Boy's from the Black Stuff

Does diesel power detract from a Coupe’s desirability? Audi doesn’t think so, and has launched a TDi version of its popular TT for the first time. We put it up against BMW’s diesel 1-series Coupe

Black 02

Diesel has long been the default fuel of choice for buyers on a budget. But could the widening gap between its price and that of petrol at the pumps see oil-burners start to slide down the sales charts?

As black pump models no longer have the appeal of saving owners so much money, they need more than frugal economy to be a success – genuine desirability is a must to survive in the market. And one manufacturer that has total confidence in the future of the fuel is Audi.

The firm has dominated the Le Mans 24 Hours for the past two years with its R10 prototype. Then there was the proud unveiling of the R8 TDI supercar at January’s Detroit Motor Show. So it’s clear that Audi is leading the way when it comes to making the most of diesel power in performance models. Now, for the first time in its 10-year history, the TT will be available as an oil-burner, too.

When the new model arrives in UK showrooms this summer, powered by Audi’s common-rail 2.0-litre TDI engine, it aims to attract buyers with its blend of versatile performance and fuel-sipping economy. But does the addition of a heavy diesel powerplant compromise the TT’s desirability and handling finesse?

The coupé faces stiff competition, as Audi isn’t the only firm selling performance diesels – the new BMW 123d Coupé fulfils a similar brief. So which of the duo comes out on top? We went to the Audi’s launch in Germany to find out in an exclusive head-to-head.

Verdict

Each has its own personality, although both models use well engineered diesels to prove that oil-burners can successfully be fitted to coupés without affecting desirability.

While the 123d is the better performer, it can’t rival the TT for styling. And even though it has usable rear seats, the cabin isn’t nearly as upmarket as the Audi’s.

What’s more, the chassis doesn’t give the BMW the dynamic edge you might expect. The TT isn’t as thrilling on a twisty road, but its light weight, quattro traction and smooth ride mean it’s composed and agile enough for most drivers.

The TDI engine is smooth, and while it lacks the thrust of the BMW unit, it’s quieter at idle and provides enough pace to make the most of the TT’s chassis. Audi has done an excellent job of engineering its coupé with diesel power, and the model has lost none of its appeal in TDI trim.

What counts above all else in the coupé class is image – and the TT remains the most desirable and attractive car in the sector.

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