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Audi TT review (2006 onwards)
As passenger rides go it remains the most memorable I’ve ever had. The first TT in the UK on a busy M1. That was eight years ago, and although its impact has been lessened by time and familiarity the TT has become an iconic design.
Which gives Audi something of a problem. Sequels are rarely as good as the original and eight years is a long time in the car world. Design wise the TT is a tough act to follow. In those eight years the coupe market has grown, shaped by the TT itself. There’s more competition out there, and iconic as the TT might be, it needed replacing.
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All-new Audi TT
And that’s what Audi has done. On first glance the styling remains familiar. The bold sweeping roofline and pronounced wheel arches echo its predecessor, but there’s a new edginess to its lines, a more imposing grille on its sharper nose. It gives the TT muscularity it’s never possessed before. That workout has bulked it up too, the TT’s dimensions increasing to the benefit of space and also ride and handling. And while it might be bigger, impressively it’s managed to avoid gaining weight. Audi has managed this by using its ASF (Aluminium Space Frame) construction. If you’re really interested, it’s 137mm longer, 78mm wider and 6mm higher, and depending on which engine you choose it weighs between 1,260 and 1,410kg.
Those engine choices currently consist of a turbocharged 2.0-litre FSI engine that’s the same as that in the VW Golf GTI, and a 3.2-litre V6. The 2.0 TFSI produces 200bhp and drives the front wheels only, the 3.2-litre V6 boosting the TT’s power to 250bhp and utilising Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system. Although they’ll deny it officially expect a 2.0-litre TDI engine to join the two petrol units sometime in 2007/8. Less of a secret is Audi’s plans for a range-topper in S or RS guise. Given the TT’s new found dynamism it should be quite a car.
On the road
The car’s increased track, wheelbase and lower and better distributed weight has resulted in the TT at last offering a drive that lives up to the styling. Turn in is improved, the electric power assisted steering offering decent weight and feedback, the TT a more involving and interesting drive than its predecessor. Much of this is down to its suspension, the new TT offering, as an option, magnetorheological dampers. Similar to those in the new Ferrari 599 GTB they replace conventional damper fluid with one containing microscopic magnetic particles that react when an electric current is applied. It allows infinite and instant reaction to shocks, allowing the TT to deliver fantastic poise and body control yet a composed and cosseting ride at the same time.
At £1,150 it’s a must have option, though even on standard dampers the TT is improved significantly over its predecessor. The bias in either the front or rear-wheel-drive cars might remain towards mild understeer, but the limits are higher before the nose runs wide. Lifting off slightly will tighten its line, but you’ll struggle to get the tail to hang out as you’ll easily achieve in competitors like Nissan’s 350Z and the BMW Z4 Coupe. That’s not necessarily a complaint, the TT allowing all drivers to enjoy its balance safely, the ESP system always there to sort things out should you need it.
Both engines give the TT impressive pace. The 3.2-litre V6 sprints to 62mph in just 5.9 seconds in manual guise, or 5.7 seconds if you choose Audi’s ‘S tronic’ automatic transmission. Its name might be new but it’s the DSG gearbox as offered on the previous car, the twin clutch set up offering seamless shifts up or down the box. Impressive as it is the manual offers such a clean shift that we’d opt for it, the six-speed unit offered on both the V6 and 2.0-litre TFSI. We’d also go for the smaller engine, the 2.0-litre turbocharged unit being the same one that powers the Golf GTi.
It’s an impressive engine, its power nicely linear, reaching 62mph in just 6.6 seconds (6.4 for S tronic), free-revving and refined even when pushed hard. It’s the low rev punch that makes it the choice over the 3.2-litre, the larger V6 needing to be worked harder and higher up the rev range to produce its best. There’s no real appreciable advantage in the V6’s four-wheel-drive system, either. Indeed, if anything the fwd turbo feels the nimbler of the pair, the quattro system only really advantageous when the roads are slippery. Even on the testing route taking in some of Austria’s mountain roads the brakes on both cars stood up to repeated high speed stopping, the middle pedal remaining firm despite the abuse.
Overall, it impressed with its surefootedness when pushed, its refinement at high cruising speeds and its fantastic composure due to the optional magnetic damping system. Even on the standard suspension it’s leagues ahead of its predecessor for driver enjoyment.
New Audi TT: interior
Yet the rest of the car remains utterly true to the original. The interior is familiar but more spacious (you can still forget using the rear seats though). Its styling is evolutionary, the increased standard equipment necessitating a slightly different centre console. The squared off steering wheel bottom hints to racers, but I’d rather a proper round one. Otherwise there’s little to surprise inside, which some might view as disappointing given the impact of the original car’s interior. However, Audi had a hugely difficult task with the new TT. Improving a design that was so groundbreaking was never going to be easy. Yet, Audi’s evolutionary style with the new car adds maturity, its lines disguising its increased dimensions and allowing for improved dynamics.
It’s this and some clever engineering and construction that have improved the car so markedly. The old TT was a car that people bought on style alone. With the new car there’s a good deal more substance. It might not have turned heads like my first trip in the original, but it’s a significantly better car.
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