What is it? The Audi TT coupé Mk3 is the latest generation of Audi’s distinctive sports car
Key features: Lightweight build, new chassis, digital ‘virtual cockpit’
Our view: On the evidence of our first drive, the new Audi TT coupé will maintain its predecessors’ astonishing success
To many observers the TT coupé is the car that initiated Audi’s meteoric rise to the leading premium brand it is today.
When the first Audi TT coupé was unveiled as a concept in 1995, its Bauhaus-inspired styling won instant admirers. And those admirers became customers when the concept reached production with virtually no changes, very much not the norm at the time.
In those days Audi was a brand in the shadow of rivals BMW and Mercedes, with a range of 17 models planning its first Le Mans 24 Hours campaign. Since then there have been 13 Le Mans wins, Audi has become the top premium brand in the UK, and the third-generation TT joins a model line-up of some 47 cars.
These include an even more performance-orientated model in the R8, and the styling of the new TT relates to its more potent sibling by means of a mimicking style to the grille and front bumper. And the motorsports success is also marked, the signature daytime running lights including a vertical stroke replicating the headlamps of the latest Le Mans winner.
Overall the TT’s exterior visuals are an evolution of its predecessors, applied to a shell that takes full advantage of the latest Audi Space Frame technology hybrid construction – 27 per cent of it formed from aluminium. So while the new TT is virtually the same size as the outgoing version, it weighs up to 50 kilos lighter.
One dimension has changed significantly – the wheelbase is 37mm longer, which gives the car much more of a wheel on each corner stance and frees up some extra interior space, including extending the boot capacity by 13 litres to 305 litres (712 with the rear seats folded down). But this is still very much a 2+2 machine, with very limited rear seat space.
Stepping inside the Audi TT coupé reveals one of the biggest headlines – a radically redesigned cabin. Audi’s ‘virtual cockpit’ debuts in the car with the touchscreen relocated from the centre console to the dash.
Said screen is a 12.3-inch LCD display that stretches right across the instrument binnacle and incorporates the rev counter and speedometer dials. By the touch of a button on the steering wheel the two either dominate the screen or are reduced in size to reveal more of the sat nav map – or courtesy of the options list Google Earth satellite images.
In conjunction with the MMI dial between the seats, this screen controls all the usual functions – from navigation to vehicle settings, phone to audio, leaving the heating and ventilation controls on the centre console. Except that these are not in their traditional positions, but neatly incorporated into the core of each air vent. Overall it’s a minimalist cabin and highly attractive.
The new Audi TT coupé launches with a simple, two-way engine choice – both of 2 litres, petrol or diesel. Both are matched to a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel-drive transmission, while the petrol unit can also be specified with the S-tronic auto ‘box and quattro all-wheel-drive. The diesel earns Audi’s ‘ultra’ badge for its most efficient models, thanks to best CO2 emissions figures of 110g/km and combined cycle fuel economy of 67.3mpg.
On the launch event, The Car Expert tested both engines, and they are both very effective. While the petrol unit is at least a second quicker to 62mph than the diesel – 6.0sec versus 7.1sec – the latter does not feel at all sluggish, accelerating crisply and smoothly.
Combining the petrol unit with quattro all-wheel drive and the S-tronic twin-clutch gearbox significantly cuts sprint times further. A full seven tenths faster to 62mph, it is also very assured. During the launch its advantages were very evident in the tricky conditions of rain-lashed twisty Scottish roads, the rapid transmission adding a very satisfactory blip sound to each change.
More options will arrive soon, in the shape of the 305bhp engine of the Audi TTS, still of 2.0 litres and expected on the roads in March 2015. And as in previous TT generations, there will be a Roadster variant.
The chassis has benefited from the latest tech, principally Audi’s drive select active driving system, standard on all TTs. Comfort, Dynamic, Efficiency, Individual or Auto modes can be selected through the MMI, each adjusting engine settings, steering and transmission. In Efficiency mode it even alters the air conditioning and the start-stop system, while on all-wheel drive versions shutting down the quattro when only front-wheel propulsion is required.
Drive select tops the complex chassis setup, but the TT remains only a very good car to drive, not an excellent one. It doesn’t quite have the precise, direct feel of a purist sports car, but as an overall package it is still impressive.
Prices for the new Audi TT start at £29,860 – some £4,000 more expensive than its predecessor but reflecting the major advances in the technology evident in this car.
It’s available in Sport and S line trim, the latter adding LED head and tail lamps, 19-inch wheels and extra body styling, plus as a no-cost option bespoke sports suspension that reduces the ride height by 10mm.
The UK is the biggest market for the Audi TT – even beating Germany – and the first generation car sold 50,000, the second 60,000. Can the Mk3 TT maintain such success? On the evidence of our first drive, most certainly. The car is packed with totally up-to-date technology in basically the same distinctive shell – it will certainly sell.
Audi TT coupé – key specifications
Model Tested: Audi TT 2.0TDI Ultra Sport, 2.0 TFSI quattro S line
On Sale: First deliveries January 2015
Range price: £29,860-£35,335
Insurance group: TBC
Engines: 2.0-litre petrol, 2.0-litre diesel
Power (bhp): 226, 181
Torque (lb/ft): 273, 280
0-62mph (sec): 6.0 (5.3*), 7.1
Top speed (mph): 155, 150
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 47.9 (44.1*), 67.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 137 (149*), 110
Key rivals: BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Porsche Cayman
Test Date: October 2014
* = with quattro all-wheel-drive, s-tronic gearbox