When Audi gave us a couple of TT’s to drive we wondered if it had improved over previous models. They were fun and elegant and well equipped. As it turns out, the new one is even more fun, even more elegant and even better equipped.
The exterior is a little more streamline than in days gone by. There’s a striking set of headlights bisected by LED daytime running lights, and the shape of the LEDs repeats itself in the rear lights. Have I not being saying for years that Audi do a fab set of lights? They look mean and angry and it gives the whole design an aggressive “don’t mess with me” attitude.
There is the usual keyless entry/start and depending on the model, a veritable cornucopia of delicious goodies inside. The S-line Quattro has quilted leather seats whose hugging side bolsters can be adjusted by buttons. Button sare also used to alter the rest of the seat positions. When you start the car depending on where you have them set, the bolsters release then retighten to hug you, which feels a bit naughty in a good way. For some utterly German reason the radio goes to FM 87.5 whenever you stop the engine, and you have to set it back to the station you were last listening to. If anyone knows how to sort this then feel free to let us know because it drives us potty.
There is a veritable plethora of gadgets to keep fidgety fingers busy. For the times when the driver is busy driving, the automatic systems can be set to do the rest. You can have auto wipers and lights and there is automatic parking but no reversing camera, something standard on a base Kia.
There are touches of “design for design’s sake” like the air conditioning controls which are the knobs in the middle of each of 3 centre face level vents. It’s genius and looks very pretty. The Centre LCD has gone so there is no info for the passenger. There is however a large LCD in front of the driver which replaces all the driver info normally found on dials and readouts. The speed, revs, satnav and all other info is shown clearly on an odd-shaped IPad. And if you like, the SATNAV can use most of the real estate with the revs and speed dials reducing in size by selecting the “view” button. Steering wheel controls can scroll through some of the minor functions but most of the input is via the scatchpad/dial combo between the seats.
I particularly like the outlines of light around the Bang and Olufsen door mounted speaker, and the central scratchpad/dial. It looks brilliant at night when the cabin comes over all moody and brooding. The voice control can be a bit pernickety but it doesn’t take too long to get used to it. In my opinion, we are still a long way away from voice control being useful in a car. As it stands it is more like those annoying call centre systems where you end up screaming at. After it as it says “please repeat” over and over like a demented Cockatoo, you give up in tears.
Because it’s a small sports car you need to do a little bit of fancy footwork to get yourself inside and the back seats are for midgets only. The only way you fit 3 beefy lads in this cabin is to fold in places you shouldn’t be folding. It’s is possible for very short trips only but is very far from comfy. We can describe the cabin as bijou-post-modern-minimalist, with leather.
Once ensconced you find the place impeccable as usual. The feel of the plastics is one of quality and the metal trim is the genuine article for the most part. The machined centre console has an attractive pattern etched into it, and the cubby hole has a soft close lid. The control systems look and feel simple to use. Air conditioning is in the centre of the vents at the top, then auto parking, suspension adjustment and a few other things in a neat line under that, and the rest are in the menu system. It’s a set and forget system but there is a set of audio controls on the steering wheel to augment the single knob on the console. It makes the controls look neat and tidy and the stuff you don’t use very much is hidden away.
As with other Audi’s there is a superb adjustable suspension system. The stiffest setting also puts the auto into SPORT mode. For me, it is useless. It may well make a difference on a track but the only thing it does on the road is ruin the ride. Once upon a time getting good handling meant making the ride as hard as stone. It was in no way pleasant, but now even the most comfortable of ride sacrifices little of the handling. We drove both 2 and AWD versions and if I’m being honest, there is little difference ride-wise. What most will notice is the front wheel drive TT spends a lot of it’s time scampering to get grip. 169kw through the front wheels is a big ask, but it’s the 370Nm of torque that makes traffic lights a bit of an event. If you stick the boot in, the front wheels start to caper like a pair of lively goats. Audi claims a 5.3second sprint to 100 and I find that easy to believe. Under hard acceleration the blip between gears is loud and makes people sit up and take notice.
The Quattro test car had the upgraded Bang and Olufsen sound. Many say it isn’t worth it, but they are wrong. The sound is beautiful and well rounded. The deep lows and crystal clear highs are pure and if you shut your eyes with the engine off you could think you’re in the hall where the recording was made. If you do have the ignition off, the car will give you a certain amount of time before shutting the accessories off. Before it does, it gives you an opportunity to keep the music going by pressing OK, and if you don’t it thoughtfully shuts it all down.
Every now and then the TT gets confused with the stop/start. You pull up in your garage for example and the engine stops on its own. However if you get straight out and try to lock it, the Audi will have none of it because you haven’t shut the system down. First you must press the STOP button. If the engine is already stopped it starts again, then you have to press STOP a second time. It’s all a bit of a faff.
As usual, we did a combination of things that people do when they own a car. I even borrowed a small earth child to prove school runs can be done. When doing the school run I suggest ensuring the strap at the top of the seat it used to put the seat back forward, then to return it to the proper position again the small earth child is ensconced. Should you fettle the electric buttons instead, the child will be hit in the head by a head rest which seems to be just the right height to get them in the face.You must only use the manual strap at the top of the seat back. For the record, the seat bottom does not move unless you do use the buttons. You’re better off using the rear for boxing-day-sales bags only. The boot isn’t huge but it’s big enough for a weekend away.
Driving around town is easy. Leaving the chassis on “comfort” and the auto in “normal” gives a smooth ride with normal auto changes. It feels like a perfectly good comfortable premium chariot. Changing to “Dynamic” chassis and “Sport” auto makes the TT slightly less comfortable and gives it slightly better cornering and faster gear changes which are held for longer. This all sounds well and good but there is not much of a difference between “sport” and “normal” modes judging from feel alone. The grip from Quattro is astonishing but even the front wheel drive TT grips like a cat-on-carpet. Because the TT is small, with a brilliant chassis, a lusty engine, and the ability to use manual steering wheel paddles, the feeling on a twisty road is like that of long distance runner wearing a very expensive trainers. There is no hint of slip, and understeer which is almost non-existent on the FWD version is absent completely on the AWD model. Remember, the clever electronics are making millions of computations a second to make sure the stability control keeps you on the road. Audi tends to err on the side of caution and since I’ve never turned the stability control off, I can say it has worked 100% of the time.
There was never any doubt as to the creds of such a loved model so we wanted to see what she is like on a longer drive. Sports cars rarely make good grand tourers. So, we bundled ourselves into the Audi for a spin down the highway to the Southern Highlands for a spot of lunch. Of course it ate up the K’s with the graceful aplomb we expected. The ride felt sophisticated but the turbo has an annoying whine at 110kph. There is no way I could live with it long term. It would drive me bananas.
We arrived at our destination, a pair of gates on a narrow country road. The gate code wouldn’t challenge the intellect of a fruit fly so we punched it in and waited for them to swing open. This wasn’t the cosy charismatic country cottage of my dreams, but it was certainly an impressive big blousy country mansion. Any house that has a kilometre long driveway has got to be fabulous right?
The couple who live there are car buffs and were eager to have a go in the TT. I wondered what they’d make of the Audi given one of their cars is an Aston Martin DBS. From the passenger’s seat hey loved it as it. They loved to acceleration and thought it was up there with the DBS. Bless them. Of course the DBS is in another speed zone altogether but it does show how the aura of the TT affects those in and around it.
Even the FWD models hang on with a grip of death but it’s the way people look at you. They don’t obviously stare like they do in a super car, but they do admire. The distinctive design stands out, so perhaps it’s the fact that onlookers notice that makes the driver feel special.
Conclusion: The Audi TT looks fabulous and drives brilliantly. It is fairly frugal and although not cheap is still not super-car-expensive. You can have a base model in the low 70’s and go up from there. The cabin is snug and compact and very comfortable. Whatever the reason, this is one of those cars which is not merely about the metal, leather and engine but rather about the indefinable. It is special, and not just another 2 door hatch.
It is not a GT car though. The 110kph whine is horrible. This is not the kind of vehicle you’d drive for 10 hours straight and not feel a little bit sore, but that’s OK. This is the “spirited” drive car you can use during the week and have a bunch of fun in on Sunday. If you want a long drive, go by plane and hire something yummy at the other end.
Would I buy one? Yes I loved it.
Engine: 2.0L turbo, 69kw/370nm, 0-100 5.3 secs, 6.4l/100k
Price: sport $74,950 (as tested 80,692)
Quattro S line $85,450 (as tested 93,420) *prices excluding on-roads