The tables have turned at Audi. Back in 1999, the clever little TT coupe and convertible were concocted in an Art Deco-inspired fashion--and it clicked. The high-concept design made a deep impression that gave Audi a nice fig leaf to cover the prosaic front-drive roots of the car underneath.
With the second-generation TT, Audi obviously decided authenticity comes from inside. The sheetmetal grew more muted and masculine, and as a result, more generic. The TT can safely claim it's something like the stunning R8 thanks to its side sculpting, low nose, and LED detailing. There's some interesting upswing to the "tornado" line rising down the sideview, and the roofline has that familiar (familial?) Porsche 911 cadence about it. Elsewhere the look doesn't go far in convincing us of its sportscar credo: Audi's overly emphatic grille drags the pavement and brings down the whole hoodline, and the headlamps and taillamps don't have the same drama that's cropping up in newer Audis.
The TT lost much of the character it possessed inside, too. The grabby circular theme isn't as spot-on this time; four big round vents are just perched atop a near clone of the more plasticky, button-riddled dash design seen in the A3 and A6. The flight-grade set of knobs, switches, and LCD screens may have some distinct masculine appeal, and it's more "sportscar" in that vein, but it's much less interesting to sit in and to study, than in the 1999 original.