I don’t know about you, but I was never really hot for the second-generation Audi TT. Although it may have been better to pilot than the car it replaced, the styling, I thought, was something of a letdown. The first TT was an innovator: a piece of steel-wrapped eye candy that added some much-needed vim to the Audi brand and the automotive design industry as a whole.
The Mk2 was yet another play-it-safe sports coupé that was soon upstaged by Peugeot (RCZ), BMW (Z4) and Porsche (Cayman). Something had to be done to help stop the poor TT from losing its relevance. So the designers hit their complicated 3-D modelling programs and cooked up the all-new Mk3 you now see here. Even though its styling may appear evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the latest TT is quite a different beast when viewed in the metal. It is both lower and wider than the model it succeeds, and the front and rear overhangs have been trimmed a little shorter.
Complemented by an aluminium bodyshell cut with lots of hard edges and aggressive angles, the third-generation TT is a properly menacing piece of kit. Especially up front, where it gets a massive trapezoidal radiator grille plus a chiselled bonnet in keeping with the one found on its bigger, faster brother, the R8. Other nice touches include daytime LED running lights designed to mimic the laser headlamps of the Le Mans- winning R18 racecar, and exhaust tailpipes that have now been moved more towards the centre of the rear apron — a nice visual throwback to the original TT. Where things get extra juicy is on the inside.
Audi clearly employs people living in the future because the interior of the TT is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Strap yourself into the Alcantara driver’s seat and you’ll bear witness to something called Virtual Cockpit. What the what? Well, instead of analogue dials, the instrument binnacle in front of you is now filled with a massive 12.3-inch TFT display, which, mated to the MMI Touch infotainment system, can be customised to show a myriad information — the route programmed into your satellite navigation; songs stored on your smart- phone; on-board computer data accrued over your last roadtrip. This and a whole lot more are now projected in iPad-rivalling clarity just below your line of sight. It’s a fantastic system, one that burns centre console switchgear down to the bare essentials.
To streamline things even further, Audi has also integrated the air-conditioning controls into the actual air vents poking out from the dashboard. Although Bauhaus basic in layout, the new TT does come with a generous amount of equipment. Satellite navigation. Bluetooth audio streaming. Cruise control. Audi Drive Select. All of this is fitted as standard fare. You even score (drumroll please) two USB ports. Yep, no longer do you have to grapple with silly SD cards So what about the actual driving experience? Can it do that strong exterior and tech-savvy interior any justice? Well, in order to find out, Audi let us loose across the challenging back roads that criss-cross the Mpumalanga countryside. And I’ve got to say that the new TT is generally a much nicer steer than the model it replaces.
Now utilising the familiar MQB platform, the Mk3 feels considerably more involving — particularly in the case of the less expensive front-wheel drive model. Sure, the range-topping Quattro packs more mechanical grip, but the front-driven derivative darts through corners with extra verve. There was a light-footed sparkle to its step that immediately won me over. Fortunately, both models benefit from increased levels of road feedback, more natural steering feel, as well as some seriously punchy anchors. Powered by a 2.0-litre turbo engine bolted to the firm’s snappy S-Tronic dual-clutch gearbox (manual isn’t an option) both versions proved satisfyingly quick in a straight line. In point-to-point driving scenarios, the Mk3 TT is one deceptively fast car. Ride quality-wise it’s also surprisingly comfortable: the suspension engineers managing to dial in a good compromise between sportiness and everyday liveability.
Finding balance. This is what the third-generation TT is all about. Because for the first time in its 17-year history it manages to score highly in both the looks and driving department. Personally, I’d prefer to put in extra for a Porsche Cayman, because I think it’s still the most focused machine prowling the small coupé segment. However, for the average buyer who’s not hung up on garaging the last word in dynamism, the arguably more practical Audi will check all their boxes and then some.
Engine: 1984cc four-cylinder turbo
Power: 169kW from 4 500rpm to 6 200rpm
Torque: 370Nm at 1 600rpm
0-100km/h: 5.9 seconds; 5.3 seconds (Quattro)
Top speed: 250km/h (limited)
CO2: 146g/km; 149g/km (Quattro)
Fuel: 6.3l/ 100km; 6.4l/100km (Quattro)
Price: From R558 000; R642 000 (Quattro)