The little sports car that could.
- By: Cam Benty
When the first Audi TT’s arrived back in 1995, it created a new niche for a lightweight, good-looking sports car, with great handling and room for two people – really just two people – forget the back seat. Now in its third generation, the new TT is impressive and an all around better car than the original, despite far less public acclaim.
In a world of overweight beasts, the new TT, at 3100 lbs., is quick, light and fast – a full 200 lbs. lighter than the previous model. Quick ratio steering and a light power assist make for a wonderfully tight turning circle; especially advantageous in urban settings. The classic design exotic car seats delivers more “grip” of its occupants than they would at first appear and work well with the more modern current design.
Under-hood, the TT is powered by a 2.0-liter, 220hp turbo-assisted, four-cylinder engine. What would seemed to be a little light in the power department ends up with more than enough to drive the car to 5.3 second 0 to 60 mph runs. As estimated by Audi, overall top speed is 155 mph. At highway speeds, passing maneuvers were never an issue, the turbo tip is strong enough to pull up to and around any obstacles we encountered.
Whether left in full automatic mode or shifted by the easy to reach steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, the transmission featured six gears of forward motivation and a dual clutch ensuring positive engagement of each gear. In our all wheel drive Quattro version, there is no chance of wheel slip, although in hard cornering we did feel a touch of oversteer even though the rear-end never did break away.
The TT features a lowered floor (0.4-inch lower than any other VW MQB platform vehicle) and uses magnetic drive damping to reduce roll. Torsional stiffness is improved by 25 percent over the precious generation TT with no loss of ride quality. The reduction in weight comes in many ways, the largest change – nearly 40 lbs. out of the doors and eight pounds out of the engine.
One of the most noteworthy points of the car are the highly interactive dashboard views. For those who find gauges distracting, you can relegate the speed and tachometer read out to a reduced size on the fully electronic dashboard. With a touch of the steering wheel mounted VIEW button, they jump in size to dominate the center monitor.
Most interestingly, the 12.3-inch wide monitor of the TT is quite unusual. As opposed to a center-mounted dashboard monitor placed above the console to review radio, navigation, speed/tachometer, phone and other functions, the driver instrument panel contains these read out. What is most interesting is how the VIEW button on the steering wheel changes with the navigation. Whereas most monitors will show the map and route in a rectangular containment, on the TT’s screen, the view can change from a rectangle to a more free form shape wrapping around the circular tachometer and speedometer gauges. We know of no new car with this kind of display- and we kinda liked it, frankly.
The new TT contains no throwback parts to the previous model. Not one single part – its all new. The original shape is the work of Italian designer, Giugiaro, and is really clean overall. Final styling touches were applied by Marc Lichte, which is a strange way to complete a car design (two studio compilations), but the edicts of Audi head Ferdinand Piech make this car something special while retaining the original TT’s rear styling – a throwback to the original very successful TT. As an added touch, the headlights are super high quality taking their technology from the R18 Quattro used in the Audi LeMans racer. Look for them on the next generation R8.
As much as we enjoyed the TT, its big brother, the TTS appears to be a lot more of the good stuff. At 292hp, quarter mile times drop from 5.3 to 4.2 and quarter mile time tip below 13 seconds – the legendary hard ceiling for performance cars. Despite the added power, both cars have the same top speed, as computer limited.
At a base price of $42,000 for the standard TT, this is definitely competition for American Muscle Cars such as the Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. While it won’t smoke the tires, it is more fun to drive and gets 30 mph or better in our all around testing. The choice is yours.