When Audi first launched the TT in 1998 as a 1999 model, it instantly became a design icon. Its short, squat body was an amazingly simple, almost art-deco arrangement of big circles connected by straight lines, like a napkin doodle brought to life. Only as an Audi, it was pretty much perfect.
That same kind of strict geometry returns to the TT in its third generation, which just made its world debut at the Geneva auto show, only now, its tidy dimensions contain hexagons and trapezoids on the single frame grille, air intakes and elsewhere. The arched roof profile remains unmistakable, especially in the back, but the window line now features an A5-like kink in the C-pillar. Unique front and rear fascias and dual vs. quad tailpipe treatments separate the standard TT from the more powerful TTS model.
With the new TT, Audi has once again used its vast experience in LED lighting to create yet another clever motif for its headlamp and taillamp innards, with skinny light bars separating main lamps. All-LED “Matrix” headlamps may be offered as an option, possibly with a predictive cornering lamp function that comes on in advance of a curve based on information from the navigation system. The latter function is contingent on our country updating its antiquated lighting regulations, so don’t hold your breath.
“Less is more” was the mantra for the new TT’s interior designers, who decided that the center stack screen for the multi-media interface (MMI) could be and should be combined with the instrument cluster in what Audi is calling the Audi virtual cockpit. Radio, navigation and connectivity are all contained in the 12.3-inch, multi-configurable TFT screen behind the flat-bottom steering wheel and operated remotely by the MMI disc in the center console or via controls on the wheel. The driver can choose from three display modes: “classic,” “infotainment” and “sporty,” and Audi promises that its voice activated functions and logic pathways have become more intuitive than ever.
Climate controls have been cleverly integrated into the row of turbine-shaped air registers. This leaves the dashboard very clean and truly cockpit-like for the driver, but alas, provides very little for the passenger to look at other than the scenery. Or their smartphone. We shall see if this ergonomic solution catches on. Either way, don’t expect a lot of help from your passenger when the time comes to pick a radio station.
However iconic the TT has always been, with front- or all-wheel drive, it hasn’t always been the best sports car compared to its rear-wheel-drive competition, including the Mercedes-Benz SLK, BMW Z4, and Porsche Boxster and Cayman. Audi has been trying to rectify that ever since. Certainly helping matters is the fact that the new TT coupe is more than 300 pounds lighter than the original, and 110 pounds than the last one, and the latest evolution of Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system shall optimize acceleration on models so equipped.
Also helping matters is the fact that no TT will be a wimp in the engine department, with the standard TT powered by a surprisingly gutsy 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 230 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque. Base models will have front-wheel drive and a six-speed stick and should be able to hit 60 mph in 6.0 seconds, says Audi. Opting for all-wheel drive and the six-speed S-tronic automatic transmission chops a huge 0.7 seconds off that time. The TTS is powered by a 310-hp version of the same engine, which produces 280 lb-ft of torque. It is also available with the manual and S-tronic automatic transmissions, the latter featuring launch control and expected to be able to hit 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. Standard on the TTS and available on the TT are magnetically controlled shocks as well as Audi Drive Select adjustable chassis and powertrain programs.
As before, the coupe remains a 2+2 seater, and the inevitable convertible will seat two only. The hatchback cargo area contains another half a cubic foot of space behind the rear seats, which, in all likelihood will remain folded most of the time anyway.
We don’t expect prices to change much when it finally goes on sale, likely in about a year as a 2016 model (prices for the TT currently start at about $41,000). With the TT coupe now out of the bag, it shouldn’t be long before the convertible appears. And certainly we’ll bring you a full coverage of the new TT’s driving dynamics as soon as we get behind the wheel.