If you could have your dream sports car, using someone else’s money of course, many drivers would say a Porsche, maybe a Ferrari, or perhaps a McLaren. Few enthusiasts would pick an Audi TT.
And that would be a shame, as the third-generation TT earns compliments in several notable areas. Saucy good looks, eager new turbo-power and a polished chassis with full-time Quattro action combine to give this diminutive 2+2 coupe more pizzazz than previous models. Each drive creates smiles, wide grins, and satisfying spine tingles.
Audi has seen diminishing sales for its entry-level speedster — as have BMW for the Z4 and Mercedes for the SLK. Nissan 370Z sales are also down, while Jaguar’s new F-Type also languishes, as sports car buyers have apparently gravitated to high-horsepower crossovers or perhaps the performance bargain in this segment — Chevy’s redone Corvette. Either way, it seems like a difficult period to bring a heavily redesigned sporty car to market — despite increasing baby boomer buying power.
Some constants remain; others are abandoned with the latest TT. There is still a coupe as well as a drop-top model, and there are just two trim levels now; basic TT with 220 hp plus the TTS that uses an upgraded version of the same 2.0-liter turbo motor that makes 292 hp. These are the same engines seen in the VW GTI and R, as well as the Audi A3/S3.
Each motor is backed by a sequential direct shift six-speed automatic that works superbly. Click the console lever back toward you, and Sport mode is initiated; shift points rise, engine revs increase, and the car’s inert responsiveness seems to increase in magnitude to the tune that you play with your right foot.
Our base TT coupe’s 220 hp proved to be more than entertaining. Aided by a sure-footed suspension that was neither punishing nor too soft, the Audi was quick, agile, and a willing partner for fast sweepers, twisting two-lanes, or bending up that highway on-ramp at speeds that the blue sedans severely frown upon. Hold the go pedal down, and the little TT rips off successive brrps at each redline shift, while the electric rear spoiler rises to life and signals to almost everyone that, yes, you have been or are going over 75 mph.
Steering feel is excellent, the Quattro AWD system providing the kind of cornering grip and rear-drive bias that is lacking in the similar VW GTI only because it relies on two front wheels for braking, accelerating, and cornering. For all of those drivers who love their GTIs, the TT is a sleeker, more grown up and more expensive iteration of the same powertrain and chassis.
Despite savoring a rollicking good time in each Audi trip, the coupe delivered an impressive peak of 30 mpg for two days, with a weeklong average of 26.0 mpg on Shell V-Power premium fuel. The turbo-four is smooth, quick to rev, and that six-speed automatic never lets you down.
Inside, the TT gets a completely new presentation. The center dash holds three very large HVAC vents, with the control knobs and buttons all part of each vent face. Even the heated seat switches are part of the HVAC vents in the cabin, as Audi has cleansed the interior of ancillary buttons. While console space is useful, there is one button begging for better placement; the e-brake button is too easily depressed when fumbling around the cabin.
Controls that used to be center dash are now housed all in one wide binnacle in front of the driver. The whole panel is reconfigurable — while relaying tons of information. Audio controls are now on the steering wheel only, along with some safety controls. Altitude, longitude and latitude are included with the excellent 12-inch Google Earth navigation screen, giving TT drivers unparalleled access to traveling information. Passengers may lament the indirect visual access, but drivers should welcome, and revel, in the new layout.
Unlike the BMW Z4, Nissan 370Z, Porsche Cayman or Mercedes SLK, the TT has token rear seat space like a Porsche Carrera. Perhaps tiny children will fit, or many you would like to stuff your mother-in-law here, but be realistic — this space is best suited for small pets or parcels that don’t fit under the hatchback lid.
Pricing starts at $42,900, while the TTS lists for $52,825 before options. Our very German-looking Florett Silver Metallic sample carried several option packages that raised the sticker to $50,600; Technology Package includes MMI Navigation and Parking assist with rear view camera, 19-inch wheel package with larger summer tires, S-sport seat package with thigh extenders and heated leather in place of the stock Alcantara upholstery, plus a Bang & Olufsen stereo. The TT earns EPA estimates of 23/30/26-mpg and is built in Hungary.
This pricing undercuts every one of the TT’s rivals except the Nissan Z, which really doesn’t carry the cache or luxury equipment levels of the Audi. With the increased efficiency, power and handling balance apparent in even the base TT, Audi has a serious sports car competitor that might even attract Porsche buyers stunned by the recent price hikes at that brand.
Featuring an aggressive new look, big dollops of the usual Audi refinement, plus a potent turbo-motor that loves to rev, the TT proved to be fun, entertaining, and a performance surprise that was totally unexpected.
The third time is the charm with the latest TT; this little coupe rocks.