AudiWorld First Look: All New Audi TT

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April 9, 2006

By: Gavin Conway, European Correspondent

We have just met the next-generation Audi TT, a faithful evolution of what has been a very successful model. And while the new car is longer and wider, it doesn’t actually look bigger than the hugely successful original, launched back in 1998. The styling has been sharpened up, too, although the look owes much to its predecessor.

Walk around the car and the most obvious styling departure is the dramatic nose, which mirrors that of the Shooting Brake concept unveiled at Tokyo Motor Show 2005. In profile, the TT has a longer stretch of sideglass and more deeply sculpted swage lines. There are lovely detail touches throughout, such as the taillights with their distinct internal squares – taking a cue from BMW’s trademark ringed headlights, TTs will be very easy to spot from behind after dark.

Climb aboard and you’ll be immediately struck by how much less claustrophobic the new TT feels compared with the old. That’s partly due to an extra eight centimetres of cabin length, which has allowed for more seat travel. You also sit very low in the car, which for tall drivers will counter that sense you had in the old car of the roof being drawn overhead as though you’re wearing a giant sombrero. The dashboard rises high and bluff in front of you, with all the important bits angled toward the driver. It looks good and the control actions all have just the right quality feel to them. We like the flat-bottomed steering wheel, too. Overall, this is a very comfortable driving environment and good, solid progress from the old car.

There may be more length in the cabin, but don’t get any idea that this is anything more than a very occasional 2+2. Space in the rear seats is strictly for small children or adults capable of short-term contortion. The trunk, while still small and shallow, can actually take 20 litres more than the old car’s, at 290 litres. Lower the rear seatbacks and you’ll get a total of 700 litres of space, which isn’t at all bad for a sportscar.

The other thing that purists will love about the new TT is the absence of a fixed rear spoiler. The very earliest TTs didn’t have a rear spoiler, but a high-profile case of a TT becoming unstuck in a high-speed corner prompted the company to add a duck’s tail spoiler on all subsequent models. With the new car Audi has engineered an automatic spoiler, ala Porsche 911, which rises at speed but folds away flush otherwise. In Germany, it’ll come up at 120kph, but in other markets, this is likely to be as low as 80kph. It can also be manually deployed for those who want to show off.

Another crucial feature of the latest TT is one we’ll only discover later this year. We talked to development chief Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, and his insistence on talking about the new TT’s sporting abilities bordered on the comical. As in ‘can we talk about the interior packaging?’ ‘No, let’s talk about the precision of the steering…’

Hackenberg makes the point that the new TT’s structure is much stiffer than the old, and that the car also has a lower centre of gravity. Indeed, open the door to the new TT and the first thing that’ll strike you is just how much thicker the door sills are, all in aid of a more rigid body. Hackenberg also says that those thick sills are in anticipation of the roadster TT that we’ll see later this year. It should be a lot stiffer than the current open TT.

These moves are all an attempt to redress the perception that BMW does ‘sporting’ better than anyone else, and Audi in particular. So while the original TT launch was about avant-garde, concept-car styling, this latest one could end up being much more about the driving experience. We just can’t wait to see if the promise is borne out.

At launch in Europe, the TT will be available with a 200bhp 2.0-litre TFSI turbo petrol and 250bhp 3.2-litre V6 petrol (the latter with quattro four-wheel drive). The reasonably lightweight TT – 69% of its structure is aluminium – will deliver 0-62mph in 6.4secs in 2.0-litre guise and 5.7secs with the V6. Top speed is 240kph and 250kph respectively.

When asked about a diesel option, something all of TT’s competitors have in major European markets, Hackenburg was transparently coy, saying “If we win at Le Mans 24-Hours with our diesel race cars, this will prove that diesel is sporty.” Which means a) Hackenburg is totally convinced that Audi will win Le Mans with its R10 TDIs, and b) we’ll definitely be getting a diesel option. This is less relevant for the North American market but this will surely change as modern diesels, which are vastly better than the horrible old nails we remember, become more popular.

That’s good news for fans of the fabulous DSG dual-clutch gearbox, which works brilliantly well with torquey diesels. It’s important to note here, though, that Audi has re-named their dual-clutch gearbox ‘S tronic’. That’s a shame, as DSG tag has attained pretty much universal acceptance. In other words, it wasn’t broken…

We reckon Audi’s got the looks just right, and the cabin is also beautifully finished, as well as being a very nice place to spend time. If the TT offers a driving experience to match, there could be a great duel in the offing. Audi TT versus BMW Z4 Coupe, anyone?


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