Car group tests

Audi TTS vs Mercedes SLK

Audi’s new TTS promises even more wind-in-the-hair thrills. But is it a better buy than the ultra-desirable Mercedes SLK?

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Style, desirability, performance – the Audi TT has earned its status as a cut-price supercar by sticking to a classic recipe for success. But what would happen if the balance was tipped further in favour of pace rather than posing?

With its improved handling, the second-generation model can now match the sharpest sports cars. And to show how good the TT is – as well as prove once and for all it can compete with the most dynamic rivals – Audi has launched a new flagship S variant.

The TTS comes in coupé and Roadster bodystyles, and has reworked suspension and meaner looks. Audi’s 2.0-litre turbo engine also gets a power boost, to 268bhp – so this should be the most exciting TT yet.

But the competition in this marketplace is tough. The Porsche Boxster is an established favourite, although the Mercedes SLK is arguably the strongest contender in terms of styling.

What’s more, the three-pointed star model recently benefited from a makeover that incorporated around 650 new components. So it’s this car we put up against the TTS. Which of these high-quality German roadsters offers the better blend of value, performance and driver enjoyment?

Verdict

On paper these two cars look evenly matched. But take a test drive, and you will see they are chalk and cheese. The latest SLK gets updated styling and improved cabin materials – and although the changes seem minor, it remains a well designed and relaxed cruiser. The folding metal roof is a great selling point as well.

The trouble is, even though the Merc engine is smooth and refined, the optional 7G-TRONIC auto box will frustrate keen drivers. On a twisty road, the SLK isn’t as involving as its rival.

Not only is the TTS more exciting, it’s also very desirable – and so it takes a comfortable victory. With the R8, Audi has proved that it can build drivers’ cars to rival the best in the business. And its mainstream models are now just as capable – if not more so – than many class competitors. The TTS’s feelgood factor moves the stylish roadster to the next level.

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