What's Hot: Beautiful interior presentation, rorty engine, AWD grip, leading-edge cabin technology.
What's Not: Cramped rear, road noise on coarse surfaces, no reversing camera
X-FACTOR: The TT gets a squarer jaw, sharper lines and an upgraded 'four-pot' turbo - it's a proper sports car.
Vehicle Style: Two door sports car
Price: $77,950 (plus on-roads), $83,700 (as tested)
Engine/trans: 169kW/370Nm 2.0-litre petrol 4cyl | 6sp dual-clutch
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.4 l/100km | tested: 8.2 l/100km
Like it or not, aesthetics usually gets people in the showroom door.
It's something Audi understands better than most.
Somehow, from the boxy uninspired Audis of the 80s, Audi designers then gave the world the jaw-dropping quattro Spyder concept in 1991. And, off the back of that, in 1995, the Audi TT was born.
Twenty years and three generations later, the TT remains a beautiful vehicle, and despite modernising the exterior design, it still echoes the motifs that made the original a success.
But as much as aesthetics gets people in, a 'sports car' still has to drive well if it is to be taken seriously.
So how does TT ‘#3' fare in the real world, away from the design studio? And is its modern technology-laden interior a forward step, or just too radical?
We hit the varied road conditions of eastern Tasmania to see.
Quality: Audi knows how to make a nice interior, full stop, and the TT is no different.
Except the TT is different - to most other cars.
Sure, at first glance, it seems conventional enough for a sports car: two-plus-two seating, steering wheel to one side, glovebox on the other, centre console in, ahem, the centre.
All the elements in their place, nothing remarkable. But get behind the wheel, then you'll begin to notice that 'this is different'. Few cars are so cleverly designed around the driver.
The interior is inspired by aircraft design: the fuselage being the instrument binnacle and the long, one-piece dashboard as the wing surface. Even the air-vents are designed to look like turbine blades.
And the instrument panel, right there in front of the eyes, like a fighter jet display.
The build precision is typical Audi - perfect. The plastics and surfaces simply the best in the industry.
Everything feels solid and screwed together with precision, the metal highlights are solidly cast, and the leather is soft and with a classic grain.
The knurling on the infotainment dial is millimetre-perfect, while the airvents now house the climate controls, freeing up space. It's a brilliant approach, so you have to wonder why anyone hasn't done this before.
Comfort: The Sport model's seats have a lovely mix of leather and alcantara, helping you stay put when attacking corners.
The steering wheel is flat bottomed, allowing easier entry and exit, while the perforated texture sits exactly where your hands grip the wheel.
The rear seats are only suitable for young kids (who don't require a booster). Legroom can be adjusted - cramping the driver - but there's no headroom at all under that sloping glass hatch.
That's not the only black mark.
The rear-view mirror is shaped the wrong way to see properly out the back, and while the main cupholder is reasonably well located, the second cupholder is awkwardly placed in the centre console with a flip-down ring to hold a drink in place.
Equipment: The technology behind the scenes is perhaps what's most impressive about the TT.
Challenging convention, the traditional infotainment screen doesn't appear in the centre of the car. Instead, the entire instrument panel for the driver has been replaced by a 12.3-inch TFT display.
The traditional dials have been replaced by digital versions and pressing the 'view' button on the steering wheel sees the dials shrink into each corner of the display, while the sat-nav or settings screen envelops the rest.
This driver-focussed approach may seem a bit selfish, but the passenger can easily see the centre of the screen and can change the radio or enter in a sat-nav destination by using the centrally mounted dial and touchpad.
It's crystal clear and using either the centre MMI dial or its touch-capacitive top, the menus are within easy reach. Though navigating through them takes some time to get used to, the TT has a trick up its sleeve - voice control.
We've all seen voice control before, but Audi has based its software on everyday English, making commands a lot simpler.
For example, where finding a Chinese restaurant while driving once involved drilling down into the submenus and categories of the satellite navigation, the TT's system is intelligent enough to recognise a simple command such as “I feel like Chinese food”. The system will then search for the nearest Chinese restaurant.
There's standard Bluetooth audio and telephony,
Storage: Fold the rear seats down and the TT suddenly becomes a lot more practical, liberating 712 litres of luggage space versus the standard 320 litres.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Audi's proven 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder has come in for an upgrade, this time making 169kW and 370Nm.
That may not sound like much, but remember the TT only weighs 1230kg. That's enough to motivate the TT from 0-100kmh in 5.3 seconds, and on the roll, the TT picks up speed very easily.
Unlike turbo-fours from yesteryear, turbo lag has virtually disappeared. And with the rapid-fire six-speed dual clutch, the TT barks on each upshift with a satisfying 'whump'. It feels rorty and alive, exactly as you expect of such a sharply-focussed sports coupe.
Paddles on the steering wheel give you instant control of gear changes, although it will upshift automatically (sensibly) if you hit the redline.
Cycling through the various drive modes, from comfort to dynamic, reveals steering that weights up in the dynamic setting. While that's useful for high speed stability, in the turns it can feel a little artificial.
In fact, the most natural setting for steering feedback, strangely, is comfort mode.
You can also dial-up an 'individual' setting which allows you to tailor shift patterns, steering weight and throttle response to your own preference.
One thing you won't want to change is the level of grip. As a point and shoot machine, the TT's quattro grip and superb inherent balance puts it at home in almost any road conditions.
Tackling the side of a mountain pass, heading down a gravel track, taking the shopping home in the teeming rain - there doesn't seem to be a road that could catch the TT out.
Refinement: The jewel under the bonnet of the TT is all about balance and smoothness. In Dynamic mode, it certainly has more of a throaty sound, but it's still very pleasant on the ears and you will enjoy the way it sings.
The tyres, not so much. On coarse-chip country roads, road noise can be very loud, drowning out the detail in songs through the otherwise good stereo. It's a price to pay on our un-European-like surfaces.
Ride and Handling: The ride is firm, but the upside is brilliant handling. Even over rubbish surfaces, the wheels show no signs of letting go and even in tight hairpins the quattro system clings like a limpet.
On public roads, the grip is astounding, and it would have to be a very greasy surface to show any signs of looseness; even then, the stability control is waiting to 'put the net out'.
Now with the fifth generation of quattro (Haldex) torque apportioning, the TT takes a predictive approach to grip control, combining yaw sensors, electronic stability control and steering angle sensors to supply the highest grip in any given situation.
For example, a slippery surface such as gravel needs a more rear-biased approach.
In the TT, as soon as the front wheels start to run a little wide, the yaw sensors react quickly to send more power to the rear, reducing pressure on the front wheels, and bringing the rear around to line up for the exit of the corner.
Couple that with suspension that contours the road surface and the TT's grip is astounding.
Braking: Unlike other vehicles from the Volkswagen Group, the TT's pedal isn't overly grabby, with very good feel when washing off speed.
Up front are 312mm ventilated discs and the rear uses 300mm solid discs, each called into play when the ESC calls for torque vectoring.
ANCAP rating: While it hasn't been crash tested here, EuroNCAP lists the TT at four stars.
Safety features: Apart from grippy tyres and all-wheel-drive, helping to keep it planted on the road is an excellent ESC system, along with ABS and brake assist.
Six airbags envelop the cabin, and there's an attention alert monitor as well as tyre pressure loss monitor.
There is an “assistance package” available for $2200, which includes blind spot assist, active lane keeping, self-parking, high-beam assist and heated, folding and dimmable outside mirrors.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: The Audi Service Plan covers the TT for the first three years worth of servicing. As the intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, this is the first three services. The cost for this period is $1610.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Nissan 370Z ($56,930) - With a decidedly 'more raw' approach, the 370Z is more involving than the TT and cheaper, but it's nowhere near as refined, nor is the quality comparable.
But its rear-wheel-drive design makes it very entertaining. (see 370Z reviews)
BMW Z4sDrive20i ($79,900) - Like the 370Z, the Z4's rear-drive approach means a cleaner steering feel and it's reminiscent of an old school roadster with its long bonnet and bum-over-rear axle stance.
The TT's power and grip however will see the Z4 lose ground when conditions get a little more hairy. (see Z4 reviews)
Peugeot RCZ-R ($68,990) - Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and there's nothing styled quite as close to the TT as the RCZ-R is.
Its handling is superb and it's also just as impractical, but the Pug isn't as nice inside, nor is it as torquey. (see RCZ reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer's List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While the TT has always been about head-turning styling and a decent drive, the latest generation is decidedly gender-neutral (it ain't no 'girlie' roller skate).
With its squarer jaw and R8-esque eye-line, the TT will appeal to a far wider audience.
And it's a proper sports car. In fact, few cars on-road offer such a sublime balance of grip and handling.
Audi has upped the ante inside as well. With a brilliant implementation of voice control as well as that stunning instrument display (shared with the Lamborghini Huracan), the interior is a very nice place to be.
Yes, it has a couple of flaws, but with a nice dollop of grunt, a rorty sound when firing through the gears and build quality that sets the standard for the rest of the segment, the TT is a brilliant drive that won't break the bank.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Sport TT Coupe manual - $71,950
- Sport TT Coupe S tronic auto - $74,950
- Sport TT Coupe quattro S tronic auto - $77,950
- S line TT Coupe manual - $78,450
- S line TT Coupe S tronic auto - $82,450
- S line TT Coupe quattro S tronic auto - $85,450