The paint seemed barely dry on launch versions of the Audi TT when Autocar secured a long-term test of one.
That was excellent for two reasons. One, because although our testers are brilliant at what they do, to me there’s nothing quite like running a car over an extended period to really unearth what it’s like. And two, because I’m running it and I rather like it.
Of the myriad TT variants, this is fairly comprehensively equipped. It’s a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol model, making 227bhp and driving through all four wheels. It’s equipped with the S line trim and S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission. Thus equipped, it costs £35,335, a considerable amount for a small coupé, but Audi knows how to charge. Strong residual values and the fact that buyers tend to pay by the month, rather than up front, is what keeps cars like this affordable.
And then there are options. The TT feels relatively plush as it comes, with a digital dashboard display and exceptionally solid-feeling interior. But Audi knows how to charge for options, too - similarly because they’re not usually just bought outright, but add a few quid a month.
So if you don’t want black or white paint, it’ll cost £545 at least. The 20-inch wheels on this test car, which cause our road testers to wince when they see them and which will cause me to be livid when somebody first kerbs them, cost £850. But, still, don’t they look the part? (Ditto the S-line’s more aggressive body styling.)
I won’t mention all of the other options, because they’re lots fitted to our car. But a few notables have caught my eye - the LED headlights (£945) quite literally, because they do a fancy diagnostics check on start-up, lighting and un-lighting in sequence. They’re fairly sensational on the road, too: incredibly bright but with so many individual bulbs, managed by a front-facing camera in the windscreen, that some are dimmed so they don’t dazzle oncoming traffic. I like neat touches like that.
I’m also a great fan of the Audi’s interior. Yes, even at its base price, this TT is becoming agonisingly close to the entry price of a Porsche Cayman, and its £46,185 price as tested would see you easily into one, or a BMW M235i, both of which, the road testers tell me, are better to drive. But neither feels as special as this. And to me - and evidently an awful lot of buyers - that matters.
Yes, Audi cares less than some manufacturers about chassis dynamics and the last word in steering feel, but it does care about making you feel good. And when I’m driving from home in west London to Autocar Towers, or to an airport or photo shoot, and the road is most likely a blocked suburban one or a motorway, this stuff matters.
Besides, the TT isn’t too shabby dynamically these days. Okay, even I’ll admit that the ride is a bit jiggly on those 20in wheels, but come off it: just look at them. They genuinely fill the arches. All TTs should have wheels this big. And to heck with the ride. I don’t mind it, anyway.
I also quite like the handling. This TT doesn’t have magnetically controlled dampers, but you can select different drive modes, which affect the steering, gearbox response and engine noise. In Comfort mode, the quick steering is rather light, so I prefer it in Dynamic mode, which brings some welcome weight to it. The motor also sounds better, although, to my ears, it could be louder again. But in Dynamic, the gearshifts can be a bit eager and the engine too keen. But there’s an Individual mode, too, in which you can set some settings differently from others. I’ll do that soon.
There are other things that I still need to investigate as time goes by. Among the options is the ‘Audi Phone Box’. You place your iPhone in it and it improves reception without having to be plugged in, which is useful, and it can also stream data for online services like maps showing real-time traffic problems and so on. That’s just one of a lot of features to discover more about. To my mind, there aren’t many better places to experience them from.