Listen to its makers describing the latest Audi TT, and you’ll detect a subtle change of emphasis. This is a sports car, says Ingolstadt, whereas the previous iterations of this car have been more readily described either as a coupe or a roadster.
Audi backs this subtle shift of emphasis with an array of technical improvements that provide substance to the claim. The new car is lighter, more powerful, sits its occupants closer to the road and features a new, more responsive Quattro four-wheel drive system. Improved aerodynamics, a more favourable weight distribution, a longer wheelbase and a lower centre of gravity also heighten the chances of this new TT providing a more enjoyable and engaging drive.
And there are subtle changes in the TT’s design that also reflect this shift of emphasis. They have their root in the mood boards developed close to the start of this third-generation TT’s 60-month gestation, their headings labelled ‘sportiness, iconic design, sex appeal, joy of use and character, ’ says interior designer Maximilian Kandler. And with an emphasis on how a driver should feel in a sports car.
To make this TT look more like a sports car, exterior project designer Dany Garand explains that ‘there are more facets, and more tension in the surface, positioning the TT as a legitimate sports car.’ Theses facets, like the sheer surfaces of a cut diamond, are most evident in the Audi’s shoulders, which are broad, fairly flat and given heightened emphasis by the relative flatness of the bodywork beneath them. ‘It’s a fast shoulder, with lots of tension’ says Garand.
The TT’s dynamism is further emphasised by the way that the tornado line, as Audi calls the creases forming the lower edge of those shoulders, turns to form part of the car’s nose. ‘There’s more speed in the line descending towards the grille,’ says Garand. ‘It provides a first defining line for the headlight.’ Those headlamps provide a new light signature consisting of ‘ two vertical spars, wide apart’, says Garand.
Another fresh signature is the relocation of the Audi rings to the bonnet, a detail shared with the R8 and a detail that will identify all Audi sports cars in future. But there’s plenty that’s familiar about this third-generation TT, not least the ratio of glass to bodywork. ‘The one-third glasshouse, two-thirds body proportioning of all Audis is slightly different for the TT,’ says Garand, ‘the glazing being slightly less than a third,’ as it’s been for the previous generations of the car too.
What has changed are the TT’s wheelbase-to-length proportions, its axles stretched further apart within the same footprint, a change that also adds to its air of sporting dynamism.
There’s obscure dynamism to be found inside too, the upper surface of the dashboard modelled on the shape of ‘a lightweight aircraft’s wing,’ says Kandler. When he reveals a picture of the slightly cranked aircraft wing in question, the link is easy to see. It’s a detail you’d need to be told about to pick up, but there’s no denying the clean elegance of the dashboard’s structure, which is once again characterised by the prominent quintet of airvents, these apparently referencing jet engines.
But these are vents with a difference, the heating and ventilation controls ingeniously integrated into their design. ‘It was a challenge to lift the HVAC controls to the airvents,’ says Kandler, another challenge being to ‘integrate the infotainment system into the instruments.’ Which is undoubtedly the most radical feature of this TT’s interior, all the infotainment displays now presented within a configurable virtual instrument pack.
Drivers can choose between several layouts, ranging from a classic large dial presentation with a minimum of extra displays to a layout in which the navigation map flows around dials of much reduced scale. It sounds messy, but in a static car at least, it appears to work. There’s also a set-up highlighting the user’s MP3 choice complete with artwork, while another display majors on the rev counter for track and fast road driving.