You can thank the regulation divide between America and the EU for reasons cars like the one you see here would never make the cut in the U.S. market. Whether it is protectionist, politics or simply ego, America and Europe can’t really seem to get aligned on rules and regulations that apply to car production and certification. As a result, quirky cars like a diesel-powered TT coupé with manual transmission simply remain too niche and too obscure to be worth federalizing.
That’s a damn shame.
We were in the south of Spain in order to sample Audi’s latest range of TT offerings. To an American, the focus was certainly the TT 2.0 TFSI (driven HERE) and the TTS (coming soon), though we found ourselves undeniably drawn to this particular car.
Of course, this car’s visual spec wasn’t bad. Metallic Glacier White paint complements the TT’s form nicely. It does so especially well when paired with RS 7 style 5-spoke alloy wheels, S line bumpers and sumptuous brown sport interior. Visually, this car was the business.
In basic form, the TT is already a low-slung svelte two-door. Even better, our tester came in S line trim. Like the old Porsche Turbo look cars of the 1980s, S line means pretty much all of an Audi S-car’s visual appearance with more everyday engine options. In other words, you get the baller look in this case with TDI efficiency.
S line equipment means those aforementioned 19-inch wheels and appropriate tires, TTS bumpers and S line badges on the quarter panels all for visual appeal. You also get a more taught suspension that’s 10mm lower, which looks better and more importantly bestows it with improved albeit more rigid handling.
Though projected American sales of a diesel TT might prove to come up a bit short, the TT 2.0 TDI ultra as this new offering is known, is literally built with intent to physically go the longest on a tank of fuel. From launch at least, that 2-liter diesel engine is available only as a front-wheel drive with 6-speed manual transmission. The setup is good for a relatively modest 182 bhp, though being a diesel this means lots of torque, specifically a hefty 280 lb-ft.
Audi says the setup is good for a 0-62 mph run in 7.1 seconds, a top speed of 150 mph and with fuel economy of 67.3 mpg. For those concerned over C02 emissions, it also performs at with 110 g/km. Impressive.
What’s it like to drive? Acceleration is impressive. The car’s 2,788 lb mass is well mated to the 2.0 TDI’s power. Combine that with the larger S line tires and the car’s straight-line performance is brisk and composed. At first we didn’t realize the car wasn’t quattro.
The engine is smooth and quiet with little if any clatter typical of a diesel. There’s no real lag to it, and torque comes on quickly then drops off near the low redline. Given it’s a manual, those acclimated to high-revving petrol motors will want to re-adjust their schema for engine tone as it relates to power curve and red line.
Getting a chance to play with Audi’s 6-speed manual transmission for transverse applications is like a refreshing reunion with an old friend. Weighting is good and throws are precise. Choosing when and where to make that gear change and managing it with the clutch is a sweet, sweet treat. There’s no current Audi for sale in America with this gearbox, and that’s a shame. We’re keeping fingers crossed that some North American TT or maybe the S3 will get this box.
In the corners, this TT is well balanced. It’s a front-wheel drive car with a lot of torque readily on tap, so you can go all Hulk smash with the throttle and make it understeer, but it is still markedly better sorted than the second-generation TT it replaces. It is composed and agile in the corners, and refreshingly willing to turn in.
Of course this is an Audi, and also a TT, so the cockpit should be a work of art. No surprise. The cabin of this car is certainly that.
Circular air vents, with HVAC and seat heat controls integrated is all very logical, but will prove difficult for those who like to mount aftermarket gauges in that space. Nevertheless, we love the change.
The TT’s seats are also a big improvement. Elements on those optional S sport seats like leather pull straps and accenting hard shell sides all result in an upping of the TT’s game, while Audi’s caramel-like Palamino Brown leather color may be one of the best ways to order it. Those sport seats grip well and also prove comfortable for nearly full day of driving in various like-equipped versions of the TT family.
Of course the hallmark of this new interior is the Virtual cockpit display. Sort of a futuristic equivalent to the digital readout in latter ur quattros, this binnacle-filling screen handles everything including engine and speed monitoring, navigation, audio and more. This is essentially the same display as the one that made headlines in the Lamborghini Huracan, but it is arguably more handsome programmed with Audi skins and graphics.
There’s no doubt that this tech is a fantastic thing, yet it’s really only there for the driver. Passengers can’t really see it, leaving the car’s pilot largely in charge of everything.
The +2 back seats aren’t terribly roomy and, like every TT before, you won’t want to use them unless you’re carrying children or adult-sized friends who’ve run out of transport options. The trunk however, is large and very accessible thanks to the hatchback format of the TT. Fold down those back seats and untap even more space… like maybe for a set of track tires on your way to and from a track day. Golf clubs would fit too, but we really think you should choose the wheels and tires.
So why drive this car? We had access and we were curious. While the TT 2.0 TDI ultra is expected to prove the best-selling TT model in European markets like the UK, it doesn’t really suit American buying habits. Throw in historically cheap petrol prices right now and there’s really no reason such a car will come over under current conditions. Even still, we’re at least hoping that transmission makes the cut in other models like the 2.0 TFSI or TTS.