Twin test TT Coupé 2.0 TDI ultra + 2.0 TFSI. The new benchmarks? The new model maintains the heritage of the original, but with greatly improved dynamics and technology… The arrival in Britain of the new TT has been awaited eagerly and the majority opinion seems to be that Audi’s engineers and designers have got it right: the new model is clearly a TT, maintaining the heritage of the original, but with greatly improved dynamics and technology.
Although we had driven all the different versions at the various launches, this would be our first opportunity to rack up a considerable number of miles in the new TT. Until the Roadster arrives in British showrooms, only the Coupé is available, with two possible specifications, Sport and S line. The engine choice is between the 2.0 TDI unit, which develops 184 PS, and the 2.0 TFSI, with 230 PS. Only the petrol engine is available in conjunction with quattro fourwheel drive, but both of the cars which were on test had front-wheel drive. This is important and should be borne in mind when we discuss their behaviour.
‘Inevitably, the TDI is better in terms of fuel consumption than the TFSI…’
Some might feel that a diesel engine is hardly appropriate for a sportscar, but the TDI-engined TT shows how wrong that can be. It may have considerably less power than the petrol-engined version, but the torque is a hefty 380 Nm, held steady from 1750 to 3250 rpm. This is just a bit more than the TFSI and it gives the diesel strong pulling power from low revs. The Audi engineers have worked hard to give the engine a sound which is appropriate to a sports car and it is certainly more attractive in this respect than the vast majority of diesel-engined cars. What this engine cannot offer is the smooth, free-revving feel which you only get with petrol power.
‘Both of these cars are quick, the TDI almost as fast to 50 mph from rest, because of the low-speed pulling power…’
Both of these cars are quick, the TDI almost as fast to 50 mph from rest, because of the low-speed pulling power provided by the high-torque engine. The TDI takes 5.6 seconds to reach 50 mph, while the TFSI takes just 0.1 seconds less. Thereafter the more powerful engine of the TFSI begins to take over and 60, 70 and 80 mph are reached in 6.4, 8.5 and 10.1 seconds respectively. The equivalent times for the TDI are 7.6, 9.4 and 12.2 seconds.
The times taken to accelerate from 30 to 50 mph and 50 to 70 mph depend on how quickly you can change up through the manual gearbox. This is no problem, though, because the change on both cars was positive and smooth. In third gear, the TDI will go from 30 to 50 mph in 3.2 seconds while, again, the TFSI is faster by just 0.1 seconds. To all intents and purposes, the times are the same. It is much the same story when accelerating from 50 to 70 mph: the TDI takes 3.6 seconds while the TFSI takes 3.4 seconds. Once again, the times are almost the same.
Why opt for the TDI when the petrol engine in the TFSI version is more powerful, smoother and revs more freely? There is one very good reason: fuel economy. The TT TDI ultra offers a unique blend of sporting performance and miserly fuel consumption.
Inevitably, the TDI is better in terms of fuel consumption than the TFSI. Overall, the TDI returned an average of 45.2 mpg, while the TFSI worked out at 36.8 mpg. This means that the TDI proved to be 23 per cent more economical, a margin which is well worth having if you want to keep costs down. You have, though, to take into account the higher cost of diesel and, if you do all the sums involving current fuel prices, you might well find that the difference between the two is less than you expect.
Driven without exploiting its performance, the TDI was able to average 56.3 mpg. This means driving with a sensitive right foot and, most important, having a warm engine. You notice this feature of the diesel on cold mornings: the petrol-engined car warms up more quickly. On a long journey, providing you didn’t indulge in too much hard acceleration, we would expect a fuel consumption of around 50 mpg. Not bad for a sportscar.
Driving in the same manner, the TFSI was able to average 49.6 mpg which is pretty good for a petrol-engined sports car and, on a long trip, you could probably count on something like 45 mpg. The TT has a 50-litre or 11 gallon fuel tank and so, with a full tank, the TDI would probably carry you for close on 500 miles, whereas, with the TFSI, the range would be nearer to 450 miles.
Both of these cars have the same suspension (although the TDI is rather more front heavy and the settings are adjusted for this) and both were running on the standard size of wheel and tyre for the Sport version: 245/40 tyres on 8.5 x 18-inch rims. The ride is firm and well damped at all times but, because of this firmness, badly surfaced roads can mean that one has to reduce speed somewhat because the irregularities can upset the handling. The S line models have 9 x 19-inch wheels shod with 245/35 tyres and, if you wish, the ride height can be lowered by 10 mm if you specify the S line suspension. With both models, the amount of road noise was quite noticeable and could become wearing on a long journey.
To all intents and purposes, the performance times are the same…
Perhaps the biggest change, in comparison to the earlier TTs, is the steering. All TTs are equipped with steering gear which has a variable ratio: the feel becoming more direct as the car speeds up. Drive Select is also a standard feature and, while this has no effect on the suspension characteristics, it certainly does influence the steering. On the Comfort setting, the steering feels relatively vague whereas, on Dynamic, it feels much more direct.
With the steering on the dynamic setting, the response can be very sharp. Pulling out swiftly to overtake a slower moving vehicle and applying power resulted in the car moving quite sharply to the right, making the manoeuvre less smooth than it should be. It will be interesting to hear if owners of new front-wheel drive TTs have the same experience on the Dynamic setting.
Inevitably, with only the front wheels being driven, traction on slippery surfaces is not as good as the quattro versions. It is interesting to note that the current Volkswagen Golf GTI, which has virtually the same engine as the TFSI, is much better in this respect when fitted with the special VAQ front differential which is part of the optional Performance Pack.
This behaviour, and the possibility of torque steer, will not be a feature of the quattro versions of the TT. As we have already said, only the TFSI is available with the Haldex-based four-wheel drive system, but, with the power being transmitted to four wheels instead of two, and with an immediate transfer to the rear axle as soon as the front wheels begin to lose traction, the handling will be more balanced.
The brakes are smooth yet powerful, but some TT drivers may rue the fact that it now has an electro-mechanical parking brake, controlled by a small lever right at the back of the console. With manual gearbox cars, it is not always easy to start off smoothly on an upgrade. Hold Assist, which will stop the car rolling back when starting off on an incline, is available for an additional £90.
‘Some TT drivers may rue the fact that it now has an electromechanical parking brake…’
Anyone who has driven one of the earlier TTs will find the interior of the new model a familiar and welcoming place. If you are tall, you will have to duck your head to prevent banging it when you get in and out and there is still the familiar sound as the windows drop slightly when you open a door. Although the shape of the facia has changed considerably, it still has round air vents, although these are now more complex than before. The big difference is the digital instrument panel, which we discuss in more detail elsewhere in this issue.
One of the TT Coupé’s greatest strengths, in practical terms, is the amount of space for luggage, much more than with most sportscars, and easily accessible through the large (and somewhat heavy) tailgate. You can extend the length of the deck by folding down the rear seat backs and then you have a considerable amount of space when two of you go on a touring holiday. Luggage stored inside the normal boot area is concealed by a two-piece cover which can be removed if you are carrying something bulky. No spare wheel and tyre is provided; beneath the floor of the boot are the tools and a tyre repair kit.
There is also quite a bit of storage space for small items inside the cabin, although the glovebox is quite small inside (and it gets warm so don’t put any chocolate inside it) and the long door pockets are shallow and have sloping floors which reduces their value. There is only room for fairly small children in the back seats and we cannot remember a time when we saw a TT being driven with anyone in the back. In reality, the rear seats spend most of their time used as additional space for coats and bags.
The controls for the air conditioning and heating are cleverly built into the air vents in the facia. Turning the air flow on and off is now controlled by small levers beneath each vents, while turning the central knob alters the shape of the airflow. If you have seat heating, this is controlled by pressing the centres of the two outer vents, while those in the centre are used for fan speed and temperature. It is a sensible arrangement which reduces the number of switches which have to be fitted into the facia.
As each new TT arrives, it seems to have more aluminium and more switchgear built into the steering wheel and, with the size and versatility of the instrument panel, you now need quite a lot of controls. All TT steering wheels now have a flat bottom section and are very pleasant to hold.
The Sport model of the TT is well-equipped, the specification including digital radio, mobile ‘phone preparation, music interface, manually-controlled air conditioning and xenon discharge headlamps. The S line version costs £2,550 more and, for this, you get LE D headlamps, bigger wheels and tyres, lowered suspension (if you opt for it), light and rain sensors and numerous styling alterations, inside and out.
The controls for the air conditioning and heating are cleverly built into the air vents in the facia – it is a sensible arrangement…
What you don’t get with either version is any form of navigation and this comes as part of the Technology package which costs an additional £1,795. We would also want to opt for one of the parking systems because visibility over one’s shoulder is one of the limitations of the TT. The cheapest version costs £430.
There can be no doubt that the new TT is going to be a great success, particularly in this country which is such a good market for the car. At the moment, one has a choice between petrol and diesel engines and, if you opt for petrol, you then have the option of including quattro drive. We would certainly prefer the quattro version because it has better traction, and handling which is more balanced. The premium for having it, though, nearly £3,000, is pretty substantial and we suspect that TTs which are not bought by enthusiasts will mostly be frontwheel drive, like these two.
‘There can be no doubt that the new TT is going to be a great success, particularly in this country which is such a good market for the car…’
One of the most intriguing features of the new TT is the digital instrument panel, a feature which vastly increases the amount of information which can be given to the driver. The two main instruments resemble conventional mechanical units, while fuel level and coolant temperature are indicated by a series of LEDs. Long or short-term fuel consumption details can be exhibited between the main instruments, as well as other pages such as radio stations, telephone names etc.
With smaller instruments, you also get an oil temperature read-out.
Options controlled by MMI rotary switch.
Full-screen map display.
Radio stations or media list displayed between big instruments.