new MkII TT
still has the power
to grab your attention,
only now it comes with
the dynamic ability
to match those
UNLIKE THE MOVIES, the new TT is one sequel that trumps the original hands down. The new, second-generation TT is stylish, oozes perceived quality, has a palpable 'feel-good' factor and is dynamically entertaining enough to appeal to a wide spread of sports-minded drivers. And it's also priced to sharply undercut the competition Porsche's entry-level Cayman costs £6K more, for one.
Having spent a week behind the new TT Coupe's flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, we can honestly say that while it continues to appeal to all those style-starved drivers who bought the original TT predominantly for its intensely-sharp Bauhaus looks it now comes with even more enhanced 'sports car' abilities.
Appraise the new TT. There's something of a sense of déjà vu evoked by unmistakably familiar design clues: a dramatically curved glasshouse melding with powerful, high shoulders; clamshell bonnet; and those geometric wheel arches. This, you tell yourself, is undeniably a TT. Then a strange thing happens. The closer you get, the more you appreciate the subtle changes wrought by Audi's designers. Because every panel is different. You could say: 'The TT is dead… Long live the TT'.
With its extended Audi 'trademark' grille, the harder-edged, more aggressive-looking new TT is longer. It's also wider and taller and it comes with some delicious detailing to tease the eye: the hollowed-out sides (at their most dramatic on metallic painted TTs); the beautifully-honed door mirror housings almost bisected horizontally by pencil-thick indicator repeater lights; and an ultra-streamlined rear courtesy of a tail spoiler that parks absolutely flush with the bodywork when not adding downforce. The spoiler automatically deploys as soon as the road speed reaches 74mph although you also can raise it by pressing a switch at any speed you fancy.
While modish design remains a cornerstone of the new TT's appeal, beneath the skin it's all changed. The new TT dispenses with conventional all-steel construction in favour of an advanced aluminium and steel hybrid Audi Space Frame body shell. It's a development that provides a substantial improvement in torsional rigidity (50 per cent greater) over Mk1 TT. In addition, the new 'hybrid' is some 48 per cent lighter than it would be if built entirely from steel. For the record, the 3.2 V6 quattro as tested here weighs in at a dynamically-healthy 1,410kg good news for performance, economy and also agility.
There are two versions currently on sale, both coupes but the Roadster is due here in the Spring. The less powerful a mere 200bhp! makes good use of Audi's 2.0 Turbo FSi engine, while beneath the flagship's aluminium bonnet beats a 247bhp 3.2-litre V6. The turboed 200bhp version makes do (extremely well, by all accounts) with front-wheel drive, whereas the normally-aspirated V6-powered TT we drove utilises Audi's quattro four-wheel-drive set-up.
In normal conditions, this sends 85 per cent of drive to the front axle but it can, in extremis, just as easily send 100 per cent to either the front or the rear. Interestingly, in spite of having an extra 47bhp, the 3.2 is not judged by bald paper figures that much quicker. Of course, the V6 has to overcome the extra weight of the full four-wheel drive system and two additional cylinders.
Open the door of the new TT and you'll find it as inviting as before. Only more so. Like the exterior, it still has obvious links to the original's idiosyncratic styling. However, the new TT is better; more focussed. For example, the centre console is angled towards the driver and there's a perfect place for everything that includes the driver!
Adding to the impression of a real driver's workplace in the snug yet airy cockpit is a low seating position behind that evocative and ideally-sited three-spoke flat-based leather steering wheel. New TT drivers don't just sit in their cars. They wear them. Directly ahead is a matched pair of beautifully-clear dials rev-counter to the left; 170mph speedometer to the right. Every switch feels crafted and operates with precision, including the unique-to-the-TT rotary controls for the powerful and effective climate control.
Be in no doubt that the TT possesses that rare ability to make you feel good just sitting in it. With supportive 10-way power seats and electric lumbar adjustment, the driving position is top-notch. The V6 model comes generously kitted-up with quattro 4WD, fine Nappa leather upholstery, heated front Sports seats, decent MP3-compatible audio system, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, one-shot electric front windows, automatic climate control, that flat-bottom leather-rim steering wheel, 10-spoke 18-inch alloys, retractable rear spoiler and a driver's information system.
The 3.2-litre V6 has more than enough torque to back up its 247bhp 236lb ft of it, from 2,500-3,000rpm. And with Audi's permanent four-wheel drive, getting it down onto the tarmac is no problem whatso-ever. Stab the accelerator and the keen-to-rev V6 responds with real urge power and torque uniting flawlessly to generate fluid forward motion. And with forward thrust especially in the muscular mid-range comes a rasping growl that's part engine, part exhaust. Better still, the purposeful soundtrack sounds equally good inside or out.
Much credit for the amazing smoothness with which this happens must go to the TT's twin-clutch, paddle-shift automated S-tronic gearbox a £1,400 option formerly known as DSG. Whichever way you cut it, the six-speed S-tronic 3.2 TT is quick off the mark, hitting 62mph from the off in 5.7 seconds. Progress is capped electronically at 155mph. The icing on the cake is that the sweet-sounding V6 is not the binge-drinker you'd expect. A full week's hard driving in our hands was rewarded by a very respectable average consumption of 27.7mpg. Officially the city, combined and touring figures are 21.9, 30.1 and 38.7mpg respectively.
About the only thing drivers need to know about the amazing S-tronic transmission is that it works! Changing gear is either by the 'one-touch' gear lever or the shift 'paddles' on the steering wheel each of which can easily be reached by any of four fingers. The S-tronic can operate in either normal Drive or in the deliciously eager Sport mode. Activate this and you get later shift points, earlier downshifts and shorter shifting times. And even while in the two automatic modes, the driver can easily invoke spontaneous manual selections with a fingertip-flick on either paddle.
But whichever mode you're in, the result is always the same utterly seamless shifts up and down the 'box. And smoother and faster than even the most accomplished of professional drivers could manage. There's no interruption in drive; no need to back-off the throttle. Even more amazing is that whether you work your way sequentially up or down the ratios or instigate a demanding fifth-to-second change, the result is still a flawlessly executed gear change.
Put some miles under your belt and you'll be able to indulge yourself even further steering and shifting at the same time. Some testers (not at MotorBar) have aired the view that advanced DSG-style transmissions deprive the driver of some of the enjoyment that comes from physically interacting with the car. First, that's to overlook the fact that TT buyers have the choice between the standard-fit 6-speed manual and the optional S-tronic. Secondly, you need to ask a F16 pilot if he'd prefer to swap the electronics that allow his state-of-the-art jet to fly so acrobatically for the cruder stick controls of a WW2 fighter plane.
Another keystone of the TT's born-again appeal is that this new model exhibits some serious driving intent. For a start it's a far better balanced machine, and that is aptly demonstrated by its impressive ability to change direction with real alacrity noticeable as soon as you're drive down the road for the first time. There's accuracy, too, and a nicely weighted precision to the speed dependent electro-mechanical power steering. And it's not compromised by the permanent 4WD until really quite high speeds much, much faster than you'd want to be going on public roads. Really push and the quattro will serve up understeer. Not a problem. Lift off lightly and the TT will tighten its line with reassuring good manners.
Thanks to its wider body, the new TT benefits from markedly better weight distribution. Combined with its much more sophisticated suspension, it delivers sporting handling. Our test car was fitted with the optional magnetic-fluid adaptive damping system. It costs an extra £1,150 and adjusts the damping effect by varying a magnetic charge which passes through a fluid-based shock absorber. The result is damping that adjusts within milliseconds both to the road and to the manner in which the car is being driven. The driver can choose between two settings Sport (resolved enough for a trackday outing) and Normal. Go for Sport and you'll find steering response is also sharpened. Whichever mode is selected, it works a treat and makes hustling the TT an enjoyable way to spend quality time.
This new TT corners flat and is not put off by ridges and ripples although it keeps you updated as to their presence. It exits quickly and without drama out of the tightest corners and, overall, serves up trustworthy roadholding and handling. Grip is awesomely good, courtesy of the four-wheel drive and sticky 18-inch 245/40 section Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Even better, and with no real trade-off for the improved handling, the ride is pretty good firm, but good enough, in the front, to ensure the TT is a great companion on long journeys. Cruising at speed is civilised, stable and quiet. And, thanks to the 4WD, that also means whatever the weather.
During some tough testing over varied routes the TT never once felt out of its depth, however heartlessly it was driven. For those of you who have driven the 'Ring', the best way to summarise the new TT's ability is to mention that while negotiating the North Loop of the Nürburgring unquestionably the toughest test track in the world Audi's test drivers shaved 15 seconds off the time the new TT's predecessor achieved. Which is a good as time as any to mention the brakes. With ABS and brake assist as standard, as well as an integrated and fully automatic brake drying function and large ventilated discs at each corner, they offer first rate retardation without any drama. There's a direct feel through the pedal, too, and severe stops are as easy as ABC Audi Brakes Convincingly!
While there's now appreciably more room for the lucky two travelling up front, the back seats are still best reserved for kids who will love them. Actually, forget the kids. Instead, fold the 50:50 split seats flat and use the extra space for a handy 700 litres of luggage. The long tailgate makes loading and unloading a simple task. So if you were concerned that running a sports coupe would compromise your lifestyle, don't be.
Safety, too, is as well considered as the new TT's dynamics. Its secure four-wheel drive handling, stability and general feeling of trustworth-iness are further backed up by a strong bodyshell, front and side air-bags, ABS, a full set of traction control aids and an enhanced braking system.
So what do you get for your money? The lot. The second-generation TT is a fine-looking, quality-built machine with bang-on design and 'must-have' brand kudos. Not only is it dramatic to look at. Be on your best behaviour, because you'll be noticed 'most everywhere you go. It does, actually, do everything its hard-edged new looks promise. So, deal or no deal? Priced at a few hundred pounds short of £30K, the new TT makes a cast-iron case for ownership. Yep. Deal!
Audi TT Coupe 3.2 quattro | £29,285
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Overall test MPG: 27.7mpg | Power: 247bhp | Torque: 236lb ft
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