The Audi TT looks good in a third generation guise that aims to fuse the best bits of the first two iterations and then add a few of its own. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
The third generation Audi TT coupe follows an evolutionary styling theme, gets a bit more adventurous inside and really makes the numbers when it comes to performance and efficiency. Choose from diesel or petrol, front or quattro all-wheel drive.
While it's true that ubiquity has somewhat dulled its impact, it's easy to overlook quite what a remarkable car that Audi TT was when it first appeared in 1998. Prior to the TT, Audi wasn't a company renowned for great design flair. It did safe and solid. Its most desirable sporting cars in the years leading up to the TT launch were estate models. The TT changed all that. It had an interior that felt like something from a motor show stand. It offered buyers an apparently irresistible combination of Audi build quality, styling that made everything else seem old and a clever quattro all-wheel drive chassis.
The second generation car was probably a bit of a missed opportunity. After the extremity of the first car, everything seemed to be dialled back a couple of notches. Audi improved the driving characteristics considerably and in the TT RS model, had one of the most underrated sports coupes on the market. The third generation car looks to fuse the driveability and slickness of the second gen version with the drama and flair of the first, while at the same time responding to shifting buyer behaviour. That's quite a brief.
The engines and transmissions were probably the strongest suit of the last TT and this one builds upon that foundation. Three powerplants are offered. The 2.0 TDI diesel opens proceedings and there's a choice between front wheel drive or quattro 4WD. Its 184PS power output will get it to 62mph in 7.1 seconds with front wheel drive, a time that dips to 6.7s with the quattro model. Beyond the black pump, things get a bit more serious. There's a 180PS 1.8-litre petrol unit at the foot of the range but beyond that, the 2.0 TFSI petrol unit gets the same 230PS as the Golf GTI and here you get a choice of front or quattro all-wheel drive. Both will hit a top speed of 155mph, with the manual front-wheel drive car getting to 62mph in 6.0 seconds and the S tronic twin-clutch quattro model taking a mere 5.3s. The top of the four cylinder range is marked by the 310PS Audi TTS Roadster. It covers the standard sprint in 4.7 seconds and its top speed is electronically governed at 155mph. Here, the 2.0 TFSI engine produces 380 Nm of torque between 1,800 and 5,500 rpm. A manual transmission is standard, with an S tronic transmission incorporating launch control, which regulates maximum acceleration from a standstill, available as an option. The flagship model is the 400PS 2.5-litre five cylinder TT RS model, which only comes with S tronic auto transmission and can get to 62mph in 4.7s.
The quattro drivetrain has been re-engineered. By networking quattro drive with Audi drive select, the driver of the Audi TT can adjust the operating parameters of the all-wheel-drive system to suit his or her individual requirements. In "auto" mode, optimum traction and balanced driving dynamics are given priority. In "dynamic" mode, torque is distributed to the rear axle earlier and to a higher degree. In the drive select "efficiency" mode, the set-up can temporarily shut down the quattro system if conditions suit this. Audi's magnetic ride adaptive damper control system is fitted as standard to the TTS and is optional for all other versions. Compared with the previous version, Audi magnetic ride has been improved in terms of characteristic spread, control dynamics and precision as well as user friendliness. In other words, you'll really be able to tell it's working when you press the button. The body is lowered by 10mm in S line versions, in the TTS and wherever Audi magnetic ride is fitted.
Design and Build
One thing's for sure. Even if you'd never seen this car before, you'd know it was an Audi TT. Some commentators have been a little disappointed in how safe Audi has played the exterior styling and I'd count myself as one of them. It's still a handsome car but it looks like a midlife facelift of the second generation model more than an all-new piece of design. The big front grille gives the car a meaner look and there are some lovely details. The fuel flap on the right side panel is the classic circle surrounded by socket screws. This shape is again reminiscent of the first-generation TT, although here there is no filler cap beneath the flap. This means that there is nothing to be unscrewed and the pump nozzle slots straight into the tank neck.
The interior, on the other hand, is a real piece of work. Pure, clean lines dominate and seen from above, the instrument panel resembles the wing of an aircraft; the round air vents - a classic TT feature - are reminiscent of jet engines with their turbine-like design. The vents also contain all the controls for the air conditioning system, including seat heating where applicable, temperature, direction, air distribution and air flow strength; as an option they can also house small digital displays which show the chosen setting. A 2+2, the TT Coupe gets a load area with a capacity of 305-litres, which is 13-litres more than before and can be extended by folding the rear seat backrests forwards.
Market and Model
Prices for mainstream 2.0-litre petrol and diesel models sit in the £28,000 to £37,000 bracket and all versions of the TT Coupe come with the MMI radio and the electromechanical parking brake. Alongside the S sports seat with various leather and trim variants, options include the advanced key for push-button starting, hill hold assist, high-beam assist, the LED interior lighting package, front seat heating and the storage and luggage compartment package. The connectivity package features the touchpad-based MMI touch system. At the top of the modular range is the 'MMI Navigation plus' set-up with its flash memory, two card readers, DVD drive, Bluetooth interface and voice control system. The 230PS petrol and 184PS diesel models get 17-inch alloys as standard, while 18s and 19s are available at extra cost. Quattro models can be optioned with 20-inch wheels. The S line specification gets its own look for the bumpers, air intakes, grille, sills and rear diffuser, plus larger wheels and the no-cost option of 10mm lower sports suspension.
Rivals? The Porsche Cayman is an obvious competitor for the Audi TTS, but the TT range spans a broad price bracket and cars like the Volkswagen Scirocco R and the Peugeot RCZ-R could also be considered as opposition. The base 2.0 TFSI TT has to face down hard chargers like comparable versions of the BMW 2 Series Coupe, plus the Mercedes CLA could also be considered a viable cross-shopping option.
Cost of Ownership
Audi couldn't exactly bring us a new TT without improving on the efficiency figures of the old car. It's not really the done thing. So it is that despite packing more power than before, the TT is a good deal more cost-effective to run. The 2.0 TDI ultra diesel is naturally the star here, returning 60.1mpg and emitting 124g/km of carbon dioxide in front wheel drive Coupe form. Even if you opt for the punchy 230PS petrol engine, you'll get 46.3mpg and 141g/km from the Coupe manual model.
When the Audi drive select system is set to its 'efficiency' mode, the S tronic transmission decouples and 'freewheels' each time the driver takes his or her foot off the throttle pedal. All up, the TT 2.0 TFSI weighs just 1,230kg thanks to the extensive use of aluminium chassis members, body panels and suspension componentry.
It's doubtful that the Audi TT will ever cause quite the stir that the amazing first generation car did, so it needs to impress in other ways. This third take on the TT theme is an interesting amalgam of evolutionary exterior styling and some genuinely new ideas inside the car. Improving the driving experience so that the TT is thought of as a proper driver's car has clearly been one of the key design criteria. Putting a TTS and a Porsche 718 Cayman back to back might well yield some very interesting results.
Everything seems to have been done the right way in this car. Weight has been taken out to improve efficiency and agility. Big budget has been spent on the suspension and drivetrain. The S tronic gearbox is one of the best twin-clutch systems at any price and there are some enormously clever online systems available if you have the coin. We'd have liked to have seen Audi be a bit more adventurous with the exterior styling, but other than that, this is a desirable package.