Audi TT review

Receiving a mid-cycle update for model year 2011 that includes subtle styling changes and a welcome increase in power, Audi’s roundly styled TT sports coupe and convertible remains a standout, both in terms of its overall appearance and its lively performance.

Audi TT

Up front, Audi’s now-signature trapezoidal front grille is flanked by large air intakes and distinctively cast headlamps, with a dozen LEDs serving as daytime running lights. An otherwise unobtrusive spoiler at the rear automatically extends at speeds over 75 mph to help maintain the car’s stability (and act as a visual cue to car-savvy highway troopers that the car is exceeding most speed limits). The 2011 edition sees a revised bumper, front grille and fog lamps that help refine its front-end treatment a bit.

Sixty-nine percent of the car’s exterior is fabricated from aluminum to help maintain a relatively low curb weight, which translates into added performance with decent fuel economy.

The TT comes powered in its base form by Audi’s turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which for 2011 produces a modestly increased 211 horsepower, but with a far stronger 258 pound-feet of torque to ensure quicker launches and plenty of highway passing power on demand. The new engine shaves the TT’s 0-60 mph time by over a second to just 5.3 seconds; top speed is electronically limited at 130 mph.

The higher-performance TTS versions include a tweaked version of the turbo 2.0 that generates a more-generous 265 horses, but with the same 258 pound-feet of torque. While the car’s off-the-line abilities are only nominally improved, at a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds, it keeps on going when the standard version runs out of steam, boasting a 155 mph top speed (also electronically limited so as not to overtax the tires). This version further includes a revised suspension and a high-performance braking system.

A six-speed “S tronic” dual-clutch sequential-shift transmission is the only available gearbox; it affords a choice of fully automatic operation or ultra-quick manual shifting, via either steering-wheel-mounted paddles or the console gear selector.

As if that’s not enough muscle, top-range TT RS coupe and convertible variants will join the line for model-year 2012, packing a turbocharged and direct-injected 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder power plant that channels a full 340 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque to the pavement. A six-speed manual transmission and other performance-minded enhancements will come standard on the TT RS, which should be one quick ride, with 0-60 mph runs clocking in at the mid four-second range.

Standard across the line is Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, which both improves the car’s footing on slippery road surfaces and enhances the TT’s cornering capabilities on dry pavement. Here, the system normally sends 85 percent of the engine’s power to the front wheels, and can send up to 100 percent torque to either axle as necessary to maintain traction. Stability control is standard to further protect against spinning out in high-speed or emergency handling maneuvers. Eighteen-inch wheels and tires are standard on the base version, with 19-inch rims and rubber optional there and included with the TTS.

Standard on the TTS and optional on the base models is a magnetic ride system supplied by General Motors that helps the car deftly tread the line between delivering sporty handling and a relatively smooth ride. Here, wheel and body motion is controlled via “magneto-rheological” fluid in each of the car’s shock absorbers that’s essentially oil that’s been infused with lots of tiny metal balls, the viscosity of which (and, in turn, the stiffness of the shock absorbers) is affected by a magnetic current. The system can further accentuate either the car’s ride smoothness or sheer handling performance according to a choice of “normal” or “sport” settings. For 2011, engaging sport mode further stiffens up the steering and makes the exhaust note sound more aggressive.

Inside, the TT offers supportive sport seats, metal brake and accelerator pedals and a Nappa leather-wrapped sports steering wheel that’s flat-bottomed to make getting in and out of this low-slung sportster a bit easier (at least for those lithe enough to be able to climb into it in the first place). For 2011 the car sees minor interior revisions that are highlighted by updated aluminum accents on the steering wheel, center console and door panels. The coupes include minute back seats, but rear legroom is virtually nonexistent; at least the seatbacks fold down on a 50/50-split basis to maximize the car’s otherwise nominal cargo capacity. The convertibles are strictly (and wisely) two-seaters.

The TT comes reasonably well equipped with amenities like automatic air conditioning, satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone interface and multi-function steering wheel controls. The TTS models add supportive leather/Alcantara sport seats, unique instrument-panel gauges and assorted upgrades.

The car’s CD audio system is menu driven, and is similar in operation to the MultiMedia Interface system found on other Audi vehicles, where it works well enough, but not as handily as separate buttons and knobs. A navigation system with real-time traffic information, heated seats, rear parking alerts and assorted interior upgrade packages are optional.

The TT remains a thoroughly modern ride that delivers pleasing performance with good fuel economy and a welcome dash of pizzazz that’s a departure from the retro muscle-car styling and exotic-car visual excesses that proliferates among sports cars these days.

Audi TT Quick Facts

Engine: 2.0-liter 4-Cyl Turbo
Horsepower: 211 @ 4,300 rpm, 250 @ 6300 rpm.
Torque: 258 @ 1,800 rpm, 236 @ 2500 rpm
City/Highway: MPG 22-31
Transmission: 6-Spd Auto Manual
Drive: AWD
Wheelbase: 97.2 in
Overall Length: 164.5 in
Width: 72.5 in
Height: 53.2 in
Curb Weight: 3,153 lbs
MSRP: $38,300-$50,000 (TT RS: NA)

Did You Know?

The Audi TT takes its name from the prestigious Tourist Trophy motorcycle race held annually on the Isle of Man in Great Britain. NSU Motorenwerke, a predecessor manufacturer to what is now Audi began competing in the race as early as 1911. The current TT also takes its name from NSU 1000TT, 1200TT and TTS cars from the 1960’s, though it is alternately said to stand for “technology and tradition.”