The 2017 Audi TT, in the second year of its third generation, is a sophisticated all-wheel-drive sports car with the right stance, styling and handling that’s quick and nimble when it needs to be, and relaxed at the right time.
Audi TT is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with direct injection, making 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 6-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission; Audi basically invented the dual-clutch, and it’s the best. The manual gearbox went away with the 2016 redesign.
The TT is called a four-seater, but it’s more like a 2+2 Coupe, or a two-seater with small shelf in back, for the Roadster.
There’s also an Audi TTS model, making 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, thanks to more turbocharger boost. The TT will accelerate from zero to sixty in 5.3 seconds while the TTS does it in 4.6. The TTS also gets a magnetic suspension, bigger brakes and cooler wheels. Later in 2016 there’s an even faster model coming, the TT RS, using a five-cylinder turbo engine.
The quattro all-wheel drive is the Haldex clutch-pack system that’s front-wheel-drive based, and responds to not only acceleration and traction but also steering inputs from the new variable ratio rack. The TT also has Audi Drive Select, with modes that allow the drive to select the level of response from the throttle, transmission, steering and stability control.
The government and insurance industry haven’t crash-tested the Audi TT, but for the 2016 redesign Audi developed a new body structure with a low center of mass, using high-strength steel in the floor and firewall to supplement the aluminum that saves weight.
A rearview camera is standard. Active safety features are available, including the system that’s intended to keep the car in the absolute center of its lane; we find some of these lane-keeping assist features bothersome.
The TT gets an EPA-rated 23/30 mpg City/Highway, or 26 mpg Combined. The TTS gets one mile per gallon less.
2017 Audi TT standard equipment includes the rearview camera, plus keyless ignition, alarm system, garage-door opener, rear parking sensors, and automatic wipers, auto-dimming headlamps, and power-folding side mirrors.
The Audi TT was an original design when it was introduced in the late 1990s, and if it’s not today, that’s only because others have gone in the direction of the TT. So maybe it could be called iconic today, for the style that remains, with tucked-in overhangs and rounded edges. Not quite as iconic as the upside-down-bathtub Porsche, but still distinctive.
The redesign for 2016 chiseled the corners a bit, and hunkered it down some, moving the TT a bit in the direction of the mid-engined Audi R8 sports car, its big brother. It’s more expressive. It looks wider, but in fact it’s narrower. The R8 influence shows toward the front of the TT, with its LED matrix headlamps, trapezoid grille, and hood creases to bring a mini-menace.
While the sheetmetal evolved with this generation, the cabin redesign was radical, with a swoopy padded dash that envelopes the driver and hangs over the passenger’s legs like an aircraft wing. The well-coordinated details seem rooted in aerospace or racing. Use your imagination, and you can see jet engines in the round vents, whose centers have climate control adjustments that press and twist.
It’s all purposeful, functional, and reasonably roomy in front, with decent legroom and good adjustability in the driver’s seat. The front seats have good lateral support for the thighs and good bolstering for the back. In the coupe, the rear passengers’ legs will be buckled and heads might hit the hatchback glass.
The interface might even be seen as revolutionary. It’s all about Audi Virtual Cockpit display, using a 12.3-inch high-contrast screen that displays gauges. It’s controlled by voice command, steering-wheel switchgear, and touch pad on the center console, and includes MMI Navigation Plus with Google Earth, plus Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The cabin materials and trim are bold, for example the flamboyant Express Red or Palomino Brown leather to choose over plain black or gray. There’s also Alcantara faux suede. The available S line package has diamond patterning on Nappa leather, and a lighting package enhances the interior’s ambience with accent lighting.
Thanks partly to a weight loss of 110 pounds, the current Audi TT handles lighter and leaner than the 2015 model, and the new aluminum-and-steel composite chassis has a lower center of gravity than before, so it’s slightly better balanced. The progressive steering with variable ratio and variable electric assist allows quick flicks in switchbacks and mountain hairpins, while contributing to stability on the freeway. However road feel is a bit lacking.
The faster TTS uses a magnetic suspension that’s firmer than the TT’s while delivering a better ride on rough pavement. But it, too, doesn’t deliver enough road feel for us.
The TT can do a couple of tricks that add to the fun of spirited driving. There’s a sound track that’s piped into the car when you pick up the pace; and, if you look in the rearview mirror at 75 miles per hour, you’ll see a rear spoiler rise from the deck. Audi says it generates 110 pounds of downforce at 155 mph, which basically means you’ll never feel it. But it looks cool.
The Audi TT keeps getting better. It looks good, handles great, and has a superb powertrain. The coupe looks a bit round and funky for us, but the roadster makes a great sports car. Call it the anti-MX5.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Sam Moses contributed to this report, with driving impressions by The Car Connection.