Spirited acceleration, agile handling, sexy styling, high-quality interior, ample cargo space, you won't see one at every intersection.
Expensive considering the performance provided, not enough range between adjustable suspension settings, noticeable turbo lag, lackluster steering feel, useless backseat, missing a couple expected convenience features.
For quite a while now, Audi has been offering high-performance variants of its cars under the "S" and "RS" badge monikers. Curiously, though, the brand's smallest (and potentially sportiest) car, the TT, had never been given a performance makeover — until now. The 2009 Audi TTS represents the quickest and most performance-oriented TT ever made.
Priced at about $8,000 more than a base TT 2.0T Quattro, the "S" version of the TT adds a number of performance upgrades including a more powerful engine, a retuned suspension and more powerful brakes. To find out what this $8 grand really gets you — and whether it's something most TT buyers will likely want — we obtained a 2009 TTS coupe (a roadster version is also available) for our usual instrumented and real-world tests.
In our previous test of the V6-powered TT 3.2 Quattro (which, incidentally, costs about the same as the TTS), we found that the car's extra performance didn't add much to the overall TT driving experience. The 2009 Audi TTS is appreciably quicker than the 3.2 Quattro, but for a lot less money than either, a base-model TT should still sate the appetites of those simply wanting an ample serving of artsy styling and sporty performance. The TTS, via its higher price and lack of true driver-and-car interaction, just doesn't quite gel the way we hoped it would. At the end of our test, we found ourselves thinking that we'd prefer the more involving-to-drive (and less expensive) BMW 135i or pony up for something truly sporting, such as a Porsche Cayman.
Even though the regular TT can be outfitted with a 3.2-liter V6, the 2009 Audi TTS features a more powerful version of the base TT 2.0T's turbocharged four-cylinder. Fortified with a larger turbo and other performance upgrades, this little dynamo makes 265 horsepower, a full 65 ponies more than the base 2.0T and 15 more than the 3.2 Quattro.
This power is sent through Audi's superb six-speed automated dual-clutch S tronic manual transmission and Quattro all-wheel-drive system. It's enough to slingshot the TTS to 60 mph in a scant 5.2 seconds (using the TTS's launch control feature) and wing it through the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds. These numbers are right on par with the times posted by more powerful cars like the BMW 135i and Nissan 370Z and appreciably quicker than those of the 3.2 Quattro we previously tested.
Quick as the TTS is, we did notice a little turbo lag, and sometimes it took a heartbeat or two for the car to gather itself up and scurry forth when the whip was cracked from a stop. Fuel economy should be a bright spot for most TTS owners, with an EPA estimated 29 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg for combined driving. But consistently achieving those numbers will take some restraint; we averaged just 19 mpg in our time with the car.
With its smooth, quick-as-a-blink gearchanges and perfectly rev-matched downshifts, the S tronic transmission is hard to fault. Sport mode is especially gratifying as it steps down smartly when you want to blast past highway laggards, and it knows enough to hold lower gears when you're powering down a curvy road. Powerful, confident brakes are fully up to the task of reining it all in. At the test track, the TTS stopped from 60 mph in just 113 feet, with the binders exhibiting virtually no fade in seven panic stops while also giving the driver a firm, easy-to-modulate pedal. In our other instrumented handling tests, the 2009 TTS posted an impressive slalom run of 71.4 mph and 0.91g on the skid pad, numbers that are again very similar to those of BMW's 135i.
Equipped with an adjustable magnetic ride suspension and a set of sticky, high-performance tires, the TTS wowed us with its agile, well-balanced and glued-to-the-road handling. All said, the modifications to the 2009 Audi TTS have indeed brought about very impressive performance. But driving enthusiasts will likely take issue with the steering — it's responsive but not particularly communicative — and the turbo-4's pleasant but not exactly stirring engine note.
Firm, form-fitting sport buckets hug the front occupants of the TTS. We found them to be equally effective at holding us in place while cornering hard while also providing suitable comfort during long highway drives. Although leather seating is already standard, our car's optional Napa hides were ostensibly of higher quality — perhaps those cows enjoy a fine Cabernet with their hay every evening. The backseat will typically be nothing more than a plush package shelf as the small cushions, bolt-upright backrests and miniscule legroom and headroom will limit the backseat to people shorter than 4-foot-11.
Though we've experienced adjustable magnetic ride suspension in a few other cars, the TTS's system seemed calibrated for a narrower range of adjustment. There are two settings, Normal and Sport, and we didn't notice much of a difference between the two (unlike the adjustable suspension in the TT 3.2 Quattro we tested). We expected a softer calibration in the TTS's Normal mode, as even in that setting the ride bordered on stiff over broken asphalt and freeway expansion joints.
Although most of the primary controls are user-friendly, the 2009 Audi TTS does have a number of quirks, some that you may get used to and some that will likely annoy you as long as you own the car. In the former group are the seemingly inverted power door-lock buttons (up equals "lock," down equals "unlock"), the navigation system using "Special Destinations" instead of the more recognizable "POI" designation and the MMI (Multi Media Interface), which is on the dash in the TT rather than the easier-to-reach center console location of other Audis.
Nor is there much in the way of readily accessed storage. Other annoyances include inconveniently located cupholders, an annoying "Passenger Airbag Off" indicator that glows incessantly when the shotgun seat is empty, and the lack of a seatbelt holder on the seat (so you don't have to awkwardly reach back to grab it when buckling up).
We were also surprised, given the $52,000 sticker, that there was neither keyless ignition nor a real-time traffic feature for the nav system. Lastly, the F1-style flat-bottom steering wheel may look cool but can feel rather awkward to grab while hustling the car on very tight corners.
Although a 12-speaker Bose audio system is optional, our TTS had the standard nine-speaker, 140-watt Audi "Concert" system. Overall, the sound, with crisp highs and tight bass, was more than adequate for all but the most ardent hard rockers, who wished for a more potent kick to the bass. There is a standard auxiliary audio jack along with iPod integration, which allows you to control your iPod via the multipurpose MMI controller knob or with the steering-wheel audio controls.
In our real-world usability test, we found the 2009 Audi TTS will accommodate a rear-facing baby seat, but only in the front passenger seat. A forward-facing seat can fit in back, but installing it back there is a back-breaker and the person sitting in front would have to be quite small to allow enough space for the tyke. On the other hand, our large roll-away travel case easily tucked into the hatch's generous cargo area, while our golf bag fit lengthwise with those tiny rear seatbacks flipped down.
Design/Fit and Finish
High-grade materials and meticulous, tight-as-a-drum assembly are seen and felt throughout. Those with an eye for quality should be pleased. With its ground-hugging stance, low-profile half-moon side windows, in-your-face grille and sexy fastback roof line, the styling of the TTS makes a strong statement. Though we know this is a subjective area, we'd be surprised if anyone doesn't think it is as handsome as we do.
When the first TT debuted, Audi captured plenty of oohs and aahs with its thoughtful treatment of the cockpit, which featured real aluminum trim and tactile sensations such as rotating metal bezels for the climate-control vents and pop-out twist knobs for the seat heaters. The new 2009 Audi TTS continues the strong tradition of eye-catching design and high-quality materials, with knurled rings around the vents and door release levers that look like they should be on display at a modern art exhibit.
Who should consider this vehicle
Driving enthusiasts strongly drawn to the TT's sexy styling but who also want a greater level of performance and exclusivity than what's provided by the 2.0T or 3.2 Quattro.