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Driving the Stylish, High-Tech 2016 Audi TT

Consumer Reports logo Consumer Reports 11/17/2015 Gabe Shenhar
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We’ve just bought a sleek, discrete new 2016 Audi TT. Before delving into its many fine qualities, let's get one thing out of the way: Since its inception in 1998, the TT has always put style before sportiness. While some bystanders mention it in the same breath as a Porsche Boxster or Mercedes-Benz SLK, you won’t see many TTs on a track day at your favorite motorsports park. In reality, the TT is a Bauhaus embodiment of rounded simplicity.

As before, the 2016 Audi TT comes as either a coupe or a convertible/roadster. We tested the previous two generations as roadsters, but this time around opted for the coupe, which is how most TTs will be sold. With both configurations, power comes from Audi’s workhorse 220 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder and an automated manual transmission that Audi calls S-Tronic. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard. Pricing starts at $42,900. With typical options, our TT rang in at $50,600.

The 2016 Audi TT feels nimble and entertaining, but not because it’s thrillingly powerful or easy to slide sideways. That’s not surprising since another member of the family, the Volkswagen GTI, is also great fun to drive without being a real fire breather on a race track. The little Audi dives into corners with enthusiasm and confidence, staying low and level. The electric steering is linear and communicates some semblance of feedback. 

Related Link: Research the Audi TT

Power delivery from the turbo four-cylinder engine is smooth and lag-free but don’t expect to be overwhelmed. (For more verve, you’ll have to wait for the 292-hp TTS.) With the transmission in Sport mode, the car faithfully impersonates a manual transmission, with timely downshifts before corners and rev matching that would put a smile even on non-enthusiast drivers’ faces. While the automated dual-clutch transmission is one the best of its kind, some vibration is noticeable at crawling speeds such as stop-and-go traffic.

This sportster brims with neat little details and whiz-bang tech that keeps the surprise-and-delight factor high. Slip, or rather drop down, behind the wheel and the first thing you notice is the near absence of center-dash controls: no display screen, climate knobs, or even an audio head unit. Power up, though, and a colorful instrument cluster comes to life with virtual gauges for the speedometer and tachometer. Between them you’ll recognize Audi’s comprehensive trip computer. If you start playing with Audi’s MMI knob on the center console, or arrows on the steering wheel, you’ll see that audio, phone, navigation functions, and even the rear camera image also show up in the instrument cluster. You can minimize the main gauges and let another task take center stage.

One steering-wheel button, labeled “View,” gives you the option of toggling between a large screen and small gauges, or vice versa. Upcoming redesigns of the Audi A4 and Q7 will employ a similar setup to that on the 2016 Audi TT.  

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While this makes for a novel arrangement, anyone familiar with recent Audi’s infotainment system will get used to it quickly. Even if you tend to delegate some tasks to a co-pilot, your helper can still execute them, even if it’s a bit weird for a passenger to gaze hard at your instrument cluster. Sort of like when someone leans in to clandestinely check out how fast you’re going.

Unlike with many small coupes and hot hatches, the 2016 Audi TT doesn’t beat you up at every opportunity on less-than-perfect roads. The ride is firm but not punishing, and even with its 19-inch wheels, the suspension shows decent absorption and isolation. Noise is also kept commendably at bay.

Inside, there is a constant Easter-egg hunt. The temperature display and temperature dial for the climate control are integrated into one of the dash vents, the seat heater controls also float inside the turbine-shaped vents, and the whole presentation is neat and uncluttered.

The front seats are extremely supportive and bear an attractive diamond-shape pattern. The notional rear seat is best used as a briefcase-holder, but it could accommodate a couple right-sized kids in a pinch. Opting for the roadster means sacrificing both the rear seat and the coupe’s handy hatchback,

Ultimately, the 2016 Audi TT occupies an unusual spot in the marketplace. It is a stylish and attractive coupe that trades ultimate power and handling agility for technology and luxury. There is no escaping that for the same price you could get a BMW M235i, which packs 100 more horsepower and can almost keep pace with a Porsche 911. But then again, the BMW is certainly no design statement.

For not even half the TT’s price, driving enthusiasts could grab a Scion FR-S or its Subaru BRZ twin. Those coupes are more challenging and also more rewarding for a thrill-hungry enthusiast, but they exact a pretty steep price in comfort, quietness, and refinement. Some Audi loyalists might conclude that the A5 coupe delivers a similar driving experience but with more room and practicality; they certainly have a point.

We’ll have to reserve judgment until we finish our instrumented testing.  

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