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2016 Audi TT Pros and Cons: Why (Not) This Car?

Audi TT front quarter view
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Introduction

The original Audi TT, introduced as an early 2000 model in North America, took the car design world by storm. Though influenced by 1930s design, the Audi sports car wasn't as blatantly retro as some of the others of the era. Clean and all curves, it fit the rest of the Audi line (unlike, say, the PT Cruiser or New Beetle), yet it looked like nothing else on the road, and was widely acknowledged as an icon in its own right.

The mechanicals, on the other hand, were nothing special. Beneath its surface the TT included a great deal of VW Golf. It served as the perfect car for Hugh Grant's all style and no substance character in About a Boy.

Audi sought to change this when redesigning the TT for the 2008 model year. The second-generation car included far more aluminum and far less VW Golf. Though significantly larger (why must this almost always be the case?), the new TT was also lighter, and it both performed and handled better. The 360-horsepower TT RS variant still ranks among the most enjoyable cars I've ever tested in typical daily driving.

For 2016, the Audi has again redesigned the TT. Developed off the MQB platform that forms the basis for the latest VW Golf and Audi A3), the third-generation car shares more of its steel lower body structure its predecessor did, but its upper body is now primarily aluminum. I spent a week with the new TT to determine how style and substance fare with the latest iteration.

But what to compared it to? Despite industry-wide fascination with the original Audi TT and the passage of 16 years, no one else offers a car much like it in North America. The BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK / SLC are only offered as rear-wheel drive, two-seat, hard top convertibles. The Porsche Cayman and Nissan 370Z (the predecessor of which had a lot of TT in its lines) have fixed roofs, but no rear seat and no all-wheel drive.

I've decided that the BMW 228i, though a coupe rather than a sports car, comes closest, since it has a rear seat and is offered with all-wheel drive. It also happens to be close in price and performance potential. And it's a car no one will accuse of being all style. Game on.

TT Reviews: Audi TT front quarter view

Same iconic shape, but with less curvy curves and more angles. more TT photos

TT Reviews: Audi TT interior

No retro here. Ultra-modern, minimalist interior design. Very deep instrument panel.

Tested: 2016 Audi TT

2dr Hatch turbocharged 220hp 2.0L I4 6-speed automated manual AWD

Compared: 2014 BMW 2-Series

2dr Coupe turbocharged 240hp 2.0L I4 8-speed shiftable automatic RWD

Why the 2016 Audi TT?

  Compared to the 2-Series
Exterior styling
Exterior styling: Much better Better Worse

Compared to the original's, or even to the second-generation car's, the latest Audi TT's exterior styling has been watered down. The curves aren't as curvy and the face now much more closely resembles that of other Audis. But even when watered down it remains a distinctive car, while the BMW 2 Series looks much like many other BMWs, just with less length. While the Audi TT isn't the knock out it used to be, in part because it has become so familiar, exterior styling remains a primary reason to get one.


Interior styling
Interior styling: Much better Better Worse

The Audi TT's interior has undergone more change with the latest redesign. The new interior is starkly modern to the point of seeming cold. Of greatest note, the instrument panel has been radically decluttered. The reconfigurable display panel for the instruments also serves as the sole display panel for the infotainment system. This infotainment system can be operated via buttons on the steering wheel, rendering the console-mounted MMI knob largely unnecessary. The heating (including that for the seats) and air conditioning controls have been cleverly integrated into the air vents. The optional S Sport seats are diamond-qullted. The whole is far more original and intriguing than the interior of the 2 Series, which is pretty much the same as that of any other BMW, and quite cluttered.


TT Reviews: Audi TT rear quarter view

The rear quarter view hasn't changed as much. As elegant as ever. Spoiler pops up at speed.

TT Reviews: Audi TT instrument panel full

Real aluminum trim livens up what would otherwise be a coal bin.

Front seat support & comfort
Front seat support & comfort: Better Better Worse

The new Audi TT's seats rank among the best for support and comfort, something of a surprise since they are in a sports car, not a luxury sedan, and don't have many adjustments. The more powerful, more expensive TTS has front seats with adjustable side bolsters, but these aren't offered in the regular TT. The sport package for the BMW 2 Series includes seats with adjustable bolsters, yet they can't be made to fit my form as well as the Audi's do. Nor can those in larger, more expensive Audis. Puzzling.


Quietness
Quietness: About the same Better Worse

For a sports car with a short wheelbase, the new Audi TT rides smoothly. I was even more impressed by the quietness of the ride. Unlike, say, the Nissan Z, this isn't a sports car that will beat you up in city driving or wear you down on the highway. Despite its longer wheelbase, the BMW 2 Series rides a little more stiffly, but is about as quiet.


Cargo capacity
Cargo capacity: Better Better Worse

The area behind the Audi TT's rear seat proved sufficient for a $250 Costco run. Fold the rear seats, and the Audi TT can carry much more cargo than the BMW 2 Series, and much more than the typical sports car.


Why Not the 2016 Audi TT?

  Compared to the 2-Series
Rear seat room & comfort
Rear seat room & comfort: Much worse Better Worse

Many people will probably leave the rear seat folded, as head room and legroom are both scant. People much over five feet in height simply won't fit. Even a BMW 2 Series has a considerably roomier rear seat.


Driving position & visibility
Driving position & visibility: Worse Better Worse

With a sports car-low roof line, low seating position, and a deep instrument panel, the TT doesn't provide confidence-inspiring forward visibility. The view in other directions is even more restricted (if not to the same extent as in some other sports cars). You sit considerably higher and enjoy larger windows in the taller BMW 2 Series.


TT Reviews: Audi TT front view

The grille that set the car design world aflutter is gone, replaced by one similar to other Audis.

TT Reviews: Audi TT rear seat

Very tight. My pre-teen fit. Yours might not.

Controls and instruments
Controls and instruments: Better Better Worse

I enjoyed using the new Audi TT's innovative driver-centric control system. The instrument cluster can be toggled among three modes: a conventional mode with a relatively small infotainment screen, a mode with oddly small virtual gauges and thus much more space for infotainment, and a sport mode with a large tach in the center and trip computer and infotainment information to the sides. The voice command system also worked very well for me.

Still, this setup has weaknesses. Most obviously, the front seat passenger cannot easily operate the infotainment system. Beyond this potential deal killer, the nav map isn't as detailed as in Audis with larger dedicated displays.


Feature availability
Feature availability: Much worse Better Worse

I've listed feature availability among the why-nots for one reason: in North America you cannot get the new Audi TT with a manual transmission. Then again, you cannot get an all-wheel drive BMW 2 Series with one, either.

Some people might also care that you cannot get a sunroof with the TT, though a convertible will be offered in the future.


Price or payments
Price or payments: Worse Better Worse

Despite its relatively humble underpinnings, the Audi TT costs about $1,600 more than the BMW 228i despite a couple grand less content. The price starts just below $44,000, about $9,000 more than the 228i's base price, and the tested car listed for over $50,000. ($1,000 of this was for 19-inch wheels that aren't in the photos because they were replaced by 18s to mount winter tires.) Add another $10,000 for the TTS, which lists for about $15,000 more than a similarly equipped Golf R. Such is the price of beauty.

On the other hand, the TT is far less expensive than a Porsche Cayman.


Other features of the 2016 Audi TT

  Compared to the 2-Series
Powertrain performance
Powertrain performance: About the same Better Worse

Audi is initially offering the redesigned coupe in two forms in North America, both of which share turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines and a transmission with the latest Volkswagen GTI / Golf R and Audi A3 / S3: the 220-horsepower TT and the 292-horsepower TTS. Both engines are offered here only with the six-speed dual-clutch automated manual "DSG" transmission and all-wheel drive.

Even the 220-horsepower regular TT feels quick, especially in "dynamic" mode, which sharpens the otherwise somewhat laggy responses of the engine and transmission and increases the volume of synthetic exhaust noises. The car can get to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, just a few tenths behind the BMW. Judging from the related Golf R, the 292-horsepower TTS should be about a second quicker at the expense of some additional turbo lag and less linear power delivery.

For thrillingly brutal acceleration, wait for the next TT RS, which should have at least 400 horsepower.

In normal mode the DSG sometimes lugs the engine. At low rpm the engine's vibrations aren't thoroughly suppressed.


Fuel economy
Fuel economy: Worse Better Worse

With EPA ratings of 23 / 30, the new Audi TT's fuel economy is as good as the BMW's in the city but five mpg short on the highway. In my suburban driving the trip computer reported averages between 25 and 27 mpg. On a 70-mph highway it reported 30 mpg.

One welcome aid to fuel economy: the sportiness of the engine / transmission, synthetic exhaust sound, front-rear torque distribution, and steering can all be set independently. So you don't have to waste gas with the transmission in sport mode to get firm steering. In the TTS, the firmness of the dampers can also be set separately.


Handling
Handling: Worse Better Worse

The more sophisticated all-wheel drive system in the new Audi TT can shunt up to 100 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels. Enter a turn con brio and a more balanced weight distribution and torque vectoring limit understeer (plowing towards the outside curb) to well below the levels of previous generations. Getting on the throttle while turning on a somewhat loose surface can even induce oversteer.

The steering has many good qualities. It's quick, precise, and reassuringly linear. In dynamic mode it has some heft for people who like their steering on the heavy side. But like the similar system in the all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Golf R, the TT's steering provides little feedback, and can feel lifeless.

Driven hard the TT becomes considerably more entertaining, but it still feels less lively and less agile than the 2 Series, my favorite among current BMWs. Even with the new chassis and drivetrain tech, the TT retains the resolutely planted feel of a front-wheel-drive-based all-wheel-drive car, if one with excellent balance, stability, and grip. The TTS adds multi-mode adapative dampers to the mix, but I'd be surprised if these transform the car's character. Even the regular TT is a good choice for tackling unfamiliar curves quickly and with confidence.

But I never felt thoroughly engaged in the process. Sometimes close, but never quite there. If the past is any guide, roughly doubling the amount of power will fix this. (I say this as someone who usually doesn't feel the need for much power as long as the car in question is lively and engaging.) Then again, the new TT RS also won't be available with a manual transmission, so maybe not.


Conclusion

The new Audi TT won't have the design impact of the original. It's too much an evolution of a now familar basic shape for this. But the TT remains both distinctive and attractive. Inside, the way display and control technology has been employed to dramatically reduce the button count impresses. The TT should remain the choice of aesthetes.

But with this second complete redesign Audi has move the TT well beyond being all style and no substance. Technology has been employed to further reduce the car's weight, balance its chassis, and quicken its responses. For those seeking a sports car that will inspire confidence on any road in any weather, the new TT fits the bill. While I might criticize the TT's driver involvement, I don't question its competence.

Plus the TT is quite practical as sports cars go. Standard all-wheel drive makes it suitable (with proper tires, like the Dunlop Winter Sports on the tested car) for year-round use. It rides quietly (unless you switch the exhaust to dynamic mode) and without harshness. The rear seat isn't suitable for anyone much over five-foot-zero, but even without folding it there's a useful amount of cargo space beneath the hatch.

Competing German sports cars are less practical and even more expensive. The TT's stiffest challenge could come from the BMW 228i, which has livelier handling, a roomier rear seat, a slightly lower price, and (unlike its predecessor) optional all-wheel drive. But the 228i is no design icon.

TT Reviews: Audi TT engine uncovered

Audi has done little to make the 2.0T engine pretty without a cover. Quick, but not thrilling.

TT Reviews: Audi TT cargo area seats folded

Plentiful cargo space with the rear seat folded. Many owners probably leave it this way.

See more 2016 Audi TT photos

Audi provided an insured car for a week with a tank of gas. BMW provided a 2 Series at a regional media association event.

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2016 Audi TT pros and cons, according to Michael Karesh: the best reasons for buying (or not buying) the 2016 Audi TT. Join TrueDelta to post your own impressions.

Response from ccd

8:58 am March 7, 2016

Was looking forward to seeing the comments on this car and was disappointed to see none so far. The TT gets overlooked by FAR too many car enthusiasts and journalists in favor of other sports cars (ie, Porsche Cayman, etc). But this is THE sports car for how most of us actually use our car.

I own a 2012 TT RS. What stands out about the car is how few compromises that have to be made to own this sports car. The ride is not harsh, the seats are comfortable, the gas mileage is respectable, the cargo space is outstanding by sports car standards, the car has been reliable and the list goes on. The nits are minor. Traffic lights can be hard to see if you pull up too close to them. The back seat is a joke (I leave the back seats down). That is pretty much it.

On the plus side, the car is just a pleasure to drive on regular public roads where most of us do our actual driving, not a track or winding mountain roads. There might be better cars for the track and those winding roads, but the TT RS would be good on those roads as well with none of the compromises other sports cars would require.

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Response from Impressed

8:45 pm March 29, 2016

I've never driven one of these, but the review and the one response were helpful in understanding the car. The Feature Availability section was the most helpful for me: if Audi wants to interest me in a TT, they should offer the new one with a manual transmission. I doubt they care, but I would want a car like this to be egnaging, not automated. I'll keep my WRX (with its manual trans).

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Response from ccd

3:39 pm March 30, 2016

A test mule spotted in the wild for the new TT RS sported a 6 speed manual, raising hopes that the new RS will not be DSG only. Even if this turns out to be the case, Audi imported just one transmission the last time. No telling if Audi would continue with the manual or just offer the DSG.

Perhaps the success of the Porsche Cayman GT4 and the hoopla over the 911R has given Audi cause to continue to offer a manual.

We should find out by the end of the year.

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