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Car reviews - Audi - TT - 2.0 TDI and 1.8 TFSI Coupe

Our Opinion

We like
Effortless and torquey performance, great fuel economy, sweet six-speed manual gearshift, usual TT attributes of great design inside and out, super comfy front seats
Room for improvement
No DSG, no lighter front-wheel drive variant for now, expensive options such as metallic paint, busy ride

20 Jul 2009

IS THE Audi TT diesel the answer to a question nobody asked?

Right now, with fuel prices steady, the fact that the 125kW 2.0-litre TDI turbo-diesel is the second most economical Audi available in Australia after the eco-branded A3 1.9 TDIe might not exactly rock your world, even if it makes for impressive reading.

But, believe us, fuel prices are set to soar sooner rather than later, and before too long the amount of carbon dioxide that your ride emits may impact you in more ways than one.

So welcome the first true sports car diesel in Australia.

And with 350Nm of torque on tap, and tied to a sweet-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, the TT TDI quattro driver is hardly going to be in sports car purgatory – especially in an application as smooth and refined as this.

Typical of today’s Volkswagen Group diesel engine applications, this is an up-to-the-minute common-rail Piezo direct-injection powerplant and a fantastic ambassador for the fuel in the TT TDI quattro.

All four wheels are driven permanently – via a rear-mounted Haldex multi-plate clutch system that Audi brands ‘quattro’ but shouldn’t as it is not the Torsen differential set-up – so step-off acceleration is perhaps not as instantaneous as you might hope but, after a moment’s hesitation, strong forward thrust is the order of the day, with revs swinging up to the red line faster than you can say Vorsprung Durch Technik.

Armed with the usual electronic driver aids such as stability and traction control, it is next to impossible to perform smoking starts, so evenly metered out is the available torque, and this adds to the feeling that the TT TDI quattro is a little tardy at take-off for a sports car.

On the other hand, possession of massive amounts of grip means that sudden avoidance manoeuvres are easily handled, revealing a car with superb stability and unwavering body control.

Audi kindly flew us to Kangaroo Island to test a number of its latest model additions – which included the new base TT 1.8 TFSI with front-wheel drive that we never ended up sampling – but the long smooth straights that make up the majority of Australia’s third largest island’s roads meant that we could not ascertain how the TT TDI quattro might feel through tight corners, hairpins, heavy traffic or bad urban roads, since we could find none.

This is a disappointment since the TT is one of the sportier Audi models on offer, with its tactile steering, eager turn-in and impressive handling. Carrying an extra 130kg or so of weight – mostly over the front wheels – compared to the base model, we are left wondering ifthe TDI quattro version’s balance has been adversely affected.

Without the optional Magnetic Ride electronic damper control, the TT TDI quattro’s ride can feel unsettled over anything less that totally smooth roads, but again more representative terrain would reveal just how pliant or otherwise the diesel model is.

We can tell you that it is difficult to pick which fuel type the engine runs on from inside the TT’s beautifully presented interior. You still get to enjoy the alluringly minimalist dash design, great front seats, excellent driving position, and hatchback practicality – unless you’re stuck (literally) travelling on one of the tiny rear seats.

So, with our limited experience driving the TT TDI quattro, would we recommend it?

Of course we would, since its unique drivetrain combination of punchy economy and all-wheel-drive grip makes the TT TDI quattro an as-yet unrivalled sports car proposition in Australia.

However, we cannot help but feel that the (sadly unavailable) S-tronic DSG dual-clutch gearbox would better suit this car’s grand touring abilities than the manual on offer.

And we also suspect that having the extra weight of the diesel engine and quattro running gear means that this is not the sharpest TT on offer dynamically, if sharp handling is your top priority.

So, unless you want class-leading frugality and minimum CO2 emissions – as well as extra grip – in your 2+2-seater sports car, we would probably settle for one of the brilliant petrol-powered four-cylinder front-wheel drive TTs instead.

But, as we said earlier, you just might get a different answer to how good the intriguing TT TDI quattro is once we drive it on more representative turf.

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