It may have been around for more than a decade now, but the Audi TT is still a sports car that catches the eye. Already in its second generation, the TT’s low-slung stance, arced roofline and muscular haunches suggest a level of aspirational appeal usually only accorded much more exotic – and more expensive – machinery. Why then has Audi just given the TT model range a facelift and rationalised it? By DEON SCHOEMAN.
Audi’s TT has been a favourite among sports car fans ever since the first generation made its debut more than a decade ago. Much of its early success was due to the fact that the production version remained true to the crowd-pleasing concept car.
Thus, when the first TT made its official debut back in 1996, it brought truly aspirational, blue-blooded sports car motoring to a wider audience and made its occupants feel really special. No wonder the first-generation TT was an instant hit.
Not even an unfortunate tendency to oversteer at high speed could dampen the enthusiasm of a fast-growing and adoring fan base. Audi stiffened the suspension and added a rear wing to keep the errant rear in check – and the TT marched on, undeterred.
The original TT, all voluptuous curves and concept car cute, was always going to be a hard act to follow. And yes, it’s true that the second-generation TT, which made its world debut in 2006, lacks some of the design originality of its predecessor.
That said, TT Mark II is larger, sleeker and more sophisticated and, like its predecessor, it’s offered in both coupé and roadster versions.
Four years later, the second-generation TT has just undergone a mild facelift. The changes include a rationalised model range comprising six versions, all now powered by the same 2,0-litre turbo engine.
As before, you get to choose between coupé and roadster versions, and between manual and S-tronic dual-clutch gearboxes, while quattro all-wheel drive is an option, too. But the 3,2-litre V6 engine has been ditched, probably because it’s too thirsty and too dirty for a brand cultivating a greener image.
You need to look closely at the TT – coupé or roadster – to spot the subtle exterior changes. The essence of the design hasn’t changed: the lines are as cleanly sculpted, the shape as Bauhaus-elegant as ever. If anything, the changes add bits where none were needed.
Most of the extras appear to have been raided from the S-line parts bin. A subtle body kit adds a polished black radiator grille, a deeper front bumper with bigger air intakes, extended sills and rear apron with an integrated diffuser to both the TT Coupé and Roadster models.
Also new are the headlights with integrated daytime running lights, and redesigned 17-inch wheels – although it has to be said that the TT looks even better with optional 18-inch alloys.
I suppose one should be grateful that the changes haven’t compromised the essence of the TT. The silhouette remains unsullied, and the new elements only augment what is already there. The only difference is that you don’t need to shell out extra dosh for the S-line look.
Under the bonnet, all six models in the revised TT range use the same, two-litre TFSI engine. In this, its most recent iteration, the four-cylinder , 1,998cc turbo unit employs direct injection and Audi’s Valve Lift System to combine more muscle with reduced fuel consumption and lower emissions.
Not too long ago, increasing power while reducing consumption would have been considered a magic curtain trick, but in this brave new era of eco-responsible efficiency and green technology, it’s very much an accepted, even expected, norm.
The all-aluminium TFSI lump has a maximum power output of 155kW, available in a generous power band between 4,300 and 6,000rpm. The 350Nm torque peak is already on stream by the time the rev counter reads 1,600rpm, and is sustained all the way to 4,200rpm.
But here’s the interesting bit. Audi claims that the new engine is 14% more fuel efficient. Which means you get more kilometres from every tank. Or more urge, if you use the loud pedal with the eager enthusiasm a true sports car demands.
That makes Audi’s claims about fuel consumption and exhaust emissions seem a little academic when compared to real-world sports car driving. But the potential is there – if you pilot it like a ninny with a tennis ball wedged under the alloy accelerator.
Audi sent us two versions of the new TT to try out. The specs for the front-wheel drive TT Coupé with S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox show a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of just 7,1 litres/100km, together with a CO2 emissions rating of 164g/km.
Our second steed, a TT Roadster with the same engine and gearbox, but with the extra grip of quattro all-wheel drive, sips a claimed 7,4 litres/100km and emits 172g/km of CO2. However, our real-world consumption on these two versions came to 10,7 litres/100km and 12,2 litres/100km – not bad, given our leadfoot driving style!
If the exterior update is more a matter of detail than redesign, then you need to be an Audi anorak to spot the differences in the cabin. And again, much of what was good about the pre-facelift interior has been retained.
It’s still a snug and well-packaged cockpit, with ample space for two, and a particular focus on efficient ergonomics. Remember, it was the baseball glove-inspired interior of the TT concept that set the quality standard for all Audis that followed – and these facelifted versions live up to that reputation.
They also get some extras, including Bluetooth phone preparation, heat-protected leather upholstery, multifunction steering wheels, and F1-style gearshift paddles in the case of S-tronic versions. There’s more brightwork, too – but not enough to look garish.
In practical terms, the Coupé is easily the more prudent choice. While the rear seats are token items only, they do fold flat to boost luggage space. A wide-opening tailgate makes for easy access. By comparison, the Roadster’s luggage compartment is no more than adequate – and the loading aperture is quite narrow.
While we’re on the subject of the boot, the lack of an external boot release drove us dilly. There is a release switch in the driver’s door, and the remote key also has a boot release button. But neither is a real substitute for the usually obligatory boot release button or catch.
Of course, the glamorous roadster is the perfect foil for the coupé’s rather more prudent execution. The ragtop really turns heads when driving roof-down, but SA summers are frankly too hot, and our seasonal thunderstorms too sudden, for constantly roofless motoring – except during the early morning or late afternoon.
Still, driving the ragtop is at its best with the canvas hood folded away. After all, that’s what the Roadster was designed for. It feels impressively solid, with no real scuttle shake to speak of, and you get to experience the car up close and personal.
At 5,8 seconds for the zero-to-100 dash, it’s certainly quick enough, while the 242km/h top speed is a talent even the most ardent driver is unlikely to explore on a regular basis.
Here’s a question: How big a difference does quattro really make? Well, compared back-to-back with the front-wheel drive coupé, the all-wheel drive Roadster feels more composed off the mark and is much better at coping with tram-lining and torque steer.
The front-wheel drive Coupé, meanwhile, struggles to get the power down when accelerating away hard – and the 0-100km/h sprint takes 0,2 seconds longer. But with less drivetrain drag, the coupé will always achieve the higher top speed: 245km/h in this instance.
Also, the front-wheel drive TT’s steering is sharper and more responsive – and the tauter, stiffer chassis makes cornering a surgically precise process.
In wet weather, on rain-slicked tar, the differences are even more pronounced, with the Roadster confidently sticking to the chosen line. Even at the limit, there isn’t any terminal understeer or tail-wagging, while the steering remains progressive and positive. With only two-wheel drive, the Coupé can be skittish when pressing on in the wet.
All TTs feature independent front suspension, an all-disc braking system with ABS, EBD and EBA, and ESP stability control, which can be switched off. And quattro or not, the low centre of gravity, and fat run-flat rubber all translate into impressive road manners, albeit at the cost of ultimate ride refinement.
In essence, the latest, updated range remains faithful to the core TT values. It’s neither really hard core nor particularly exclusive, but offers an attractive mix of swift performance, wieldy road manners, a comfortably appointed interior and a shape that still attracts attention.
But perhaps the most impressive aspect is the reduction in fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, without compromising dynamic talent.
Which brings us back to the original question: Did the second-generation Audi TT need an upgrade at all? The visual extras look okay, but are probably superfluous. The engine upgrade, however, deserves its place under the TT bonnet. And if you can afford it, quattro is a worthwhile extra.
After all, it’s what’s under the skin that really matters! DM
Deon Schoeman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Watch the Audi TT on RPM TV, broadcast weekly on SuperSport. Transmission times on the RPM TV website.
VITAL STATS: AUDI TT COUPÉ 2.0 TFSI S-TRONIC
Engine: In-line four-cylinder, 1 998 cc, turbocharged
Power: 155 kW at 4 300 rpm
Torque: 350 Nm at 1 600 rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed S-Tronic
0-100 km/h: 6,0 sec
Top speed: 245 km/h
Fuel consumption: 7,1 litres/100 km (combined cycle)
CO2 emissions: 164 g/km
Price: R440 680
"The soul is known by its acts" ~ Thomas Aquinas