The Audi TT is one of those cars that turns heads wherever you take it to, and has been doing so since the mid-1990s with the launch of the first ever sports coupe by Audi. Back then, the first generation TT was derived from the VW Golf Mk IV’s PQ34 platform, sculpted to perfection by some of Germany’s top automotive designers and launched to an unsuspecting public at the 1995 Frankfurt auto show. Amid the oohs and ahhs generated from that fateful moment, the TT made headlines around the world. Looking like a cross between a Porsche and a Beetle, the TT has stayed true to form to this day in its third global iteration. That first model hit the streets from 1998-2006, enjoying a good run of 8 years before being replaced by its Mk2 successor, with production starting in 2007 with the newer PQ35 platform that underpinned most of VAG’s famous offerings like the Audi A3 Mk2, VW Golf Mk5, Mk6 and VW Scirocco, among other iconic models.
After going back to the drawing board, designers at VAG created the latest MQB platform that widened its wings to encompass almost all of the group’s future offerings that featured a transverse engine layout. MQB, or Modular Transverse Matrix in laymen terms, describes the modularity of a matrix of components that can be shared among the various offerings and brands under its wings, effectively reducing tooling costs and downtime, plus allowing many models to be manufactured at the same plant with a simple rejigging of its lines without much fuss. A common benefit for consumers across VAG’s models is weight savings which translates to better performance and fuel economy. The Audi TT Mk3 (codenamed Typ 8S) was unveiled to the public for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in 2014, and it looked promising indeed.
Audi TT: If Looks Could Kill
The new third generation Audi TT draws upon the original concept of the first generation TT and loses some of the bulk of the second gen, both inside and out. Its energetic appearance features taut, muscular shoulder lines and angular wheel arches that give it an appearance of a sharp surgeon’s knife, cutting through traffic like a hot knife through butter. The frontal proposition of the new TT is understated and elegant, giving off a no-nonsense demeanor to its beholders, while the central grille takes on a diamond-like shape, with smart angular lines that serve like an extension of those devilish eyes replete with one of the most beautiful implementations of Audi’s bleeding-edge DRL design as yet. The Four Rings now reside on the bonnet, unlike its two predecessors who had their rings on the grille itself. This simple repositioning of the logo lends the new car sexiness beyond its asking price and pedigree, elevating the sub-RM300k sports car beyond to take the fight to the bigger boys.
The hind quarters of the new TT however, did not change as drastically as the front, with most of the design elements intact but sharpened up in tandem with the rest of the car. Having said that, the roofline of the successor loses a lot of the bulbous shape of the model before it, again, in line with the latest design language of the front. At a glance, those unfamiliar with the latest model might mistake the Mk3 for the Mk2 (oh the horror!), but upon closer inspection and for TT aficionados, the differences are quite apparent. You could say that the rear design of the new TT Mk3 is much more cohesive and fiercer, while the Mk1 and Mk2 featured more friendly looking derrieres.
Inside, the TT will surely appeal to persons living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), being so minimalist and all. Losing the busy design of its predecessor, the new TT takes on a more spacious, airy and spartan inner space and has lesser crevices with which to store dust. Wait a minute, where are the bloody climate controls? Take a closer look and you’ll see them stashed away sneakily within the air vent housings. Clever. Housed within each of the three central air vents are a button and knob to control oft-used climate controls while the air vents feature simple, directional fins that you rotate to direct the air flow. Said air vents seem more robust and certainly won’t break off even after more than 5 years of hard use unlike conventional vents that use plastic yokes to tilt or swivel the fins.
Just beneath the central vents lie the most important controls within the car; Drive Select, ESC and motorized rear spoiler controls are right there at your fingertips. The latter control allows you to raise or lower the powered rear spoiler manually without having to wait for speeds above 120km/h for automatic deployment.
The lower center area of the dash features an aluminum-look silver fascia where the push start button resides. Behind the gear knob, switches and buttons control the audio system and other operational parameters via the brilliant TFT meter cluster. I was made to understand that the large knob behind the shifter features a sort of touch-enabled mouse controller, but that wasn’t available in this model, perhaps only reserved for the TTS. Nonetheless, the switches and buttons had great tactile feel and are positioned ergonomically for the driver or passenger.
Another omission from the dash area is the multimedia head unit, which is integrated within the dash of the car, with the CD player and media card slots stashed away within the glove box. Said glove box isn’t as small as some of those found in French cars so there is some space to store your valuables.
Aside from that beautifully spartan dash, the sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel deserves a mention. Apart from housing a host of user controls, the steering has a solid, weighty feel worthy of a vehicle that carries the Audi name. Light at parking speeds, the variable power steering wheel tightens up at high speeds to make light work of switchbacks and abrupt lane changes. Audi and VW steering wheels have received top accolades around the world, and it is no wonder that cars from the VAG stable are known for their solidness. Said solidness starts from the feel of the steering because that is our main point of contact with the car. Good move, Audi.
And don’t get me started on the seats. Those bloody brilliant things that Audi put inside the TT to keep your butt planted are simply breathtaking works of art! Featuring a mix of leather and Alcantara, the seats in my humble opinion are simply out of this world. Soft, pliant, accommodative, smooth to the touch and pleasant to the eyes. That pretty much sums up my experience with the semi-bucket powered front seats in the new Audi TT.
The humbler Audi TT in this review gets the group’s much vaunted EA-888 turbocharged machine tuned for 230hp between 4,500-6,200rpm and gobs of low end torque (370Nm) between 1,600-4,300rpm. This is mated to the group’s famous wet dual clutch 6-speed DSG box which Audi calls 6-speed S tronic that is able to launch the car from naught to a hundred in a mere 5.9 seconds, on to an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. There’s not much more that can be said about this famous engine/drivetrain combo so I’ll just leave that out.
Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC) is standard, as are Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) or better known as Traction Control, Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) and ABS/EBD/BA. 6 airbags are on standby to keep you intact in the event of over-enthusiasm. Continental ContiSportContact rubber is the weapon of choice from the factory to keep the TT planted to the ground, specced at 245/40 R18 and wrapped around beautiful 5-twin spoke cast aluminum racing wheels.
An interesting feature on the Audi TT is Audi Magnetic Ride with ride height lowering (up to 10mm), a system which regulates damping forces based on the driving situation which you can set via the Drive Select control. Switch between Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, Efficiency and Individual at your whim and fancy and let the car do the rest. Drive Select makes changes to the car’s throttle response, gear changes, ride height and comfort to suit your driving style.
In place of a regular analog meter cluster is a dynamic Audi Virtual Cockpit, which in essence is a huge full color TFT monitor that surprisingly doesn’t exhibit much lag even when blipping the throttle; the virtual needles sweep across the range with panache and is such a pleasure to look at. A button on the steering wheel toggles between large meters with a smaller MFD (multi-function display) or smaller meters with a massive GUI (graphical user interface) taking center stage. This cutting edge meter design will surely trickle down to the group’s bread and butter models in time to come. I can’t wait!
Although the TT sits at the base in the TT hierarchy, it gets Xenon plus headlights that come with automatic headlight range control and high beam assist to maximize beam range without dazzling oncoming traffic, which although is the least technologically advanced compared to higher models with Audi Matrix LED headlights, looks the most sexy and perfectly suits the silhouette of the TT better than the more angular lights on the TTS or Quattro.
Audi TT: Seat of the Pants
The proof is in the pudding as they say, and in that respect the Audi TT delivers in spades. It is hard to describe the feeling of being greeted by that plush Alcantara/leather combi seats early in the morning on the way to the office. Fire up the engine and slowly drive off, waiting in anticipation for the water and oil temps to rise to the occasion. Once the car is fully warmed up, it’s time to switch over to beast mode!
The TT inspires fast driving with its lightning quick gearchanges and near instantaneous throttle response. Leaving the Drive Select in Auto mode seemed good enough for daily commute, letting the electronics dictate the car’s behavior to suit your right foot. As a matter of fact, selecting Dynamic mode raises the shift points a little too high for my liking; after all, the EA888 has plenty of grunt in the lower ranges, and certainly more than enough power to ace any council roads without a fuss.
The throttle is very sensitive to the slightest provocation, but switch over to Efficiency and it mellows down a bit. Like I said earlier, Auto seems to be the best setting as it lets you drive like your aunt on a Sunday when you want to, only to transform into your neighbor’s pit bull in an instant when you feel like it. Once in beast mode, you will feel like you’re in one of the Matrix trilogies; everything and everyone around you seems to be planted wherever they may be at that point in time.
Aside from tightening up the steering force, the steering in the TT is very taut and has a tight turning radius. I did not measure how many turns it took to do the lock to lock thingy, but suffice to say that driver engagement can be instantaneously felt through the wheel, with an urgency of a person having a full load in his intestinal tract and not a washroom in sight for the next 50 miles.
Without a doubt, the TT will appeal to the corporate climber as he/she races from one meeting to another, and it certainly helps that the car has such a tight wheelbase (2,505mm) and very short overhangs fore and aft. You can pretty much point the car in the direction that you want to go, pedal to the metal and bam! You’re there even before you can take the next breath. So poised and in control of the situation is the Audi TT that understeer hardly rears its ugly head in most situations thrown at it. The MQB chassis shines in this implementation, making the TT one of the most desirable pocket rockets out there under 300 Grand. To put it in a nutshell, the Audi TT will make a lousy driver better, and make a good driver seem like he’s had some form of track experience; definitely the car to get if you’ve got a girl with a need for speed.
Audi(s) are usually associated with high end luxury mobiles with astronomical prices to boot, but here is one Audi that has less of that luxury but more of the racy character sought after by hot-blooded individuals. It is pliant enough for everyday commute but hiding underneath that mild mannerism is a wild beast ever too keen to pounce on the next unsuspecting victim in a heartbeat. RM284,900.00 for private registration without insurance will certainly keep this baby away from ricers, so if you reside in the upper echelons of society, rest assured that you’ll be in good company.
Review and images: Greg