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Sports cars are a fickle business, and keeping a single nameplate alive for almost 20 years is a mantle not many brands can claim.
Enter the 2015 Audi TT Coupe, the third-generation model from the German luxury car manufacturer, which arrives 20 years after the original concept sports coupe made its international debut in Frankfurt, Germany.
The all-new Audi TT Coupe bears plenty of noticeable hallmarks from the production cars that came before it (in 1998 and 2005, respectively), while also looking decidedly more modern in its execution.
The new model brings Audi’s bold, large, single-frame grille and sharply styled headlights that combine to give it an aggressive approach, while further back, the rounded wheel arches, swooping roofline and bubbled backside hark back to models past.
There are plenty of people who’ve written off the TT as being a car that’s all about show and not so much about go. And, to be fair, the regular TTs of years gone by have been of that ilk — we’re not talking about the TTS and TT RS versions, here. Those too will come for this new model, but Aussie buyers will have to wait until June for the TTS, and no RS model has yet been revealed.
That said, the new-generation model has been built with three key purposes in mind, according to Audi. They are: to be more stylish; sportier; and more high-tech than ever before.
Styling is subjective, but I think that from the outside it’s pretty sharp, in a familiar sort of way. There’s plenty of tech inside the car too, so we’ll get to that later.
First, let’s talk about sportiness.
Propulsion comes in the form of a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbocharged engine, which produces 169kW of power and 370Nm of torque. Fuel use is claimed at between 5.9 and 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres, depending on the model you choose.
There’s a choice of a six-speed manual version (priced from $71,950 plus on-road costs) with front-wheel drive; a front-drive model with a six-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic (adds $3000); and the iconic quattro all-wheel drive model adds a further $3000.
You can choose from the base model Sport (as per the above price), while a better-equipped, more aggressive looking S line version can be had for an extra $6500 over each of the above prices. You can read our full pricing and specifications story here.
We drove a range of models at the launch of the all-new Audi TT in Tasmania earlier this week, starting with the TT S line front-drive S tronic.
Audi has aimed for sportiness in the way the car handles, and as a result it features firm suspension that makes the ride somewhat uncomfortable. It’s so rigid, so tautly sprung that it dips and dives into every road crevice. It isn’t crashy, and it is quick to recover from big bumps, but it is annoyingly busy even on smooth surfaces. (Following filming, Audi confirmed that adaptive suspension is available as an option now, adding between $1730 and $2250 to the cost of the car).
Add to the stiffness an excessive amount of road noise, and it becomes clear this isn’t a car for comfortable cruising.
Thankfully, there’s a plus side – and that’s in the way the car corners. It holds a flat line through tight, twisty bends, but the front-drive model can be a handful when it comes to getting power to the ground cleanly.
Dan noted a similar issue at the TT’s international launch in Europe in 2014 — and it comes as a surprise that there’s no locking front differential as features in its cheaper, more practical cousin, the Volkswagen GTI Performance (which gets a different version of the same EA888 turbo engine). The result is that it can be a handful, particularly on slippery surfaces.
There were occasions where one front wheel was spinning faster than the other as torque was fed upon exiting a corner, and we noted some twitchiness at the tiller that was off-putting during hard driving.
When the power gets down smoothly, the engine is a delight to use. Peak torque hits from 1600-4300rpm and maximum power spans from 4500-6200rpm — so it’s no surprise this is a free-revving, likeable engine. However, the S tronic will automatically upshift when it hits redline.
That’s one of the gearbox’s only foibles — the shifts are otherwise rapid and timely, and under hard throttle you’re treated to those trademark exhaust pops as cogs are swapped. Most of our kilometres were on country roads, though we also noted some low-speed hesitation on a few occasions.
The quattro models we drove were altogether better cars.
Audi has fitted a new iteration of the Haldex all-wheel drive system also seen in the S3, with the TT’s version honed to offer adjustability and better drivability.
For example, in Dynamic mode it will apportion more power to the rear-end before you really need it, by judging the speed at which you’re travelling and the amount of lock you’ve applied the steering wheel. It changes the way the car drives, enabling it with more traction that helps you slingshot, rather than scramble, out of corners.
The quattro models also felt better through the hands, with less of the heavy dullness to the steering during hard cornering.
If the drive experience isn’t enough to entice you, the interior of the new Audi TT could get you over the line — that’s because the new TT features what could be one of the most mind-bending interiors of any car of the recent era.
It does away with the notion of the centre media screen in favour of a huge 12.3-inch TFT display in front of the driver that Audi calls the Virtual Cockpit.
That means the passenger has to look at the dashboard to see what song they want to play, and also to keep an eye on how much further the navigation system says is remaining to a destination. Audi says that about 80 per cent of the screen can be seen from the passenger’s seat.
Navigating through the menus is quite simple, and Audi’s updated MMI system — which features a dial wheel with integrated touchpad and two main toggle switches rather than an array of surrounding buttons — powers everything that happens between the virtual tachometer and speedometer dials. There are supplementary steering wheel-mounted controls for the driver to make changes on the move, too.
The quality of the display and the speed at which the Nvidia processor flicks between screens is excellent. It runs at 60 frames per second, so you get an accurate representation of the speed you’re travelling, too (and there’s a handy little speed limit icon displayed at the bottom of the screen).
It is a stunning system and worthy of accolade, but there are a few things that could be of concern to some buyers. For example, having a passenger scroll through menus while you drive can be distracting.
The brand has also rethought the climate control area of the cabin, too.
Instead of the standard screen displaying the set temperature and the fan controls, the TT has five jet turbine-inspired circular vents, three of which function as controls for the heating and ventilation in the cabin.
Of these three, the left adjusts the air-conditioning and the fan speed, the middle is the means for adjusting the temperature, while the rightmost nozzle of the trio adjusts where the air is sent. You have to twist the outer rings of the vents to adjust the direction of the airflow.
As neat as it is, there’s no dual-zone climate control (even as an option), which isn’t terrific at this price point. Further, the individual vents on the outer edges of the dash contain screens and can control seat heating if optioned (not standard on any model, and it costs $750 to option).
Those vents are a talking point and lend to the air of quality inside the cabin, which is furthered by quality materials on the dash and doors, not to mention a leather-lined steering wheel, leather and alcantara trim on the electronically-adjustable (front) seats and beautiful textured metal finishes on the grab handles and centre console.
Opt for the S line model and you also get bigger, sportier seats with pneumatic side bolstering and different trim throughout the cabin.
Occupant comfort for those up front, then, is superb, and is complemented by decent centre storage, reasonably large horizontal door pockets, and a neat covered centre bin that hides two USB inputs. The TT is the first Audi to be fitted with USB sockets, doing away with the optional media connector cable, and meaning that occupants can charge their devices (including tablets) while on-board.
Back seat comfort isn’t so good. Anyone taller than about 150cm will be cramped, even for short trips, and we’d simply urge buyers to consider this a two-seater with a handy boot. The cargo hold is 305 litres with the two rear seats in place, but expands to a handier 712L when the seatbacks are folded flat.
The new-generation Audi TT Coupe is an improvement on a familiar formula, and it does what the brand set out to do. This isn’t an infallible sports car, but it gets more things right than wrong.
We’d strongly recommend that potential buyers fork out the extra cash and get the S tronic quattro version, which Audi says will be the biggest-selling configuration in the range.
Photography and videography by Mitchell Oke. Click the Photos tab above for more images of the 2015 Audi TT Coupe.