Two hundred and thirty horsepower: 60 years ago it’s what the Maserati 250F grand prix car could call upon. Thirty years ago it was the Porsche 911’s output. And today it’s what an Audi TT has. In base form, that is…
Such is the pace of progress. How revealing it would be to get these cars together! So that’s what we have done. Apart from the 250F that is; there wasn’t one of those in the car park at the time…
Today’s TT and a 911 of 1986 don’t at first glance have much in common. Or at second or third glances. But bear with.
First, the Audi. We wanted to have another go in the base version after enjoying the top-end TT S we had last week. The TT is now much more a driver’s car, as the great Hannu Mikkola showed when he rekindled Scottish quattro memories and kindly blasted us up the Rest & Be Thankful hillclimb.
First hurdle to jump: is the TT S now the TT to have if a TT you must have? The power hike makes it quicker (0-62mph in just under 5secs) but not memorably more special to drive. It’s £6k up on the 230bhp quattro coupe and, sure, you get better seats, Audi ‘magnetic ride’ dampers and other toys as well as the extra power, but really – just how fast do you want to go in your TT? And for similar money a Porsche Cayman (or Boxster) would surely be a more rewarding (if less practical) alternative.
The base 230bhp TT is still a cracker of a car, and just as convincing a driving proposition in quattro or front-drive forms, as a convertible or coupe. But tick too many boxes (we’d do without the 19s and S Line suspension for sure) and the price/enjoyment ratio can quickly go awry. Keeping it simple is the key.
‘The rear-drive 911 lacks the TT’s grip and understeers more. And oversteers more. And sometimes it feels like it’s understeering and oversteering at the same time.’
As Audi has done with the hood, that’s hood, not 100kg of transformable metal and glass that many convertibles rely on these days, and the TT is all the better for it. Apart that is from an unfinished look with the hood down; it’s all beautifully flush, but there are gaps left on the rear deck big enough to get your hand down. Not very Audi.
And so to the 911. It would be difficult to find a more diametrically opposed two-door. Six versus four cylinders, normal breathing vs turbocharging, air vs water-cooling, rear vs front engine. For all that the 230bhp (231 in the 911) performance is the same at 0-62mph in 6secs and a 155mph top speed.
The 911 has one gear less but makes up for it with a lower kerb weight at 1166kg (TT coupe: 1305). Gearchanging in the 911 is not quite as slick (and, er, no paddleshift option…) but like the Audi engine (which never feels as if it’s turbo’ed) it’s torquey throughout the speed range. And it sounds proper. Far better than the Audi engine, even with the lift-off exhaust burps on offer with the S Tronic auto ‘box. The 911 never burps – it just screams.
The TT’s handling, even in base front-drive, is pretty neutral as you would expect and it understeers only really when you misjudge an entry speed. The rear-drive 911 lacks the TT’s grip and understeers more. And oversteers more. And sometimes it feels like it’s understeering and oversteering at the same time. But it does have perfectly geared steering and lots of feel – sometimes too much. The TT’s steering has the precision without the pain; for a modern set-up it’s very good.
The old Porsche will do 28mpg on a run, the new Audi 47mpg, but has the 911 has the bigger tank so max touring range is about the same at 500 miles.
There are things in the TT which you can’t get in this 911. Like a row of tiny microphones sewn into the seat belts (so you don’t have to shout when using the phone – doh!). Ditto LED Matrix lights, ESP, four-wheel drive, satnav, power steering, anti-lock brakes and airbags. The 911 does come with a heater, of sorts. The Porsche is available as both a convertible and Targa and, a rival for the TT S, there’s the Turbo version if you want to go faster. No diesel option though…
Inside the 911 goes with a row of five black dials with white numbers and red pointers, along with an assortment of fiddly switches spread around the cabin as if located by blunderbuss. The TT comes with a driver-configurable digital virtual cockpit and an MMI controller.
So there you have it, a clear win for the 1986 911 (well come on, what did you expect?)
The latest Audi TT is still a bit of a smasher, probably perfectly judged for its market – and incidentally the TT is more popular in the UK than anywhere else in the world.
TT owners will love it – but we’ll stick with the golden oldie!
Photography: Matt Vosper