Fast-paced and technologically focused – this description fits the 2017 Audi TT S as much as it forms a succinct summary of the global environment these days.
Two decades ago when Audi’s first-generation two-door sports coupe was unveiled, folks were still connecting to the internet via a bleating 56K modem. The TT became a design icon, avant-garde in a simpler era.
Finally, however, the values of this third-gen Audi TT should go hand-in-hand with the times, particularly in flagship-for-now TT S trim.
Or, conversely, have newer contenders now overshadowed this clearly evolutionary design? What does this latest $100,000 sports car do to stand out in an age where, for example, a certain upstart manufacturer has made electric cars cool?
Vehicle Style: Sports coupe
Price: $99,855 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 210kW/380Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.8 l/100km | Tested: 9.3 l/100km
Audi’s wholly 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder range starts at $73,950 plus on-road costs for the 6.0-second 0-100km/h, 169kW six-speed manual coupe. Choosing all-wheel drive costs $80,355 (plus orc) and forces the selection of an auto.
It’s a decent step to this TT S at $99,855 (plus orc), which raises power to 210kW and torque by 10Nm to 380Nm, while claiming a lower 4.7-second 0-100km/h.
The auto-only range-topper – at least until the TT RS arrives later this year – may sport an evolutionary exterior, but its interior is as revolutionary as that inside every new TT. With a 12.4-inch colour screen ahead of the driver, it does away with any centre screen. Even the climate controls nestle inside jet-turbine-style air vents.
And with that, the TT S starts to strut its stuff down the catwalk.
- Standard Equipment: Keyless auto-entry and push-button start, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather-trimmed electrically adjustable sports front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, cruise control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and automatic headlights and wipers
- Infotainment: 12.4-inch colour screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 10Gb flash memory, twin USB and SD card inputs, satellite navigation, digital radio, voice control and nine speakers
- Options Fitted: $6300 S performance package (Nappa leather trim, matrix LED headlights, privacy glass and Bang and Olufsen 12-speaker audio) and $700 Vegas Yellow paint
- Cargo Volume: 305 litres
Audi’s iconic TT shape continues to pinch the roofline upwards from the point where front passenger heads place inside. With long and pillarless front doors, this is unashamedly a two-seat sports coupe with a couple of ‘sometimes’ seats in the rear.
At only 4.19 metres long, parking the TT S would hardly be harder than in a five-door Toyota Corolla of similar length. Actually, the latter stretches 14cm further. Yet the liftback Audi also has a larger boot, at 305 litres, plus each side of the twin-seat rear quarters can drop to create surprising space and practicality.
The upshot of this is that, while sports cars are inherently a selfish driver-focused proposition, the TT S ousts some coupes by having a rear seat that folds and rear glass that lifts up. The larger Jaguar F-Type and Porsche Cayman can’t match it.
And speaking of rivals being unable to match this Audi, the dashboard design of this sports car wins a design trifecta – ultra-stylish, high-quality and intuitively ergonomic.
Having all trip computer, audio infotainment, navigation and phone controls displayed ahead of the driver is perplexing at first. It just doesn’t feel natural scrolling through iPod albums and selecting songs, then changing audio settings, all within the one binnacle. As with all Audis, however, there is a choice of using steering wheel controls or the console rotary dial and buttons, which mostly mimic each other.
In time it all becomes intuitive and there is no time lag when changing between screens and functions. The display is a wonderfully high-resolution unit with classy graphics, too. It’s a fine match for the soft-touch plastics, aluminium trim parts, lovely trio of central airvents and minimalist, yet intelligent, button arrangement.
The front seats are positioned low and are heavily bolstered, teamed with a great driving position and lovely, thin-rimmed leather steering wheel. The greatest issue with this TT S is, however, price and equipment.
A head-up display, active cruise control and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are all unavailable.
The superb 19-speaker Bang and Olufsen audio system forms part of a $6300 package, as fitted to our test car, that brings equally premium Nappa leather trim as well as matrix LED headlights with dynamic front indicators – which extend the depth and cornering abilities of the LED lights, and provides a line of blinker bulbs moving from the inside towards the outside of the car, respectively.
Even then, automatic high-beam – which can ‘block out’ the strand of light affecting only forward and oncoming traffic, leaving the rest of the road flooded with light – forms part of a $1900 assistance package that brings automatic park assistance, a blind-spot monitor and auto-dipping passenger mirror when reverse is selected.
For a model focused on design and technology, the latter brief is lacking.
ON AND OFF THE ROAD
- Engine: 210kW/380Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic, AWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and multi-link independent rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
Once accused of being a two-door Volkswagen Golf R, the Audi TT S has come of age. Yes, the on-demand all-wheel drive system remains similar, and the platform and engine virtually the same. But the coupe feels lighter and tighter, as it should.
Surprisingly there is turbo lag off the line in the TT S. Or it’s the effect of the six-speed dual-clutch ‘S tronic’ transmission – sadly a manual is no longer available – slipping slightly on take-off, because 380Nm is made from 1800rpm until 5200rpm.
Thankfully pace piles on thick and strong towards 210kW being produced between 5300rpm and 6200rpm. Best turn the ‘dynamic’ engine sound function off in the settings menu, though – it delivers a fake, burdened blare through the speakers when the actual engine sounds nicer.
Together with smooth and slick variable-ratio steering, the TT S feels as nimble and agile as it should around town.
It is hardly the most comfortable sports coupe around, though. The adaptive suspension seems to have among the smallest differences when moving from ‘comfort’ to ‘auto’ to ‘dynamic’. Where a Golf R can be cossetting, or firmly disciplined, or hardened, the Audi is more like hardened, or harder, or hardest.
Along with ample road noise, the effects of the TT S suspension can be tiring.
Thankfully, the all-wheel drive flagship does all the right things through a twisty road. It certainly isn’t as sublime as a BMW M2 or Porsche Cayman, but it feels less bulky than a Jaguar F-Type and less half-hearted than the Mercedes-Benz SLC roadster.
Sharp front-end response is met with steadfast changes of direction at speed, where the TT S at once feels grippy and planted, yet also small and agile.
In ‘dynamic’ mode the drive system proactively adds torque to the back wheels to help eliminate understeer and provide some rear-driven feel. The effects are small, but noticeable and quite delicious.
The TT S does not, however, get the special centre differential offered in its RS3 ultra-hot-hatchback stablemate, which further enhances its handling.
ANCAP rating: 4/5 Stars – the Audi TT range scored 29.70 out of 36 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2015.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Audi’s three-year/45,000km servicing package includes three dealer checks, each year or 15,000km, for a total price of $1610 – or $537 each.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The RS3 and M2 are brilliant driver’s cars, and quicker than this TT S, while a Cayman is more expensive but feels like a mini-supercar on the road. None have the design focus of this TT S, though.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Fully specified, the Audi TT S absolutely makes good on the promises its nameplate has set out for itself over the past two decades – it is stylish, with a high-quality cabin and some forward-thinking technology.
However, the lack of AEB and active cruise – to name but two features – illustrates how quickly technology benchmarks change even before turning a key, while a long options list further hurts the cause of a car that already starts with a high entry price.
On the road this latest Audi is a good fun sports coupe, but particularly given its compromised ride, greater depth is expected for a six-figure pricetag. These days the TT S is pushed from above by a Cayman, and from below by M2 and even an RS3.
This slick, sleek trend-setter remains impressive, if not holistically convincing.
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