Audi TT The 'S' makes the difference. The TTS quattro is far more than the Golf-in-a-frock that its two-wheel-drive siblings are. Phew, that's better. The new Audi TTS pays out on the performance cheques written by its R8-supercar-in-miniature design theme thanks to a hearty serving of extra power and the all-tyre delivery system that transfers it to the road. The TT's time-honoured and unmistakeable design works from every angle. So which should you go for: the pretender or the real thing? That depends on how much you're prepared to spend. For the $122,900 TTS costs quite a bit more than the $91,800 TT.
As with all previous TTs, these third-generation cars pride themselves on their minimalism and stay faithful to the "less is more" philosophies of the Bauhaus movement – as promoted by 20th Century architects and designers like Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe etc. When acknowledging the influence of the Bauhaus design gang, what Audi is really doing is identifying the target market of the TT and TTS. If you've already subscribed to the movement through the purchase of one of Mies' far-from-comfortable Barcelona chairs, you're far more likely to be vulnerable to the shapely appeal of one of Audi's compact two-door sportsters.
Tom Wolfe once wrote of the chair that "when you saw the holy object, you knew you were in a household where an architect had sacrificed everything to bring the symbol of the godly mission into the home. " The same can probably be said any time you spot a TTS parked in someone's garage.
Like any such "symbols of godly missions", the TTS looks almost divine, but there are functional penalties that must be paid for the triumph of form. The greatest of these are the lack of rear seat and luggage space. Essentially, the TTS is an Audi S3 Sportback carved into a more curvaceous, more confining shape, and the extra curves come at considerable cost.
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It shares the same powertrain and platform as the S3 SB, but not the same asking price. A premium of $32,000 is quite a lot to pay for such a pruning back of practicality. Mind you, you probably could buy a whole truckload of Ikea furniture for the price of a single Barcelona chair if the former was available here. So the TTS is quite an exclusive car in that it demands a special buyer with plenty of funds and limited needs.
Fortunately, the TTS is also a rather special car. Where the lesser TT felt a little too keen to betray it's Golf GTI origins, the TTS can be considered a proper rival for the Porsche Cayman range of mid-engine sportscars. The base croc-rocker model from Stuttgart almost costs the same as the TTS at $126,200, but you don't want that one as it's slow enough to threaten credibility, and the Audi will smack its pretty ass in 0-100kmh sprints by reaching ticketing speeds one second earlier. The compelling buying proposition that the TTS pitches is that it offers $151,800 Cayman S-equalling performance for almost $30K less. The TTS achieves this neat trick by using four turbocharged cylinders instead of the Porsche's atmospherically-aspirated six.
But don't think that this leads to any dilution of aural appeal, for, like that of the S3 SB, the TTS powerplant sounds sensational from inside the car. That's because there's a speaker mounted on the firewall to amp up the engine's sound effects. Some of these may be fake, but then, no one does synthetic sonics like the Teutons – just have a listen to Kraftwerk sometime. Now sportscar purists will rightly point out that the Cayman S will be a better steer, but the TTS isn't all that far behind in terms of its turning talent. It's certainly way better than previous generation cars thanks to the lower centre of gravity, stiffer foundations for suspension and steering rack, and the way the Quattro powertrain constantly adjusts torque allocation to the tyres with the best traction.
The Porsche is a little more throttle adjustable mid-bend, but responds in the opposite direction. You get off the power-pedal to tighten the cornering line with the Cayman when understeer threatens. The Audi, meanwhile, will rotate faster the harder you push it. The "virtual cockpit" of the TTS and enough LED lights on the outside to put on quite a show could be deal-sealers to some buyers.
The former cleans up the interior design considerably and the ghost of Gropius could ride in this car and never suspect that it was so well-equipped. The only controls that can't be monitored and operated from directly in front of the driver in the TTS are those that adjust heating and ventilation, and they're skilfully integrated into the dash vents. It all adds up to a visual sanitation that pleases the eye.
So if you're reading this while sitting in your own personal Barcelona chair, your car has arrived. Drivetrain: Transverse, front-mounted adaptive all-wheel-drive with six-speed twin-clutch transmission. Output: 1984cc DOHC direct-injection turbocharged inline four producing 221kW at 6000rpm, 380Nm at 1800 - 5700 rpm. Performance: Maximum speed 250kmh, 0-100kmh 4. 6 seconds, 6. 8L/100km, 157g CO2/km, Euro 5 emission compliance.
Chassis: Front MacPherson struts, rear multilink. Electro-mechanical power steering.
Vented disc brakes front and rear. 19-inch alloy rims with 245/35 tyres. Dimensions: L 4177mm, H 1353mm, W 1832mm, W/base 2505mm, Fuel 50L, Weight 1448kg. Pricing: $122,900 (TTS Roadster convertible: $127,900). - Sunday Star Times.