Marbella, Spain – As style icons go, the air around cars like the Volkswagen Beetle and Porsche 911 is a heady space… space also occupied by cars like the Audi TT. These automobiles are clearly defined and ardently loved. Redesign them in a less than authentic way and risk watering down something that truly defines a car company. This is what Audi considered as it moved to envision the latest Audi TT coupe.
Audi AG development boss Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg enjoys a unique perspective, having been managing posts at Audi around the inception of each generation of TT. As Hackenberg tells it, the first car came together as a project to explore what, beyond the first A3, Audi could build on the then-upcoming PQ34 transverse architecture. Several models were created and a roadster was pitched to Dr. Ferdinand Piëch. Piëch liked what he saw, but wanted a coupe… and so one was built for the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show, with a TTS Roadster version to follow weeks later in Tokyo.
That first PQ34 generation dubbed “Mk1” by its fans was design driven, carrying over nearly every detail from the concept car save the massive blindspot-inducing C-pillar.
Next came the PQ35-based car dubbed “Mk2”. Made mainly of aluminum, the new car grew slightly, but dropped some 200 pounds. This second TT was superior dynamically and received more potent iterations such as the TTS and TT RS. However, the car’s design played it safe and it never quite had the visual panache of the Mk1.
When it came to the TT “Mk3”, now based on Audi’s new MQB modular transverse matrix, Audi had a choice. They could go massively edgy, though instead chose to carefully embrace the core tenets of this style and performance driven model… something Hackenberg refers to as the “TT idiom”.
On the outside, Audi went with evolution. Key points like the defined fender arches over-reaching into the space of the aluminum hood, silver gas cap, arched roofline, etc. were embraced. Nods to the original car were rekindled, while adding new elements like the R8’s hood-positioning for the four rings, vertical LED daytime running light signature from the R18 Le Mans car, and the hexagonal singleframe grille were adopted from the latest Audi brand design language.
Like many modern Audi designs, the nuanced cut lines and shaping of alloy on the body panels don’t always photograph well. Hit the wrong angle or re-touch a photo too heavily and the car just loses something. Seeing it in the metal on a show stand helps, but seeing it in the real world and preferably rolling down a road is the best way to truly judge one of the marque’s modern designs. This is most definitely the case with the new TT, a car that left us underwhelmed in press photos, mildly impressed while taking it in at Geneva and truly impressed watching it motor past us on a looped driving route planned by Audi through the mountains north of Marbella.
Perhaps part of what makes the new TT seem evolutionary is the fact that its size didn’t really change from that of its predecessor. The height, length and width all remained nearly the same (now 164.4 inches long, 72.1 inches wide and 53.3 inches tall), however the flexibility of the MQB architecture allowed the wheelbase to grow +37mm to 98.6 inches. This pushed the wheels further to the corners and paired them with shorter front and rear overhangs that both improved handling and also grew trunk space.
More improvements come in the form of the car’s multi-material mix. Steel is used for some of the floor pan and crash structure. Most all of the body panels are made of aluminum with the exception of some plastic in the hatch. This helps the Mk3 shed some 90 lbs over its predecessor and 290 lbs over the original to a curb weight of 3100 lbs. It also drops, the center of gravity 9mm lower in the chassis.
Our particular Sepang Blue test car is close to what you’ll see go on sale next summer back in the USA. Under the hood is Audi’s latest generation EA-888 2.0 TFSI (230 hp@4500-6200 rpm, 272 lb-ft@1600-4300 rpm) paired with 6-speed S tronic dual clutch sequential transmission. These are essentially the same units seen in the new Audi A3 sedan. In the lighter TT coupe this configuration is good for 0-62 mph in 5.3 seconds and a top speed limited to 155 mph. Audi also says this setup will get you an average of 36.8 mpg).
This blue coupe was also a quattro model, marking a bit of a break-through for Audi. Like the A3/S3, the TT uses the latest Haldex V all-wheel drive system for transverse applications. However, Audi has gone one step further to up the game of this particular iteration of quattro. New for the TT are two interesting features we think enthusiasts will want to take note of.
First off, unless running in an efficiency program, the new TT will roll down the road with torque at all four wheels – full-time all-wheel drive and just like larger longitudinal Audi models. In the past, Haldex was a reactive system that only transitioned torque to the front when it sensed slip. With the addition of Audi Drive Select, Ingolstadt is making the car more of a proactive system.
Using inputs from the accelerator pedal, steering wheel and ESP system, this version of quattro has also been designed to proactively send torque and even overdrive certain wheels in some cases, essentially the same effect as an Audi S4 or S5 with optional Sport Differential.
This quattro hardware configuration is standard in any TT quattro in Europe, which is also expected to encompass any TT sold in America where all-wheel drive is expected to be the only configuration. The only difference between the TT and more potent TTS and eventual TT RS models will be the aggressiveness of the software. Hackenberg suggests that the TT has been programmed for handling neutrality while the TTS exhibits some forms of steering with throttle and that the TT RS will exhibit even more of this tendency.
Open the aluminum door of the TT and you’ll be met with the most radical element of the car’s redesign… and that is the interior. Sliding into our car’s rotor grey diamond stitched S sport seats with accenting exposed framework was just the beginning.
The dashboard of the TT is a veritable work of design art. Interior designer Artur Deponte points out that the top of the dash is shaped to look like the wing of an airplane… or maybe MechWarrior from our perspective. Trademark TT round dash vents have once again multiplied (now to five), and have changed to a more jet-engine like look. Flow direction is now changed by rotating the bezels of these jets while dual-zone HVAC and seat heat controls move to the vents themselves – a clever move, but likely one that’ll be the bane of aftermarket gage pod designers.
The main grouping of buttons has moved to a horizontal cluster lower in the dashboard and above the center console. This cluster is made to look like the wing’s aileron – the flap that helps steer up and down. In this case, the aileron makes up toggles for direct access to Audi drive select, mode select for ESP, traction control deactivation, hazard lights, control of the car’s mechanically actuated rear spoiler and activation/deactivation of the park sensor system.
Unlike the Audi A3/S3 sedans, there is no centrally mounted screen. The TT is more driver oriented, slanting the “wing” dashboard toward the pilot and affixing it with a 12.3” high-contrast TFT display that handles all instrumentation and MMI duties including navigation and audio controls. It also animates them all seamlessly thanks to the latest Tegra 3 processor from NVIDIA, capable of eight billion computing operations per second. The net effect is that the pixel-formed needles of the instruments are 3-dimenionsal in appearance, with subtle shadowing. Their movement sweeping across the speedometer and tachometer look as natural as a more traditional analogue movement.
Most of the functionality for the system can be found on the TT’s handsome new flat-bottom sport steering wheel. There’s a view button that allows you to jump between layouts, a left toggle to help you navigate between main functions and a right toggle for more specific system decision-making.
In addition to that, there are also MMI controls on the center console much like those in the A3/S3. More specifically, this includes the central control wheel with its “safe click” movement and touch pad on top that will allow you to quickly write in characters or letters to spell out things like destination search, contact search or even song search within the system’s audio functionality. If writing’s not your bag, there’s also a voice search for navigation, phone and audio functions as well.
When it comes to audio, there are three systems. There’s a base 4-speaker configuration with CD player, SD car reader and (finally!) and auxiliary input. The middle system (and likely base for America) is an 11-speaker upgrade. Finally, there’s the top-of-the-line Bang & Olufsen that comes with MMI Navigation plus models. It boasts 12 speakers, 680 watts and even a processor for optimization of sound against background noise in the cabin.
There are now multiple ways to get your music onto that amazing audio system. These include the aforementioned Aux input, a USB input, Audi Music Interface, Bluetooth streaming and finally a 10GB hard drive for music storage.
Audi connect is another new addition to the TT range. 4G data means a localized hot spot and map data including Google satellite maps and street view in the navigation system. It also means real time traffic reports (sorry, not yet from Google’s Waze app), and even interfaces for Facebook and Twitter.
The new TT also gets an electro-mechanical parking brake. This saves room on the center console for MMI controls and likely tidies up the look, but there’s a hooligan deep inside us that yearns for the traditional e-brake handle. Volkswagen chose to keep the handle in the new GTI and likely for similar reasons we miss it, though it is decidedly gone in the TT.
As with any of the previous TT coupes, the back seats are there but limited in usability. Audi doesn’t recommend them for anyone over the height of 4’9”, though the up side is that children can likely ride sans the usual booster seat.
Out on the road, the instrument cluster quickly becomes quite natural. Its performance is impressive, with no issues from bright glare nor viewing the screen through a pair of polarized sunglasses.
One negative to the configuration is that you can’t really hand off navigation or audio management to your co-driver as all of that information remains in front of you.
Travelling into the nearby mountains or navigating the car quickly through a parking scenario also had me mistakenly hitting some functionality buttons – something my co-driver didn’t have a problem with, yet a side effect that left me yearning for an “Auto Lock” button much like my Apple iPhone. When inquiring later with Audi electronics boss Ricky Hudi, the German suggested Audi is considering some software that would intelligently lock out buttons when active steering is happening.
On windy roads, we found the car’s new electro-mechanical steering to be pleasantly both precise and well weighted, better than previous generations we’ve driven. Cornering is even further satisfying with the new quattro system that is as neutral as Hackenberg promised.
Yes, you can aggressively move the car into understeer, but it mainly just goes where you want it to go. Lift off and it’s also willing to bring the tail in… either through trail throttle or simply lift-off oversteer tendency. We’re not exactly sure how it achieves it as we didn’t have enough time in the car to come to a conclusion, but the net effect is considerably more handling neutrality than the previous TT.
So, is this new coupe a credible successor to the TT lineage? We’d argue that it most definitely is. Though the outgoing TT lacked the MMI functionality and creature comforts of other Audi sedans, it never really felt old to us… until we drove the new one. Upgrades to technology, chassis and interior move this car decidedly ahead of its predecessors. As for exterior design, we’re much more appreciative having experienced it in the real world. While Audi could never replicate the ground-altering effect of the first car’s exterior appearance, they’ve evolved it in a natural way that makes much more sense when you see it on the road, sliding around a mountain pass with those R18-shaped DRL lights glaring all the way.
The new TT begins production in week 43 and goes on sale in Europe in October. UK sales will follow a couple of months later and Audi of America claims U.S. sales won’t start until next summer. Given though that inventories of the current TT are essentially exhausted, we’d not be surprised to see the TT arrive just a bit early on these shores.
While in Spain we sampled multiple TT versions including TTS and TDI versions and multiple transmissions. The 2.0 TFSI S line quattro as tested here is likely closest to the TT model that will be sold in America and thus our first focus in our reporting. We move next in our core_TT series to the TTS S tronic, a model we tested both on road and on track.
Engine – Inline four-cylinder spark-ignition with gasoline direct injection, exhaust turbocharger with intercooler, four valves per cylinder, double overhead camshaft (DOHC)
Transmission – S tronic 6-speed dual-clutch transmission
Power output – 169 kW (230 hp) between 4500-6200 rpm
Max torque – 370 Nm (272.9 lb-ft) between 1600-4300 rpm
Top Speed – 250 km/h (155.3 mph)
Acceleration – 5.3 seconds from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph)
Fuel consumption, overall – 6.4 l/100 km (36.8 US mpg)
CO2-mass emission 149 g/km (239.8 g/mile)
Technology & Security
Wheels/tires – Forged aluminum wheels in 5-arm star design, contrasting gray, partly polished, Size 9Jx19 with 245/25 R 19 tires, Tire pressure indicator (standard)
Suspension/Steering – Steel spring suspension with sporty settings (standard), Progressive steering, Audi drive select with 5 different driving modes
Assistance systems – Audi side assist, Audi active lane assist, Cruise control system, Camera-based recognition of traffic signs, Parking system plus with selective display
Lighting – Audi Matrix LED headlights with dynamic turn signals
Exterior Color – Sepang blue pearl effect
Interior color – Seat upholstery / contrasting stitching: rotor grey-rotor grey / anthracite; dashboard: black-black; carpet: black
Seats – S sport seats, front in fine Nappa leather for S line sport package with seat heating, front and seat adjustment, electric for both front seats, front center armrest
Interior design – Extended leather package, color-matched to the interior color, Inlays in matte brushed aluminum (S line sport package), Extended aluminum look in the interior (S line sport package), Colored interior elements: quartz paint finish, anthracite
Steering wheel – TT sport contour steering wheel with multifunction plus
Infotainment – MMI navigation plus with MMI touch, Audi virtual cockpit: innovative, fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster, Bang & Olufsen Sound System, Audi phone box, Audi connect, Digital audio broadcasting
Air Conditioning – Deluxe automatic air conditioning
Locking system – Convenience key with anti-theft alarm
Mirrors – Interior mirror, automatically dimming, Exterior mirrors, electrically adjustable and heated
Other Equipment – S line exterior package, S line sport package, Lighting package, Storage and luggage compartment package