Break-out products are increasingly rare in the modern automotive world of incremental improvement. But at the turn of the millennium Audi achieved just that with its first-generation TT. Making the transition almost completely unaltered from motor show concept to production reality, the original TT was the ballsy product of a very confident company, and one that changed a lot of perceptions.
The problem with such products is always the follow-up. How do you improve on something that, despite some foibles, proved to be such a smash-hit? With the second-generation TT Audi believes it has found a simple solution – you erase those glitches, and you keep the essence the same. Has it been successful?
The same, but notTT is all about style. The first-generation car’s brave Bauhaus design contributed significantly to its overall appeal. But time, and fashion, has moved on. While the new Audi TT 2.0 TFSI retains its predecessor’s narrow window line, arched roof and basic silhouette, the details are rather different and the dimensions stretched.
The latter is particularly evident at the rear, where the rounded rump has been extended significantly to not only allow for more packing space under the rear hatch, but also to incorporate an electronic spoiler.
The car also appears noticeably wider than the previous model, which combined with its low height endows it with a very squat, muscular appearance, beefed up further by those flared wheel arches that are so perfectly filled by 18-inch alloy wheels. Overall, TT generation two may lack the stop-you-in-your-tracks look of the original, but it’s arguably a more balanced, neater design.
Class-leading cabinAudi has been on an impressive run when it comes to cabins, and the TT doesn’t disappoint. Featuring plenty of input from South African interior designer Oona Scheepers, the perceived quality and stylish design are unmatched by any other coupe rival. The overall look is similar to the previous models, but the various elements are less obviously from the VW parts bin.
The facia is constructed mostly from an expensive looking (and feeling) soft-touch plastic, and convincing aluminium trim inserts add a dash of class. The circular, pod-like ventilation outlets of the previous model have been retained, but now there are more of them. The instrumentation, housed in deep-set dials with a digital display between them, is superb.
For the keen driver, what stands out most, however, is the driving position. The seat’s default position is lower, the transmission lever is placed higher, and the steering wheel boasts generous rake and reach adjustment.
The seats themselves are superb, too, boasting excellent lateral support. Audi has done well to use the more generous dimensions to endow the TT with a more spacious-feeling cabin, without making the car feel “big”. Rear legroom is still very tight, though, and the limited headroom means it is only really suitable for children or contortionists.
Sharper, more agilePerhaps the previous TT’s biggest failing – its unconvincing dynamics – was an area of specific focus for Audi’s engineers. Quattro all-wheel drive or not (or because of it), the first-generation TT failed to engage the driver, felt rather heavy at the front and understeered too soon. This entry level version of the Audi TT 2.0 TFSI no longer features all-wheel drive, which results in a considerable weight saving.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the new car’s construction uses a lot of aluminium – in fact nearly 70 % of TT consists of this lightweight material. Then there’s also a new multi-link rear suspension (the previous car had a torsion beam arrangement) and due to the wider tracks and its construction, the centre of gravity is significantly improved.
Does it all work? Oh yes… There’s a harmony or, perhaps a better word is “fluidity”, to the TT’s major controls that was seriously lacking in the previous model. Although Audi has resisted the temptation of simply adding weight to the steering, the feel has improved while the effort required from the driver remains minimal. The crispness of its responses, whether driving slow or fast, is eerily engaging and immediately forges a far stronger bond between man and machine.
Dive into a corner and you’ll notice that the body control is exceptional and the car retains a feeling of agility where the previous one would start feeling clumsy. The brakes are superb, easy to modulate and scrubs off vast speed time and time again without fade. And upon corner exit, where quattro would’ve theoretically allowed for earlier throttle application, the new car’s nose is far better planted, so you don’t miss all-wheel drive at all.
As an option, Audi will also sell you a magnetic ride system that essentially gives you adjustable damping to firm up the ride and to further improve handling, but the basic set-up will certainly be good enough for most. In fact, consider the driving experience transformed, all for the better.
Just enough powerPowering this TT is Audi’s proven 2.0-litre turbocharged, direct-injection petrol engine that delivers 147 kW and 280 Nm of torque, the latter figure available over a very wide engine speed range, from 1 800 to 5 000 rpm. Consequently, the Audi TT 2.0 TFSI is never lacking in punch.
Audi’s claimed 0-100 km/h time of 6.6 seconds is very realistic, but just as impressive is the fact that, when driven normally, the fuel economy is impressive too. The engine sends its power to the front wheels only using a superb six-speed manual transmission.
VerdictSo, what’s wrong with the second-generation TT? To be honest, not much… Yes, it’s still not the most practical car around, being essentially a two-seater with a decently sized boot, but that’s not really what it’s about.
It’s a very attractive, beautifully made car that is now also a lot of fun to drive. The second-generation TT is a clever evolution of a design icon, having added a large dose of substance to that style. It’s no longer just a pretty face.
We don’t like:
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 147 kW @ 5 100-6 000 rpm
Torque: 280 Nm @ 1 800-5 000 rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Top speed: 240 km/h
0-100 km/h: 6.6 seconds
Fuel economy: 7.7 litres/100 km
BMW 325i Coupe:
A stunning driver’s car, but has fairly “normal” styling next to the Audi, so those who want to stand out may not be impressed. A more practical, spacious cabin is the main benefit.
Undoubtedly boasts superstar looks, but the price is high and the package comes nowhere near the levels of finesse displayed by the Audi. Some build quality worries, too.
A somewhat oddball choice but the Mazda is destined for future classic status due to its quirky suicide door packaging and high-rev rotary engine. A quality product, and an engaging one at that. Long-term reliability uncertain.