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Can the juggernaut sports coupé roll on to even greater success, or has Audi's icon lost its edge against more purpose-built machines?

It’s okay to feel conflicted about the prospect of a new Audi TT. We do. The first generation Audi coupe landed in 1998 as a prefab classic sporting a visually striking closed clamshell of a body that was about to chime oh so perfectly with the Apple-led age of sleek product design.

Unlike the first iPod, however, Audi didn’t spend quite so much time plumbing functional pleasure into the experience. Instead, Peter Schreyer’s modernistic sculpture was plonked onto the Volkswagen Group’s PQ34 platform, a front and four-wheel-drive architecture shared with scintillating options such as the VW Bora and Seat Toledo.

The original Audi TT of 1998 has become a design icon

Consequently, while the TT may have always looked like a hot ticket to excitement, its uncanny dynamic impression of a small four-door saloon has done little to set a keen driver’s imagination alight.

The latest TT’s migration to the MQB platform may not seem like a reason for jubilation, but Audi’s early rhetoric suggests that fun has now been placed closer to centre stage, underpinned by less weight, a new and adaptive chassis and more power. Later this year, the range will be complete as the bombastic Audi TT RS will join the other incumbants in the range.

Could this be the TT we recommend unconditionally? Let’s see.

Audi TT design & styling

It has taken just 16 years for the TT to attain the design icon status that the likes of the Porsche 911, Mercedes-Benz SL and Volkswagen Golf took two or three times longer to achieve.

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This car’s visual idiom is now truly iconic and untouchable. That’s why this third-generation TT is almost exactly as long and as tall as the previous model, with styling that is predictably reverential. For its owners, this is a fashion statement as much as a sports car, so it’s vital that it looks fresh and compelling.

Audi walks that tightrope well. The car’s surfaces have a little more tension in them and its details sport more modern technical intrigue, but its size and proportions are as they have always been and the silhouette is unmistakable. Students of design wouldn’t call the car classically elegant, but the geometrical symmetry of the overall aesthetic means it remains a paragon of visual strength if not conventional beauty.

The mixed steel and aluminium construction survives, as does all-independent suspension. As before, the TT offers a range of transverse, front-mounted engines and front or quattro four-wheel drive. If the dynamic purity of rear-wheel drive is what you’re after in a sports coupé, look elsewhere.

A choice of 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel engines is available, and it’s the 227bhp, 273lb ft front-drive TFSI manual we’re testing, resident at the lower end of the model hierarchy but expected to account for a majority share of the sales mix. There is also an 181bhp diesel engine and the entry-level 178bhp 1.8 TFSI engine to choose from, while those aching for more power can opt for the 2.0 TFSI TTS which puts out 305bhp. Later this year a 394bhp 2.5-litre TFSI engine will be added to the range solely for the TT RS.

We’re also sampling S line specification, which brings more aggressive body styling than Sport trim as well as lowered, passive sports suspension. Adaptive magnetorheological damping is available as an option.

 

Audi TT First drives