2012 Audi TT Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Unique sports car with all-wheel drive, Bauhaus styling.
The Audi TT offers quick acceleration, crisp handling, remarkable efficiency and a beautiful interior, all wrapped in a stunning, highly distinctive body that will not be mistaken for anything else on the road.
For 2010, Audi has simplified the TT lineup. All 2010 Audi TT models come with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and Audi's S-tronic DSG transmission. The six-speed transmission works like a conventional manual without a clutch pedal, and can be operated as a full automatic, or as a manual via the gearshift or steering wheel paddles. (The V6 is no longer available.)
Quattro all-wheel drive gives the TT enhanced handling tenacity and, with an appropriate choice of tires, excellent bad-weather capabilities. (No front-drive models are offered.)
The TT is available as a coupe or roadster. The coupe has 2+2 seating, meaning two adults in front plus two non-complaining and hopefully very small persons in back. Still, it's really a two-seater, but the coupe does offer an impressive amount of cargo space under its rear hatch. The roadster has a power-folding soft top that opens in seconds, with no pretensions of being meant for anything other than two people who travel light.
The TT has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. It offers three equipment levels and several options, including some really neat leathers and interior trim. We think it's worth taking time to consider them all.
The TTS is powered by a different version of the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, rated at 265 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, with a greater emphasis on all-out performance throughout.
Fuel economy for the TT line is remarkable, given the levels of performance and standard all-wheel-drive, with an EPA-rated 21/29 mpg City/Highway, regardless of the model.
The interior is stunning, with a brilliant design and layout, beautiful detailing, tight panel gaps and first-class materials. But what really sets this sports car apart, and has since the introduction of the first TT a decade ago, is its wonderful exterior design. The TT has a look and a style that is both classic and contemporary. Those shopping for a sporty weekend toy or a reasonably practical all-season sports car would do well to take a look at the TT.
All 2010 Audi TT models come with quattro all-wheel drive and Audi's S-tronic DSG automatic transmission.
The Audi TT Coupe 2.0T ($37,800) and Roadster 2.0T ($40,800) are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, generating 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. The 2+2 Coupe has a split-folding rear seat. The two-seat Roadster has a power-folding convertible top.
Standard features include leather/alcantara upholstery, automatic climate control, a tilt-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, manually adjustable front seats, aluminum interior trim, a 140-watt audio system with nine speakers and a single-CD player, Bluetooth compatibility, fog lights, automatically deploying rear spoiler and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Options are grouped in three packages: Premium Plus ($2,000) adds heated, 10-way power adjustable seats and automatic headlights with Xenon projector beams. Prestige ($4,780) includes Premium Plus, a GPS navigation system with real-time traffic reporting and a loadable hard drive, an audio upgrade with 225 watts, digital processing, 12 speakers and a six-CD changer, and upgraded Silk Nappa leather upholstery. S-Line trim ($2,200) adds 19-inch wheels and a sport-trim body package. Stand-alone options include Audi Magnetic Ride ($1,400); 19-inch wheels ($800); Alcantara inserts and other interior upgrades.
The Audi TTS Coupe ($45,900) and TTS Roadster ($48,900) are powered by a version of 2.0-liter four-cylinder with more turbocharger boost. Output increases to 265 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The racier TTS models are equipped comparably to the standard TTs, though they come standard with Audi Magnetic Ride variable suspension and the S-Line body trim. The TTS is available with the Prestige package ($6,050), which includes 19-inch wheels.
Safety features include front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags for front passengers, protecting both head and thorax, ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, stability control, active head restraints, and a tire-pressure monitor. Roadsters have rollover bars mounted behind the seats, and coupes have LATCH-style rear seat child-seat anchors. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, along with anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
Audi has done a fine job evolving the original TT into something both contemporary and unique. Design elements from the 1920s Bauhaus style remain, but the 2010 TT is sharper than the original, with more angular lines and crisper edges. It remains a car for those seeking something different.
At 164.5 inches long and 72.5 inches wide, the TT fits right in the heart of the premium sports car segment. It's longer and wider than the BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK, but more than six inches shorter than the Porsche Boxster and Cayman.
The TT's black, single-bar grille creates a strong family resemblance with the sedans in Audi's lineup. The side of the car features a character line that connects prominent wheel flares.
The TT coupe's graceful roof resolves into a rounded rear end. Audi has chosen a traditional soft top for the TT roadster, rather the convertible hardtop many manufacturers have adapted.
The roadster's power top is extremely easy to use. There are no latches, so it opens in 12 seconds and closes in 14 at the touch of a button. Better still, it can be operated at up to 30 mph, in the event the weather changes suddenly. Both body styles have a spoiler that pops up at 75 mph and retracts at 50 mph. Another button allows the driver to deploy or retract the spoiler at any time.
Below the TT's surface, Audi Space Frame (ASF) architecture is intended to be both light and strong at the same time. The space frame is made of cast, extruded and stamped steel and aluminum components, as opposed to a traditional unibody structure that has only steel stampings. The coupe's frame is 69 percent aluminum and the roadster's is 58 percent aluminum. The roadster is reinforced behind the seats to make up for the rigidity lost due to the lack of a fixed roof. The performance-honed TTS model makes even more extensive use of aluminum in suspension and body components to further reduce weight.
The Audi TT's interior pleases in nearly every respect. The design is classic and contemporary at once, and quite attractive. Finish quality is first rate, and there is a surprising amount of space in the TT, compared to many cars of its type. The only significant interior change for 2010 is the addition of real-time traffic tracking to the optional navigation system.
Sports cars are often difficult to enter and exit. Getting into the TT requires a step down, but it's not extreme and, once inside, the TT has ample room for most drivers. A 6-foot, 7-inch friend said he fit well in the TT, but found BMW's Z4 to be cramped. The front seats are comfortable and have nice bolstering to help keep occupants in place in fast turns. Visibility is good to most angles, but there is a notable blind spot to the right rear in coupes and in roadsters with the top up.
The TT cockpit is highlighted with real aluminum trim, and put together nicely. The tolerances are tight, and the plastics are both sturdy and soft to the touch. The leather upholstery is attractive, and the Prestige package makes it even more so, with ultra smooth, soft Silk Nappa leather seats and a leather-covered instrument pod. Audi offers numerous interior color options, as well as the Baseball-Optic leather package that features a Madras Brown color and thick stitching inspired by baseball gloves. It's a TT tradition, and pretty swell.
The gauges are trimmed in silver with black faces. Trip computer information is displayed between them. All of the controls are within arm's reach, and they adjust with precision. Without the optional navigation system, the controls are easy to find and operate. With the navigation system, however, the TT gets a version of Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI). This system absorbs the audio controls, and while it's better than the point-and-click systems used by some other luxury car builders, it still adds steps to simple tasks like changing the radio station. MMI might appeal to techies, but most of us would prefer something less complicated.
The rear seat in the coupe is too small for all but small children, and even they may complain. It's really best used for packages and briefcases, and that isn't a bad thing. Cubby storage is limited in the forward part of the TT's cockpit. Neither the coupe nor the roadster has enough interior storage for small items.
Cargo space, on the other hand, is quite good for this class. There is plenty of room for luggage in the coupe, even with the rear seats up, and with them down cargo capacity expands from 13.1 to 24.7 cubic feet. Folding the rear seats forward creates a flat load floor and a lot more room than one finds in a BMW Z4 or Mercedes SLK. Cargo space in the TT roadster is tighter overall, with 8.83 cubic feet. The convertible top doesn't intrude much on trunk space, however, and a pass-through is available to accommodate longer, narrow items.
The roadster's soft top has three layers: the sturdy outer material, with a glass rear window, a middle layer of thick foam and an attractive headliner available in multiple colors. As such, the soft top provides almost as much noise and temperature insulation and the coupe's fixed metal roof.
Any of Audi's four TT models is fun to drive. The scoot built into these cars definitely lives up to expectations established by their racy looks and interiors. The TTS comes closest to what automobile enthusiasts might call classic sports-car feel.
Audi has long been a leader in all-wheel-drive technology, and its quattro package works as well as any AWD system available. In recent years, the company has moved quattro's standard front wheel/rear wheel power distribution more toward the rear, and that's evident in the TT. The extra bit of power directed to the rear wheels in most driving circumstances gives the TT more of a rear-drive, sports-car feel. Still, the quattro system automatically shifts power front to rear to optimize overall traction, and that makes the TT a great sporty car for those who live where the weather turns very wet, slushy or snowy.
TT buyers should be wary for winter driving, however. All models now come standard with summer-type performance tires. We highly recommend a set of winter tires for those in the Snow Belt, ideally mounted on a second set of wheels.
All TTs offer sharp handling. The standard models have a bit of body lean during hard cornering, but still grip the road well. They are stable at all speeds, and perfectly willing to be tossed into tight corners. Steering is quick, predictable, and direct. At the limits, however, in truly aggressive driving, the standard TT can reach the distinction between a sporty car and a pure sports car. The TT has a significant front weight bias, meaning most of its weight rests over the front tires. It has a slight tendency toward plowing its nose, as if the front tires are sliding as it turns. This is actually very safe behavior, but it's what expert drivers expect more in a typical family sedan than a pure sports car.
The TT also has a comfortable ride. Movement of the standard 18-inch wheels soaks up small bumps nicely, though very sharp irregularities can occasionally jolt passengers. In normal cruising, the cabin is quiet for a sports car. Tire noise can become pronounced on rough surfaces, but wind noise is well-checked. There's a sporty, growling exhaust note but its something most TT buyers will relish. And the TT roadster is one solid convertible, with almost no windshield flex or cowl shake.
The standard TT's engine/transmission pairing is responsive, and acceleration is quick. While its engine is smaller than some might expect in a performance car, the TT's 2.0-liter four-cylinder is turbocharged. It makes a lot of horsepower (200 hp) and torque (207 pound-feet) for its size, and the car is relatively light. Audi says the 2.0T can launch the TT coupe from 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, and the roadster in 6.2 seconds. Yet thanks to the engine's overall efficiency, both cars are rated at 29 mpg Highway, according to the EPA.
The 2.0T engine has little turbo lag, making it quick from a stop and responsive at speed. It runs out of steam above 6000 rpm, though, so it's best to shift before that point. No problem there. Audi's six-speed S-tronic DSG transmission allows manual shifting (via steering wheel paddles or the shift lever) that's as precise and immediate as a conventional manual transmission with a clutch pedal. The DSG will hold whichever gear the driver selects in almost all circumstances. Yet it will also work exactly like a full automatic. As an automatic, it shifts quickly and without a jolt. The automatic Sport mode holds lower gears longer to keep more accessible power on tap.
The TTS models feature an uprated version of the 2.0-liter engine. Modifications include revisions to the cylinder head, connecting rods, pistons, turbocharger, fuel injection system and exhaust system. The result is even more horsepower (265 hp) and torque (258 pound-feet). The TTS coupe will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds, breaking the five-second threshold that defines elite performance cars. Yet it still maintains that 29 mpg EPA Highway rating. It's a remarkable combination of performance and efficiency.
Handling is even sharper with the TTS, thanks to firmer springs. Yet fide quality is not seriously compromised, because the TTS comes standard with Audi Magnetic Ride suspension. AMR utilizes a fluid in all four shocks that, when subjected to an electric charge, changes the shock's damping characteristics from comfort oriented to firm and sporty. The process is automatic, based on both road surface and how aggressively the TTS is driven.
The TT's brakes did not fade in the face of aggressive driving, and maintained a consistent feel when the brake rotors got very hot. Audi's electronic stability control system doesn't intrude too soon, allowing some slip without prematurely cutting the throttle. With the Audi Magnetic Ride Suspension, the electronic stability control is programmed to give the driver even more leeway.
The Audi TT appeals to sports car enthusiasts and weekend cruisers alike. Its powertrains are responsive and quick, with a transmission that could be the best compromise ever between a manual and an automatic. The steering is sharp and the handling is crisp. Quattro all-wheel drive gives the TT good all-weather capability, with the right choice of tires. The hatchback TT Coupe offers cargo versatility, while the TT Roadster offers top-down fun. Both deliver impressive fuel economy for the rate of acceleration and overall level of performance.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Kirk Bell filed this report from Chicago, with J.P. Vettraino contributing from Detroit.
Audi TT Coupe 2.0T ($37,800); TT Roadster 2.0T ($40,800); TTS Coupe ($45,900); TTS Roadster ($48,900).
Options As Tested
19-inch tri-spoke wheels ($800).
Audi TTS Coupe 2.0T quattro S-Tronic ($45,900).
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