2012 Audi TT Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
October 3, 2011

The 2012 Audi TT gets a burst of testosterone and sports-car cred with a bold new TT RS model; otherwise it's a surprisingly well-rounded (and economical) performer.

Is the Audi TT a sporty car, or a full-fledged sports car?

Up until the TT's last major redesign it was definitely the former--a rather timeless Art Deco-influenced object, with more plebeian front-wheel-drive VW platform roots. But since then, next to the more luxurious A5 coupe and convertible, Audi has made an effort to establish it as more of a true sports car--with more edginess and detailing to better fit in with the exclusive R8 sports car--as well as the introduction of a sportier TTS version a couple of years ago and now, for 2012, a top-of-the-range TT RS version catering to driving enthusiasts.

Last year Audi dropped the lopey V-6 engine, as well as all remaining conventional automatic transmissions, from the lineup. What remains for the TT and sportier TTS models are two different versions of Audi's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine: one making 211 hp in the TT, and another more boosted (and vocal) version making 265 hp in the TTS.

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Both of these models are offered in Coupe and Roadster form, but because the Roadsters are a bit heavier Coupes are the way to go for dedicated driving enthusiasts. With the manual gearbox, TTS Coupes can hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, while they earn 22/31 mpg fuel economy.

The 2012 Audi TT RS is a different beast. While it only differs from the TTS with regard to trim, colors, exclusive wheels, a rear wing, and a few other factors, it gets a high-boost turbo five-cylinder engine, making 360 horsepower. Factor in a six-speed manual, a specially tuned version of Audi's magnetic suspension system, upgraded brakes, a special partial exhaust bypass (in Sport mode), and an upgraded Haldex quattro system, and you get a rorty performer that's ready for the track--and can get to 60 in 4.1 seconds, or to a top speed of 174 mph. 

In either body style, the TT sits more squat on its haunches than the original TT. It's a more nimble machine and a more seriously sporting car, low to the ground and grippy, with flat but eager determination. On the TT roadster, the convertible top is manually operated unless you pay for power controls. When it's raised, the roof quiets the cabin well, though it cramps the TT's style a bit.

Those observations about appearance carry through to the driving experience. In any of its versions, the TT feels sharp and responsive, with strong throttle response and near-instant torque delivered from these excellent turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The quattro all-wheel drive system still takes on inclement weather but also biases its split more toward the rear wheels, so it's a more balanced handler than before. About the only sore spot for much of the lineup is that the steering, while quick and well-weighted, doesn't transmit much feel of the road--a key sports-car distinguishing factor, to us.

The rest of the TT lineup carries over to 2012 completely unchanged, as we get prepared for a replacement that's due in another year or two.

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2012 Audi TT

Styling

The 2012 Audi TT isn't as fresh inside as the rest of the Audi lineup, but the contemporary exterior still fits right in alongside the more expensive R8.

Audi has long ago thrown the TT Coupe's original Art Deco inspiration to the wayside, but the current version of this sport coupe and convertible still look contemporary, and fit in well with the rest of the Audi lineup--at least from the outside.

From first look, there could be little mistaking the TT for anything but a performance car. Its more masculine yet muted look bring a conservative tone overall, yet looking at the side sculpting, rakish hood, and LED lights, it's easy to see a family resemblance to the R8 sports car--as well as maybe just a hint of Porsche 911 roofline.

Audi has for more than a decade been ahead of the curve--especially with respect to interior design--but the automaker hasn't so much worked that angle with its current second-generation TT. Its interior is looking somewhat dated next to all the recently-updated models from the A4 on up--though we like the no-nonsense detailing. With four big round vents perched atop a near clone of the more plasticky, button-riddled dash design seen in the A3, its instrument panel isn't trend-setting, but the simpler look has more masculine appeal and probably better fits the sports car look intended.

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2012 Audi TT

Performance

The 2012 Audi TT models are all strong performers, but if the TT is a brisk tea, the TTS is espresso and the TT RS is a wild energy drink.

The Audi TT now comes in two different body styles, and in three performance levels--TT, TTS, and TT RS--each progressively more exclusive. But each of them remains a strong choice for enthusiasts who want a stylish coupe or convertible that has all-weather ability as well as strong performance.

Between the TT and TTS, the difference boils down mostly to a difference in horsepower. The TT coupe and convertible are fitted with a 211-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, while the TTS comes with a higher-boosted, 265-hp version. Both are paired exclusively with Audi's fantastic six-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Essentially, the dual-clutch (DSG) box manages blink-quick shifts (with no clutch pedal) by lining up two manual boxes side by side and managing all the mechanicals with electronics, servos, and solenoids. What's more, the TT is only offered with all-wheel drive, which transmits engine torque to the wheels with a whizzy, delightful surge that continues as the gearbox claps to the next gear. Even base TT Coupes can get to 60 mph in just 5.3-second 0-60 mph time; the Roadster adds 0.3 seconds to the tally, due to its extra weight, while the TTS can make it in closer to five seconds, with a top speed of 155 mph.

At the top of the range is the considerably more exclusive TT RS, which instead gets a high-boost 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine good for 360 horsepower and 343 pound-feet of torque, hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox and a new Haldex version of quattro all-wheel drive. Factor in an exhaust bypass that opens in part when you click the Sport mode, and the RS turns raspy and rabid in sound; it also has a sharper driving character than the other TT models.

The magnetic ride suspension is standard equipment in the TTS, and in its Sport setting. With it, the ride height drops by 0.39 inches, and while the ride can feel a bit more jittery on some surfaces, in general it's a step up in both sharpness, comfort, and refinement. The TTS also folds in larger vented disc brakes and a tuned exhaust system. From behind the wheel, the TTS feels just a touch quicker than the TT, but its sound—a brassier tenor growl—might provide more inspiration.

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2012 Audi TT

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 Audi TT models have way more comfort than most other small coupe or roadster alternatives, but iheir token back seats are just a tease.

The 2012 Audi TT is for all practical purposes a two-seat sports car; it lacks the extravagant space of a fuller-figured grand-touring coupe, yet there's enough extra cabin and cargo space for a couple of adults to stage a comfortable weekend getaway.

In any of the TT models, the back seats (small platforms, really) seem more like a plea for affordable insurance than an effort at usability. But front seats are excellent, with enough headroom in Coupes to accommodate those well over 6'-6"--plus a rather wide, airy feel, thanks to instrument panel design, which isn't oppressively cockpit-like. Roadsters sacrifice their smoothly arched roofline for something a little less elegant, and while visibility is compromised headroom is nearly the same.

Storage space is rather tight. The console and glove box are petite--but on the Coupe, the stow space beneath the hatch glass is quite decent compared to other sports cars--enough for a couple of carry-on suitcases plus another small bag or two. And since Audi's fabric roof design doesn't require the folding space of a hardtop convertible, the trunk space stays largely intact even when the lid is lowered. In Coupes, the rear seats are best kept folded forward, when they provide a bit more space from the cabin side.

Outside of its scorching performance—along with some key feature and appearance additions—the 2012 Audi TT RS isn’t all that different from the rest of the TT lineup with respect to accommodations. However you should be aware that you get considerably more road noise inside due to stiffer, lower-riding suspension settings. In either model, the available magnetic suspension improves ride quality and handling, and cuts some road noise, so it's well worth the money. 

Inside the TT, TTS, or TT RS, the switchgear, materials, and trims will be very familiar to any of those with other Audi models in the garage. Tight panel gaps, well fitted trims, and good, consistent material finishes give the TT's cabin a luxurious look and feel, and the interior is remarkably free of rattles. The Roadster's soft top manages to damp sounds quite effectively, too.
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2012 Audi TT

Safety

The 2012 Audi TT lacks U.S. crash-test data, but its robust structure, full set of safety features, and quick handling are all safety positives.

The 2012 Audi TT has not yet been crash-tested by even one of the U.S. crash-test agencies, but with Audi's reputation for safety behind it--plus a strong, light-weight body structure, we're relatively confident it has strong crash-test protection. 

All TT coupes and convertibles come with standard hill-hold assist, anti-lock brakes, side airbags, and electronic stability control.

None of the nifty active-safety features now becoming more common in luxury coupes--such as blind-spot alert systems or lane-departure warning systems--are offered in the TT. Neither is a backup camera, though rear parking sensors are offered. Those could especially come in useful if you're getting a TT Roadster, as visibility tends to be an issue, even if you're willing to crane your neck quite a bit.

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2012 Audi TT

Features

You likely won't find the 2012 Audi TT a bargain, relative to other small sports cars, but well-optioned TTS and TT RS models really do feel a class above. .

The 2012 Audi TT is reasonably well-equipped in base form, but enthusiasts wanting some level of luxury, too, will want to check some option boxes. And then, prices can rise toward the $50k mark rather rapidly.

But most shoppers probably won't mind paying a little more, as what you get is a vehicle that feels much more premium than the base Coupe and Roadster. The TTS models sport a Silk Nappa leather and Alcantara interior with aluminum trim, plus fog lights, 19-inch wheels, 10-way power front seats, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Both versions of the TTS have a Sport button that tweaks the settings of the magnetic ride suspension.

Worth noting is that on the TT Roadster, the convertible top is manually operated unless you pay for power controls. We recommend them here for convenience, and recommend the Bose premium sound, as the unimpressive sound coming from the base sound system barely passes muster.

Sirius satellite radio, cruise control, power windows/locks/mirrors, leather upholstery, and an auxiliary jack are among the standard features on all TT models. Through option packages, rear parking sensors, LED interior lighting, xenon headlamps, heated sport seats, premium Bose speakers, and a trunk pass-through can be added.

Priced well above those or an entry price of less than $60k, the TT RS includes all that you get in the TTS, feature-wise, plus a lap timer, power sport seats covered in a choice of Silk Nappa leather or Alcantara, and a host of special trims and showy wheel possibilities. Exterior hues are limited to eight different shades of black, grey, silver, red, white, and blue, with three different wheel finishes.

Highlights include a Tech Package, which gets you Audi’s MMI Navigation, upgraded Bose sound, rear parking sensors, adaptive headlights, and ambient LED lighting. Separately, heated seats, carbon-fiber folding mirrors, ‘aluminum optic’ exterior trim, a sport exhaust, and gloss-black wheels are among the standalone options on the TT RS, and you can also opt to delete the larger rear wing and instead get the power-retractable spoiler that’s offered on the rest of the TT line.

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2012 Audi TT

Fuel Economy

For a vehicle with such quick acceleration times, the gas mileage of the 2012 Audi TT is very impressive.

With a mostly four-cylinder lineup, the 2012 Audi TT has gas mileage that's better than most sporty cars--as well as nearly all sports cars.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 2012 TT is rated at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 miles per gallon on the highway. And it's impressive that the automaker has managed those numbers whether you get the TT or the higher-power TTS (with 54 more hp). Both the TT and TTS are now only offered with the six-speed DSG automated gearbox.  

Upgrading to the new 2012 TT RS lowers your mileage somewhat, though this model's 360 hp don't cost as much as you might think: EPA ratings for the RS are 18/25 mpg, and if you have a lot of restraint and keep off the loads of addictive turbo boost you might be able to manage even better. 

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