Car reviews - Audi - TT - 2.0 TFSI quattro Coupe
Brilliant engine, perhaps Audi’s best DSG application, usual TT design merits, versatility, exquisiteness of craftsmanship, beautiful interior, super-smooth drivetrain, great economy, surefooted performance
Room for improvement
Firm ride, expensive desirable options, sometimes DSG can be abrupt with delays, useless rear seat for adults
1 Oct 2009
TODAY’S second-generation Audi TT is like Brad Pitt in Babel or Inglourious Basterds – ageing nicely but with more substance than ever.
By contrast, the wayward 1998 original’s VW Golf IV-based underpinnings were the acting craft’s equivalent of Jennifer Aniston ...
With some Audis of late, less is more. Bigger engines and extra kit seem to tip the fragile steering and ride balance on the latest A4 for instance, and the same applies to today’s TT. On this Golf V-based Audi TT, going for the lean and lithe four-cylinder version is a no-brainer for people who love to drive.
However, for Australian TT buyers, AWD has until now been the provenance only of the heavier 3.2 V6 quattro, leaving the four-pot as a front-drive-only proposition.
The super 147kW/280Nm 2.0-litre TFSI four-cylinder turbo petrol powerplant pilfered from the Golf GTI was left without the Haldex all-wheel-drive system (that the Ingolstadt firm misleadingly refers to ‘quattro’ since it does not have the Torsen differential of the larger models).
And good as the heavily modified Golf V chassis is – which, for the TT Mk2, also incorporates space-frame construction featuring both aluminium and steel construction – FWD is hardly the sports car holy grail.
Serious drivers were probably better off saving tens of thousands of dollars and going for the GTI instead.
Happily, Audi has come to its senses and now the engine and gearbox combination we have all been waiting for is finally a TT reality – all yours for only an extra $2700.
But does the 2.0 TFSI quattro’s legs work the catwalk with as much poise as the TT’s high couture?
Soon this silhouette will be celebrating 15 years since the concept car stole the 1995 Frankfurt motor show and – droopy nose aside – its confluence of timelessness and originality continues to mesmerise.
But how much more elegant would the TT be if it lost that garish grille treatment, which ironically enough looks like the Audi is wearing a WW2 gas mask?
Credit where it’s due, however: we cannot think of another bespoke two-door 2+2 coupe for under $100K we would rather have. There’s no more Toyota Celica, Honda Integra or Ford Capri. Everything else is just a rehashed sedan or hatch.
And that’s before you even open the door.
The cabin, too, is a unique masterpiece of design and execution.
No surprises there after two decades of breathtaking Audi cabins, yet the Hungarian-built coupe’s interior still has the ability to impress you in a deep, deep way.
The dash top is finished in an expensive rubberized material that exposes a horizontal ridge like it is stretched over an athlete’s spine.
Directly ahead of the low-slung driver is a binnacle reminiscent of the TT’s roofline, featuring four dials in classic formation – tacho and speedo flanking smaller temperature and fuel gauges in between, with an LED window for digital speed readout, trip computer, time, gear selection and sundry other bits of useful info sited below.
Sounds mundane, but Audi presents everything here as if they’re jewellery being readied for Tiffany’s (Miss Golightly, your automobile is ready!).
Arguably the most fabulous detail is the way the houndstooth-style fabric ceiling finish adds a dazzling (and somewhat cross-eye inducing) texture to an area often overlooked. Kudos too to the stylists responsible for the classy two-tone inner door casings, and carpet would not look out of place in the Burj Al Arab hotel.
We pored over the lovely climate control knobs, mirroring the trio of circular vent outlets up above with their tactility, finish and smooth operation. Not in your face (so to speak), their beauty radiates subtlety from their hiding place tucked under the large satellite navigation and multi-media screen that, by the way, also manages to integrate well within the rarefied atmosphere in here.
The TT gives its owner luxury of great design. We see nothing of other mainstream Audis (let alone Volkswagen or Skoda) in here, and this is all part of the TT’s promise.
From the upright windscreen and arcing roofline to the solid thud of a closing door, exclusivity is thy name. And, unlike the bogus Big Ben speedo in the current BMW Mini, the TT’s individuality is not some post-modern pastiche, but the real thing.
Even when the driver is looking out when reversing, the sensual shape of the tailgate as it mimics the curves of the TT’s hips is a treat. Like a beautiful timepiece, beholding all its details is an uplifting experience. Other manufacturers need to note this.
We could go on – great seats, gorgeous machined metal finish for the lower console area (another oft ignored cabin piece that has many times brought the quality aspirations of other cars down a peg or Se7en) and those gloriously useless rear seats that at least fold 911 style to boost the hatch cargo area from weenie to workable.
How Audi manages to get everything feeling so bank-vault solid is commendable, cocooning the TT’s occupants in the process from the outside world. To top it off, we found the driving position superb, with space aplenty for the two that this 2+2 will spoil. Entry out back is invited to folk under 150cm tall.
OK, enough of the love fest – now we are sounding like Audi ambassadors ourselves.
TT issues include that it is difficult to park due to the shallow glass area, kerbside mirrors that do not dip down when reverse manoeuvring, and access to the rear quarters that is tighter than the Fight Club boys.
There’s more too, but the engine is not one of them.
Fire it up, and the turbo four-pot purrs into life.
This award-winning drivetrain – co-starring S-tronic dual-clutch DSG – is like Thelma and Louise in the way they help each other out to achieve what is needed.
The engine draws on a long bow of revs to get things humming, and so delivers a constant wave of strong performance pretty much from under 2000rpm, and will spin out with silky ease to the 6000rpm red line with no complaints.
Aided by the dual-clutch gearbox, progress is as smoother than a skating pro on ice, with barely perceptible changes whisking you forward. Unlike many so-called luxury cars, the TT is capable of achieving serene flow state.
But be careful, because the thick wad of refinement dulls the sensation of speed to the point where you can be unconscious of it.
Manual override is a tug of a left (for down) or right (for upshifts) paddle lever away, yet we preferred to either leave the selector in Drive for the smoothest possible progress or, when quicker upchanges were called for, slotting the shifter into DS for Drive Sport. This holds on to each ratio longer for hotter acceleration times.
A 6.2s 0-100km/h run is not too shabby for a 1984cc unit, and nor is the 238km/h 2.0 TFSI quattro’s impressive official combined fuel consumption figure of 7.7L/100km – a result we approached during our own economy drive.
Turn up the heat, though, and the TT’s sports car potential is thwarted by the lack of proper steering feel. It’s as if all that posh cabin polish has been layered between the road and tyres, so that the driver is denied to truly connecting with the car.
This is a shame, because while the Audi is not in the Porsche Cayman league of steering response and handling finesse, it will keep a keen driver entertained with how immediately it reacts to inputs.
Corners can be carved with total ease, while – with the AWD hardware and alphabet soup of electronic safety aids looking over the TT like a guardian angel – there is ample grip in both wet and dry conditions.
The firmish suspension settings work in concert with the switched on engine, gearbox, steering and brakes, so the driver can get into a zone while stringing together a series of turns and bends, feeling as one with the car.
But the upshot here is some loud absorption properties, accompanied by the occasional hard thud as the dampers quickly reach the limit of their pliancy. It makes for a busy – if not hard – ride on irregular urban roads, but open-road comfort is first class as long as the bitumen remains smooth.
Call the TT a sporty GT grand tourer then, with a tightly coiled spring of an engine, the smoothest gearbox in the world – except when sudden on/off/on-again acceleration causes jerky responses – and the sort of all-weather roadholding that conjures up motoring clichés such as ‘leech-like grip’, and you have the 2.0 TFSI quattro in the bag.
Priced from under $80,000, it feels like a somewhat more expensive car, and drives like one too.
If you are only familiar with the earlier but prettier 8N TT, then the latest model’s broad dynamic capabilities should convert you. Not Laurence Olivier (Jaguar SS) or even Robert Downey Jr (DMC Delorean) great, but definitely worthy of the increasingly more talented Brad Pitt.
And the 2.0 TFSI quattro is probably the best ambassador of the whole TT range.
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