The Audi TT is nearly a proper adult. It’s hurdled past that technical point where people start calling you an adult at 18, and will head past its 21st birthday later this year. But the idea of the Audi TT was past that point years ago.
The first concept for the TT was actually shown way back in 1995, a time when Audi hadn’t made a real sportscar since the Quattro. That concept barely changed over the next few years before production of the original coupé began in October 1998, the only slight change being the well-publicised addition of the small rear spoiler following a series of accidents. The design was an instant icon, looking like pretty much nothing on sale, relaunching Audi as a sporty “cool” brand and coinciding with the commencement of Audi’s decade of sportscar domination.
A second generation landed in 2006, not quite the mould-breaker that the original was but no less popular, and it was this era that saw the growth of the TT range. The original had seen just a few variants, with only a couple of versions of the 1.8-litre inline-four on sale early on, followed by the introduction of a 3.2-litre V6 and a few front-wheel-drive, more entry level variants. But with the Mk2 came new badges, the TTS in 2008 with 272PS (268bhp) and the TT RS a year later – and there was even a diesel…
Finally, today’s car, which arrived in 2014, with a massive focus on interior tech and a much more aggressive face – the TT was growing up.
Now Audi have decided the TT is old enough for some cosmetic surgery – a facelift is in order.
Inside, the focus is very much on the driver. Audi has never lost its ability to build a magnificent interior, and the new TTS is no exception. The Mk3 launched with Audi’s integrated Audi Virtual Cockpit, which removed all screens from the cabin, focusing everything on the driver’s console. Control is still from the traditional Audi MMI wheel in the centre console, but all menus, Sat Nav etc. are found in front of the driver. Slightly boring for passengers, but a neat solution for the one in control. All versions of the 2019 TTS come with Audi’s excellent multifunction steering wheel (wheels are another thing of which Audi are masters), drive select dynamic handling, USB ports, Sat Nav, Bluetooth, LED headlights and taillights with dynamic scrolling rear indicators, heated front seats (no one is using the rears) and active lane assist.
Overall the design works excellently, and you’d expect no less. Being a passenger on a long-distance run might become a teeny bit dull, with no way to control any of the entertainment systems, but once you get past the initial shock of moving everything to right in front of you, it becomes intuitive, and the customisation of the screen (controlled by a single button rather than a series of menus) is excellent.
The last-generation TTS struggled a teeny bit for engagement, but mostly for ride quality. It was harder than a wall and almost unbearable in dynamic mode. Thankfully the 2019 TTS has calmed this down. Yes, it’s still very firm, and this could become slightly irritating on longer journeys, but it’s no longer unbearable. The ride is now more in line with other modern performance cars, rather than feeling like a torture device. That means the car is suppler on a cruise, but also that at speed it feels less terrifying to chuck into a corner, no longer leaving that niggling feeling of uncertainty, worrying about what might happen if you were to hit an unexpected bump.
The Quattro all-wheel-drive system, controlled by a fancy haldex clutch, has been a hallmark of the TT since it first arrived, and it’s in the latest TT that it really comes into its own. Sure, the TT isn’t the most heart-stopping vehicle to hurl into a corner, but it’s one that you can point into a turn and power through. The TTS feels like it’s on rails if the tarmac is smooth, with just a traditional whiff of understeer in the mid corner.
Power delivery from the turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-four is excellent, especially in dynamic mode, with the TT now pushing 306PS (302bhp) and delivering 400Nm (295lb ft) of torque from 2,000rpm.
Moving through the gears the seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box is the very definition of seamless, albeit, like many systems, a bit slow on the uptake in manual mode. The TTS will now hit 62mph in 4.5 seconds, blurring the lines rapidly between sports and super... All tied together the TTS is preposterously fast for something sub-supercar, and makes you wonder what the TTRS’s purpose could be.
The small sports-coupé is a dying breed. As people move toward SUV ownership the motoring community is spending much of its time lamenting the loss of such cars as the TT. It remains an icon even 21 years after it was launched, and Audi’s efforts to evolve the timeless design of the original, rather than starting every generation with a clean sheet, means that today’s car only needed a few design tweaks to look fresh.
The styling upgrades for this facelift have made the 2019 TT more aggressive, without making major alterations, so if you were one for the TT before, you will remain so. The TTS doesn’t thrill in an on-the-edge way, but the excitement comes in the blistering performance – it’s feels utterly nailed to the road in all but the most extreme of circumstances and encourages you to keep on pushing for more.
The main thing about the TT is that we need it more than we think, as it represents a type of motoring that we all still enjoy and should strive to keep. I’m far from the first person to say that, but I’m far from the last, and the new TTS is something worth fighting for. It remains fast, yet stylish in a way we shouldn’t be afraid of.
Cost of our car: £53,245 (including £9,889 of extras)