REVIEW DATE: 19 Apr 2010
Audi's TT has been around for a while but shows no sign of relinquishing its grip on the compact sports car market. Steve Walker takes a look.
You don't invest in a compact sports car because it's got a big boot or good fuel economy. Both would be nice but a car like this is primarily a feel-good purchase. It should put a smile on your face when you're driving it and bring a glint to your eye when you pull the curtains and catch sight of it glistening in the morning dew on your driveway. The Audi TT comes with all of the emotional accessories that a good compact sports car should. Even better, the latest models turn in improved economy and the boot isn't bad either.
The original Audi TT deserves to go down as a great in the annals of modern car design. In 1998, we hadn't seen anything quite like it and those daring curves still hold water today alongside that finely detailed cabin. The second generation model never caused the same stir when it showed up in 2006. This TT was more formulaic Audi, displaying a clearer visual link to the rest of the marque's model range. It was still a handsome devil though and few would dispute that it was also a comprehensively better car.
Today, that second generation TT continues to seduce buyers. Expansions to the engine range have greatly widened its appeal, as have revisions to the styling and measures to keep running costs to a minimum. There are lots of other models gunning for the TT but scoring a hit on Audi's finest might just be tougher than ever.
The cornerstone of the current TT range is Audi's 2.0-litre TFSI turbocharged petrol engine. The four-cylinder unit is ubiquitous in compact and medium-sized performance cars right across the Volkswagen Group empire and its smooth, powerful character rarely fails to impress. In standard guise, the engine produces 209bhp with the aid of Audi's Valvelift technology which works in conjunction with the direct injection system to optimise the combustion process. The standard unit takes just 6.1s to get the TT through 60mph but the TTS uses the same engine with a larger turbocharger to produce 268bhp and a 5.2s sprint.
"Much of what Audi has come to represent is mirrored in the cool, modern design of the TT"
If we take the 2.0 TFSI as the mainstream engine option, it's possible to go up or down the power scale from there. The 158bhp 1.8 TFSI petrol unit is reserved for the TT Roadsder but the 168bhp 2.0 TDI diesel engine is offered in both TT bodystyles. This unit has a 7.5s time for the 0-60mph sprint and there's real muscle in the shape of 350Nm maximum torque that's produced from 1,750rpm.
All of which leaves only the mighty TT RS with its 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine achieving 345bhp with the aid of a turbocharger and 450Nm of torque. This TT has the potential to hit 174mph with its speed limiter removed and cover the 0-60mph sprint in a searing 4.6s. Fit the optional S Tronic dual clutch gearbox and that time is lowered to 4.4s.
The more powerful TT models have quattro four-wheel-drive with the lesser models sending power to the front wheels as standard. The quattro system delivers superb traction and gives the TT the means to go head to head with its predominantly rear-wheel-drive rivals at the top end of the sports coupe market. Some enthusiasts will turn their noses up at the idea of a front-wheel-drive sports car but the TT still handles with real poise and agility in this guise so the entry-level models shouldn't be discounted.
The TT has always had style on its side in the battle to win sales from the other compact sports cars around at its price point. The latest models sharpen-up their looks with an aggressive front bumper design incorporating larger air intakes and a diffuser integrated into the more subtly restyled bumper at the rear. An even more purposeful look can be obtained by upgrading to an S Line model, the TTS or the TT RS, which get progressively more extreme in their exterior design.
The cabin of the TT retains the special feel that has marked the TT out since the word go. Yes, visibility is less than panoramic but that fascia still feels smart, with greater use of classy aluminium finishes than ever. The latest car borrows from the original TT's design, with the chrome-ringed speedo and rev counter housed in their own cowl and the round air vents, but also adds a few contemporary design touches such as the gorgeous flat-bottomed steering wheel, the angled centre console and a sporty seating position. There's decent luggage space but space in the back seats could still be generously described as woeful.
All mainstream TT models now come in either Sport or S Line trim - the exceptions being the entry-level 1,8 TFSI TT Roadster (which comes in a lower spec 'standard' guise) and the TTS and TT RS high performance derivatives. In Sport trim, there's leather and Alcantara upholstery, 17" alloy wheels and a 9-speaker stereo as well as climate control, a trip computer and front fog lights. The S Line adds sports suspension that's 10mm lower, sports seats, Xenon headlights with LED running lights and a host of styling upgrades.
The TT uses a mix of aluminium and steel in its construction to optimise weight distribution and rides on an independent suspension system with McPherson struts at the front and a four-link trailing arm arrangement at the rear. Audi's Magnetic Ride adaptive damper technology is available as an optional extra on mainstream models and allows the driver to select Sport or Normal modes for a firmer or more comfortable ride depending on the driving conditions. Magnetic Ride can also be accompanied by the Sport button as debuted on the TT RS, this also adapts the engine note, the power steering and the throttle response (on manual cars only) for a livelier feel.
We've seen the TT range expand upwards with barnstorming TTS and RS performance models but there have also been developments in the lower reaches of the range with a view to conserving fuel. The 2.0 TDI and 1.8 TFSI models now feature Audi's energy recuperation system which recaptures kinetic energy when the car is coasting or braking to charge the battery. The result is highly impressive 53mpg fuel economy for the 2.0 TDI models with 139g/km emissions. The 2.0 TFSI TTs manage 42mpg with 154g/km emissions which is also a strong showing considering the performance they achieve.
Audi hasn't been short of success of late but even against the backdrop of the brand's eye-catching accomplishments, the TT sports car must still go down as a highlight. Much of what Audi has come to represent is mirrored in the cool, modern design of the TT and a diverse range makes sure it stays affordable while still being taking seriously by enthusiast drivers.
From the 53mpg 2.0 TDI model to the 345bhp TT RS, the Audi TT range has something to offer the majority of buyers in the market for compact sports cars. In front or four-wheel-drive guise, it offers tenacious grip and nimble handling with the refinement to make it a rewarding daily drive. Sitting in the back seats isn't a realistic possibility for most adults but few rivals do significantly better, if they have four seats at all, and otherwise, the TT remains a highly worthwhile investment.
The results below show the top TT deals on buyacar
|Audi TT 2.0T FSI Sport 2dr S Tronic  coupe|
|Audi TT 1.8T FSI S Line 2dr  roadster|
|Audi TT 2.0T FSI Black Edition 2dr coupe special editions|
|Audi TT 2.0T FSI Quattro S Line 2dr S Tronic roadster|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT TT DEALS|
|For TT COUPE RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.6 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||5|
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