Audi TTS Coupe

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Audi is claiming its new third-generation TT is the most dynamic yet, a true driver’s car that’ll plaster a smile over the most ardent petrolheads’ faces. We’ll see about that.  The first TT was designed by J Mays and Freeman Thomas, the follow-up the work of Peter Schreyer. Wolfgang Egger has penned the third-generation, a highly evolutionary shape that looks suspiciously familiar. What helps the differentiation is the kink in the Cpost, the state-of-the-art headlights (high-intensity adaptive matrix beam if you so desire) and the LED taillamps. The silhouette and the proportions have barely changed. Still, the optional 20-inch alloys  – 18s are standard – certainly emphasise the squat proportions. The TT goes on sale late this year in three different versions. Most affordable is the 181bhp TDI which, unfortunately, has lost Quattro 4wd between generations.  It features a 2.0-litre turbo four with an emphatically strong 306bhp, an increase of 38bhp over its already punchy predecessor. It’s not only its predecessor that’s left in the dust: with standard Quattro allwheel drive and our car’s extra-cost six-speed dual-clutch transmission, the TTS accelerates from 0-62mph in 4.6sec, thereby matching the outgoing 335bhp RS model, and eclipsing the 911 Carrera and new Cayman GTS.

Audi TTS Coupe front

At the same time, the average fuel consumption has improved from the old car’s 35.8mpg to 41.0. The tt’s cockpit is not only dropdead gorgeous, it also displays an exceptional level of fit and finish, and marks a significant advance in ergonomics. climb in and you sit a fair bit lower in sports seats that echo the rest of the interior: taut and muscular and suggestive of a leaner, more agile tt – and with all-aluminium panels, it is leaner, by 50kg over the aluminium/ steel second-generation model. You notice the temperature controls that are cleverly incorporated into the air vents, the dash-top that echoes an aeroplane wing and, most of all, the new Virtual cockpit dash display – the large tFt screen that replaces the conventional instrument panel and offers a choice of distinctive graphics. With the selectable driving modes set on maximum attack, the monitor will show an extra-large red-white-and black rev counter with an integrated digital speedo. Settle for a more leisurely pace, and a pair of quasianalogue gauges will frame the large sat-nav map. In combination with Audi connect, you have access to a state-ofthe- art infotainment pack, including fast internet, music interface, bluetooth connectivity and Google earth and Street View. It’s an impressive set-up. Although the switch to the modular MQb architecture – the platform also used by the VW Golf – enabled the engineers to extend the wheelbase by 37mm, the 2015 model is actually marginally shorter and narrower than its predecessor, though if anything feels more spacious inside. the boot certainly is: at 305 litres, it swallows 13 litres more than before, and as long as you don’t order the optional rear seats that are legal only for six- to 12-year olds, the loading area can be increased to a shooting-brake-like 712 litres. This, however, is not a car you buy to do the shopping; it’s a car you drive to have fun. And that’s where it really must deliver.

Audi TTS Coupe interior
Pushing the ttS through its paces brings back fond memories of the closely related Audi S3 and VW Golf r. All three sporty MQb-based models are easy to drive fast, set standards in terms of roadholding and traction, and deserve ten out of ten for urgent yet seamless progress. but the new coupe is the quickest of the lot by a considerable margin. Against the stopwatch, it even eclipses the commendably balanced bMW M235i, and gives the 355bhp Mercedes A45 AMG a run for its money. Audi’s media blurb emphasises ‘the highly emotional handling’ that permits ‘safe rear-wheel-drive-style drifts’. this might be the case on a frozen lake in Scandinavia or on an empty car park, but it was not an option on the narrow and winding roads in Italy’s magic mountains, where it takes a potent rwd car or an aggressively tuned 4wd model to go sideways round bends. Let’s face it: power oversteer never was one of the tt’s fortes, and it still isn’t, despite several newly found dynamic torquesplit trickeries for the all-wheel-drive system.

There is actually no need at all for this car to adopt a cornering attitude it was not designed for. After all, it can field plenty of other strengths. Like a commanding carve through a series of challenging esses, an undisputed traction advantage through slow kinks, a perfectly manageable dose of lift-off oversteer to tuck the nose into a bend, and an absolutely stoic directional stability that prevails even on bumpy patchwork blacktop. But is this a car with flawless dynamics? Not quite. Sometimes the TTS suddenly struggles because it aspires to be too clever for its own good. Think, for instance, torque delivery. The new turbocharged four-cylinder engine spreads its diesel-esque 280lb ft peak twist action all the way from 1800 to 5700rpm. This is admirably fl exible, but at the same time it clips the characteristic sporty performance peak. Next, check out the S-tronic gearbox. The transmission upshifts without losing momentum, which is super cool. Less cool are the occasional delays and hiccups caused by a conflict between the need to pre-select the next gear and the inability of the black box to predict the unpredictable, such as an aborted overtaking manoeuvre.

The standard TTS comes with Drive Select, magnetic ride adaptive dampers and the speed-sensitive so-called Progressive Steering, allowing the driver to tweak the car’s personality on the move. To enter the Drive Select menu you must first hit a button below the air-con panel; key vehicle traits can now be dialled in according to five dif erent programmes labelled Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency and Individual. What this system lacks is some sort of instant fingertip access – a Ferrari-style manettino to switch the dampers to soft at the beginning of a rough stretch of road. Comfort is highlighted by supersmooth gearchanges, unruffled throttle responses and a ride quality that belies the XXL 20in footwear. Dynamic whips the gears through the gate with a vengeance, makes the chassis muscles freeze and releases a small dose of slip and slide. In this mode, the electronically controlled Haldex clutch sends a portion of the torque to the rear wheels in direct response to the initial turn-in action, pushing the car firmly into the bend. Since the new TTS wants to be the darling of the digital generation, it puts a strong emphasis on virtually augmented reality. One case in point is the ever-present sound actuator that expertly manipulates the intake and exhaust noise. Especially with Drive Select locked in Dynamic, the TTS leaves no chip unturned in its bid to broaden our acoustic horizon and hammer home its loud decibel message. Part-throttle operation is accompanied by an impatient push-me/pull-you thud, full-throttle upshifts are paired with blat-blat volleys, energetic downshifts automatically trigger short spells of fake heel-and-toeing – an oddity in a car which does not have a clutch pedal.

Audi TTS Coupe back

In more ways than one, these symptoms reflect the dilemma of the current electronic revolution. For the sake of purity and authenticity, the analogue faction should have probably fought harder for an honest mechanical touch. But in the end they gave in to the digital revolutionaries who are, in the name of modernity and progress, allowing gadgetries to gain ground. The result is a car that goes like stink, is totally sure-footed and utterly viceless, but somehow its perfection leaves me a little cold. I want more character, more attitude, more of a connection between man and machine.

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In more ways than one, these symptoms reflect the dilemma of the current electronic revolution. For the sake of purity and authenticity, the analogue faction should have probably fought harder for an honest mechanical touch. But in the end they gave in to the digital revolutionaries who are, in the name of modernity and progress, allowing gadgetries to gain ground. The result is a car that goes like stink, is totally sure-footed and utterly viceless, but somehow its perfection leaves me a little cold. I want more character, more attitude, more of a connection between man and machine.

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