The Audi TT is now 20 years old – we’ve had two decades of its distinctive, rounded, push-me-pull-you silhouette on our roads. To coincide with this anniversary, Audi has given its third-generation TT a facelift and in the process made the S look far more aggressive. Yet, even with 20-inch wheels, a full-width splitter, contrasting vertical air intakes and the choice of adding the fixed wing from the TT RS to its rump, the new car is unquestionably still a TT.
As well as the external alterations there’ve been some mechanical changes to the new car, too. The drivetrain has been made lighter, there’s a new seven-speed wet- and dual-clutch transmission, and, oddly for a new car, the engine is slightly less powerful.
As the TT has a transversely mounted engine, the S doesn’t use Audi’s more traditional quattro system. Instead, its four-wheel drive comes from a Haldex system – a multi-plate clutch pack on the rear axle that, when the car decides it needs more traction, closes to engage the rear axle. It’s a system used on many current four-wheel-drive cars and the previous TT S, but the system has been recalibrated for the new car and allows more power to be sent to the rear axle, especially in the car’s Dynamic driving mode.
As standard, the TTS uses Audi’s magnetic ride suspension. An electric charge runs through fluid in the dampers that’s infused with magnetically charged particles to increase its viscosity. This changes the characteristics of the dampers, allowing them to be stiffer when driving quickly but allowing more comfort over rough roads.
Engine, transmission and 0-100 time
The engine in the new TTS is basically the same as the one in the pre-facelifted version; it’s the VW Group’s 2-litre direct-injection turbocharged motor that’s found in many of its hot hatches. In the older TTS it produced 228kW, however as Audi has had to fit a particulate filter to the new car to help reduce emissions it has 3kW less with a total of 225kW.
The minute drop in power has been compensated for by greater maximum torque; rather than putting out 380Nm, the new car produces 400Nm. This has helped, despite the loss in power, reduce the car’s 0-100km/h time by a tenth of a second to 4.5sec.
What’s it like to drive?
The TTS’s fancy magnetic dampers can’t quite overcome the sheer lack of tyre sidewall to create a calm and soothing ride. Even set to Comfort mode the car seems restless over anything but the absolute smoothest roads. However, the result of this stubborn ride is resilient body control that no bump, crest or mid-corner hump can overwhelm; the TTS just stays completely in tune with the road.
It’s much the same story around a corner, too. There’s incredible stability as you brake, allowing you to stay on the pedal as you enter a corner and maximise front-end grip. Take a less aggressive attitude, though, only brake in a straight line, and there’s still so much front-end bite that the TT willingly follows your steering inputs.
Grip remains just as unwavering as you accelerate from apex to exit, too. There’s, perhaps, a little hint of understeer on tighter corners but never enough that you need to come off the throttle, the car’s drivetrain distinguishing it before you even need to react.
Without any need to worry about traction, you can just experience the TT’s mighty acceleration. It might not be the most aggressive of Audi’s TTs (the five-cylinder RS takes that accolade), but the S is still explosive – you absolutely can’t feel the slight loss of power over the previous model.
The TTS’s progress is made even more impressive thanks to the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Not only are the upshifts practically instant, they’re so seamless that if it wasn’t for the change in revs and the little parp from the exhaust, you wouldn’t know you’d shifted to a higher ratio.
Such remarkable talents are certainly admirable, but they don’t make the TTS immediately that enjoyable. However, play around with the TT’s driving modes – you have a choice of Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual – and you can turn it into a more gratifying car.
Dynamic, the car’s sportiest setting, seems like the obvious place to start to make the car feel at its best on a twisting B-road. But the already uncomfortable suspension is made worse in this setting, the steering is unnecessarily beefy, the throttle seems abrupt and there’s a mock five-cylinder engine noise pumped into the cabin via the speakers.
Comfort and Auto seem to provide a more natural and honest set-up; the weight of the steering, although light and not very communicative, suits the other control weights of the car allowing you to feel.
The engine noise is less obtrusive, too. And although the sound isn’t the most memorable, the quieter, more four-cylinder-like noise is pleasant. Use the Individual mode to cherry-pick the best bits from the engine, suspension and steering, and you’re able to tune the TTS into something more suitable to your tastes.
The TTS might not be a car that brims with excitement and feel, and it doesn’t really allow a driver much in the way of real, rewarding influence. However, it’s such an easy car to extract its performance from that, no matter what your skill or even your mood, you can cover ground in a safe and appealing manner at any time and on any type of road. WILL BEAUMONT