It’s the third generation of Audi’s tiny turtle
Day one: The TT arrives at my house while I’m out. I come home to find it sitting outside looking like a TT. There was a fake ad on Sniff Petrol the other week claiming Audi’s design team had taken the old model, moved the badge up to the bonnet and then gone to the pub. Not to sound all black rollneck about this but in design terms that’s actually bollocks. If you look, there’s quite a lot that’s changed about the new car’s appearance but it’s all done in a very subtle way so that you don’t need to ask what this car is. I don’t have anywhere to go this evening so the TT stays parked outside, looking like a TT.
Day two: Right, here we go. Actual driving. The first thing that strikes you, apart from quite literally the roof if you’re tall and forgot that it’s a low car, is the dashboard. It’s very smart. Unlike most modern cars, there’s no central dashboard screen. All the functions that would live there are on the TFT screen that stands in for an instrument panel. There’s an official video of it in action here. In real life it’s very slick, very snappy and rather cool. The rest of the inside is good too, especially the way you adjust the climate control using little bezels at the centre of the air vents. When you open the door the letters TT are embossed onto the dashboard ends. This seems unnecessary. You know what it is because it’s your car. And also because, as we’ve established, it looks like a TT. To drive it feels pretty sprightly too. Good pick up, a slick gearchange, a surprisingly fast reaction to any more than a snadge of steering. All told, not much to complain about.
Day three: Alright, there’s one thing to complain about. The ride is too hard. It can’t help that this car has the S Line suspension which is 10mm lower than standard. More than that, I suspect Audi has done this deliberately. Remember, this is the company that went to all the expense and bother of engineering a new chassis for the A4/A5/A6 with the diff ahead of the clutch so the front wheels could move forward to banish the nose heavy feeling of its old cars and then set-up the new ones to feel just like their predecessors because marketing insisted that customers liked the way Audis felt just as they were. Which makes me wonder if the TT could ride more softly but marketing have decreed that it must feel ‘sporty’. It’s not utterly terrible. But it could be better.
Day four: A day of tooling across London in the TT. A couple of unusual things I’ve noticed about it. Firstly, when you stop, turn off the engine and open the door a TT badge appears in the instrument cluster accompanied by a weird sound, sort of like a heartbeat being played on a 1980s octagonal synth drum. It’s taken me a few days to realize this sound is coming from the car and wasn’t just something outside doing it, eg The Human League. I’ve checked a couple of times now upon opening the door and The Human League are not there. Sadly. So it’s the car. The second thing, spotted while driving in the dark this evening, is the cubby in front of the gearlever. You slide back the cover to discover that it’s softly lit inside and also of such depth that it looks like there should be stairs inside, leading down to the car’s cellar.
Day five: A little bit of exuberant driving today and a slightly embarrassing discovery. This is a sporty-ish Audi and I assumed it must be four-wheel-drive. But today when I clogged it, there was a bit of steering wheel wiggling and no sense that power was being moved to the back to deal with the front tyres’ tenuous grip on the road. When I got out I looked and there are no Quattro badges on either end. Back home I checked the spec sheet. This particular press demonstrator is not a Quattro. It seems to grip quite nicely nonetheless. Another spec note from today’s adventures in accelerating; the TT’s 2-litre, four cylinder engine isn’t especially charismatic in normal driving but has a bit of a rasp as it revs, turning into a fruity noise if you keep the hammer down. This turns out to be done partly with synthesis through the stereo speakers. Between the synth heartbeat and the synth engine note I’m starting to wonder if the design team included Phil Oakey.
Day six: To Kent on Top Gear business and a chance to give the TT a bit of a run on some country roads. I think TTs get a bit of a hard time for being just a Golf in a fancy outfit. The new model is still a Golf underneath but lots of things have been changed specifically for it including the wheelbase, the rear floorpan and the front suspension. The end result, as it turns out, is a car that drives quite well. It turns in aggressively, and it feels agile and lively as a result without being exhausting or annoying. The engine is strong, the gearchange slick, the handling quite amusing. Even the firmness of the ride doesn’t intrude. It’s better than you might expect.
Goodbye: The TT goes away, still getting on with the business of being a TT. Which is fine, because the TT’s main job is to appeal to people who want an Audi TT. And there seem to be plenty of those. They’re in for a particular treat when they sit in this new model because the interior is quite superb. It’s clever and different and it actually works. Of course, if you’re a committed helmswright you’d still seek out a Porsche Cayman. But if you were forced to take a TT you wouldn’t hate it. It’s a lot better than it probably needs to be.
The car talked about here is an Audi TT Coupe 2.0 TFSI S line. It has a 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine making 227 horsepower. Audi says it can go from 0-62 in six seconds and on to 155mph. Without options it costs £31,635.