2016 Audi TT Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 9, 2016

With a driver-centric interior design and a lighter, quicker driving character, the 2016 Audi TT now offers more of the driving experience that its exterior teases.

The 2016 Audi TT represents the third generation of Audi's small, sporty coupe and convertible. In this edition, they're ever closer to becoming true sports cars—but the TT and the higher-power Audi TTS don't quite fit that esoteric bill.

To think of the TT as a true sports car, we think you'd have to overlook the lack of a manual gearbox, for starters, and overlook its front-drive origins. That said, the TT is an effortlessly tossable car with excellent road manners and appealing style. The lesson? Call it what you will, just enjoy driving it as we've done.

Audi says it's looked to the R8 supercar for design influences on the new TT, and then inward to the driver—with a more driver-centric, cockpit-like layout for the cabin, a lighter-and-leaner driving experience, and a raft of new tech.

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In profile, the TT hasn’t changed much; it's recognizable as the same pert coupe or roadster, but its overhangs have been tucked in a bit more and its corners a little more chiseled—which, depending on the vantage point can make it appear either a bit wider than before (it's actually narrower) or higher-shouldered (also not the case). There's definitely some R8 influence in front, where LED matrix headlamps, the trapezoidal "singleframe" grille, and new hood creasing are altogether more menacing.

Inside is where the TT has truly transformed. It's a radical redo, with a cabin layout that far more effectively channels some of the sports-car vibe that this model has been missing in its previous iterations. The dash design nixes the infotainment screen and center stack completely. Infotainment controls and virtually everything interface-related have been moved in front of the driver, in a new Audi Virtual Cockpit display that uses a 12.3-inch high-contrast display, steering-wheel toggles, voice controls, and a capacitive touch pad down at the center console. Round vents have middle areas that control climate settings, and there's a racier look throughout in the materials and swoopy dash shape.

Engines aren't all that different than last year, with the TT powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 making 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet and the high-performance TTS boosted up to 292 hp and 280 lb-ft. But the key difference is an all-new structure and some serious weight loss—meaning the TT can get to 60 mph in as little as 5.3 seconds and the TTS at 4.6 seconds. Some may mourn the loss of a manual gearbox (it's all quick, satisfying S-tronic dual-clutch automatics now), but they're apparently in the very small minority.

The TT is offered only in all-wheel-drive quattro form in the U.S., and this version packs the latest, Audi-tuned Haldex clutch-pack system, which will send more power to the rear wheels when it’s needed, or preemptively to make the car more balanced in sporty driving (it responds not only to accelerator inputs, but steering too). A new progressive steering system brings a variable ratio rack with variable electric assist—amounting to a quick, nimble feeling on low-speed hairpins and a more relaxed, settled feel on the highway. But road feel is still a bit lacking, and that's a plus and a minus for the magnetic suspension included with TTS models (which, by the way, filters out some of the road noise that can be an issue in the TT Coupe).

As in previous TT models, a powered spoiler extends at 75 mph or retracts at 44 mph; and it generates about 110 pounds of downforce at 155 mph. It’s not something that’s going to make much of a difference at U.S. freeway speeds, but it’s a bragging right—as is a new launch control feature for the stability system.

The TT and TTS are light and nimble in driving feel, and electronic systems help supplement the experience with the right sounds and feedback—for the most part. For instance, a sound actuator feeds ‘sporty’ sounds into the cabin when you drive enthusiastically, and on TTS models there are additional exhaust flaps. Then there's Audi Drive Select, a multi-mode system that lets you tune a range of powertrain, steering, and stability behaviors.

With its decidedly different, more cockpit-like, interior design approach compared to previous Audi TT models, you might expect the new 2016 Audi TT to be more compromised with respect to interior space. But that’s not at all the case. Just as before, you’ll find plenty of space—and more leg room in front than in most other sports cars or sporty coupes, as well as a good driving position for a wide range of sizes.

The 2016 TT is a four-seater; but whether or not you call it a true four-passenger model or a 2+2 depends very much on what size passengers you plan to take. Even shorter-than-average adults will find just enough space for knees and legs in back, but their heads will be up against the top of the hatchback glass (watch out when you close that hatch).

Audi is ramping up active-safety features with this generation of the TT; and just as with the previous two generations of this sporty coupe or convertible, you can expect the same high standards of occupant protection here as in Audi’s sedans and crossovers. Secondary collision brake assist, which keeps the vehicle from continuing to roll when it’s been in an accident, is now standard on the entire model line. Audi Side Assist is also included in the TTS.

The 2016 Audi TT offers a lot more available in-cabin connectivity technology than before, as well as more standard comforts and features. Compared to other sports cars or roadsters it really isn't an either/or dilemma—you can have some of the top tech wizardry, in a way that doesn't detract from the sports-car flavor.

Standard features on the TT include keyless ignition, cruise control, remote locking, an alarm system, a HomeLink garage-door opener, a rear parking sensor system, and automatic wipers and headlamps. TTS models add the higher power engine, the magnetic ride suspension, wheel and brake upgrades, front and rear parking sensors, and Audi side assist.

A so-called "MMI Navigation Plus" package adds a lot of the good stuff to the TT’s cabin. First off—in addition to a navigation system that can display clear, smooth-scrolling maps on the high-contrast color screen that doubles as a gauge cluster—you add Audi Connect, which harnesses an embedded LTE data connection for enhanced Google Earth and Google Street View displays, real-time traffic information, and even integrated interfaces for Facebook and Twitter. You also get a Bluetooth calling and audio-streaming interface, as well as 10 GB for storing music files.

Also of note is a top-of-the-line Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system includes 12 speakers and 680 watts of power, with a processor that optimizes sound based on cabin noise.

The EPA rates the TT up to 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined, or 23/30/26 mpg in Roadster form. The more potent TTS Coupe manages 23/27/25 mpg, which isn't all that impressive for the small, lightweight sports car.

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2016 Audi TT

Styling

A radically reconceived interior space in the 2016 TT balances out a rather conservative remake on the outside.

If you can get over the fact that the TT has grown into a dramatically different car than it was in first-generation form—then a sort of rolling piece of Bauhaus art—you'll find the TT Coupe and Roadster to be pert and sporty in every respect.

Its influences have become, more directly, the R8 sports-car family more than that original TT. Its overhangs have been tucked in a bit more, and from overhead, it’s a little squarer at the corners, as well as a little more hunkered-back—which adds up to the impression that it’s a little wider before, when in truth it’s slightly narrower.

The greatest gain in expression for the new TT is probably in front, where LED matrix headlamps, the trapezoidal "singleframe" grille, and new hood creasing add up to something entirely R8-influenced. Walk around, and the sheet metal is more taut as well, giving it a leaner, more purposeful look. In the walk around, the chiseled corners seem to bring the beltline up visually, even though it's a low-and-lean two-door.

While the TT is only evolutionary on the outside, its interior has received a radical redo. The cabin layout channels the sports-car vibe in a way that the TT never has before—with a layout that's low-set in general yet enveloping around the driver.

Its dash nixes the infotainment screen and center stack completely. Infotainment controls and virtually everything interface-related have been moved in front of the driver, in a new Audi Virtual Cockpit display that uses a 12.3-inch high-contrast display, steering-wheel toggles, voice controls, and a capacitive touch pad in the center console. Round, nicely detailed vents have middle areas that display climate-control settings, and they press and twist.

Details abound, and they're well-coordinated and seemingly either aerospace or racing influenced. The dash hangs back at a slight angle over the passenger’s legs like an aircraft wing, with the array of round dash vents like engines. Distinctive trims and more interior colors add to a look that feels purposeful and reinforces the performance side.

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2016 Audi TT

Performance

By the numbers, the Audi TT performs better than it has before; and it backs that with more of a sensory experience from the driver's seat.

The Audi TT is powered by a 2.0-liter inline-4 with turbocharging and direct injection, making 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. The engine in the high-performance TTS might have the same displacement—2.0 liters—but there’s more turbo boost, and all the core moving parts are stronger to suit, bringing its numbers up to 292 hp and 280 lb-ft. Audi's 6-speed S-tronic automated manual gearbox does the shifting, and while you're not rowing your own, the gear changes are quicker and just as satisfying.

TT models get to 60 mph in as little as 5.3 seconds, while the TTS can do it in 4.6 seconds. That’s considerably better than the previous version, even though power outputs aren't much different. Part of the reason is a new aluminum and steel composite construction that builds both on the VW Group’s MQB platform and engineering expertise from the R8 sports car—resulting in a weight reduction of up to 110 pounds versus the outgoing model.

As in previous TT models, a powered spoiler extends at 75 mph or retracts at 44 mph; and it generates about 110 pounds of downforce at 155 mph. It’s not something that’s going to make much of a difference at U.S. freeway speeds, but it’s a bragging right—as is a new launch control feature for the stability system.

The TT is offered only in all-wheel-drive quattro form in the U.S.; this version packs the latest, Audi-tuned Haldex clutch-pack system, which will send more power to the rear wheels when it’s needed, or preemptively to make the car more balanced in sporty driving (it responds not only to accelerator inputs, but steering too).

All TT and TTS models will come with a progressive steering system that matches a variable ratio with variable electric assist—adding to that nimble feeling in quick directional changes and mountain hairpins, but feeling settled and stable on the highway. As with most modern sporty cars, the only thing we wish for is a little more feedback from the road. And that's an observation that becomes exaggerated in the TTS, as its magnetic suspension cancels out some of the sensations at the wheels and the seat of your pants, requiring you to rely more on the steering.

The new 2016 TT drives with a lighter-and-leaner feel in most ways—and it keeps with the promise that the sportier cockpit layout makes, with a more neutral, balanced feel that lets you take advantage of its baked-in handling abilities.

To help keep you in the mood—or to help supplement the mood—a sound actuator feeds "sporty" sounds into the cabin when you drive enthusiastically, and on TTS models there are additional exhaust flaps to assist in the soundtrack from down and out. It all factors into a driving experience that can be tuned, to a surprisingly wide degree, with Audi Drive Select, a system that offers Dynamic, Auto, and Comfort modes that affect throttle response, transmission behavior, steering boost, and behavior of the stability and all-wheel-drive systems.

Keep in mind that TTS models include an Audi magnetic ride suspension that, while tauter than the TT's setup, actually helps do a better job of keeping road harshness out.

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2016 Audi TT

Comfort & Quality

Supportive, comfortable seats, well-laid-out controls, and a nicely controlled ride add appeal, while a small trunk and road noise detract somewhat.

With its decidedly different, more cockpit-like, interior design approach compared to previous Audi TT models, you might expect the new 2016 Audi TT to be more compromised with respect to interior space. But that’s not at all the case. Just as before, you’ll find plenty of space—and more leg room in front than in most other sports cars or sporty coupes, as well as a good driving position for a wide range of sizes.

The 2016 TT is a four-seater; but whether or not you call it a true four-passenger model or a 2+2 depends very much on what size passengers you plan to take. Even shorter-than-average adults will find just enough space for knees and legs in back, but their heads will be up against the top of the hatchback glass (watch out when you close that hatch).

The material over the upper dash is a padded, textured material, while TTS models get a raised, honeycomb-patterned material that looks a bit retro in a good way. And interior colors and trims are more varied than they’ve been in TT models of the past, with black, Rock Gray, and Palomino Brown interior themes, and a second contrasting color available in some builds. And there’s an Express Red hue for the leather seats in the TTS.

Seats provide plenty of lateral support while also being supportive for backs; with the S line package you also get distinctive diamond patterning on Nappa leather, and there are various grades of cloth, leather, and Alcantara (faux-suede) elsewhere in the lineup. With an available lighting package you add accent lighting for the tunnel doors, and footwells.

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2016 Audi TT

Safety

The 2016 TT is built on an all-new body structure that hasn't yet been proven; new active-safety features bring it up to date.

Audi is ramping up active-safety features with this generation of the TT; and just as with the previous two generations of this sporty coupe or convertible, you can expect the same high standards of occupant protection here as in Audi’s sedans and crossovers.

Secondary collision brake assist, which keeps the vehicle from continuing to roll when it’s been in an accident, is now standard on the entire model line. Blind-spot monitors and an lane-keep assist system will both be available—with the latter now offering a gentle pulse-warning through the steering wheel and including a higher-intervention mode that actually helps steer the vehicle to keep it in the travel lane.

The body structure of the 2016 Audi TT is entirely new, and it’ll likely be some time before we see any crash-test results from either of the two U.S. testing agencies. There’s also the chance—as was the case with the current/outgoing version—that neither one will test and rate the TT at all.

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2016 Audi TT

Features

The option list is a little thin compared to Audi's other models, but the virtual cockpit, data integration, and Bang & Olufsen audio give it the feature set of no other small coupe or roadster.

The 2016 Audi TT follows the recently relaunched A3 sedan and Sportback models in offering a lot more available in-cabin connectivity technology as well as more standard comforts and features. And compared to other sports cars it really isn't an either/or dilemma—you can have some of the top tech wizardry, in a way that doesn't detract from the sports-car flavor.

The so-called Audi virtual cockpit and Audi’s Multi-Media Interface (MMI) come standard on all TT models. Think of this as a huge 12.3-inch widescreen display that can show navigation, trip info, audio functions, and more as well as two (or three, in the TTS) gauge layouts. With it, you get three different unique layouts: Classic, Progressive, and Sport (TTS only). Classic has a traditional gauge layout, with speedometer and tachometer, while Progressive gives you a navigation/map visual in the areas between. Sport gives you a choice of several performance layouts. 

So far we've found it to be mostly a step in the right direction, switching between layouts with a "view" button on the steering wheel, using the left toggle to navigate between main choices, and the right toggle for task-specific needs. But the one hesitation we have about this layout is that with navigation or traffic-information prompts behind the steering wheel, there’s really no such thing as the passenger helping with it—or merely helping act as DJ while you focus on driving.

Standard features on the TT include keyless ignition, cruise control, remote locking, an alarm system, a garage-door opener, a rear parking sensor system, and automatic wipers and headlamps. TTS models add the higher power engine, the magnetic ride suspension, wheel and brake upgrades, front and rear parking sensors, and Audi side assist.

A so-called MMI Navigation Plus package adds a lot of the good stuff to the TT’s cabin. First off—in addition to a navigation system that can display clear, smooth-scrolling maps on the high-contrast color screen that doubles as a gauge cluster—the package adds Audi Connect, which harnesses an embedded LTE data connection for enhanced Google Earth and Google Street View displays, real-time traffic information, and even integrated interfaces for Facebook and Twitter. Bluetooth calling and audio-streaming are included, as well as 10 GB for storing music files.

This new version of MMI also includes a search function that permits free text entry for anything from destinations to songs or calls to phone-book contacts. Based on our initial tests, it suggests possibilities very quickly and astutely. Meanwhile the voice control, something we haven’t tested extensively yet, is more developed and now understands natural-language commends for some things. Although for either of these things, backing out when the systems gets things wrong isn't always as straightforward as it should be.

Also of note is top-of-the-line Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system includes 12 speakers and 680 watts of power, with a processor that optimizes sound based on cabin noise.

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2016 Audi TT

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Audi TT and TTS are among the most fuel-efficient roadsters on the market.

The 2016 Audi TT is a small, two-seat sports coupe or roadster; and while its EPA ratings of up to 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined don't stand up especially well in terms of passenger- and cargo-carrying to the gallon, they're quite respectable compared to most other sporty models. 

With no manual transmission in the lineup anymore—only a 6-speed S-tronic dual-clutch (automatic) transmission—there aren't a lot of choices to make to get the most fuel-efficient powertrain. TTS models, with their higher-output engine, earn 23/27/25 mpg, according to the EPA.

In TT Roadster guise especially, those 23/30/26 mpg ratings make it one of the most fuel-efficient drop-tops on the market.

And we continue to meet or beat Audi's mileage ratings in real-world driving. Over 340 miles of mostly highway driving, we averaged nearly 31 mpg in a TT Coupe.

For now there are no front-wheel-drive TT models; those have been the highest-mileage models in the past. In Europe, the TT is offered with a high-output version of the turbodiesel four, but there are no plans to bring that to the U.S.

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