucket seats look great, but wear badly and have a reputation for being uncomfortable on a long journey.
All that aside, I'm besotted. Of course there's room for improvement, but more on that next time. Best get back to the salon.
Car: 2009 Audi TT RS
Run by: Ben Lowden
On fleet since: September 2019
Last month at a glance: Ben falls for five-cylinders