Third-generation Audi TT aims to become a proper sports car. Dan DeGasperi assesses the results
According to its maker, the 2015 Audi TT moves away from the femininity of the previous generation to become a more masculine, proper sports car, instantly leveraging our expectations of this third-generation compact coupe.
It is recognisable as an Audi TT, but the angular lines and more aggressive headlights and front grille are meant to reflect the fit, taut athlete that the German brand believes the new one has grown up to be.
Read our design and virtual cockpit deep-dive and judge for yourself.
The new Audi TT is no longer than the last one, at 4.18 metres, though its wheelbase stretches 3.7cm further. It is also lighter than the previous model to the tune of around 50kg, marking two successive generations of weight reduction for the TT.
The entry TT 2.0 TFSI front-wheel drive grade weighs just 1230kg, which is about the same as a base Volkswagen Golf with which the TT shares its MQB platform architecture. Except that humble hatchback doesn’t get 169kW of power and 370Nm of torque like the TT 2.0 TFSI does.
The addition of quattro all-wheel drive to the TT 2.0 TFSI will add around $3000 to the $77,000 starting price, and 75kg to the kerb weight. Yet extra traction and the inclusion of launch control results in a 0-100km/h claim of 5.3 seconds that is 0.7sec and 0.6sec faster than the manual and auto front-drivers respectively.
The 2.0 TFSI quattro almost shows up the flagship Audi TT S expected to cost around $100,000 when it joins the local range late next year. Utilising a pumped version of the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, power rises by 59kW to 228kW, but torque elevates by only 10Nm to 380Nm.
There’s another 50kg piled onto the 1385kg TT S above the TT 2.0 TFSI quattro, though a 4.6-second 0-100km/h claim for the S tronic with launch control (4.9sec for the manual) is still mighty competitive for the price.
With the previous-generation regular Audi TT grades, the more money you spent the less impressive the coupe became. That’s no longer the case.
We start in the entry-level manual, and despite now riding on a more aggressive, low-profile 18-inch alloy wheel and tyre package, the ride quality across all surfaces is exemplary. Over chopped-up country roads at the southern Spain international launch, the new TT rounds off sharp imperfections superbly yet deftly reigns in big hits.
Magnetic adaptive suspension is standard on the TT S, and will be optional in other TT models, but the comfort/control combination on the standard suspension is just about perfect. The last TT was never a particularly smooth-riding car, even in base form, so it’s an early big tick for the new one.
There’s an early cross, though, too – the TT’s otherwise excellent refinement is betrayed by excessive coarse-chip road noise.
Audi Drive Select is standard across the range even if you don’t have adaptive suspension. Modes labelled efficiency (mainly for the quattro models to prioritise front-drive), comfort, auto, dynamic and individual change the weighting of the steering, the sound of the engine and response from the throttle.
The variable-ratio steering is ultra-quick at just two turns lock-to-lock.
In the lightest modes (efficiency, comfort) the steering is initially numb, but auto strikes a decent balance while dynamic adds a fraction too much friction. Away from the centre position the steering is wonderfully incisive and sharp, and the meatier weighting of dynamic makes sense in corners.
The engine delivers the same sweet, zingy note made by every VW Group petrol four-cylinder engine, but switching the acoustics to dynamic injects a deeper, growlier note into the cabin that sounds sportier but is a bit synthesised.
Response is superb through the throttle, and with peak torque on stream between 1600rpm and 4300rpm, just before maximum power takes over between 4500rpm and 6200rpm, that’s no surprise.
The engine revs keenly to 6800rpm, though the S tronic unfortunately auto-upshifts at redline even in manual mode. Thankfully the six-speed manual is a well-oiled slick shifter.
The surprise comes in the fact that the TT 2.0 TFSI can occasionally be overwhelmed by sending 370Nm to the front wheels. Without a mechanical limited-slip differential (such as that in the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance), the electronics can struggle and some torque steer on slippery surfaces is evident.
The TT 2.0 TFSI quattro now makes more sense.
The all-wheel drive system uses the same Haldex hardware as the Audi S3. For the first time, however, Audi has taken the software for the system in-house so it can speak more intimately with other systems in the car.
For example, the quattro system now knows how fast and to what degree you’re turning into a corner, and in dynamic mode prioritises more drive to the rear axle – around 60 to 70 per cent – before you’ve even touched the throttle. It’s gone from being a reactionary system to a pro-active system with handling in mind.
It isn’t possible to get the sort of playfulness found in a rear-driven BMW M235i coupe, for example, but the TT 2.0 TFSI still has a wonderful sense of balance. Even in the front-driver you can feel it pivot delicately around the front axle after braking hard into a corner. The only difference in the quattro is that you can get on the power hard and early and feel the car thrust out of corners with far greater poise.
Meanwhile we spent most of our time in the flagship Audi TT S on the Ascari racetrack – we’ll have a track review shortly.
Don’t go thinking the Audi TT is now a proper 2+2 sports car, however. The back seats are bolt upright, the base is short, and both headroom and legroom are for kids only.
The liftback does aid practicality, however, there’s a decent-sized 305-litre boot, and the 50:50 split backrest essentially allows the TT to become a two-seater with a big 712L boot. Look at the compact Audi that way, and it’s a versatile sports car option for a couple.
When they’re not thrashing it about, there’s time to admire the aircraft-inspired dashboard – viewed from atop it looks like a jet’s wing – and the circular air vents that look like turbines and have beautifully tactile controls inside them.
There’s a lovely, thin-rimmed steering wheel, great sports buckets, and that 12.3-inch TFT display in front of the driver that is ergonomic genius for anyone except the better half who may want to control the music.
With buttons duplicated on the centre console and steering wheel, and enough space between the digitised but analogue-look tachometer and speedometer to house clear nav/audio/phone/apps/settings information, it is wonderful to use.
While the screen will be standard on every new TT, internet with apps connectivity and Google search and maps functions will be optional.
The likes of semi-automatic parking, blind-spot assist, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning will be bundled into an options package across the range, which is disappointing considering they’re all standard on rivals such as the CLA 45 AMG. Curiously a reverse-view camera also isn’t yet available.
Audi Matrix LED headlights with automatic high-beam that detects oncoming and forward traffic then extinguishes the bulbs affecting other traffic only to leave a broad spread of light elsewhere, will be a stand-alone option.
While Audi Australia argues that the price of the 2015 Audi TT only rises slightly compared with the outgoing model, the value equation offered by the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz has improved out of sight since the old 2006 TT went on sale, and we’re not sure the new TT has made the same leap.
There’s still plenty of technology optional, while the front-drive TT 2.0 TFSI costs only slightly less than a CLA 45 AMG and M235i, and isn’t as impressive from a driving perspective as either of them.
The Audi TT 2.0 TFSI quattro is the star, though, the sweet spot of the regular range and a proper sports car that will take it to the aforementioned heavy hitters while offering an extra dose of design flair.