It has taken 16 years for Audi to turn the TT into what it said it would be from the start: an Audi for people who liked driving. In that time there have been some TTs that have tried to offer something beyond a fashionable appearance: the last-generation TT S did exactly that, though it remained merely pleasant to drive rather than genuinely engaging. The car intended to be the real rib-tickler, the TT RS, turned out to be an unresolved mess that was actually made worse by its wonderfully characterful five-cylinder engine, because what it did best was expose the weaknesses of the inadequate chassis.
Even in basic front-drive 2-litre form, the new TT is a far better car to drive than the most sporting of its forebears. Using a hybrid aluminium and steel architecture, it’s both lighter and stiffer and easily capable of deploying its 227bhp without the slightest tugging at the wheel. The six-speed manual gearbox is a pleasure to use, too.
But the real change is to the way the car handles. While even decent versions of the old TT were what I call eight-tenths cars, insofar as they felt reasonably adroit until you really started to push them, the new car maintains its composure throughout.
It is precise and well damped, and even the electric steering does a reasonable job of synthesising some degree of feel.
What it is not is indulgent. While a similarly priced, mechanically related hatchback like the VW Golf R will allow you to express yourself as a driver, the TT is never less than competent but still leaves the impression that it thinks it’s far better than you at this driving lark. It would like you to sit back, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the show. Which you will, but nothing like so much as if it had invited you to join it on the stage. A vast improvement for sure, but with some distance still to go.
Perhaps I ascribe too much importance to such matters. I don’t believe anyone ever bought a TT because it represented the best usable driver’s car that amount of money could buy. People buy TTs for what they think the car says about them, and in this regard the newcomer will suit them just fine. It’s not a landmark of car design as was the original in 1998 but, now the TT is part of the Audi family furniture and being rapidly expanded from a single model to an entire sub-brand, it does not need to be. Outside and in, the new TT delivers fully on the promise of quality and style made by the first all those years ago. All I didn’t like was the new TFT instrument pack, which places the navigation map between the dials rather than on the centre console.
I loved the idea when I saw it at a show, but after living with it for a week I still couldn’t get it to function as I wanted and found its presence distracting.
Even so, this is the best TT I’ve driven and by some margin. Hopefully it bodes well for the higher-performance versions to come.
Engine: 2.0 litres, 4 cylinders, turbocharged
Power: [email protected]
Torque: 273lb [email protected]
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Top speed: 155mph