Audi TT MK 3
Audi’s TT was instantly an iconic shape when the soap-dish curves of the Mark 1 were unveiled in 1998, even with the addition of an impromptu spoiler thanks to some slight stability issues when approaching an elk at 110mph, but that’s another story.
Thanks to the popularity of its almost symmetrical silhouette, Audi haven’t strayed far from that basic formula with subsequent TTs, and this Mark 3 could never be mistaken for anything else.
Audi have developed a habit of late of designing cars that are, shall we say, prettier in the flesh than on paper, and this TT is a perfect example. Its ‘face’ loses even more of the cutesy roundness of previous models and has an altogether more aggressive scowl. There’s the obligatory trapezoid grille that every member of the Audi family is graced with these days, larger air intakes, conjoined by a deeper chin spoiler and some seriously mean-looking headlights with forked DRLs for that sly, reptilian air.
Reverting back to an exhaust outlet on either side of the rear valance harks back to the Mark 1 TT and is a feature that should never have been messed with. Upholding Audi’s reputation of being at the forefront of clever lighting, though, this TT sets the pace with some crowd-pleasing sequential indicators that never fail to raise a smile. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they’re commonplace on our roads but, as usual, it’s Audi that came up with them first.
It isn’t until you see the new TT up close that you realise how well this new look works. The way the nose juts out slightly combined with the enlarged, recessed air scoops give the TT a far more angular, 3 dimensional shape than its forebears, even if it’s not quite as easy on the eye.
Clever yet beautiful interior
Even if the exterior of the TT is a bit of a slow-burner, I can pretty-much guarantee you’ll love the TT’s cabin. Oversized, aircraft-inspired air outlets dominate the fascia and are as much of a pleasure to use as to look at. Audi have utilised their usual high standard of materials and it’s really quite hard to find fault with any aspect of this beautifully crafted interior.
From the driver’s seat, everything appears fairly normal until the TT fires into life. Digital dashboards are nothing new, but this isn’t any old digital dashboard, this is what Audi dramatically call their Virtual Cockpit. Put simply, it’s a fully adaptable hi-def screen that can be altered to display various combinations of nav, media, car info and phone. To describe the system doesn’t really do it justice and it has to be seen to be fully appreciated; when it’s in full nav mode and it’s zooming in and out of its 3D mapping, you can’t help but feel that this is a game-changer that makes all of the competition’s systems look somewhat antiquated. It’s that good.
Whilst we’re on the subject of clever touches in the TT, Audi have fitted a touch-sensitive pad to the top of the infotainment control wheel. This doesn’t sound like anything special, except this one will replicate anything you write on it, decipher it into a letter or number it recognises so that you can literally spell-out what you’re trying to select. Clever stuff.
It’s fair to say, then, that the new TT is packed full of impressive technological wizardry and it makes most other interiors look a bit, erm, simple. But it’s not perfect: The ‘Virtual Cockpit’ is so vast and wondrous that it’s allowed the removal of a central screen altogether, thus relieving any passengers of their previous role as DJ/Navigation Officer/Heating Engineer. This may please some drivers as they’re in complete control of every aspect of the journey, others may have been glad of the distraction provided for restless passengers.
Also, the touch pad that can read is a very clever idea and works faultlessly – as long as you’re either left-handed or you’re driving a left-hand-drive TT. For the other 90% of British TT owners who write with the correct hand, it feels a little like being in infant school as we try to spell out simple letters with the wrong hand.
How does it drive?
Ultimately, the Audi TT is about driving, though, so does the go live up to the show? This TT is the fairly dramatically titled ‘Ultra’, and that basically means it’s powered by a super-frugal 180bhp diesel unit. I’ve stated on many occasions that burning oil has no place in sports cars, and I’d still argue that if it’s a convertible it should be petrol, by law. In this well insulated coupe, though, the diesel really works. 0-62 in 7.1 seconds might not be headline news, but when it’s 380Nm of torque is coupled to a sweet 6 speed ‘box such as this one, the whole package just works.
The original TT was criticised for being a ‘tarted up Golf’ and, although the Mark 2 improved things, this new TT is on a different plane altogether. It’s lighter and stiffer than the outgoing model and the way this translates onto the road is real, useable fun. The Ultra TT isn’t available in Quattro guise (yet), so its front wheels are working hard, but the way it turns in and grips is massively impressive, whilst keeping the ride and comfort levels fine for everyday use.
The sensible option?
I don’t like to mention hum-drum aspects of motoring such as mpg and CO2 when talking about a car like the TT, but it’s hard not to with the Ultra. 62.8mpg combined, 116g/km CO2, tax band C and a BIK rate of 21, there you go – I’ve done it, and with good reason. You see, the more you drive the TT Ultra, the less you’ll believe these figures to be true; it may still make some diesel-ey noises but apart from that, this genuinely feels like a weekend-treat sports car, but one you could happily use every day without bankrupting yourself. Just bear in mind that if you pay the extra for S line spec it comes with 19” wheels; they look pretty n’all, but the tyres do tend to roar at motorway speeds.
It’s inevitable that the future will bring faster, more lairy-looking TTs, but when it comes down to providing an all-round package, this TT Ultra is going to be hard to beat.
By Ben Harrington
Specifications; Audi TT Ultra S line, Transmission – 6 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 180bhp, Torque – 380Nm, Emissions – 116g/km CO2, Economy – 62.8 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 150mph, Acceleration – 7.1s 0-62mph, Price – £32,360 OTR, £40,375 as tested
For full details, go to www.audi.co.uk