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TT at the TT: our Audi coupe on the Isle of Man

Published: 16 July 2018

 CAR's Audi TT long-term test review
 Nine months with the hot turbo coupe
 Latest Audi TTS daily driver blog

Click here to skip down to our Audi TT at the TT course

Month 9 running an Audi TTS: the sexy German waves goodbye

The TT has come of age in this third incarnation. We know this because we’ve been running a top-of-the-range TTS for most of a year, living with this Glacier White slice of Audi modernism every day for 12,400 miles. 

Let’s not forget the devastating impact the Mk1 had back in 1998. The 1990s were not a great era for car design, but I’d argue that the late-decade modernisers – led by German giants Audi, BMW and VW – pushed the envelope for mainstream kitsch, with the TT, Mini and Beetle all forcing stylistics slap bang to the front of consumers’ minds. Everyone else’s been playing catch up ever since.

It’s the Audi that has stayed truest to that original mission statement. While the Mini and Bug have twisted and turned into all sorts of new facets and strange shapes, the TT has evolved steadily but surely through the Mk2’s rather stout, sensible polish to today’s Mk3 excellence.

Is excellent too strong a word? I’d say not. This is a sharp-suited design – inside and out – and one that still turns heads, especially when equipped with our 20in alloys (an £850 option) and blood-red leather sports seats (no-cost Express Red Nappa leather). That boldly Bauhaus profile riffs on the original TT graphics, yet remains fresh, simple, modern. We like.

I’ve spent much of the past year raving about the cabin and its allure has not dulled with every passing month and mile. It’s well thought through, stylish and fizzing with surprise and delight: the minimal switchgear really works, I love the heating controls thoughtfully incorporated into the air vents and the reconfigurable digital display works well, focusing on maps one minute, speedo the next or audio settings as you desire. It’s great to see Audi pushing ahead with the cabin quality advantage it started back in the late 1990s.

Of course, the TT’s not perfect; we’re not sure we even believe in the concept of fault-free automobiles, but we’re pleased to report that the list of shortcomings on our TTS is filed under ‘N’ for nit-picking. The ride is still firm, for starters. While Audi is making strides in this department, its adaptive dampers still can’t match the well-judged plump of a rival 4-series. 

Economy lagged behind the 40.9mpg claim, averaging 27mpg in our tenure. That’s what happens when you have a turbo’d 2.0 four-pot and Quattro system capable of deploying 0-62mph in less than five seconds 24/7. The central touchpad MMI controller works less well for us Brits; ask a right-hander to write a postcode on its surface and you’ll see waht eye meeean. And in freezing weather, the driver’s window once dropped on entry and then refused to close, leaving online editor Lewis Kingston stranded until the motor thawed out.

But the niggles are vastly outweighed by the positives. Nothing mechanical went wrong. The TTS was fast, classy and boasted a knock-out design ethic that made us feel good every time we slipped behind the wheel. That’s everything a mainstream sporting coupe should do, isn’t it?

Count the cost 

Cost new £46,565 (including £7120 of options)
Dealer sale price £32,150
Private sale price £29,590
Part-exchange price £27,880
Cost per mile 18p
Cost per mile including depreciation £1.68

Logbook: Audi TTS Coupe

Engine 1984cc 16v 4cyl turbo, 306bhp @ 5800rpm, 280lb ft @ 1800-5700rpm  
Transmission Six-speed dual-clutch auto, all-wheel drive  
Stats 4.6sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 159g/km CO2  
Price £40,270  
As tested £46,565  
Miles this month 2721  
Total 12,405  
Our mpg 31.9  
Official mpg 40.9  
Fuel this month £460.58  
Extra costs £0

By Tim Pollard


2016 Audi TTS long-term test

 

Month 8 running an Audi TTS: sublime, supportive seats

A special mention to the quilted leather sports seats in the TT. They’re grippy, hard-wearing and extremely comfortable to boot – which is a fine balance, considering how many cars pursue one of these qualities at the expense of the others, leaving us squirming and moaning after an hour at the wheel.

We specced electric operation for £995: works well, but if you’re the only driver you could save a grand and DIY. I wouldn’t skimp on the £175 centre armrest though – it does wonders for the contentedness of my left elbow.

By Tim Pollard


Audi TTS long-term test

Month 7 running an Audi TTS: fantastic lights

This gloomy time of year is the perfect opportunity to show off the Audi TT’s Matrix LED headlamps. Would I spend £945 on them? Living in the countryside, I think I might.

The principle is this: you drive around everywhere on full beam, letting clever sensors detect other road users and shutter the light to avoid dazzling them. It’s damn clever stuff, the beam pattern actively changing as you drive along. It’s quick and eerily accurate, bathing the road in bright white.

I do get the occasional flash from other road users, though, suggesting it’s not quite as perfect as it seems from behind the wheel...

By Tim Pollard


Audi TT S on the TT

Month 6 running an Audi TTS Coupe: what's in a name? Our TT on the Isle of Man TT course

I know that ride comfort is going to be a problem when photographer Alex turns green and declares himself seasick at 4am. We are tracing a rollercoaster route overnight to the Isle of Man TT course – a homecoming return to our Audi coupe’s spiritual birthplace, the motorcycling mecca famed for Tight, Twisting roads, epic views over the Irish Sea and unforgiving stone walls waiting to catch bikers whose ambition exceeds their ability to get a knee down.

It doesn’t help that Britain’s first named storm, Abigail, is blowing in from the Atlantic, battering our progress every which way with winds gusting past 70mph and beyond. We set off from CAR’s Peterborough HQ at 9pm in a stiff breeze but the anemometers are spinning ever more violently as we cross the Pennines, skirt Manchester and set the sat-nav for a blustery Heysham in Lancashire. The poor Audi doesn’t stand a chance in the small hours and nor do our stomachs, as we pitch and roll along in the dark, the metalwork around our heads groaning and creaking with every sudden movement.

In case you hadn’t guessed, it is the 12,700-tonne Steam Packet Company’s Ben-My-Chree ferry that is the subject of our night-time turbulence, not the ice-white coupe parked in the cargo hold below. We arrived at the docks in the small hours only to find our 2.15am crossing (don’t ask) had been delayed for more than an hour by the impending storm. So we bedded down in the TT, trying to grab some kip in the impossibly snug cabin, berating the closeness of the rear jump seats preventing ours up front from reclining fully.

Audi TT

There isn’t a great deal more sleep once we’re on board, the three-and-a-half-hour sailing to Douglas proving a corkscrewing affair in a heavy swell. Eventually we emerge from the ferry to a blustery dawn, the first grey shadows wrapping the island’s capital in a gloomy morning light. A classic English seaside scene, but the remarkably unfaded Victorian splendour hints at the prosperity of this remote British dependency.

We’ve come to the Isle of Man, home of the world’s most 
famous motorbike race. It seems a fitting destination for a car that has hogged the mainstream market for affordable sports coupes since launch in 1998 and cemented Audi’s modernist design aesthetic. The TT is named after the Tourist Trophy time trial first held here in 1905, as the Automobile Club of Great Britain sought a venue to host the implausibly named Gordon Bennett Cup – a globe-trotting race staged each year in a different country. Britain did not allow the closure of public roads, but the club secretary’s cousin was Manx Lieutenant Governor. Call it a pair of early petrolheads swapping favours.

Fittingly, the inaugural event was contested by ‘tourist’ – read roadgoing – cars before the axle count halved two years later when the bikers raced the clock. Although the exact TT route has evolved over the years, thanks to the courageous/crazy exploits of John McGuinness, Giacomo Agostini, Joey Dunlop and others, legendary status was subsequently assured and the two letters entered the motorsport lexicon, copied as far afield as Goodwood, Silverstone and Ingolstadt.

As well as an opportunity to explore the TT’s heritage, our road trip also promises to be a great test of KP15 HPO’s abilities – a mixture of long motorway schlepps, cross-country blasts and several laps of the 37¾-mile Mountain circuit, held on the public roads around the island. Ours is currently the most powerful TT on sale (before the near-400bhp RS rocks up later this year) and we’re about to find out if it will be all at sea or plain sailing on these fast, derestricted roads.

Audi TT

After loading up on caffeine, fuel and food, we seek the pit straight on the A2 opposite the capital’s cemetery. There’s something incongruous seeing pit walls bereft of their lap times on a cold winter morning, with just a steady stream of buses and commuters passing at a snail’s pace – we can only guess at the buzz during the summer season, as Fiestas make way for Fireblades.

The TT’s boot easily holds all of Alex’s photo-clobber and we sling our soft bags, sponges and grub behind us on the cherry red rear seats. As I’ve noted in earlier reports, it’s a surprisingly practical car and after 48 hours of living, sleeping and eating in it we can report it’s surprisingly comfortable to sit – though not lie – in, with plenty of storage cubbies for the detritus of a road trip.

Hot seats set to roast rumps and widescreen sat-nav ordered on the crisp Virtual Cockpit display, we nudge into the rush hour. Even a small town like Douglas (population 28,000) grinds to a halt during the school run and so we crawl back into town, thankful for the Audi’s twin-clutch slushiness, before turning right on to Peel Road and what becomes the A1 westbound. There are constant reminders that the island is transformed each summer, as even town turns are festooned with striped kerbs and racing paraphernalia. Perfect for apex-clipping on the way to Ballakermeen High School, no doubt.

Gradually, the roads clear and we find our rhythm. The west coast describes a rambling ribbon that could double for a high-hedged B-road in Devon or Cornwall; there’s little chance to ape the exploits of McGuinness and co and so we settle back to a gentle cruise, wondering where the magical sections we’ve seen on YouTube will surface.

Audi TT

They come soon enough, signalled by the Ramsey hairpin – the start of the snaking A18 which climbs out of town towards Snaefell, the island’s tallest peak and the inspiration for the TT’s celebrated Mountain name. It’s classic highland territory and reminds us of our Welsh haunts around Snowdonia where so many CAR dogfights are played out. Tugging the TTS’s gearlever across the gate into Sport preps the transmission for faster responses, higher revs and fartier upshifts, while a prod of the Dynamic Select button on the dash wakes the Magnetic Ride dampers from their Comfort slumber and… well, ruins the ride, frankly. No, the Audi’s chassis is best left in Normal mode, unless you’re on a race track proper.

But by golly this car is quick. The turbo’d 2.0 is a cracker, its 306bhp slinging the stubby little coupe on to the next corner with impressive vim and a buzzing soundtrack that punches above its humble 1984cc. Nought to the mainland’s 60mph limit takes just 4.6sec and the S-tronic transmission chews through its gears with the immediacy of an Xbox driving game. Twin-clutch ’boxes have progressed so far since the TT first introduced the genre back in 2003’s V6 – it’s hard to see how much faster cog-swaps could become, although we still wish Audi would invest in properly tactile metal paddles like Mercedes instead of the flimsy plastic ears behind the wheel. A seventh cog wouldn’t go amiss, too.

Fog is closing in as we climb towards the 2000ft peak. The conditions play to the Audi’s strengths, quattro four-wheel drive keeping all the turbocharged grunt on the ground. On our first pass, we actually miss The Bungalow, the junction near Snaefell’s mountain railway with a tribute to TT legend Joey Dunlop and a shrine to bikers from all over the world. The full-sized bronze of the Irish three-time TT champ is a moving testament to this island race – capturing the informal bonhomie, team spirit and fearless balls-on-the-block courage of those who compete in it.

Dunlop, who died racing in Estonia in 2000, competed in 98 TT races and won 26, recording a fastest lap of 124mph around the Mountain course along the way. I’m stunned by the sheer madness of this feat: the proximity of dry stone walls lining much of the route; the bumps and lumps of typical British back roads that unsettle the Audi at 90mph, never mind twice that on two wheels; and the fact that the course zig-zags through 264 corners past Aunt Doris’s semi on the high street one moment and a moorside pub the next. The TT’s magic is how this motorcycling madness endures to this elf-and-safety-riddled day.

Audi TT

By contrast, the (Audi) TT is a polished act. It never puts a foot wrong, the clinically modern cabin nestling us in its aluminium and leather-bound bosom against the wind, rain and fog, heaters pumping out a welcoming glow, Matrix Beam LEDs lighting every dark nook but intelligently dodging oncoming traffic, and the unflappable chassis scything through every famous corner.

There’s no doubt the third generation of TT has evolved into a very capable coupe. Where the Mk1 was all design sparkle and little dynamic sizzle, the latest model is now as good to drive as it is to look at. There remains a nagging suspicion that Volkswagen Group hierarchy forces front/four-wheel drive Audi to deliver an Everyman Coupe – and of that more communicative rwd Porsche Cayman I lusted for on The Mountain course being reserved for real enthusiasts paying top dollar. Mind you, Audi did buy Ducati in 2012, so how long before we see more two-wheeled fizz injected into Audi’s sensible sports cars?

I might have to return to the Isle of Man in that forthcoming TT RS after all. Fingers crossed for a smoother ferry crossing.

By Tim Pollard

With thanks to Steam Packet Holidays, who offer bespoke packages for individuals or groups – including ferry travel, accommodation and entry to the Isle of Man Motor Museum: 01624 645777 or info@steampacketholidays.com


Month 5 running an Audi TTS: cabin fever

Is there a finer cabin on sale today? Especially for a car costing from £27k in lowlier 1.8-litre TFSI spec? Granted, our range-topping TTS is generously specced to 20 big ones more than that, but still… This. Is. An. Amazing. Cockpit. There, I’ve said it.

Audi has been garnering plaudits for its sumptuously built interiors for well over a decade now and that’s what impresses me most. It hasn’t rested on its laurels and waited for the competition to catch up – it’s been pushing the boundaries. 

Not that the TT’s cabin is that radical. It’s still got a steering wheel and pedals, buttons and knobs and that. But it does seem to tap into the minimalist, modernist vibe that BMW has mined so successfully in the new i3 and i8 electric twins. The TT has always had an edgy, progressive streak so it’s appropriate that the coupe penned this next chapter of Ingolstadt’s design handbook.

Take the centre console. There are remarkably few conventional buttons on there, as most functions are absorbed into the steering wheel controls and – the best bit – the heating and ventilation switchgear is built into the air vents themselves with tiny digital read-outs, leaving a delightfully uncluttered dashboard. 

It’s so simple and logical, like all the best ideas. You want to turn up the temperature? Just swivel the metallic-effect wheel on the vent itself. The eight keys ahead of the gearlever lift the pop-up spoiler, disable the stop/start and hazard lights.

The ace up the TT’s sleeve remains the 12-inch digital read-out where the dials should be – the only screen in the whole cabin. That’s a bit selfish, but this is a sports car and my kids simply peer across to ogle the full-width sat-nav mapping and the clever-clogs reconfigurable dials shrinking and expanding at my beck and call.

It’s modern, it’s clever, it leaves most of the dashboard clear for cool Germanic industrial chic, with lashings of scarlet leather, soft-squidge plastic and cool aluminium-effect plastic. Perfect? Not quite. Try resetting the odo reading without any good old-fashioned physical buttons to prod. That’s the tension between the physical world and the virtual, right there.

By Tim Pollard


CAR magazine's long-term Audi TTS

Month 4 running an Audi TTS Coupe: a Welsh road trip

With an invitation to a friend’s wedding in west Wales in my pocket and a 500-mile round trip ahead, I skipped over the Ginetta’s keys and asked regular keeper Tim Pollard if he wouldn’t mind me borrowing the TT. I’m keen to keep the Ginetta track-fit and I fancied taking a car with a radio. I know, I must be going soft.

So I’ve gone from a car with two analogue dials and an odometer to one with what looks like an entire cinema multiplex behind the steering wheel. The TT’s fancypants digital instrument panel is rather spectacular, and a great talking point, but some hours into the journey I began to ever so slightly resent looking at it. Its unrelenting brightness can get a bit wearying at night – like sitting too close to a TV – and with myriad displays and functions to scroll through, you sometimes need to draw on reserves of willpower to keep your attention completely on the road, where it should be. But the TT’s cabin as a whole is a bit of a masterpiece: beautifully put together, ergonomically intuitive and great to look at. A note to any Audi designers reading, though – can you make the coat hooks in the back a bit bigger, please? My suit made a bid for freedom every time the roads got twisty (as they tend to in Wales).

Must be the G-forces – grip levels from the 4wd system and those huge tyres are prodigious, rain or shine. Unsurprisingly the ride’s just a little bit choppy on those gun-carriage 20in rims and rubber-band-profile tyres, even with the dampers set to Comfort mode, but body control is fantastic. And it’s so, so fast. Thing is, it’s almost a bit too good. All that grip and sophisticated damping kind of sweeps a good road aside, rather than letting you really enjoy it.

The TT got a big thumbs up from friends at the wedding, turning plenty of heads. Bet it won’t so much in a few months’ time when the streets will surely be saturated with Mk3 TTs. Audi’s got that want-factor thing nailed.

By James Taylor


Audi TT rear seats

Month 3 running the Audi TT: is it really a four-seater?

How often do you use your rear seats? Giggling Caterham owners can turn the page now, but we suspect most readers would find a back-bench option a useful feature to have – even if chairs three and four are of the occasional +2 variety. And that’s exactly what lurks in the back of the TT.

As you can see from my contortions, they’re on the tight side. In fact, I’m not sure I can hand-on-heart say I could ever sit in them with anything resembling comfort – let alone safety – for even a short ride back from the pub. But then I am 6ft 3in tall and only by pushing the passenger seat right forward and cricking my neck can I fit in at all. No wonder Audi rates the seats as fit for sub-1.48m-tall folks only. Which really means children. And accommodating kids back there is indeed simplicity itself. My seven- and nine-year-olds slot in to the Audi’s second row with nary a murmur of complaint and it’s this level of practicality that marks the TT out as a more rounded sports car than something like an MX-5. 

The boot’s pretty big too (it gobbles 305 litres of clobber at one swallow) and every time I lift the tailgate I smirk when I see the sticker warning of imminent decapitation should you deign to slam the boot shut when rear-seat passengers are braving those back seats. Is being ‘TT’ed a common injury at A&E wards across the country? We’d love to know…

By Tim Pollard


Diary update: the Audi TT's Virtual Cockpit digital dials in action

We've raved about the new TT's high-resolution digital instrument pack previously - and above is a short Audi video showing the Virtual Cockpit in action. While we've seen virtual dials before (the Merc S-class's stick in mind and Jag's XJ set a new digi-dial benchmark back in 2009), the new TT's is perhaps the most democratic application yet. After all, this sports car range starts at £27k.

The 12.3-inch LCD display is properly widescreen with crisp graphics - and really comes to life when you start to reconfigure the dials. The default position is with a tacho and speedo positioned large on either side; click the View button on the steering wheel and you zap the dials to shrink, expanding the central space - so the navigation or media screen hogs the instrument pack. It's pretty dramatic, as you'll see in the clip above. It also means widescreen mapping is brought to life right in your line of sight (you can also cycle through stereo options, phone, trip computer etc).

It's a clever party piece but having lived with the TT's Virtual Cockpit for a few thousand miles now, I'm confident it works well. It's not merely a gimmick - I like the flexibility it affords. The novelty hasn't worn off. You'll see the same Virtual Cockpit on the latest A4. It's yet another sign that the new battleground of the motor industry is cutting-edge tech. On this evidence, vorsprung durch technik is alive and well.

By Tim Pollard


The Audi TT's floor mats: a work of hard-wearing art

Month 2 running a Mk3 Audi TTS: in praise of the TT's... floor mats?

Well, this is a turn up for the books. Of all the things I could be writing about our new TTS – its design, the Porsche-troubling pace – I’m talking about floor mats. But that’s the beauty of a long-term test; it gives us the chance to meander around the more unlikely day-to-day practicalities of living with a car.

And it’s the TT’s removable carpets that’ve caught my eye this month: they’re hard-wearing, easy to clean and somehow classy at the same time, with a nylon weave creating a rubberised feel for a grippy, durable finish. Neat.

By Tim Pollard


CAR magazine's Tim Pollard and our new Audi TTS

Month 1 running a 2015 Audi TTS: the introduction to our long-term review

Let’s rewind 17 years. President Clinton was on a sticky wicket after a fling with a White House intern, the Good Friday peace agreement promised stability in Northern Ireland and Audi tossed a firework inside the affordable sports car camp with the dashingly handsome TT. It’s easy to forget what an impact the Bauhaus-influenced coupe made in 1998 – a harbinger of the Volkswagen group’s platform-sharing vision for making humble oily bits sizzlingly attractive.

Two generations later, the new TT has arrived and I’ve been getting to know our new S model, the sportiest available for now until the high-boost RS lands later in 2016. I’m looking forward to this test for two reasons: I’ve spent much time with the Mk1 and Mk2 and am keen to know if they’ve finally added the brio to match the beauty; and the TTS’s promise of 4.6sec 0-62mph performance sounds mouth-watering on paper, and should soften the loss of CAR’s second-hand 997, which we’ll be saying goodbye to all too soon.

Click here to read Georg Kacher's first drive of the 2015 Audi TTS

Our car arrived in rather grandiose Audi TTS Coupe 2.0 TFSI Quattro 310ps S-tronic spec. We prefer the easier-on-the-lips TTS moniker. Finished in Glacier White and rolling on the largest wheels available (20-inch, 10-Y-spoke rims), it looks very fetching. Such bling footwear sits uneasily with my preference for smaller wheels but – hey – manufacturers like to spec their press vehicles to look good. And it sure does, with a lithe menace that has eluded earlier TTs, yet retaining the motifs and character that’s made this coupe such a smash hit in the intervening two decades. It’s winningly handsome and you won’t mistake it for anything else.

Swing open the chunkily wide front door and you’re faced by a cabin redder than the president’s face during that fateful one-to-one with Lewinsky. The fine Nappa leather sets the cabin off with a reassuringly expensive ambience, especially with the £100 extended leather package covering the armrests, centre console and top of the dash, but the Express Red trim would be better suited to Fireman Sam’s company vehicle. Our crimson cabin is further perked up by an optional front armrest (£175), electric seats (£995) and extra quartz silver brightwork (£250).

Audi TTS 2015 interior

Let’s take a moment to consider what a fabulous interior this is: the new TT’s cockpit is, on first acquaintance, the standout feature of the car. Quality is fastidious, of course, but it’s the design – the purity of the architecture that’s always marked out the TT – that impresses most. The Mk1 wowed us with its metallicised air vents and Allen-bolted gearlever, the Mk3 continues the wow factor with a clean layout, the bare minimum of switchgear, tactile air vents with digital controls integrated into the actual vent and that digital screen dominating the instrument panel.

In case you haven’t seen it in action, we’ll be filming a video to show the TFT widescreen in action on carmagazine.co.uk. This is the only display in town and its party trick is to flip back and forth between regular dials, radio, comms and – most strikingly – full-width nav. ‘Epic,’ as my eight-year-old said when the map seemingly burst across half the dashboard in a riot of high-def colour.

The omens are encouraging for a long and happy relationship, for the new TTS is an absolute blast to drive. Ours has the £455 Advanced Key option (essentially keyless entry and start-up) so it’s just a question of jumping in, thumbing the starter button and haring off; you clock the instant torque from the 2.0-litre four-pot, a growly throb through a surprisingly perky sports exhaust and some whip-bang gearshifts of the S-tronic twin-clutch six-speeder. 

Even though we’ve reined-in the revs in the first few miles, it’s clear this car is quicker than an official White House denial in scandal-mode. That 4.6sec 0-62mph time is, let’s face it, borderline comical for a humble sports car based on a Golf.

Is the style more than skin-deep? Will bits fall off and will we rue the lack of two more cylinders? And won’t that price – ours tops out at nearly £47k! – make it too expensive for most to consider? Stay tuned over the coming months as we suck it and see for ourselves.

By Tim Pollard

By CAR's road test team

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