Review: Audi TT

The most evident change is the 3D radiator grille and, on all but the standard car, a more aggressive set of air ducts. On test here is the 45 Coupe quattro with S-Line specification and the S-Tronic gearchange, painted pulse orange
The most evident change is the 3D radiator grille and, on all but the standard car, a more aggressive set of air ducts. On test here is the 45 Coupe quattro with S-Line specification and the S-Tronic gearchange, painted pulse orange
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Audi should have a smart and intuitive website for its models. You might expect no less from a such a stylish carmaker – except that like many other sites it does not offer a straightforward “on the road” price list. To get that information you must navigate through the permutations of engines and trim and paints, tra la la, then various other diversions such as finance deals, until in smaller print you’ll find the price you pay – which surely is what we are interested in knowing at the start.

I was researching the TT seen here. The model dates from 1998 and is sold as a two-seater soft top with a boot and as a coupe with Plus 2 rear seats and a fastback tailgate. We are now on the third generation. For the record, prices start at £31,565 for the Sport 40 TFSI. Oddly, this engine is only offered with S-Tronic automatic gears.

The TT name commemorates the original Tourist Trophy motor bike races on the Isle of Man in which NSU and DKW had success. They became part of what is now Audi and are represented in the four-ring brand logo.

The first TTs were judged unstable at high speed swerves – which was resolved with suspension tweaks and the addition of an air-streaming lip on the tail, which also disrupted the clean design.

The body’s spare, functional and pleasing aesthetics reminded us of the influence of the Bauhaus art school in pre-Second World War Germany. Vestiges of that elegance remain in the current TT but the demands of marketing and evolution and greater performance have led to the harsher, brutal grimace of today’s car. Sales have passed the 600,000 mark in the TT’s two decades, years which have seen the Audi brand take its place in the German peerage. The 2014 TT had a mild facelift for this year. The most evident feature is the complex 3D radiator grille from the R8 and on all but the standard car, a more aggressive set of air ducts. The very impressive virtual cockpit display has been brought up to date but the big changes are out of sight, under the bonnet.

The 1.8 litre petrol turbo engine has been replaced with a beefier 2-litre petrol turbo, badged 40 TFSI with 194 bhp and front-wheel drive. A 242 bhp version, familiar in various VW Group hot cars, is badged as the 45 and is available with quattro 4x4 drive which can send total drive to either the front or rear wheels. Gearboxes: the new, quicker shifting 7-speed twin clutch S-Tronic automatic comes with both models, while a six-speed manual is an option on the “45” with front-drive.

The test car here is the 45 Coupe quattro with S-Line specification and the S-Tronic gearchange: from £38,650. The S-Line brings lowered sports suspension, forged 19 inch wheels, cosmetic changes and huggier sports seats with leather and Alcantara upholstery. The headlamps are LED, while at the back it has “travelling” LED indicators. (You can move up to the Black Edition with 20-inch forged wheels, fixed rear spoiler and smoked rear glass for another £1,600.) None of the models has a reversing camera in the standard pack. There is a sensor and guide lines but if you want a reversing camera you will need the £1,450 “comfort and sound pack”.

The TT’s controls are brilliant. It doesn’t have a touch screen. There isn’t room for one anyway. Instead, behind the steering wheel, there is the full width “virtual” display which can be configured using buttons or a large alloy rotary selector between the seats to enlarge or shrink information. It is hard to beat. The mapping is terrific, too. You may also call up things like addresses and telephone numbers using a speaker button but it was not reliable.

The demo car was painted pulse orange (£575) – a shade of ochre which with the fatter new face certainly did the trick with bystanders. High beam headlamp dipping was a useful option at £160 and an RS steering wheel added £795.

It is fast – the 0-62mph time is a storming 5.2 seconds. The acceleration grip is sound thanks to quattro traction. The engine and exhaust note are unexciting – nothing like the tune from a Porsche Cayman which now sits with the TT in the Volkswagen Group. However, the Cayman is more expensive and does not have rear seats.

I spared myself the effort of trying out the TT’s back seats. I could see it was not going to be easy. They would take a child seat, a dog or two, some shopping. Or the backrests fold flat to increase the luggage space.

There are several modes of drive control. It arrived on dynamic and I set it to comfort and it was not at all a comfort. The ride is hard – but then it is a high-performance sports coupe on big wheels with shallow tyres. I had less tolerance of the noise between the road and the wide and skinny Bridgestone Potenza tyres. As my friend Alfie the clock mender says about all sorts of things, it is what it is.

Verdict: Exciting. Natty alloy quick release racing fuel flap.