The Audi TT never registered on my radar of desirable cars back in my teenage lusting-after-sportscars days, perhaps because I naively thought of it as a front-wheel drive-based faux sportscar. The week I just spent in a 2016 Audi TT turned that notion on its ear.
The Audi TT has come a long way from the first-gen TT that shared a platform with the VW Golf and a few design elements with the 1998 VW New Beetle. Its design and performance credentials are sharpened considerably, though there’s still a bit of Golf DNA since both cars are based on VW’s MQB architecture.
A magazine gave the 2000 Audi TT quattro a test back when it was brand new and reported a 0-60 time of 7.6 seconds. To match its tauter design, Audi claims our 2016 tester has shaved more than two seconds off that 0-60 time, arriving at the mile-a-minute mark in just 5.3 seconds. I believe it, though admittedly I lack the gadgets or the track space to do a proper 0-60 test.
With a wheelbase of just 98.6 inches and a total length of just 164.7 inches, the 2016 Audi TT is not only taut and Teutonic, but also tiny. That it has a pair of seats behind the driver and front passenger should not give one thoughts of carrying four people in the TT’s leather-bathed interior. They won’t fit.
Reviewers often say something about back seats in sports cars being “OK for kids,” but I can’t even give the TT that recommendation. I say that after I tried to get my toddler and his little brother, five months old, back there. The toddler fit — barely, as long as he crossed his legs Indian-style. The rear-facing baby seat, however, did not fit at all, even with the front passenger seat moved all the way forward. The front seatback would not lock into its upright position. As such, my boys did not get to spend much time being Cool Dudes with Dad during our week with the Audi TT.
Forget about all that. Child car seats are a temporary affliction for those who enjoy sporty cars. Heck, so are children. If you can’t stomach the idea of carrying a kid or two in the tight rear seats of the Audi TT after they grow out of their child safety seats, perhaps you’ll save up and purchase one when your kid is old enough to drive himself. Just give him your clapped-out, boring family sedan and go get yourself a sexy Audi TT. That’ll remind your offspring of his place in the family hierarchy.
Seriously, you need to drive a new Audi TTs at least once. Our tester’s 2.0-liter TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine was a hoot, making an Audi-reported 220 horsepower at 4,500 RPM and 258 lb-ft of torque at a diesel-like 1,600 RPM. That low-RPM torque peak resulted in an amusing quirk: All but a flat-to-the-floor stab of the throttle summoned a quick-shifting, relatively low-revving blast-off. It wasn’t slow. It was just restrained, almost polite — as if the car was saying, “Oh, you want me to dust this Camaro when the light turns green? Well, let’s not boast too loudly, shall we?”
At least that was the reaction when the car was left in its normal or “Comfort” drive mode. Set it to its sportiest setting, and the S tronic transmission would hold revs much longer regardless of the throttle input. While somewhat annoying around town, it was a neat party trick on a deserted curvy backroad. Another neat party trick was the TT’s auto rev-matching downshifts in this mode as the car slowed ahead of a curve. That put the engine in the sweet spot of its rev range so I was able to get the fullest power on corner exits, where Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive did a great job sticking all four wheels to the tarmac. This car is serious fun in the twisty stuff.
While the exterior of the TT drew praise from everyone who saw the car clad in its sexy Tango Red paint, it was the interior with which I fell in love. For starters, the front bucket seats were covered in supple diamond-stitch leather and were easily adjusted to my preference, including lengthening the seat cushion to better support my long legs.
But it was the conspicuous absence of a centrally-mounted touchscreen, stereo head unit, or HVAC panel that I liked most. The screen would have taken up precious real estate within the tight interior of the Audi TT. So would a traditional head unit with volume knobs and preset buttons. So would a dedicated HVAC panel. So Audi came up with ingenious ways to integrate these features into the car without traditional control interfaces.
The touchscreen for Audi’s MMI Connect infotainment system was replaced with a screen space where you’d normally expect to see analog gauges. Controls were found on both the steering wheel and in the center console. Audi says this is part of its effort to make the TT very driver-focused. It works. What doesn’t work is when your friend is riding shotgun and you want them to assume DJ duty — they can’t see the screen.
The screen even allows the digitized RPM and speedometer gauges to change sizes, so if you want to see a bigger navigation display, you can punch a button and make those gauges minimize to the lower corners of the screen, resulting in a relatively huge map right under your nose. That’s a nice touch.
There center console’s infotainment control dial was superb and contained a touchpad. The touchpad was part of the dial itself and allowed me to pull up phone contacts by simply drawing the first couple of letters of their name on top of the dial surface. That’s too cool.
The “missing” HVAC panel, by the way, was smoothly integrated into the three round central vents on the dashboard. Very slick.
I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention the excellency of Bang & Olufsen, whose $950 optional sound system in the Audi TT was nothing short of fantastic. Coworkers at my day job all knew when I pulled up outside the building because this system rattled the windows like few others. There were adjustment parameters for surround sound effects as well as three-band EQ and more, should you be the type of audiophile who appreciates that kind of customization. My only criticism of this system from a sound quality standpoint is that the surround effect could result in an artificial reverb sound on some recordings. Most of the time, I left that effect turned off.
I had plenty of trouble with keeping my cheap Straight Talk Android 4.4 phone synced up with the system when streaming music over Bluetooth. Often, my song would abruptly cut off, even if the song wasn’t actually done. That was frustrating.
That said, it bears repeating my phone is hella cheap. If I upgraded to a device with more internal memory and/or iOS, I suspect a lot of these issues would cease to exist.
So technologically, the Audi TT was miles ahead of me, I suppose. But the meat-and-potatoes of its driving feel and its design were spot-on. Whether it makes more sense to spend $50,000 on a 24-MPG Audi TT than on something sporty with a little more room like, say, a 14-MPG Dodge Challenger R/T with all the goodies, is a decision totally up to you. This ain’t my core segment, I’ll admit. But I sure had a lot of fun in the little red Audi.
2016 Audi TT Coupe 2.0T quattro S tronic
Base Price: $42,900
Price As-Tested: $50,600 (including $925 destination charge)
Options: Tango Red Metallic Paint ($575); Technology Package featuring Audi MMI Navigation Plus, Audi connect with online services 6-month subscription, Audi side assist, Auto-Dimming/Power Folding Exterior Mirrors, and Parking System plus with rearview camera ($3,250); 19-inch wheel package with 5-arm star design wheels and 245/35 summer tires ($1,000); S Sport seat package ($1,000); Bang & Olufsen Sound System ($950).
- Quick handling, fun-to-drive sports coupe with all-wheel drive
- Sexy exterior design, innovative interior technology design
- Bangin’ Bang & Olufsen sound system
- Rear seats — why? Nothing bigger than grocery bags should go back there
- Unreliable Bluetooth connection when streaming music
- S tronic is good, but I would have preferred a third pedal
Disclosure: Audi provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas for this review.