NOW IN its third iteration since bursting onto the scene in 1998, Audi’s designer sex-pot is one of this year’s more intriguing COTY contenders. Yes, it is a predictably gentle evolution externally but elsewhere, progress has been palpable.
Employing Volkswagen’s MQB transverse architecture that also underpins the 2013 COTYwinning Golf as a starting point, today’s TT is shorter but wider than before, with a stretched wheelbase to improve space for both passengers and parcels alike.
Yet aluminium spaceframe construction means that everything from nose to B-pillar, the tailgate, and most of the suspension are made from the lightweight metal, shedding 50kg while boosting torsional stiffness big time. Big ticks for efficiency.
Speaking of which, one of the world’s sweetest and most stirring 2.0-litre four-pot petrol engines powers the regular 169kW versions in either frontor ‘quattro’ all-wheel drive formats, making even the least expensive TT a frisky, feisty, and fruity sounding machine. Meanwhile, the 210kW TTS firecracker whips its way to 100km/h in 4.7sec – better than Porsche’s Cayman GTS at $60K more.
Armed with all-new variable ratio electrically assisted steering, a more rear-biased drive split on quattros, and torque-vectoring ESC tech, the onetime Bauhaus diva finally trades catwalk coldness for feline-like alacrity, espousing sharp, reactive handling, rampant roadholding, and unflappable body control. Even the 90kg heavier Convertible feels agile, boasting a unique charm as it tears topless through tight corners. That it betrayed no scuttle shake and felt so rock solid around Lang Lang is a monumental feat too.
For many buyers, though, the TT’s newfound dynamic zeal will take a back seat to what is simply a knockout dashboard. Logically sparse yet awash with lush details, it elevates automotive interior design, quality, and tactility to another level. Soak in the exquisite air-vent climate control switches; drink in the ‘Virtual Cockpit’ instrumentation screen that displays vast mapping panoramas; and take in the rich trim and materials.
Sheer Ingolstadt brilliance. That everything is also completely driver-orientated – something we just have to admire in this former fashionista – speaks volumes about the brand’s athletic focus.
Unfortunately, what ought to be a sublimely cosseting cabin comes unstuck the instant road surfaces deteriorate, because the ride varies between acceptable (base TT Sport) and brutal (TTS quattro).
It’s literally too stiff a price to pay. Also, Cayman owners need not worry, not until more steering feel and involvement find their way here. And most driver-assist tech is either unavailable (like AEB) or a costly option, underlining the high prices charged.
Ultimately, the latest TT moves closer to the striking original in aesthetics and quality, and leapfrogs both its predecessors when seated behind its gorgeous dished steering wheel. Ironically considering how fanatically Audi is sweating the small stuff, it trips on some of the details that prevent it from being an outstanding all-rounder.
But the TT is profoundly fascinating nonetheless.
Type 2-door roadster/ 3-door coupe, 2-4 seats Boot capacity 280 – 305 litres Weight 1230 – 1470kg
Layout front engine (east-west), FWD/AWD Engines 1984cc 4cyl turbo (169kW/370Nm); 1984cc 4cyl turbo (210kW/380Nm) Transmissions 6-speed manual; 6-speed dual-clutch
Tyres 245/40R18 – 245/30R20 ADR81 fuel consumption 5.9 – 6.8L/100km CO2 emissions 137 – 159g/km Collision mitigation .
Crash rating 4-star (Euro NCAP) Prices $71,950 – $103,900
The third-gen TT’s spaceframe has been teamed with yet more aluminium and steel. Highstrength and ultra-high-strength steel is used for the floor, central tunnel and the TT’s bulkhead, while aluminium is used for the rear wheelarches, roof bow and every panel. It means the TT’s body weighs a mere 276kg, yet is 23 percent stiffer than its predecessor.