Sports cars seem an endangered species and nearly as hard to find as polite political discourse. So my recent landing of a new Audi TT coupe seemed quite a coup.
I hadn’t driven a TT for nine years. That’s how rare they are in the automotive test fleets. But this new third generation coupe was worth the near epochal wait.
The TT still features a slick rounded roofline and low-slung squatty appearance that made it so darned appealing when it first launched in 1998. Yet this one looks more modern, what with its LED headlights and more aggressive nose.
Looks make any sports car and the TT remains a head-turner.
But luxury performance at a reasonable price has been its hallmark and Audi doesn’t stray from that formula. A sports car, for the uninformed, isn’t a supercar. Sports cars are light and lively, the sort of car you can toss around corners and zip away from stoplights without squealing your tires and without a growling V8 sucking down another gallon of gas.
TT, for instance, features a turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 that gets 220 horsepower and delivers 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Turbos are always heavy on torque, that’s the fun part, zipping away from a stop while the “sport” utes lumber along behind you.
For the record, Audi says the TT will do 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Helping it is Audi’s nearly seamless 6-speed automatic perfectly mated to the TT. This is an S tronic system that allows you to use shift paddles behind the steering wheel to manually override the automatic.
TT is quick, but not a horsepower hog. It’s nimble, flickable and light on its wheels. Weight is 3,186 lbs. thanks to an aluminum body. Steering effort is moderate, but the TT’s low center of gravity and Quattro four-wheel-drive system help it corner with the best of its competitors. It’ll clip off a turn’s apex and scoot out of the corner flat and controlled. I’d love to run this one around Road America!
Fun to drive, but TT also rides on a 98.6-inch wheelbase, which translates to a stiff, but not punishing, sports car ride, as you’d expect. Compounding its firm ride were low-slung 18-inch summer tires that aided cornering grip. Those tires and a set of fancy wheels add $1,000 to the car’s price.
Like many sports cars and sport sedans, the TT features four driving modes via its Drive Select system – Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. Dynamic is what most car companies call Sport and the setting firms steering wheel effort to give a driver more feedback. It also holds lower gears longer for more power. The Comfort setting softened the steering some, but the other settings are only mildly different.
Braking is first rate with big ol’ disc brakes, ventilated up front to cool them quickly.
The EPA rates the TT at 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, not bad for a sports car. I got 26.0 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving and, trust me, I wasn’t light on the throttle this week.
Audi calls the TT a coupe because it’s has a rear seat, while the roadster model has a drop-top and just two seats. But no one can sit in the rear seats, certainly no adults. I call this an insurance backseat because in years past the presence of a rear seat helped lower insurance premiums. Check with your local agent!
A better option is folding the split folding rear seats down and using the generous space under the Audi’s hatch for cargo. Space is just 12 cubic feet until you drop those seats, then it more than doubles.
Beyond looks and performance, the TT’s interior is a stellar selling point. It’s designed for driving, not button pushing, so buttons are kept to a minimum and everything is well placed and easy to see and use.
The bright Tango Red metallic ($575 extra) car came with a black leather interior with aluminum trim on the console, door pulls and rings around the five circular air vents and on the steering wheel spokes.
Best of all is Audi’s delightfully legible digital dash that puts all the information you need directly in front of the driver. That includes the navigation system with Google Earth visuals, so no more side glances to a big screen dominating the center dash. This system was flawless and easy to toggle through via a button on the steering wheel hub. Bravo!
The upshot was a drastic reduction in dash buttons especially because climate controls, including three-speed heated front seats, was controlled via solitary buttons amid the five air vents. Clever and easy to see and find. Hope others copy Audi on this.
Not surprisingly, Audi’s leather seats are well formed to properly grip the driver and passenger to give support during sporty driving, but the seats are soft enough in the butt pocket to add some cushion on bumpy streets. The test car added the $1,000 S Sport seat package with Nappa leather and S Sport seats with diamond pattern stitching. It looks good and was pleasant on the tushie too!
Other goodies included the tech package with that cool nav system in the main gauge pod, plus blind-spot warning, auto-dimming and power folding side mirrors and a rearview camera with parking aid. This added $3,250. Add in an awesome Bang & Olufsen sound system for $950 and the $42,900 base price ballooned to $50,600, including delivery.
It’s easy to think that’s outlandish, at least to those of us who think $30,000 is still a good price for a car. But compared with the competition, the likes of BMW’s Z4 and Porsche’s Boxster, the Audi is a bargain among premium sports cars.
Naturally you can push the pricing envelope by going with a roadster with its cloth power drop-top. It starts at $47,325 including delivery while the more powerful TTS lists at $52,825. That coupe features a 290 horsepower turbo I4, plus 19-inch tires and wheels, magnetic ride control plus some other internal and external markings and upgrades.
I’d stick with the base model and try to avoid too many options to keep this as moderately priced as possible. Audi’s TT is easily the most fun luxury sports car I’ve driven in ages with a near perfect interior.
FAST STATS: 2016 Audi TT 2.0T Quattro
Hits: Unique sporty looks, a quick and nimble fun drive, excellent cockpit from digital dash to heated well-formed seats. No nonsense interior aimed at driving, not button pushing. Good gas mileage for sports car.
Made in: Gyor, Hungary
Engine: 2.0-liter, turbocharged I4, 220 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic S tronic
Weight: 3,186 lbs.
Length: 164.7 in.
Cargo: 12.0 cu. ft. (25 cu.ft. rear seats down)
Wheelbase: 98.6 in.
MPG: 23/30 (EPA)
MPG: 26.0 (tested)
Base Price: $42,900
Invoice: $40,793 (includes delivery)
Tango red metallic paint, $575
Technology package (Audi MMI nav system, Audi connect, Audi side assist, auto-dimming folding outside mirrors, parking system plus rearview camera), $3,250
19-inch wheel package (5-arm star design, summer tires), $1,000
S Sport seat package (Nappa leather interior, S Sport seats w/diamond stitching), $1,000
Bang & Olufsen sound system, $950
Test vehicle: $50,600
Sources: Audi, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage