It’s a very different thing to drive, to own and to live with. Which is important. The TT is fundamental to many people’s perception of what this brand really stands for. It has to be right. It has to be vorsprung durch technic.
First signs that there’s something different on offer here come the moment you take your seat behind the flat-bottomed wheel in the minimalist cockpit and press the de rigeur start/stop button. What’ll fire into life in front of you is relatively unremarkable – a derivation of the same kind of 2. 0-litre turbocharged engine found in so many other Volkswagen Group products.
What’s more unusual though, is what springs into life on the dash at the same time, the ‘Audi Virtual Cockpit’, a 12. 3-inch LCD driver display that replaces all the conventional dials. Keeping everything you need to know in the same line of sight, it’s supposed to create a more focused driving experience. Can the car itself follow suit? Let’s find out.
First impressions are positive. This MK3 model has so much more spark than its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still no Porsche Cayman: but then I’m not sure that too many typical TT buyers will mind that very much. What they’ll notice though, is that it feels sharper, more eager and more satisfying – just as the Ingolstadt engineers intended that it should. There are so many reasons for that it’s hard to know which one to start with. Is the change down to the longer wheelbase and the more rigid MQB chassis that makes this car 23% stiffer than before? Perhaps it has more to do with the lighter weight, with Audi Space Frame Technology shaving up to 50kgs from the scales. I’d also nominate the Progressive Steering system for credit here, its rack set up so that the ratio becomes more direct the further the wheel is turned. It’s a huge improvement.
The optional ‘magnetic ride’ set-up comes as standard on the TT variant that was fastest of all at launch, the 310PS TTS model. As does quattro 4WD to get the 2. 0 TFSI turbo engine’s power to the tarmac.
The same engine in a slightly less manic state of tune is used in the variant that’ll account for the majority of TT sales here, the 230PS 2. 0 TFSI variant. Here, uniquely in this class, quattro 4WD is an option – and one that makes quite a difference to your acceleration times, even in the dry. Tick the box for it and the rest to 62mph improves from around 6. 0s to just 5. 3s – that’s nearly half a second quicker than BMW’s much more powerful rival Z4 sDrive 28i. There’s no Z4 though, that competes with the TT variant I’m trying here, the 2. 0 TDI ultra diesel model.
But I’ve saved the best bit until last. It’s the up-front experience that’ll really sell people this car, thanks to a clean-sheet design that really is different, classy and forward-thinking. How? Well look around you. What’s missing? The wing-shaped dash is familiar enough, but in its centre, the usual infotainment system screen and ventilation control panel are both missing, allowing for a sleek minimalist design that really sets this cabin apart.
You sense that Audi has shifted its point of reference with this car. Earlier versions were a bit better to drive than supposed rivals like the Mercedes SLK and the BMW Z4, but from the point of view of a committed enthusiast, that wasn’t saying very much. And if you weren’t a pistonhead, the flashy folding roof technology of these two German competitors could make a TT seem a little ordinary. To survive, it needed to be sharper. It needed to be higher-tech. It needed to be the machine we have here.
Audi, you see, has at last got this car right. It is at last properly vorsprung durch technic.