What is it?
Happy Birthday, Audi TT. Twenty years old in 2018 (yeah, seriously) and still looking as fresh as ever.
This being an Audi anniversary, though, the celebrations are predictably muted. 'Extravagance is excessive' would appear to be the Audi mantra. So alongside a 999-run '20 Years’ special, the current third-gen TT has been updated four years into its production run with a very modest mechanical and cosmetic refresh.
The important news for enthusiasts are the changes for the TTS. Power has been reduced to 302bhp because of a standard petrol particulate filter, but torque is up 15lb ft to 295lb ft. Ally that to a now-standard seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (the six-speed manual is no more) and the result is a fiercely accelerative 2.0-litre TTS; 0-62mph in 4.5sec is quicker than the original R8 V8. It’s worth noting that magnetorheological dampers are now also standard for the TTS, helping to explain why the four-cylinder flagship’s price is expected to rise to £45,000.
That’s also accounted for by additional equipment, including a Technology Pack with upgraded navigation, wireless handset charging and new interior trims.
What's it like?
Pretty good, in that fuss-free, fault-free, drama-free fast Audi way. Test location for the TTS drive was the Isle of Man, including a memorable drive on the Mountain section closed to other traffic; this played to the car's strengths extremely well.
For travelling very fast on an unknown, very challenging bit of road without intimidating the driver, it’s hard to think of anything much better than a 300hp TT. Corners with 40mph speed suggestions are tackled comfortably at twice that, second gear hairpins are dispatched without any hint of traction loss and fifth-gear direction changes are shrugged off easily.
The engine is powerful, the brakes’ performance can’t be criticised (even if the feel can) and it seems that the Isle of Man would run out of kippers before the TTS runs out of grip. Its plug-and-play performance is only surpassed by the wildly brisk TT RS.
The TTS’s issues are not in the outright performance metrics, then, but rather in the subtleties of nuance and feel. Yes, familiar Audi complaints, but ones that remain valid when there are rivals such as the fantastically tactile Porsche Cayman and caddishly indulgent Jaguar F-Type to consider. There’s simply little joy for the keen driver in going fast in a TT, from the snatchy brake pedal to the aloof steering. You can push harder, and go much faster, but the joy typically associated with doing that in a sports car is noticeable by its absence.