Stylish and sporty

Stylish and sporty

The iconic Audi TT is set for retirement with one final swan song

Audi has announced it will discontinue the iconic TT model in 2023, replacing it with an electric vehicle within the same price range.

This means for those interested in the TT, this is your last chance to get one. In Thailand, Audi currently offers the TT Coupe 45 TFSI Quattro S Line priced at 3.499 million baht and the open-top Roadster 45 TFSI Quattro S Line at 3.799 million Baht.

While the first TT was introduced back in 1998 and caused a big sensation with its bold design (particularly its side silhouette), the TT Mk2 came around in 2006 and lasted until 2014 when it was succeeded by the TT Mk3.

Although it's been around for eight years, the TT Mk3 still remains one of the most popular Audi models in the Thai market (the other two are the A5 and Q3), helping the brand grow sales by 30% to over 1,300 units last year.

So, when Audi Thailand recently organised a driving event consisting of various Audi models offered in Thailand, I didn't hesitate to pick the TT as my ride of choice for this Bangkok-Cha Am road trip.

Design

In terms of the wow factor, the TT, despite its age, is still able to turn heads with its menacing looks. While the original TT might be a little hard on the eyes, Audi designers seem to have polished out the roughness to make the Mk3 look sleeker and more appealing.

The Thai-spec TT Coupe 45 TFSI comes with LED headlights and the S Line trim that includes a full-length front splitter, vertical air inlet design, a radiator grille in titanium black and specific side sills with inserts (just mock-ups), plus a wider diffuser and vertical air inlets below the rear lights.

Another prominent design feature of the TT is the large wheel arches both front and rear, in addition to the short overhangs. At the rear, there's an electrically-operated spoiler that pops up when the speed reaches 120kph as well as large exhaust pipes on each side that looks super-convincing. Like other Audi models, the LED tail lights come with dynamic turn signals that are eye-catching.

The classic metallic TT fuel flap is located beneath the right C-pillar and doesn't come with a cap (no, it's not missing) -- the gas pump nozzle can be directly inserted into the port right away.

While space is not one of the TT's strong points, the quality of the interior matches what you'd expect from an Audi. The cockpit is solidly-built and is fitted with soft-touch materials including powered sports front seats with Alcantara and lumbar adjustment. The sports steering wheel feels and looks good, and isn't cluttered with too many controls, although there's not much use for the D-shaped design apart from styling purposes.

The interior design is driver-oriented, and it might be surprising to find out that the TT doesn't come with a centre touchscreen. There is MMI navigation plus touch response similar to those offered in other Audi models, but all the information is displayed in the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit display in front of the driver. The graphics are excellent and the driver can choose between classic mode with large speedo and rev counter dials or infotainment mode with priority given to content such as navigation map. There's also a sports display that also shows the engine output, torque and g forces.

There's a USB port and AUX-IN and smartphone interface, but the infotainment system is designed for the driver. I actually love the fact that passengers in the TT aren't allowed to mess around with the controls -- this car is so driver-focused!

A unique character in the TT's cockpit is the controls for the air-conditioning system which are embedded into the axis of the three round air vents. There are a few more switches for various systems (such as Audi Drive Select) leading to the centre tunnel with good-looking aluminium trim (the MMI terminal is also minimalist with just six buttons).

There's also a stylish gearshift lever and round housing (another TT trademark). Manual gearchange can be carried out both via the gearshift lever or paddles behind the steering wheel.

As mentioned, there isn't much space in the TT. Although the front passengers don't feel cramped, door panel storage is limited (can't store water bottles) and the centre storage box is tiny. Surprisingly there's a small removable ashtray inside.

The TT qualifies as a 2+2 which means that there is no legroom at the rear (reserved for small children and pets). The luggage compartment has a capacity of just 305 litres and the split-folding rear seat backrests will often prove handy.

The TT's safety features list looks really outdated with no intelligent safety features offered. You get just regular airbags, electronic stability control, cornering lights and a rearview camera.

Performance

The TT Coupe 45 TFSI Quattro S Line gets a 2.0-litre turbocharged direct-injection engine capable of producing 245hp and 370Nm, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Audi claims 0-100kph acceleration in 5.2secs and a top speed of 250kph.

There are several driving modes for the engine response, transmission and steering which can be selected. They include individual, dynamic (sport), economy and auto (which is the balanced mode between comfort and performance and the one I used most of the time).

While the baseline TTs are front-wheel-driven, the upper models get Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive that gives it higher levels of sure-footedness even in wet conditions. Audi says that the software constantly calculates the right torque distribution between the front and rear axles based on numerous data, with the multi-plate clutch being able to deliver variable torque transmission to the rear wheels within just 40 milliseconds.

The fixed sports suspension (McPherson strut/multi-link) is 10mm lower than standard and includes stiffer dampers and springs. They are 18in alloy wheels with 245/40 tyres, although it's possible to fit the TT with rims of up to 20in (but the ride quality will worsen).

While it offers sporty performance, it doesn't score well in terms of ride comfort even with the 18in rims. Driving the TT on poor road conditions or over sharp bridge necks (which were abundant during our drive) is not a pleasurable experience.

Having said that the TT provides drivers with an entertaining drive when the conditions are right. The steering is precise, and when cornering on smoother roads there is little body lean and the car literally feels like it's running on rails.

Apart from sporty on-road performance, this is a car that can surely be taken to track days for some serious driving.

Verdict

Apart from the stylish design, the TT also comes with a solid interior and sporty performance that would put smiles on whoever's driving it. If you can't afford a Porsche 718, this is the car to go for.

The TT is one of the most iconic Audis still on sale and will turn into an instant classic for those who decide to get one.

Pros: Iconic design, solid build quality, loads of grip
Cons: Limited space, stiff suspension, no intelligent safety

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