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Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Power: 220 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
EPA Fuel Economy: 23 MPG city, 30 highway, 26 combined
US Pricing: $50,025 as-tested
When the Audi TT debuted back in the late 1990s, it was as much a fashion accessory as it was an automobile.
The tiny sports coupe looked like a concept car driven right out of the studio and into showrooms — impossibly stylish and improbably useful. But the car matured with time, shedding much of its softer looks for something much meaner. High-performance S and RS variants butched the nameplate up with delinquent amounts of horsepower, a trend that’s continued with the current model.
Arguably, Audi’s third-generation TT is the best of all with the most aggressive design ever, complete with scowling headlamps and sharp lines. But this sports coupe doesn’t just look the part — underneath that lightweight sheet metal, it’s loaded with more technology than ever.
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Under its short hood, you’ll find a transversely mounted 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This little dynamo is pumped up with more than 17 pounds of peak boost, which sounds like quite a bit, but in practice, it’s nothing crazy. That extra airflow helps this powerplant deliver a relatively modest 220 horses and 258 lb-ft of torque.
If you want more power, opt for the TTS, which offers 292 ponies and 280 lb-ft of twist from the same 2.0-liters of displacement.
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A six-speed dual-clutch S tronic automatic is the only gearbox offered in the TT in North America, though customers in other markets around the world can get one with a manual transmission or even a diesel engine. This level of choice makes us pretty jealous, but what can we do about it other than moving to Europe?
In typical Audi fashion, quattro permanent all-wheel drive is standard. The way it responds can be adjusted via the Audi Drive Select System, which alters numerous vehicle parameters, changing how the car feels on the road. In dynamic mode, quattro has a rear-wheel bias for sportier handling than one might expect.
All told, the TT coupe can scamper to 60 miles an hour in just 5.3 seconds; the droptop roadster is a few ticks slower, achieving the same milestone in a claimed 5.6. Naturally, the TTS is faster; its score in this sprint is a fleet 4.6 seconds.
Speedy and silken, the TT’s engine is also economical. This car stickers at 23 miles per gallon city, 30 highway and 26 mpg combined. Without any difficulty, we managed to exceed that average during our week of testing.
Audi Space Frame
The TT is based on a variant of the Volkswagen Group’s ubiquitous MQB architecture, which underpins everything from the immensely popular Golf to the next-generation Passat, to Seats, Skodas and countless vehicles in between.
But Audi didn’t just pilfer the underlying components from a GTI and call it a day, oh no; that’s so first generation. Appropriately, this car features quite a bit of aluminum. Its occupant cell, various bolt-on parts and exterior skin are all rendered in the material, which cuts a significant amount of mass. Overall, this car weighs less than 3,200 pounds, meaning it’s quite light by today’s standards. Curiously, the engine block is still cast iron, which seems like an odd step in the wrong direction.
Audi has also done some intriguing things inside the new TT. Its cockpit is extremely driver-focused, which is always appreciated in a sports car, but the air vents are one of its most clever features.
Designers have incorporated all of the climate control functions into the car’s circular registers. The fan speed, temperature adjuster and even the seat heaters are all adjusted from separate controls mounted in the center of each vent. As you’d expect, all of these controls operate with watch-like smoothness.
Moving the climate controls up higher makes them easier to see and use, but it also frees up space on the center stack, which is missing another critical component.
Perhaps you’ve noticed there’s no screen for the navigation system? It’s true! But don’t worry, driving a TT doesn’t mean you’re sentenced to being perpetually lost. Instead, this feature has been replaced by a fully digital instrument cluster that spans a full 12.3 inches. This thing is slicker than an otter in an oil spill and, with a little practice, is surprisingly easy to use.
The digital gauges give you access to a dizzying number of functions. You can adjust radio presets, monitor the vehicle’s fuel economy and even make phone calls right from the instrument cluster using the steering wheel-mounted controls or traditional MMI knob on the center console. But the mapping feature is slickest of all. With a widescreen display right in front of you, the beauty of Google satellite imagery comes to comes to life in high-definition color. It’s quite amazing.
However, not everything is perfect inside the TT. For starters, some of the interior materials aren’t really “Audi-grade.” The soft plastics are certainly high quality but are textured like sandpaper. Cut a chunk off the dashboard and you could probably use it to refinish hardwood flooring.
Also, the TT makes a weird heartbeat sound when you turn it off and open a door. What is this, a German sports car or a Korean dishwasher?
Thanks to its aluminum-intensive structure low weight, the TT scampers like a startled squirrel. Off the line, it bursts ahead with a wave of low-end torque, which rapidly swells before gradually tapering off at the engine’s upper end. Just as it stops pulling with vigor, the dual-clutch automatic bangs off a near-instantaneous gear-change and the process starts all over again.
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As you’d expect, the TT’s ride is quite firm, but this attribute helps it change direction with enthusiasm and almost zero body roll. Chuck it into a corner and its attitude never alters. Of course, this stiffness can be a bit tiring on poorly maintained surfaces, but it’s not that harsh.
The TT’s steering is ideally weighted; I especially like it in dynamic mode, the heftiest setting provided by the Audi Drive Select system. However, you don’t get a lot of feedback from the road surface, it feels kind of isolated. Also, the transmission could be smoother, juddering occasionally while taking off from a stop. Regrettably, for all their speed, dual-clutch gearboxes will probably never be as smooth as torque-converter-equipped automatics.
The Verdict: 2016 Audi TT Review
Overall, the 2016 Audi TT is fast and refined on the road. Its design is sharp and handsome; I also love its digital instruments and clever climate controls. Downsides are few. The steering could use more feel, its transmission can misbehave, and I’m not a big fan of some interior materials.
Still, this is a car with more performance than its horsepower rating would suggest, but what I really like about it is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s approachable, easy going and, of course, a lot of fun.
As for pricing, the 2016 Audi TT starts around $43,000, but our test model rolled off the line at $50,025. Options included the $3,250 tech package, which gets you navigation, blind-spot monitoring and more; 19-inch wheels added an extra grand, as did the S Sport seat package.
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