The all-new 2016 Audi TT is the third generation of the company's sporty two-door compact car. Available as a coupe or a soft-top convertible, the latest version rides on an all-new chassis that gives it handling capabilities its predecessors couldn't match.
What Is It?
The 2016 Audi TT is a compact two-door sporty little thing that's available in 2+2 hatchback ("Coupe") and two-seat convertible ("Roadster") configurations. Every TT powers all four wheels with a transversely mounted turbocharged four-cylinder engine through a dual-clutch gearbox. So far, none of this sounds too different from the outgoing TT, because philosophically it's not.
For 2016 the TT does ride on a different platform, however. It's a variant of Volkswagen's MQB architecture (Volkswagen owns Audi) that's currently used as the basis for the Volkswagen Golf. Compared to the outgoing TT, the new car's wheelbase grows by 1.4 inches to 98.6 inches, while overall length and width each shrink by about a half-inch to 164.7 and 72.1 inches, respectively.
The new TT's bones are a mix of aluminum and steel, which sheds some weight, though equipment additions have offset the savings such that the curb weights are nearly identical to the outgoing TT. Coupes now check in at 3,186 pounds, while roadsters weigh 3,384 pounds. In the bargain, the 2016 TT's structure was bestowed with a higher level of stiffness, which provides a better foundation for a more aggressive suspension tune.
What's New Under the Hood?
When it comes to engines, not much is new. The 2.0-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission are carried over from the outgoing car, though peak power rises by 9 hp to 220 horsepower. Peak torque is unchanged at 258 pound-feet. As before, a manual gearbox is not offered.
The standard all-wheel-drive system has been updated, though the electronically controlled hydraulic clutch pack-based system remains fundamentally similar to that of the outgoing car.
Audi says the new TT's sprint from zero to 60 mph is unchanged: 5.3 seconds for the coupe, while the heavier roadster does it in 5.6 seconds. The EPA fuel economy rating of 26 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway) is also unchanged from the outgoing TT.
What Else Is New?
Though the styling is completely new, it's unmistakably a TT in proportion and detail. Most obvious are the chiseled new grille, headlights and front end treatment, which gives the TT a more aggressive countenance that's consistent with Audi's current design language. In other words, the designers grafted the new R8's face onto the TT.
Elsewhere, the longer wheelbase has shifted the car's visual mass rearward, giving it a bit more of a hunkered-down stance. The 2016 TT has an undeniably more contemporary and familial look, but we can't help thinking that creating any successor to the singularly iconic original TT is a thankless undertaking.
How Does It Drive?
This is a TT with its keenest edge yet. It's still not a sports car in the true sense of the term, but it isn't afraid of a spirited charge through the twisting back roads of Portland, Oregon, where our drive took place.
With the Drive Select knob in Comfort, the steering is light and the engine muted. The TT is civilized during cruising, with road noise our only unwelcome companion on the undeniably coarse Oregon pavement. Turned to Dynamic, more intake honk is piped to the cabin, the throttle gain is sharpened, steering assistance is reduced and the all-wheel-drive system apportions more torque to the rear wheels. We much prefer this setup.
Throw the TT into a fast bend and it pushes wide before the all-wheel-drive system figures out what's going on. Once it catches up and sends power aft, the TT's balance neutralizes, tightening its line through the corner. There's electric-assist steering, of course, but don't let that scare you because effort builds intuitively off-center and the steering ratio is spot on.
The new car's damping is firm enough to alertly respond to rapid changes of direction while feeling supple most of the time, though the suspension runs out of travel on fast, bumpy back roads. Nevertheless, the new chassis exhibits poise and control and has a hunger for hard driving that was heretofore unknown in TT land.
Traction is ample when powering through a corner, and the engine pulls with enthusiasm provided the stability control is switched off. Don't worry about catching the turbo off-guard, as torque is summoned readily, even at low revs. And while the dual-clutch transmission clicks off fast shifts to keep the engine on boil and the party rolling, there's an element of driver engagement missing when there are only two pedals in the equation.
To help pivot the chassis in corners, the TT selectively applies the brakes on an inside wheel or two. This strategy is a fine approach if the brakes can handle both slowing the car and helping it turn. That's not always the case in the TT, as we felt the brake pedal soften and smelled the unmistakable acrid odor of overheated brake pads after a few miles of moderately hard charging on a sparsely traveled forest road.
Is the Roadster Much Different?
The new chassis is quite stiff, bestowing the roadster with solid-feeling top-down motoring. Cowl shake is minimal. In fact, the roadster drives almost exactly like the coupe, assuming you're carrying a passenger in the latter to emulate the weight difference.
Stowing or deploying the power roof requires only the touch of button, and it can be done while the car's in motion. The far-set windshield really amplifies the sensations of driving al fresco, too. Keep in mind that the roadster loses the backseat, and its cargo volume shrinks to 7.5 cubic feet, down from the coupe's 12 cubic feet.
What's the Interior Like?
The cabin, too, is completely new, and it works terrifically well. Front and center among the changes is what Audi calls its "virtual cockpit," which is shorthand for the central multimedia screen's move to the instrument cluster, which is, of course, now completely digital. Yes, all the navigation, music, vehicle settings and others are now nested among the gauges in front of the driver in an effort to clean up the design and appearance of the dashboard.
Don't pooh-pooh the notion of the relocated screen out of hand. We found it quite natural to use thanks to the display's sharp resolution, immunity to direct sunlight and natural screen flow. There are different views you can toggle among, and because the screen's viewing angle is essentially 180 degrees, passengers have a surprisingly clear view of it, too.
Elsewhere, there's a flat-bottom steering wheel, natty leather surfaces and a very clever integration of climate controls. Each one of the round vents includes a different control knob in its center, with a rotating outer bezel to direct the airflow. Neat! It's another way of simplifying the dashboard to reduce clutter, and it works.
What Features Come Standard, and How Much Does It Cost?
In addition to all-wheel drive and the dual-clutch automatic gearbox, all TTs are equipped with all-LED exterior lights, keyless entry and ignition, heated seats, a rear parking alert system and 18-inch wheels with summer tires.
For 2016, the TT Coupe starts at $43,825, an increase of $2550 over last year's model. Roadsters rise by $3,050 to $47,325.
Optional bits on our coupe test car like the $3,250 Technology package (navigation, blind-spot alerts, a back-up camera and power-folding mirrors), 19-inch wheels and tires ($1,000), upgraded seat materials ($1,000) and premium sound ($950) mean it's easy to end up with a TT that clears $50 grand.
What Competing Models Should You Also Consider? BMW Z4 sDrive28i: This two-seat retractable-hardtop roadster is more focused than the SLK and is available with a manual gearbox.
Chevrolet Corvette: Easily the highest-performing car in this segment, the Corvette is a true athlete. Its styling isn't for everyone but there's no denying its potency.
Mercedes-Benz SLK: The boulevardier of the bunch. The folding-hardtop-only SLK prioritizes breeziness over sporting pretenses and has the lowest price of entry here.
Porsche Boxster/Cayman: The most focused athletes in this category of two-seaters. You would be hard-pressed to find a purer and more rewarding drive at nearly any price.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
You want a sporting car with the practicality of all-wheel drive, some rear seats and a rear hatch. Or maybe you like the idea of a cutting-edge interior design that's also easy to use.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
The fast-road driving experience lacks some of the fidelity and adjustability of a true sports car like the Cayman and Boxster. No manual gearbox option means a slightly less interactive experience, too.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.