Is it time for the UK’s love affair with the Audi TT Coupe to grow even stronger? We buy more TTs here than any other country, so there’s a substantial weight of expectation on the shoulders of the all-new third-generation model.
Thankfully, it has plenty going for it. Based on VW Group’s MQB platform, the latest TT retains the Audi Space Frame aluminium and steel hybrid construction of previous models and is lighter, more efficient and faster than ever before.
It’s initially available in Sport and S line trims with 227bhp 2.0-litre TFSI petrol or 182bhp 2.0-litre TDI Ultra diesel engines. The petrol is offered with a choice: go for the six-speed manual gearbox and you must have front-wheel drive; go for the six-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission and you can only have quattro. If you pick the diesel then the only combination available is front-wheel drive with a manual gearbox. On the plus side, the 110g/km CO2 emissions are impressively low for a sports car.
However, as the two-wheel-drive TFSI is likely to make up the largest proportion of UK sales, this was the version we drove for our first experience of the new TT.
Instantly recognisable from the very first glance, the car has shorter overhangs and a tauter-looking nose, although the unmistakable TT styling cues remain, with the familiar rounded wheelarches, curved windscreen pillars, bold shoulder line and sloping tailgate.
Yet for all the classy familiarity of the exterior, it’s the cabin that’s the real highlight. Stunningly designed and beautifully executed, it’s focused around Audi’s superb Virtual Cockpit system. This 12.3-inch high-resolution LCD display replaces the conventional dials, and does away with the need for a centre stack screen, allowing for a sleek minimalist dashboard design that’s sporty and upmarket.
The screen is crystal clear and places all information in front of the driver. You can switch the display between Classic View – with prominent speedo and rev counter – and Infotainment View, which brings functions like the navigation map or audio screen to the fore. Telephone and trip settings also appear on the Virtual Cockpit screen and all functions can be controlled using either the touch-sensitive MMI controller or the multifunction wheel. The clarity of the screen combines with the dual-functionality of the controls to make Audi’s Virtual Cockpit a breeze to use.
All cars come with DAB radio, leather seats and climate control, while tactile and beautifully executed switchgear is matched to first-rate materials throughout the cabin. Circular air vents with the control function and display for the air-con integrated into them are another highlight.
Thankfully, the driving experience impresses, too. Audi’s TT has always blended sports car driver enjoyment with everyday usability. The latest coupe takes this a step further – 50kg lighter than its predecessor, it’s sharper and more engaging than TTs of old. The turbo engine is punchy and smooth, delivering enough performance to take this TT from 0-62mph in just six seconds.
Out of tight corners, the stability control intervenes smoothly, and works with an electronic limited-slip differential to deliver surprisingly good traction. Plus, Audi’s progressive steering system adds to the TT’s agility. The rack is set up so the steering ratio becomes more direct as the wheel is turned. It gives the car a really positive front end, with sharp turn-in, plus light and consistent weighting. There’s also a decent amount of feel.
Push on towards the limit and the rear of the TT feels more alive and adjustable than before, too. Audi’s Drive Select system is standard across the range, allowing for Comfort, Dynamic, Efficiency and Auto settings, or the ability to set up your favourite mix of modes.
On front-wheel-drive TFSI cars like ours, Drive Select adjusts throttle response, exhaust note and steering weighting, while the Efficiency mode reduces fuel consumption.
S line cars get 19-inch wheels as standard, while 10mm lower and stiffer S line suspension is a no-cost option. We’d steer clear of this if you want decent ride comfort. Our European-spec car had smaller 18-inch wheels and was noticeably smoother than the outgoing model, but we’ll reserve judgement on the larger rims until we test them on UK roads. Audi is again offering its Magnetic Ride dampers as an option – although we didn’t get the chance to try these on the new car. But with very little road and wind noise, the TT strikes a better balance between sports car fun and coupe comfort than ever.
With prices starting at £29,860 for the Sport TFSI, it’s also more expensive than ever, but it oozes desirability – and on the evidence of our first drive, it’ll continue to win the hearts and minds of UK buyers.
Verdict - 5 Stars
The original TT was a landmark car for Audi and it’s spared no effort on the third-generation coupe. The design, quality and detailing of the cabin is simply stunning, while on the outside, the stylish looks have gently evolved. Performance, refinement, economy and emissions gains are matched to sharper handling and a more engaging driving experience. The TT is back to its very best.