Here's the latest on the go-faster version of Audi's third generation TT. Jonathan Crouch reports
The Audi TT coupe has often been damned with faint praise as a driver's car but the latest TTS demands respect. With 306bhp going to all four wheels, it gets to 62mph in 4.6 seconds and has an interior that makes a Porsche Cayman look a bit LIDL.
The Audi TTS quattro was always a bit of a strange sell, a more focused version of the brand's normal 2.0-litre petrol-engined TT. Introduced as a spicier option in the car's second generation, it sat just below the TT RS range-topper and for many buyers much of the time, represented the sweet spot in the model line-up. In fact the TTS always made a really good road car. Yes, it might have seemed a bit under-baked in comparison to an entry-level Porsche Cayman on a track, but there was a flow and suppleness about it on road, coupled with a quite lovely interior that belied its position as the 'one in the middle'. Now it's back in third generation guise.
The much-garlanded 2.0-litre TFSI engine that powers the TTS packs a heavy duty 306bhp, which lifts it into the league of some seriously big hitters. It needed to really, because the all-wheel drive 300bhp Volkswagen Golf R has raised the bar in that department. That car in itself was developed in response to BMW's 296bhp M135i/M235i, so we've got a German arms race going on amongst compact hatches and coupes. This coupe will hit a top speed of 155mph, with 62mph taking 4.6 seconds. The quattro drivetrain has come in for some upgrades to increase driver involvement. By networking quattro drive with Audi drive select, the driver of the Audi TT can adjust the operating parameters of the all-wheel-drive system to one of five modes. In the "auto" setting, optimum traction and balanced driving dynamics are given priority. In "dynamic" mode, torque is distributed to the rear axle earlier and to a higher degree. In the drive select "efficiency" mode, the system can temporarily shut down the quattro set-up if conditions suit this. Audi's magnetic ride adaptive damper control system is standard and has been improved in terms of characteristic spread, control dynamics and precision as well as user friendliness. There's also Audi Progressive Steering fitted as standard and there's a six-speed manual gearbox or optional six-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission.
The TTS manages to look a little more athletic than its less powerful siblings. That might be due to the lowered ride height, the TTS-specific front and rear bumper assemblies or possibly the 19-inch Star S design alloys, but your eyes will also alight on the small details like the aluminium-effect door mirror cappings, the TTS badging and the high-gloss radiator grille. All-weather LED headlights give the front end a piercing stare and the rear light pods are all LED. The fascia is dominated by the Audi Virtual Cockpit. Located directly behind the steering wheel, a 1440 x 540 pixel, 12.3-inch digital screen shows all information directly in front of the driver. Operated via the MMI Touch button, voice control and the multi-function steering wheel, the display can be switched between 'classic', with prominent speedometer and rev counter, or 'infotainment', which brings functions such as the navigation map or media to the fore. And in the TTS there is a third screen showcasing a rev counter in the centre of the virtual cockpit. The round air vents - a classic TT feature - are reminiscent of jet engines with their turbine-like design. The vents also contain all the controls for the air conditioning system, including seat heating where applicable, plus temperature, direction, air distribution and air flow strength. As an option, they can also house small digital displays which show the chosen setting. A 2+2, the TTS Coupe gets a load area with a capacity of 305-litres, which is 13-litres more than before and can be extended by folding the rear seat backrests forwards.
Prices kick off at around £39,000 for the TTS coupe, so there's a big £6,500 jump over the cost of a sporty s line-trimmed version of the standard 230bhp 2.0 TFSI TT Coupe model. Standard equipment includes the Audi Virtual Cockpit with its third TTS-specific screen and a decent stereo with eight speakers including two door-mounted woofers and a five-channel amp in the glovebox. There's a whole stack of ways of getting your music files to the speakers, including Bluetooth and AUX-In. A DAB radio is a good backup for those days when you're bored by your playlists. Other equipment highlights include an extended leather package, an auto dimming rear view mirror, inlays in brushed aluminium, TTS badges on the steering wheel, a retractable rear spoiler, Audi Lane Assist, tyre pressure monitoring, heated front seats and an ISOFIX child seat mount on the front passenger seat, along with the necessary airbag deactivation.
The TTS returns some decent efficiency figures for a car with such a knockout accelerative punch. Emissions on the manual coupe are rated at 164g/km and the S tronic fares even better, recording 157g/km. There are two specific TTS colours (Sepang Blue pearl and Vegas Yellow) that will doubtless be in demand, while the Super Sports seats can be finished in Black, Rotor Grey and Express Red for no additional charge. The warranty covers you for unlimited mileage in the first two years of ownership and up to 60,000 miles in the third year and is transferable between owners. Pay an additional £385 and that can be extended to a fourth year, again with unlimited miles in the first and second years but a more generous 75,000 mile allowance in years three and four. Residual values look set to be very beefy if the last TTS is anything to go by.
The Audi TTS isn't a car that real petrolheads have taken particularly seriously in the past. Quickish, but a bit inert was the verdict on the previous generation car. This latest TTS looks to be built from more talented stock. There's no doubt whatsoever that it possesses a better chassis and Audi has learned a lot about integrating electronics while still preserving a natural feel to the handling balance in recent years. You might well ask what advantage the Audi TTS really confers over, say, a Volkswagen Golf R but sit in one and the penny will drop. It's just a more special place to be and feels a good deal more expensive. Faster than a Porsche Cayman GTS to 62mph, the TTS coupe feels like a relative bargain at less than £40,000 - less than the base Cayman and with stacks more kit. And four-wheel drive. And a better warranty. It's fair to say that the time is right to shake off a few of the old preconceptions.
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