No apologies for choosing this one to test over the less powerful TT variants, though; even if it’s not the volume seller and doesn’t arrive in the UK until March, rather than January like its siblings. There are two reasons the S is compelling.
One: the TT shares not just its architecture with the terrific Volkswagen Golf R, but also vast swathes of its powertrain. Which is enticing. Two: the old TT S was by far the finest driver’s car in the TT range. If that’s the case this time around, and if it has been infused with similar magic as the Golf R, finally we might have an Audi that bothers the class lead of a Porsche Cayman, or at least a BMW M235i.
Some details first. The new TT's appearance is as you’d expect: modernised, more aggressive, but the old TT was not an impossible act to follow. Not like we believed the first one would be.
The TT has progressed from mould-breaker to range staple and established sub-brand. Once, it was hard to believe this was a car launched by a conventional car manufacturer. Now, it’s impossible to imagine Audi without it.
The new car is, more or less, the same length as before, at 4177mm, but there is 37mm more in the wheelbase (2505mm) and, it’s claimed, up to 50kg less in the kerb weight thanks, in all, to some 27 per cent of the chassis/body being aluminium.
Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front, four-link at the rear. Steering is electrically assisted with varying ratio – faster on-lock than near straight ahead. Magnetically-controlled dampers are standard on the S, and will be available on other models soon after launch.
The engine is a four-cylinder EA888 turbocharged petrol unit. Here it makes 306bhp between 5800 and 6200rpm, and 280lb ft, which arrives at only 1800rpm, and sticks gamely around until 100rpm before the arrival of peak power. Plump, then.
In the S it drives exclusively through a four-wheel-drive powertrain that’s mostly front-biased but has an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch at the rear axle. Temptingly, as in the Golf R, it can send up to 100 per cent of torque to either axle. It’s said to be good for 0-62mph in 4.6sec, while returning 40.9mpg on the fanciful combined cycle.
The TTS comes with an exceptionally classy interior. If you were being picky you might argue that it’s a bit dark inside, but if you weren’t you’d simply admire the fit, the relative simplicity of the layout and the genuine style and panache with which things are finished.
A digital instrument panel sits in place of analogue dials. Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) has been re-tuned with fewer buttons and for simpler menu navigation. I think it and the digital display works rather well. If you don’t? Well, I’m sure Audi is sorry, but there’s no physical alternative. Do try to like it, because digital displays will be everywhere before long.
Our test car rode on 19in alloys, shod with 245/35 ZR19 tyres (by Hankook, unusually). And in that state the ride, with the usual caveat about being on unfamiliar roads, was busy in the dampers’ firmer mode, and even a touch in the softer mode.
The TTS is still a decent town or cruising machine, mind, thanks to a straight driving position and sound ergonomics. The steering’s also fine; although light, it’s accurate enough.
But up the pace and the TTS is now better, I think, than it has ever been. It is not a clone of a Golf R: it does not quite replicate all of that car’s moves. But here, at last, is a small Audi coupe that I would have no hesitation in calling a sports car.
As well as selectable modes for the dampers, you can select different settings for the engine/gearbox calibration, steering weight and ESC intervention: you can choose pre-set modes or pick and choose your set-up.
Thankfully it seems more than just a marketing gimmick, too. I imagine mostly I’d leave the button in Auto, but Dynamic has a lot going for it when you’re in the right mood.
Not only is the exhaust angrier this way, the optional six-speed double-clutch gearbox is more willing too, and the chassis better tied-down. No, the TTS is not quite as composed as – from memory – I think a Golf R is. Nor, rather more pertinently, a Porsche Cayman. But it makes a decent job of casting aside surface imperfections and controlling its body.
And although the TTS weighs 1460kg, it also feels pleasingly agile, thanks in part to the rapid steering, and in other parts to the calibration of the stability control and four-wheel-drive system.
The front tyres do not need to have relinquished grip before power is apportioned to the rear. Turn-in briskly and the rear-mounted clutch starts diverting torque towards the back axle.
Then, when you get back on the power, it’s readily available to tighten a line or quell any understeer. Throw in a chassis that will tuck its nose in if you turn-in on the brakes and you have the deftest chassis ever to underpin a TTS.
Lesser versions of the Audi TT are doubtless better value but there is real dynamic capability beneath the TTS.
Is it as much fun as a Porsche Cayman? Let’s not be silly. An BMW M235i? Probably not – though I’d like a back-to-back test to say for sure. But if on-limit engagement was your only remit then a Renaultsport Mégane Trophy would be a cannier choice.
Fact is the TTS has always been about more than just that. It has always been a good coupe that gives you sound reasons to buy one. That it’s now rather good fun to drive is another one.
Audi TTS Coupé S-Tronic
Price £40,270; 0-62mph 4.6sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 40.9mpg; CO2 159g/km; Kerb weight 1460kg; Engine type, cc 4cyls, 1984cc, turbo petrol; Power 306bhp between 5800-6200rpm; Torque 280lb ft between 1800-5700rpm; Gearbox six-speed dual clutch automatic