Now in its third generation for 2016, the Audi TT is a small two-door sports car that debuted in 2000.
It was Audi’s first conventional sports car since production of the Quattro ended in 1991, and it became instantly recognized for its radical shape and available quattro permanent all-wheel drive.
The car with the name Quattro (which is now the designation Audi uses for its all-wheel-drive system on a variety of its vehicles), released in Europe in 1980, was the first vehicle to match all-wheel drive with a turbocharged engine.
As for the TT, the original 2000 model was powered by a turbocharged, 1.8-liter, 180-horsepower engine. Later in 2000, Audi added a factory-installed rear spoiler and electronic stability control to help remedy high-speed handling problems.
A convertible (roadster) version was added in 2001, along with an available 225-horsepower engine. Then for 2004, a 250-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 was offered.
For 2008, a major redesign softened the exterior curves and updated the interior. A 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder was the base engine, and a V-6 was the top-end performer. Models were available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive, with optional handling-enhancing advanced shock absorbers.
Front-wheel drive and the 3.2-liter engine were discontinued for 2010. For 2011, the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine received a mild performance boost to produce 211 horsepower.
As for the current model, the changes for 2016 brought a complete redesign and re-engineering across the line.
A new virtual cockpit literally takes center stage with the re-do, along with some stylish interior upgrades such as quilted-look leather front sport seats.
All necessary information, including the main navigation screen, is now displayed directly in front of the driver, in the dash above the steering column, on a fully digital video game-like 12.3-inch TFT screen, replacing the typical display in the center stack. Information on the screen is razor-sharp, radiantly clear, and high contrast.
Two views are available at the push of a button on the steering wheel. Classic view shows large virtual round speedometer and tachometer dials with navigation/map, telephone, backup view, Audi Connect and media functions, as well as vehicle information in the middle.
Infotainment view enlarges the map, vehicle, and media information and reduces the dials to the outer edges of the screen. Outside temperature, time, mileage, warning and information symbols are shown in fixed positions along the bottom edge.
For this report, I drove a beautiful Tango Red Metallic TT Coupe 2.0T Quattro, with a six-speed S-tronic automatic transmission, riding on 19-inch/five-arm star-design wheels.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine cranks out 220 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque. A manual gearbox is available, as well.
Base price was $42,900; the Tango Red added $575; and the wheels – chisled and painted dark inside, light outside – with summer tires added $1,000.
The “Instrument Cluster of the Future,” with Google Earth imaging for the nav system, was one of my favorite features. I especially liked the fact that I could see what was around me on either side of the highway even in the middle of the night, thanks to the satellite image that was shot during daylight hours.
Audi MMI Navigation Plus is designed to allow access to whatever you want – music, a call, directions, vehicle information. My tester included Navigation Plus, part of a $3,250 Technology Package, along with Audi Connect; side assist; auto-dimming, heated power/folding exterior mirrors with LED signal lights; and Parking System Plus with rearview camera.
Destination entry was made using the rotary dial on the center console by turning and pressing to select the desired letter or number, or by drawing a letter or number on the touch pad on top of the dial. I prefer the latter – it is quicker and easier.
From there, operation of the infotainment system became more complicated and less intuitive. My years of experience in deciphering various systems while testing vehicles weren’t much help. Functions often required several steps and some guessing, although some MMI/search functions were located on the steering wheel. Voice recognition, standard along with MMI Touch, was available.
The rotary dial could also be used like a joystick, with a gentle nudge to the left bringing up the function menu, and a gentle nudge to the right opening the options the same as right-clicking on a computer mouse. The touch pad on the top could also be used to scroll and zoom in lists and on maps.
In summary: This is a great system, but there’s going to be a longer learning curve to master it than I could do in just a week’s worth of test-driving.
Audi Connect uses the 4G LTE cellular network, and allows up to eight mobile devices to log on to the integrated Wi-Fi hotspot. The system allows faster, smoother access to Google Earth, Google Street View, and email, and can read aloud Twitter and Facebook, access over 7,000 internet radio stations, and allow seamless streaming or video gaming.
The Navigation Plus feature provides real-time traffic information, weather and news, and local pricing for gas stations; Google Local Search retrieves detailed information about destinations; and myAudi Destinations allows registered users to access Google Maps remotely and download information directly to the vehicle.
Both the 2016 TT coupe and convertible models get Audi’s latest MMI operating system. The system allows the driver to manage navigation, entertainment, interior, or ride dynamics on models with Drive Select.
Drive Select is standard on all TT models, and allows the driver to choose one of four settings – comfort, dynamic, auto or custom – to adjust the vehicle’s shift points, ride, steering, and acceleration.
The new Bang & Olufsen sound system is available for $950 (my tester included the package), and sets the woofers into the front doors.
Controls for the front HVAC have been stylishly simplified by placing the buttons and knobs in the center of the large turbine-style vents in the center of the dash. Controls for the heated front seats are in the vents at the sides of the dash.
An S Sport seat package ($1,000) included fine Nappa leather and diamond-quilted sport front seats with four-way, power lumbar adjustment. The seats were heated, with 12-way adjustment.
Height adjustment lifted me up for good visibility, as the car rides low, making it difficult – and a little intimidating – to see among taller vehicles on the highway. Ground clearance, however, was excellent a help when turning into my sloped driveway.
Front legroom was 41.1-inches, adequate for an average driver. Rear legroom was, to say the least, confined, and hardly suited to children unless they were in car seats. Both rear seats had anchors and tethers for those seats.
My tester had 12 cubic feet of cargo space under the rear hatch, with folding rear seatbacks to extend the area if needed for longer items. I had plenty of room for weekly groceries and, later, luggage for a weekend trip. I did find the hatch heavy, and opening/closing somewhat strenuous.
The TT’s headlights are now full LED, with new dynamic LED turn indicators arranged under each headlight – 18 individual lights on each side. The taillights contain 24 LEDs each.
When the turn signal is activated, the LEDs light up sequentially in the direction of the turn, making it easier to for other drivers to see and understand, even at long distances and under poor visibility conditions.
An adaptive rear spoiler improves handling and enhances driver control, especially at higher speeds. The spoiler automatically deploys at speeds above 75 mph, and retracts when speeds go below 50 mph. The spoiler can also be manually deployed and retracted, if desired.
Brake Assist, along with antilock brakes, allows the system to stop the vehicle more effectively, preventing skidding and sliding when the brakes are firmly pressed in a panic-stop situation. Brake Assist adapts to the driver’s normal driving patterns and can actually tell the difference between slowing down to stop or making a panic stop.
My tester also had LED interior lighting; a gate/garage door opener; rain and light sensors for headlights and wipers; heated washer nozzles; storage under the front passenger seat and a storage net in the front passenger footwall; side-curtain air bags, front knee air bags and seat-mounted side air bags; an alarm system and ignition immobilizer; black cloth headliner; and an aluminum drift inlay in the cockpit.
Driving was a pleasure, and the cabin was quieter than one would expect for a low-riding sports coupe. We were the object of many admiring glances, too.
Options totaling $6,775 and destination charges of $925 brought the total sticker for my 2016 Audi TT to $50,600.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.