Motoring: Audi TT, Falling in love again
PUBLISHED: 18:40 12 January 2015 | UPDATED: 18:40 12 January 2015
Audi's new TT Coupe is an object of desire, passion and pure sporting pleasure. Motoring editor Andy Russell is besotted
The UK has a real love affair with the Audi TT – so much so that the anticipation of this new third-generation model has created a sense of excitement akin to going on a first date (again).
The TT range has proved so desirable since launched in 1999 that the UK is now the biggest market for this coupe and soft-top roadster, ahead of Germany and America.
The figures speak for themselves – the original model notched up 50,000 UK sales while the second-generation model, boosted by diesel power, sold 60,000. Over the past 10 years its 83,045 UK sales match BMW’s Z4 and Mercedes-Benz’s SLK combined. It means that while Audi is anxious to take this hugely-popular model to new heights, it isn’t going to do anything radical – well, not on the outside. So the latest TT, on sale in coupe guise with the two-seater soft-top roadster following in March and even hotter 310PS TTS in April, is evolutionary in its looks even if it is new from the ground up. It’s a case of less is more. The new TT is slightly shorter and narrower than the previous model, but longer between front and back wheels which pays dividends when it comes to space in the cabin and hatchback boot, making it practical for everyday use.
Ultra lightweight technology, improved use of aluminium and steel for the body and measures to shave kilograms mean it weighs in at 50kg less than before, which helps with economy and emissions, and makes rivals look rather heavy.
While the TT’s exterior changed quite dramatically from the first to second generation, the latest model looks even sharper and debuts the new wider Audi grille, which gives it more of the look of Audi’s R8 supercar. The really radical design features are to be found inside, with both Sport and S line models featuring a fully-digital virtual cockpit, while heating and ventilation control displays are built into the centre of the three round airvents on the fascia.
The stunning virtual cockpit is based around a 12.3 inch high-resolution LCD display that fills the instrument binnacle and does away with the need for a central display screen. Drivers can choose between a classic view with speedo and rev counter to the fore, with bar displays for engine temperature and fuel and warning lights along the bottom, or infotainment mode when the virtual instruments are smaller. Where fitted, the satellite navigation map can also be made to fill the full width of the screen.
At launch, two four-cylinder 2.0-litre engines are offered. The 230PS turbo petrol TFSI comes in front-wheel drive manual guise or six-speed S tronic auto with quattro all-wheel drive, putting more torque to the back wheels for a more dynamic drive.
By comparison, the 184PS turbo diesel TDI, available with two-wheel drive and six-speed manual, is no slouch. But the even more impressive figures are 67.3mpg combined and CO2 emissions of 110g/km – a record low for a sports car.
The 230PS turbo petrol engine is strong across the rev range and spins freely with the quattro S tronic model blisteringly brisk, putting the power down safely with bags of grip and traction. I preferred the diesel’s effortless low-down pull – it doesn’t feel that much slower – but wet roads saw the front wheels scrabbling for grip in the lower gears under hard acceleration.
The longer wheelbase and short overhangs at both ends mean the wheels are pushed well out to each corner so, combined with the standard sports suspension and drive select system which alters factors including steering assistance and engine response, the TT lives up to its sporting promise.
It was a tale of two set-ups at the launch drive when it came to ride quality – the 2.0 TFSI quattro was almost unbearably hard and normal conversation was difficult over the road roar of the optional 20in wheels i(n place of 19in standard kit) and the 10mm lower S line sports suspension. By comparison the 2.0 TDI Sport with the standard sports suspension and 18in wheels was a delight – still entertaining on twisty roads but a comfortable long-distance cruiser with the well-damped suspension dispatching poor surfaces.
Despite being a four-seater, the rear ones are really only suitable for children – I concertinaed myself in for a short trip but it wasn’t pleasant. Given its sporty credentials, the TT has a huge hatchback boot, now even bigger at 305 litres and rising to 712 litres with the 50/50 split rear seat backs folded.
Audi has taken the TT to a new level of exhilaration and efficiency and, with strong pricing and residuals and lower running costs against rivals, the UK is going to fall in love with the TT all over again.
AUDI TT 2.0 TFSI QUATTRO
■ Engine: 1,984cc, 230PS, four-cylinder turbo petrol
■ Performance: 0-62mph 5.3 seconds; top speed 155mph (ltd)
■ MPG: Urban 34; extra urban 52.3; combined 44.1
AUDI TT 2.0 TDI
■ Engine: 1,968cc, 184PS, four-cylinder turbo diesel
■ Performance: 0-62mph 7.1 seconds; top speed 150mph
■ MPG: Urban 57.6; extra urban 76.3; combined 67.3
■ Price: £29,770 to £35,335