The third-generation Audi TT is, like its predecessors, cramped, impractical and expensive. And like them, the sight of one instantly fires the cupidity response in man – and woman. Therein the strange correspondence between design and consumer expectations in the curious marketplace that is the global car industry. This car is a faintly ridiculous proposition, but gorgeous and desirable. Who said consumers must be rational?
In the mass-market, you cannot find a car where the designers have been less inhibited. And if this means there is the occasional meretricious excess, then that’s part of the fun. ‘What’s this for?’ my wife asked, pointing at the two aluminium-finish shafts that connect the gear-lever knob with the leathery gaiter. ‘Hmmm. It’s just part of the "design",’ I said.
With that German sense of cultural continuation, the new car looks like the 1997 original, which, in turn, was inspired by a ghost of the Auto-Union C-Types that raced for Hitler. With great art, the latest TT evokes this history, while also being quite different. It is much bigger and the sculpture is bolder, more masculine. Polite curves have given way to attitudinising facets. The TT looks tough as much as it looks pretty.
And the new car is technically superior. While Audi subscribes to the Volkswagen Group’s component-sharing protocols, its largely aluminium body, unique information systems and distinctive character put it in a category of its own.
You buy an Audi TT because you like the look of it. If you wanted raw performance, you would buy a Porsche Boxster. But only the most finely calibrated seat-of-the-pants could determine which is dynamically superior. The light Audi has steering as fast as predictive text and astonishing brakes. I drove a six-speed manual with a 227bhp petrol engine, which was both impressively tractable (rolling ond) while howling and popping very nicely range. Amazingly, Audi has almost completely eliminated the wriggling torque-steer that so often troubles powerful front-wheel-drives.
The TT’s interior is a masterclass of high-concept design: the intellectual quality and physical competence of the execution amaze. You want proof of ‘Less is more’? Find it here. The TT is a car of initials and abbreviations. Forget about from A to B. Here we are in the better territory of C to Z. Slightly mad, but what advantage would sanity bring?
SPECIFICATION: Audi TT Coupé TFSI
ENGINE: 1,984cc, fourcylinders, petrol
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 47.9 mpg (combined cycle)?CO2 EMISSIONS 137 g/km
POWER: 227 bhp @ 4,500 to 6,200 rpm
TORQUE: 273lb/ft @ 3,500to5,000rpm
0-62 MPH: 6.0 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155 mph