Review: In Depth: Audi TT

Design, interior and infotainment

Audi’s … I love them. There’s something about plush, all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles with understated German styling, outstanding driving dynamics, perfectly-executed interiors and long-roof wagon options on most models that really does it for me.

I’ve only owned one Audi in my life: an ’83 Coupe GT with the glorious-sounding, 5-cylinder engine and manual transmission. It was the theoretical predecessor to the TT, at least before the A5 was released in 2007. I owned it in 2009, and it was wonderful to drive, despite the age and obvious need for repairs.

That brings me to today’s car: the 2016 TT Coupe 2.0t that Audi sent techradar for review. Audi equipped the car with the technology package, 19-inch wheel package, S Sport seat package and Bang & Olufsen sound system, which brings the price to $50,600 (approximately £45,000 when similarly equipped or AU$96,000 before options).

Audi TT

The latest TT shares the same general shape as the original 1998 model, a vehicle penned by designer Peter Schreyer, but it’s a completely different vehicle inside and out. Now on its third generation, the latest TT sports sleeker styling that sheds the bulbousness of previous generations for sharper, angular lines.

Audi employs LED lights inside and out, including the bright-as-day Matrix LED headlights. The backside features sleek, LED tail lights and finishes with a hidden spoiler. The spoiler automatically pops up when you hit 75 mph for aerodynamics, but my test car didn’t have the flux capacitor option for when you hit 88 mph.

Audi TT

I dig the look of the TT. The styling reminds me of a sinister Volkswagen Beetle – like its evil, but much more fun, twin.

Reach for the door handle with the keyfob in your pocket, and the doors automatically unlock. A capacitive touch button lets you lock the car. While capacitive touch buttons look nicer on a car, I prefer physical buttons, but maybe I’m just old school and like my buttons to click when pressed.

Interior

Step inside, and you’ll find a modern, driver-focused interior that ignores the existence of the passenger seat. The center vents and controls are skewed towards the driver’s seat. Every surface is soft touch or wrapped in leather, and every switch and button has a solid click or turn – no costs were spared.

Audi TT

Every vent in the TT resembles a jet engine turbine, finished with a display, button and dial. The vent displays have differing functions: the center displays are for climate control, while the outer ones control the seat heaters. A twist of the inner vent dials control the fans, climate temperature, cooling and heating modes as well as the three levels of seat heat.

The TT offers an S Sport seat package with diamond-stitched Nappa leather, which looks fantastic. Sitting in it is a pleasure as well, with aggressive bolsters that keep me in place during aggressive driving. The lumbar support helps relieve my lower back pains, too. I spent many hours driving the TT around and found the seats extremely comfortable.

Audi TT

Frankly, I wish I could turn the seat into a desk chair.

Grab the steering wheel, and you’re presented with a flat-bottom sport wheel with thumb grips that are comfortable to grab for aggressive driving. The wheel features a ton of buttons to control the Audi “virtual cockpit,” which also serves as the infotainment system.

Infotainment system

The Audi MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system in the TT is simply amazing. There’s just one 12.3-inch LCD in the entire car that serves double duty as the gauge cluster and infotainment display. A single LCD lets Audi create a lower-flowing dashboard, making it easier to see out of the car – not to mention it prevents the passenger from changing the music.

My wife didn’t appreciate my choice of blasting Adele’s “Hello”, but there wasn’t a thing she could do about it. All she could do was sit back and enjoy my poor sing-a-long and plot her revenge for when we got home.

Audi dubs the single-LCD approach its “virtual cockpit,” and it’s the best replacement for analog gauges that I’ve used. It even beats out the excellent LCD display that Lexus employs in the IS350 F-Sport, which was my previous favorite for form and function.

Audi TT

The LCD features two animated gauges that resemble an analog tachometer and speedometer. You can have the gauges occupy the outer parts of the screen with infotainment functions sandwiched between, or have the gauges occupy a lower part of the screen and let the infotainment functions take over most of it.

I prefer the techier approach, and dedicate most of the LCD display for infotainment functions, because the navigation maps are gorgeous. Audi uses Google Earth’s map overlays on top of the regular maps for gorgeous topography, a compelling reason to use the infotainment system over just relying on your phone.

The downside is that the Google Earth map overlay requires a data connection, which needs a subscription after the initial 3-month trial. Audi relies on AT&T’s LTE network for connectivity in the US, which was reliable during my week of testing. If you’re already an AT&T customer, you can add the Audi to your family share plan for $10 a month.

The Audi MMI Navigation Plus system isn’t just a beautiful facade. It’s easy to use once you get the hang of it. There are two methods of control: steering wheel buttons and a control knob with finger writing recognition.

Audi TT

Audi’s control knob provides direct access to the navigation, phone, radio and media functions, with toggle switches placed below the shifter, while the round surface recognizes drawn gestures for text input. Otherwise, the other functions, like menu, back and the dial, are also available on the steering wheel.

During my time with the TT, it took 20 minutes of sitting down and playing with the infotainment system to get the gist of it. After I figured out how the menus were laid out, it was a breeze to live with. I wouldn’t recommend the infotainment system for your grandmother, but, if you’re a tech geek, it’s phenomenal for daily use.

Audio-wise, the system has a single USB port, SiriusXM and HD Radio support. Audi ditched the CD player, which wasn’t missed at all. I spent most of my music listening time with my iPhone 6S connected, with an Apple Music subscription.

Audi TT

The infotainment system displays cover art, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s way more visually pleasing than plain text. Audi still needs to work on the radio functions, however. It requires too many button presses to get your presets going, because you have to navigate sub-menus just to set one station.

It makes me miss the regular radios, which you could hold down the preset number for a few seconds to assign a preset. Positively, Audi lets you mix SiriusXM and HD Radio presets, so you don’t have to manually change the radio source.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not supported, the missing ingredient that would’ve made the TT infotainment system perfect. Audi supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the 2016 A4 and Q7, but those cars have separate infotainment displays, in addition to the virtual cockpit.

After a week with the TT, the infotainment system continues to amaze me. Every time I hop in the car, I can’t help but be amazed at how sharp everything looks. The animations and transitions are buttery-smooth, exactly what I expect from a luxury marque.

Audi TT

One feature I can’t seem to grasp is Audi Connect, which provides weather, gas prices, travel information and news via the LCD gauge cluster. Maybe I’m just old school, but the ambient temperature read out and my eyes are enough confirmation for weather. Plus, I always pull into the most convenient gas station on my drives and have no troubles seeing the prices on their large signs.

I’m not even sure why you’d need to see your travel information or want to read the news on the infotainment display. The in-car display is the last place I’d want to read news, since it’s a lot slower than simply whipping out my phone and reading Google News.

Bang & Olufsen sound and Driver assists

The Audi TT test car came with the Bang & Olufsen (B&O) premium sound system option box checked. My previous experience with a factory B&O system in a $116,000 Audi A8L left me aurally unsatisfied, so I wasn’t expecting much from the TT’s $950 upgrade, but I’ve been proven wrong.

Bang & Olufsen loads up the TT with 12 speakers in a 3-way front stage (individual tweeters, mids and woofers), a 2-way center channel (tweeter and mid) and 2-way rear speakers. There isn’t a dedicated subwoofer, but I don’t miss it.

All the speakers are driven by a 14-channel digital amplifier capable of 680 watts. Now, you’re probably wondering why there are more amp channels than speakers. That’s because the in-door woofers responsible for playing all the low notes have two voice coils to receive twice the power for solid, thump-tastic bass.

Audi TT

I just discovered Lindsey Stirling when I had the TT, and spent most of the time in the car switching between her rendition of the Pokemon theme song and Phantom of the Opera. I enjoy the sound signature of the B&O system with her mix of violin-based EDM. The highs are detailed and crystal clear, the mids are warm and the low notes are tight, but hit hard.

I switched things up with some David Guetta, Calvin Harris and John Legend, too, and was impressed with every type of music played in the car. I rarely say this, but I would be perfectly happy with the B&O system in the TT, without adding any modifications or upgrades at all.

The B&O system also features active noise cancellation (ANC), which kept the interior of the TT whisper quiet. ANC is a feature I sometimes forget to appreciate, until I drive a mainstream car that is too loud to even hold a conversation. I have no trouble conversing with my wife and kids in the TT at a normal volume.

Driver assists

Audi doesn’t offer many driver assists on the TT. The review car only had a blind spot monitor (BSM) and back up camera installed. The TT’s BSM features a bright cluster of LED’s mounted on the side mirrors that flash bright orange if there’s a car in your blind spot. The LEDs are not mounted behind the mirror, but on the inner mirror housing.

I don’t have a preference for the placement of the BSM indicator, as long as it’s bright enough to catch my attention. The TT’s BSM has no problems with that part and is hard to miss, unless you don’t bother using your mirrors.

Audi TT

The backup camera in the TT takes some time to get used to. I’m accustomed to backup cameras displaying on the infotainment system display mounted high and center on the dashboard, but the TT sends the video feed to the LCD gauge cluster. It is weird to glance down at the gauge cluster to backup the car at first, but I adjusted quickly.

Adaptive cruise control (ACC), automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist are not available, unfortunately. I would’ve loved adaptive cruise control because the TT would be an ideal car to take on a road trip with your significant other. I love driving but there are many stretches on a long road trip that’s fairly boring and easier to manage with ACC, especially city traffic.

Performance and living with it

Powering the Audi TT is a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four cylinder engine that produces a smooth 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque. Peak torque is available at a low 1,600 revolutions per minute (RPM), so the car never feels slow and accelerates strongly – just not like a bull, that’s what Lamborghini is for.

Audi pairs the turbocharged motor with a six-speed, S Tronic dual-clutch transmission (DCT) with paddle shifters for fast shifts. The TT is a DCT-only affair, so if you want to row-your-own gears with three pedals, this is not the Audi you’re looking for.

Audi TT

In my younger days, I would chastise Audi for not installing a proper gearbox in the TT, but I’ve spent too much time in stop-and-go traffic to be bothered by the lack of a third pedal. Plus, the DCT shifts faster than I ever could, and the paddle shifters respond quickly.

Power is sent to all four wheels via Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive (AWD) system. The TT features a front-wheel-drive-based (FWD) AWD system from Haldex that is primarily FWD until you lose traction. When front wheel traction is lost, it can automatically divert up to 100% of power to the rear wheels seamlessly.

All North American TT’s are only available in AWD, but our friends in Europe have the option of FWD with a six-speed manual, if they desire. Personally, I don’t know why you’d buy an Audi without AWD – just pick up a Volkswagen – but to each their own.

Audi’s Drive Select is standard on the TT, which lets you choose between normal, comfort, efficiency, dynamic or a customized individual mode. I always set the Drive Select to dynamic as soon as I start the car during most of my driving. The different Drive Select modes alter steering and throttle response in the TT. I prefer the quicker and precise response of dynamic mode for my aggressive driving style.

The TT test car came with winter tires from Audi, because winters in the Pacific Northwest are dreadfully wet and there’s the occasional snowfall. I found the TT quite enjoyable to drive. The fairly light, 3,100-pound curb weight, short wheelbase, precise throttle and steering and outstanding traction from the Quattro AWD system makes it a lot of fun and competent in the rain and snow.

Even with the winter tires and sportier suspension, the TT is quite comfortable, too. The suspension lets you feel the imperfections in the road, but dampens them enough so they don’t hurt.

There isn’t much snow where I live, so I packed the wife and kids to head up to Mt. Rainier to find some. The roads leading up to the mountain base were windy and wet, but the TT didn’t break a sweat or traction at any point, because Quattro is a wonderful feature to have.

Unfortunately, the mountain roads were mostly plowed, and the only snow I could drive on was an iced-over parking lot. However, with Quattro and winter tires, I didn’t have to pull over and put chains on the car, which is required by 2-wheel drive cars as soon as you enter the park.

Living with it

The Audi TT has a back seat, but it isn’t really designed to be a family car – or have anyone in the back seat, for that matter. But that didn’t stop me from trying. Since I’m only 5 foot, 7 inches tall and my wife is shorter, there’s a little bit of legroom behind the front seats.

There isn’t enough for a grown adult, but I still managed to install a pair of child seats in the back of the TT. The back seats have lower and upper LATCH anchors for car seats. I usually stop by the Diono offices for car seat fitment, but I reserve that for fitting three car seats in the back seat.

Audi TT

My first attempt installing a car seat was with a Diono Radian RXT. The car seat physically fit, but the belt buckle and LATCH mounting locations made it impossible to secure, unfortunately. I had to break out my Chicco NextFit car seats, which are significantly larger than my Radian RXT.

Let’s just say it was annoying trying to shove the Chicco NextFit into the little space available with the front seats pushed forward. However, I was successful and managed to secure both Chicco NextFit’s in the TT using the lower LATCH anchors.

It’s a tight fit, but my 4- and 2-year-old girls fit and didn’t complain about comfort. They kept asking me to go faster, but that’s a whole different conversation altogether.

Verdict

The Audi TT isn’t a practical car by any sense, but the same could be of any sporty car with two doors. It has a niche appeal, so I won’t hold it by the same standards as I would a mainstream mid-size car, like the Kia Optima, Toyota Camry or Hyundai Elantra. No one shopping for a family car will cross shop for an Audi TT, and vice versa.

We liked

Audi’s virtual cockpit is phenomenal and by far the best use of an LCD gauge cluster I’ve come across. Some companies use LCD displays to visually replicate analog gauge clusters, which I dislike, because what’s the point of going digital if you’re just going to make it look analog. It’s overcomplicating a simple part of the car for absolutely no reason.

The virtual cockpit tosses out what we know about analog gauge clusters and reinvents it with a modern take that looks fantastic and is easy to adapt to. The system takes some time to get used to, but when you do, it becomes second nature.

Part of the awesomeness of the virtual cockpit is the Google Earth map overlays that show realistic details instead of plain colored maps. I can look at the overlays all day long and still be amazed by how pretty it looks. The overlays are still shown, even with turn-by-turn navigation zoomed in all the way, too.

The Bang & Olufsen premium sound system was just the icing on the cake that completes the TT experience, so it looks and sounds brilliant. I always find something to dislike about premium sound systems, whether it’s not enough bass or sounds too bright. The B&O system in the Audi TT strikes a good balance of vocal details, punchy mids and tight lows without causing fatigue after many hours of listening. It’s one of the few systems I’d be perfectly happy with, as is.

Most of what I like about the TT revealed itself before I even shifted into drive and mashed the gas pedal. Driving the TT was quite satisfying. It feels balanced and capable with responsive steering, excellent road feel and a comfortable suspension. But all of this is expected, considering Audi’s racing heritage and performance pedigree.

We disliked

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay would’ve made the TT’s infotainment system perfect. But I don’t fault Audi for this too harshly, as the third generation TT came out last year. Audi is only starting to include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on two 2016 model year vehicles. There’s also the issue of having a single LCD for the gauge cluster and infotainment system, meaning neither were feasible while the TT was in the final stages of development.

I haven’t seen Android Auto or Apple CarPlay in an LCD gauge cluster of a production car yet, but QNX demonstrated the capability in reference demo vehicles at CES 2016. We may have to wait until a mid-cycle refresh to see it in the TT, though.

It always puzzles me when automakers try to integrate apps into the infotainment system, because they’re never as fast or usable as they are on a smartphone. Audi Connect is no different. It’s slow, and that’s enough for me to avoid it, especially when it’s quicker to take out my phone and swipe my Google Now cards.

My last gripe for the Audi TT is the lack of ACC. Sure, the sporting nature of the TT demands you to drive it, but not all drive routes are shaped like Laguna Seca. Most of the time, you’re stuck in traffic, which gets tedious and annoying. The TT already has an electronic parking brake, Audi should offer full-speed range ACC for those times when it’s actually unpleasant to drive.

Final verdict

If you’re in the market for a small and sporty car that can satisfy techno-lust, the Audi TT impresses with its LCD gauge cluster infotainment system, and the car is a hoot to drive. There’s a backseat, which makes it a family car, too, or so I keep trying to convince my wife.

The Quattro AWD system makes the TT a fine car for those that enjoy snow sports or live in the snow belt of the US. It’s ready for all weather environments, meaning it’s an ideal daily driver, not a garage queen that you only take out in nice weather.

Ultimately, I’m absolutely smitten with the Audi virtual cockpit, and the TT it’s attached to is OK, too. Audi shows it knows how to design a modern infotainment system and interior without sacrificing the main purpose of a sports car, but adding a few more driver assists wouldn’t hurt.

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