By Paul Williams;
photos by Chris Chase, Autos.ca
Back in 2000, the introduction of the Audi TT was something of a revelation. The car absolutely was the darling of automotive media around the world, and accolades for its striking design (both exterior and interior) were legion.
But conventional wisdom at the time suggested that the TT design would be its undoing. “After all, where do you go from here?” was the typical question, viewing the TT as a vehicle with nowhere to go in terms of its appearance. Basically, the car was seen by most as, “perfect the way it is,” and some even conjectured that after a run of four-to-five years, the TT would be history.
Happily, the TT lives on, unfettered by its cool original looks. On the contrary, it turns out that conventional wisdom under-estimated Audi, and all you have to do is check out the 2011 TT to see what I mean. The car still turns heads, just as it did a decade ago.
Standard transmission is a six-speed DSG dual-clutch “S-tronic,” activated via paddles on the steering column. The transmission also operates conventionally as an automatic; put it in “Drive” and go.We drove a 2011 Audi TTS, which is an uprated and more powerful version of the standard car. Starting at $57,900 and powered with a four-cylinder, direct-injected and turbocharged engine, the TTS makes 265-horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, which it puts to the ground through Audi’s celebrated quattro all-wheel drive system.
The TTS arrives pretty much “loaded” with desirable equipment, including 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon and LED lighting, a no-extra-charge choice of leather interiors, aluminum trim, keyless entry and start, the full range of electronic safety assists and a racing-style steering wheel. Options include 19-inch wheels, full-colour navigation system with premium audio and special exterior paint (which is anything except white or orange), all of which our black tester possessed, bringing its price to $62,450.
This year the TTS receives some important upgrades, starting with a revised magnetic ride system with, Audi says, a clearer distinction between normal and sport modes. The system — which is based on magnetic properties of the damping fluid — continuously adjusts to the road surface, and provides the ability to switch between a compliant ride for normal driving and a performance-oriented ride that emphasizes the TTS’s sharp handling.
Other changes include a new grille and fog light surround, and polished black interior surfaces with additional aluminum trim.
Design aside, handling and performance are what the TTS is all about. With a reported acceleration time of 5.2 seconds from 0 to100 km/h, and a confident feeling of stability on all road surfaces, the TTS offers brilliant dynamics for the driving enthusiast.
During our test, the car was completely unfazed by challenging road conditions, always maintaining its balance and poise on the slippery, snow-covered roads. Stopping power was better than expected (we were on winter tires, of course), which is worth mentioning as many all-wheel drive vehicles are great at starting on snow and ice, but, become ordinary when you need to stop.
Despite the wonderful operation of the dual-clutch gearbox, its character is best realized when accelerating hard or downshifting into a corner. Otherwise, it’s a docile automatic, and shifting manually soon loses its novelty in normal stop-and-go urban traffic. This is not so much a criticism as an observation; the thrills are there when you want them, but like all high-performance vehicles, there’s rarely an opportunity to savour the experience.
The engine is a revelation. Developing more power than most V6 and many V8 engines, and consuming less fuel than many four-cylinder engines, the Audi TFSI is creamy smooth and instantly responsive. If ever you can imagine a 2.0-litre powerplant being “mighty,” then this is it, especially when you consider that its 258 lb.-ft. of torque is available at a low 2,500 rpm and it spins happily up to 6,000 rpm. What this means in practice is that you are aggressively propelled from a standing start and would keep going to a stated 250 km/h if only you had a public road on which to legally do it (they exist in Germany…).
The TTS is not a large car, but it provides more than sufficient room for front-seat occupants. There is a tiny rear seat, but adults wouldn’t want to venture there. The TTS is a hatchback, however, so lower the rear seat backs and you have decent cargo room for local duties or a long trip. The hatch is rather heavy to raise, however, and although it would spoil the car’s smooth lines, a rear windshield wiper would be useful.
The navigation system has a sharp display, but its operation is somewhat quirky, as are the instructions provided by voice guidance which rarely names streets or intersections.
The Audi automatic climate control system is excellent, as it has been for years. It’s a set-and-forget system that keeps the windows clear and the occupants as warm (or presumably cool) as they expect. The same can’t be said for automatic systems from other manufacturers.
The TTS is a fine long-distance car, with comfortable and supportive seats and a compliant ride for highway driving when required. Fuel consumption of 9.8/7.2 L/100 km city/highway, and a 60-litre fuel tank give you good range.
If you can get yourself onto a local closed circuit for “track day” entertainment, you’ll love flinging this car around the corners and blasting down the straights. The Audi TTS is European muscle, in a compact, sophisticated package.
Pricing: 2011 Audi TTS
Base price: $57,900
Options: $4,550 (19-inch wheels: $1,000; Navigation: $2,900; Panther Black Crystal Effect paint: $650)
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $64,545
Crash test results
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)