If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. While that’s true most of the time, I can’t help but wish Audi had been a little more adventurous with the styling of its third-generation TT sports coupe. Then again, given how the original TT is still a triumph of automotive design more than a decade-and-a-half after its debut, the aesthetic changes to this third-generation model were perhaps always going to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, similar to other automotive icons like the Porsche 911, MINI and VW Beetle.
Park the new TT next to its second-generation predecessor and you’ll be hard-pressed to notice the subtle cosmetic changes. If you’re an eagle-eyed TT-spotter, though, the car now looks “angrier”, courtesy of a larger grille and air vents, more angular headlight and tail-light clusters, and more prominent lines that span the car’s shoulders and bonnet.
However, despite all the visual similarities with its predecessor, the third-generation model is vastly different under its “skin”, resting on the VW Group’s new MQB platform and with some refinements to its immediate forebear’s aluminium-intensive Audi Space Frame (ASF) construction. That means the new TT is 23 percent stiffer and weighs 50kg less than the outgoing model. Good news then for handling and fuel economy. The cabin of the Mk 3 TT, too, looks nothing like the second-generation model’s. To put it succinctly, the new model’s interior is absolutely stunning. Beautifully furnished and with top-notch build quality, it’s a class act. This is the first car to come with Audi’s new interior design language, so expect future models to follow suit.
What is this new design language, you might be asking? For starters, it has a redesigned steering wheel, reworked control stalks, and a minimalist dashboard that, when viewed from the top, resembles the wing of an aircraft. While that doesn’t do anything for practicality, the controls for the air-con have been integrated with the round, aircraft-inspired vents in a bid to reduce dashboard clutter.
Parameters such as fan speed, temperature and air-flow distribution are adjusted by manipulating a knob in the centre of the vents. It left me wondering why no one has thought of this seemingly simple but ingenious concept before – this control scheme makes for a much neater cabin, and let’s face it, it is just plain cool.But it is not as cool as the cabin’s pièce de résistance: the all-digital instrument cluster. Say goodbye to the centrally mounted infotainment system screen as seen on existing Audis and say hello to the future. Everything you need to know (critical driving info, navigation, audio and telephony) can be found within 12.3 inches of digital loveliness. Sharp, crystal-clear and amazingly detailed (especially when the map display is at full zoom), the system is virtually lag-free and the on-screen graphics are gorgeous to behold.
There are two basic view modes: classic and infotainment. For the former, the speedometer and tachometer take priority in the foreground, and in the latter, navigation (or whichever feature you choose – radio, media, etc) takes centre stage while the speedo and tacho are reduced to smaller displays at either end of the screen. Navigating the system, done via buttons on the steering wheel or the centre console-mounted controller wheel, can seem a little disconcerting for the tech-averse, but in reality, half a day is all you need to familiar yourself with it.It’d be a shame if the new TT suffers the “style-over-substance hairdresser’s car” dynamics that has dogged it for two model generations, but I’m relieved to report the car doesn’t disappoint. Even in its most basic guise, it’s powered by the same 2-litre turbocharged engine as seen in the VW Golf GTI, so it already has a good starting point. Producing a meaty 230bhp (10bhp more than in the GTI), the TT powers its way to 100km/h in a respectable 5.9 seconds.
Mated to a 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the motor’s power delivery and throttle response are smooth, but it’s the improved ride quality in the new TT that I notice immediately. The new TT is also quieter and more refined, so unless I keep a close eye on the speedo, it’s easy to lose track of how fast I’m going.
In the bends, too, the new TT is markedly better than before – miles more agile and entertaining, though the non-adjustable dampers are a little too soft for the coupe to be truly incisive. Despite its wheelbase growing by 37mm, its overall length is virtually unchanged, so you still get the trademark TT nippiness, but crucially, it now has more room for the rear bench. As with most models in the Audi lineup, the TT has several driving modes that alter throttle and steering response, along with the aural intensity of the engine.However, even in its Dynamic mode, I find the steering a tad too light and uncommunicative, though turn-in is satisfyingly quick and the helm is impressively precise. The dual-clutch transmission is also surprisingly intuitive when driving hard – so much so that I left it to its own devices during most of my time with it (a rare occurrence for me).
Out of corners, the front-wheel-drive car (if you’re interested in finding out what the hot all-wheel-drive TTS is like, turn the page) never threatens to compromise traction thanks to a clever electronic differential, which can direct power to the wheel with the most grip. Torque-steer is spookily absent, too, though I find the stability control’s intervention a little too abrupt (this can be cured somewhat by using the ESC’s Sport setting).
Conservative styling tweaks aside, the newfound dynamic ability in the third-generation TT is a breath of fresh air for what is arguably Audi’s most recognisable car. It’s still good-looking, and more importantly, it is way more engaging than ever before. It’s also equipped with what is definitely a shoo-in for cockpit of the year, the terrific new TT is a compelling package for those in the market for a sporty coupe when it arrives by the middle of next year.
TYPE Inline-4, 16-valves, turbocharged
BORE X STROKE 82.5mm x 92.8mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 9.6:1
MAX POWER 230bhp at 4500-6200rpm
MAX TORQUE 370Nm at 1600-4300rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 182.5bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 6-speed dual-clutch with manual select
DRIVEN WHEELS Front
0-100KM/H 5.9 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 15.9km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 146g/km
FRONT MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
REAR Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs / Discs
TYPE Continental ContiSportContact 5
SIZE 245/40 R18
TRACTION CONTROL ABS with ESC
KERB WEIGHT 1260kg
TURNING CIRCLE 10.9m
PRICE INCL. COE To be announced
WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km
+ Butch new looks, nifty all-digital instrument cluster, improved dynamics
– Suspension too firm for long-haul touring, handling still not the most incisive