Breakfast by candelight, that’s a new one. But the promise of some track time at Race Resort Ascari, with a drive up the Ronda road is worth getting up for. Even for an Audi TT. It’s the third TT, and Audi is promising some more fun from its iconically-styled coupé. It needs it, as while the second-generation wasn’t quite the excitement void some made it out to be, it’s never quite achieved the status of a car you’d choose for driving. Looking good, yes, inside and out this new TT following its two predecessors’ design-led focus, the exterior a TT greatest hits and none the worse for it, the interior taking a new approach – especially with its neat new ‘virtual cockpit’.
Rather worryingly it’s that virtual cockpit that Audi’s people are talking up most. It takes all the infotainment functions from the centre of the dash and pops it in front of the driver. Where conventional instruments would usually sit there’s a screen. It displays virtual instruments, backed with mapping (if you’ve got nav) or a host of other driving and entertainment modes, it all clear enough, if a bit fiddly when unfamiliar with its operation. But a brief drive in 230hp six-speed manual, front-wheel drive before we get into the meat of the driving on day two had me ignoring the complexities of that screen’s operation. No, it left me surprised at the accuracy of its turn in, and the feel at the wheel. Perhaps that early breakfast isn’t such a bad idea.
With just one range-topping TTS with 306bhp for the road driving it’s a diesely TT for the run up to Ascari. The promise is of track time in the fastest, most focussed car there, and there’s always the MA-478 to El Burgo to consider when my track time is up. As roads go, the route to El Burgo has it all.
There’s a point on the run up in the TT TDI that the inevitable conflict occurs. The rational takes over, the 181bhp diesel’s easy pace, mighty TTS matching 280lb ft of torque and more pocket friendly 110g/km CO2 emissions and 67.3mpg combined consumption figures take some arguing against. The TTS matches the torque, but its 306bhp and 0-62mph time of 4.9sec are compelling. As is the sound it makes, Audi’s ability to make a relatively unexotic four-cylinder turbocharged engine sound like a pugnatious five-cylinder is both amusing, and historically relevant.
Race Resort Ascari’s a familiar, testing track, and the TTS monsters it. Key to that isn’t the engine, though its willingness to rev, its ample any rev torque and quick response undoubtedly helps. It’s the chassis, Audi’s claims that the four-wheel drive quattro drivetrain has been set up to resist understeer not without merit. There’s accuracy at the wheel, the TT turning in with conviction, it only pushing into understeer if you’re stupidly over-ambitious with your entry speed. With the ability to put as much as 100 per cent of drive to the axle that can best use it Audi’s conviction that the TT can be made to oversteer isn’t without merit. Even with the inability to switch the stability and traction systems to fully off on track via some electronic tinkering – Audi’s over cautious company policy not allowing it, though it’s possible on the road – still revealing a TT that moves around under you when pushed hard.
On the road the limits are so high that you’ll rarely trouble the stability and traction systems anyway, the TTS providing the sort ruthless cross-country speed as to wonder why you’d want anything else. It rides well in Comfort mode, anything else being a bit busy, there little need on the road to mess around with the Drive Select system’s numerous choices. The DSG S tronic shifts quickly, though if more interaction was on your desired list then we’d have the manual. Thing is, good as the new TTS is it suffers from being at the top of the line-up; a very good line up, too. And the TTS’s price puts it perilously close to competition like Porsche’s Cayman – which might not have the range-topping Audi’s firepower, but aces the TTS on driver appeal. The TTS is closer to that Porsche than it has ever been though, but the sweet spot remains at a more affordable point in the range. Only the whole range is now more interesting from a drivers’ point of view, significantly so, the TT’s iconic styling now backed with some real ability.
Power to weight: 215bhp/ton
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
Engine: Four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Power: 306bhp at 5800 to 6200rpm
Torque: 280lb ft at 1800 to 5700rpm
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic, all-wheel drive
Wheels: 19in alloy front and rear
Tyres: 245/40 R18
On sale date: TTS from November, deliveries March