by Ian Wright
While not many would champion the Audi TT as the greatest sports car of all time, there is a strong argument for it to take its place in the pantheon of all-time greats. Much like a rock band that never achieved global fame but influenced the bands that did, the Audi TT has been quietly going about its business of being an incredibly well balanced and beautiful car for twenty years now.
The Audi TT was first unveiled in 1998 with tight curves and shapes creating a piece of automotive art. From there, its handling was ironed out, and the Audi TT has evolved into a beautifully sculpted and reasonably balanced sports car. That balance exists between the overall performance, distinctive shape, premium, and comfortable interior, and modern features that have kept it so sharp and relevant for so long as an everyday sports car. While the purist will opt for the rear-wheel-drive drive powertrain of a Toyota Supra or Nissan 370Z over an all-wheel system, the TT has never pretended to be hardcore. It's a car for looking good and enjoying the thrill of a backroad, but not on the way to a track day.
For the 2019 model, Audi has capped a 20th Anniversary Edition at 999 units in the United States to celebrate its long run. The package is for both the coupe and the roadster models, and complements the third generation TT's evocation of the original model's aesthetics.
For 2019, the Audi TT receives a minor cosmetic facelift along with some moderate powertrain and technological enhancements. The updated TT is now powered by eight additional ponies thanks to some fine-tuning of the engine and swops cogs via a slick seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, replacing the preceding year's six-speed auto. A wireless smartphone charging pad, signal booster, and Audi's visionary visual cockpit are some of the new standard technology additions while an S Line Competition Package has been added to the options cache to enhance the TT's sporting appeal.
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
With a comparison of the MK1's iconic design to the MK3's current adaptation, it's clear that the TT has evolved with the times. Its exterior elicits a more contemporary design with a signature Singleframe grille announcing its sporty demeanor, augmented by its furrowed brows and sharp intersecting body lines. 18-inch five-double-spoke dynamic design wheels fill the TT's Bauhaus inspired wheel arches while dual exhaust outlets and an adaptive rear spoiler round out its athletic appeal. The TT is equipped with all-LED exterior lighting.
The 20th Anniversary Edition gains some subtle but well-placed embellishments, including gloss black exterior trim, TT 20 Years fender badges, matte gray Audi rings ahead of the rear wheels, trumpet-shaped stainless steel exhaust tips, Matrix OLED taillights, and 19-inch forged Gloss Metal Gray wheels.
The third-generation Audi TT is similar in size to the Audi Q3 and VW Golf MK7 with which it shares the Volkswagen MQB platform. However, the TT's coupe design on that hatchback-based platform, along with its low-slung bodywork, short overhangs, and sporty styling, elicit a more compact visual impression. The 2019 Coupe measures 165 inches long, 72.1 inches wide, 53.3 inches high, and rides on a wheelbase of 98.6 inches. The Coupe weighs in relatively light with a curb weight of 3,208 lbs, more than 100 lbs lighter than the Nissan 370Z.
With Audi, you can option your TT in absolutely any color you can come up with - for $3,900, of course. There are, otherwise, seven select exterior paint options available on the standard color palette for the 2019 TT, including Ibis White as the only price inclusive option. The six metallic options, Cosmos Blue, Florett Silver, Glacier White, Mythos Black, Nano Gray, and Tango Red, all hold an extra charge of $595. While optioning the TT in Audi's exclusive Merlin Purple hue with mesmerizing pearl effect may be tempting, the Florett Silver Metallic works just as well at drawing eyeballs and is considerably cheaper too.
The 20th Anniversary Edition gets two classic options from the old school paint palette: Nimbus Grey Metallic, or our tester's Aviator Grey Pearl.
For the 20th Anniversary edition, the drivetrain remains standard. In terms of acceleration, the TT is a long way away from the performance hallmarks of Audi, such as the performance-based TT RS, but is, nevertheless, an outstanding protege. The turbocharged 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque thrusts the TT from 0-60 mph in a quick 5.2 seconds. While that's on par for the segment in auto guise, there's no manual gearbox available for the TT. The similarly performing Nissan 370Z manages a slightly faster time of sub-five seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox.
The TT stands out as the only AWD sports car at this level in the US where most are rear-wheel-drive equipped. While badged as Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive, the system is actually Haldex based, meaning it's primarily front-wheel-drive under regular conditions, only sending power to the rear axle when the front end loses grip. The all-weather benefits are still favorable, and the handling dynamics the TT displays with this setup are impressive.
The TT's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is carried over for 2019 but receives some fine-tuning for an additional eight ponies, taking peak outputs to 228 hp and 258 lb-ft. With only 3,208 lbs to move, that turbo engine packs a mighty punch, delivering potent outright acceleration. But it's through the mid-range where the four-pot reveals its magic, making the most of its broad torque band. That means consistently delivered, smooth throttle responses throughout city-style driving and highway driving, and a solid overtaking punch when needed. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission directs outputs to the TT's quattro all-wheel-drive system. Audi's dual-clutch setups are some of the best in the business and this one is a testament to just that, consistently delivering slick and instantaneous shifts. It's a deserving replacement for last year's relatively unrefined six-speed auto.
While the 20th Anniversary Edition TT harks back to original jaw-dropping MK1, we don't miss the sub-par handling of the original when faced off against its contemporaries. While the MK3 doesn't quite keep on par with something like Mazda's MX-5 for spirited driving, it's a different beast with its own set of capabilities to enjoy. The TT is remarkably composed whether on a gentle Sunday afternoon cruise, a morning commute, or blowing out the cobwebs on a back road.
We found ourselves enjoying just tooling around on everyday missions as much as blowing out those cobwebs. The turbocharged engine is everything it should be, and nothing more. It's the supple ride that provides the backbone to the TT, though. Nothing seems to trouble the TT as a daily driver, except getting used to the over-eager brakes for around town and trying to get someone in the backseat. It also doesn't take long to notice that engine sound is muted, even when the sound actuator is activated.
It is a sports car, so we felt a duty to put it through its paces on some technically challenging roads. We found Dynamic mode and that the automatic transmission is competent at holding a gear. However, using the paddles is where the fun lays, but you have to listen carefully for engine cues if you don't like glancing at the rev counter. The variable steering does a fantastic job of making sure steering input is direct, and the Audi TT is a car you place exactly where you want with pinpoint precision and confidence every time.
The 258 lb-ft of torque and the all-wheel-drive systems shifting around of the power means forgetting to change down doesn't leave the engine straining or bogging. However, the TT's imperfections come in the form of understeer and then less feedback through the steering wheel than is ideal. Neither are deal-breakers once understood, and the over-grabby brakes from everyday driving suddenly come into their own. While not quite perfect, the TT became one of the cars from this year that we would repeatedly make excuses to go out for a drive in, and then take the long way home.
The revised tuning on the motor and newly installed seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission has slightly benefitted the TT in terms of highway economy, earning it an extra point over last year's six-speed setup. The 2019 TT now returns 23/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined. These EPA estimates are relatively competitive too, with the Nissan 370Z coupe returning far less efficient EPA figures of 19/26/22 mpg. With its 14.5-gallon gas tank capacity, the TT has a maximum range of around 377 miles before having to make a pit-stop at the nearest fueling station.
With most of our driving around town and on windy roads, our 20th Anniversary Edition tester showed itself to be returning just over 18 miles per gallon. We certainly enjoyed our time with the TT, so offset against the EPA numbers we weren't disappointed.
Audi's master craftsmanship is quickly realized on close inspection of the TT's interior, with its consistent panel gaps, firmly fitted fixtures, and sturdy structure. The doors close with a solid feel and sound, and there are no squeaks or rattles to be heard from anywhere in the cabin. The standard Alcantara, leather, and general in-cabin materials are all of high-quality and ensure the cabin looks and feels more than pleasant. And, with available Nappa leather upholstery and interior leather extensions, that premium and comfortable impression only get better. The cabin is minimalist in design and layout and is one of the most ergonomic cockpits in the class. For a sporty coupe, there's plenty of cabin room, at least for the occupants up front. Though a 2+2 seater, the rear seats are severely confined and better utilized as cargo space, but make do in an absolute pinch when you need the extra seating. Audi's virtual cockpit infotainment and instrumentation display is contemporary, convenient, and highly intuitive, albeit inaccessible by passengers.
The Audi TT Coupe has seating for four occupants but the rear seats are pretty much inhospitable, better used as a storage extension to the trunk. The overall room within the front cabin is, however, appreciable for the sporty coupe; occupants over six-feet-tall can easily find an optimal position thanks to a high level of adjustability. Comfort in the TT is high as well, with Alcantara and leather upholstery adorning the heated, 12-way power-adjustable front sport seats which are elegantly contoured and heavily bolstered for effective support. Those used to the low-slung nature of sportier cars won't mind the knee-high stoop of getting into the TT, and regardless, the narrow door sills and cavernous interior provide the space to easily do so. For a sports coupe, outward visibility is great from within the TT; with slim roof pillars, sightlines are clear and totally unhindered.
For the 20th Anniversary Edition, the craftsmanship and materials are cranked up and elevate the interior even higher. Inside, you're cocooned in Moccasin Brown Nappa leather held together by baseball-glove style yellow leather stitching. Those that know their history will remember the same exact style from the TTS Roadster concept displayed at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show. Not a stitch was out of place on our tester, and the effect adds to the chunky yet sophisticated feeling inside. With the rest of the TT's interior goodness, it felt like the extra styling and craftsmanship was in exactly the right place. Anniversary editions can tend to go over the top in reminding you what you're driving, but judicious use of the TT 20 Years badges inside don't distract from the overall effect.
If you opt for a non-Anniversary model, Black Alcantara and leather upholstery accouter the TT's sport seats as standard while the all-black interior is incorporated with Aluminum Drift inlays. $1,250 upgrades to premium Nappa leather S sport seats featured in Black or Palomino Brown with diamond stitching, while the cabin is enhanced with a leather-covered center console and door armrests. The $2,200 S Line Competition Package will fit a leather/Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and Black Nappa leather S sport seats with Rock Gray contrast diamond stitching and S Line embroidery, along with adding extended leather elements and matte-finish Brushed Aluminum inlays.
Although only 12 cubic feet of trunk space doesn't sound like much, the TT is one of the more practical sports coupes within the class. That's enough trunk room to haul a single set of golf clubs along to the range; folding down the 50/50 split-folding rear seats will open up enough room for another.
There's not much offered in terms of in-cabin storage, however, with only fairly-sized door side pockets, no bottle holders, a small concealed center console cubby, and an average-sized passenger-side glovebox. And with only a single center console cupholder, be sure to stress the importance of having both hands on the wheel at all times to your passenger, that way they'll be forced to hold their drink without complaining, or spilling for that matter.
The Audi TT's standard features list is comprehensive, premium, and predominantly driver-focused. With ingress to the cabin utilizing Audi's advanced key-keyless start, stop and entry system, the driver is welcomed by a newfangled multifunction steering wheel with rear-mounted paddle shifters and a manual tilt/telescoping steering column. An auto-dimming rearview mirror with a digital compass is paired with the HomeLink universal garage door opener. Heated, eight-way power-adjustable sport seats with four-way lumbar support brace front occupants, while dual-zone automatic climate control, Alcantara/leather seating surfaces, and LED interior lights add extra comfort -not forgetting the now standard Audi phone box package, which comprises a wireless smartphone charging pad and signal booster. Inspiring driver confidence is Audi's parking system plus with front and rear parking sensors along with a standard-fit rearview camera.
For the TT Coupe, Audi has chosen to relinquish the gimmicky central infotainment layout typically found in most modern offerings, for its pioneering virtual cockpit, intuitively splayed in the driver's direct sightline in the form of a crisp, 12.3-inch fully digital LCD instrument cluster. Along with all the requisite stats typically given by your traditional instrument cluster, the virtual cockpit doubles up as a full infotainment display, including the navigation map and any media and phone information. Audi's proven MMI software is also appointed to the TT, comprising handwriting-recognition technology for intuitive touch-command responses along with standard HD radio and Bluetooth connectivity. The Audi music interface includes a single DVD/CD player with MP3 playback capability, a nine-speaker sound system, dual 32G SDXC card slots, two USB charging ports, and an auxiliary input. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality are listed within the available Technology Package.
There are currently no recalls for the 2019 year model of the Audi TT, however, there have been two recalls commissioned for models within the third generation of the TT pertaining to issues ranging from software defects to a faulty fuel hose connector that plagued the 2018 year model. J.D. Power afforded the 2019 Audi TT an average predicted reliability rating of three out of five. Audi backs the TT Coupe with a four-year/50,000 mile basic and powertrain warranty, a 12 year/unlimited mile corrosion warranty, a one-year/10,000-mile maintenance warranty, and a four-year/ unlimited mile roadside assistance package.
Because of the Audi TT's relatively low sales volumes within the U.S. market, neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has evaluated the TT for its crashworthiness.
The 2019 Audi TT lacks considerably in its standard safety and driver-assist features. While its standard six airbag consignment is supplemented by dual front knee airbags, only a front and rear parking system, cruise control, and an integrated rearview camera cover the driver-assists. Other conventional standard safety features include a tire pressure monitoring system and electronic stability control with secondary collision brake assist. Blind-spot monitoring is available within the optional Technology Package but, unfortunately, none of Audi's pre-collision warning technologies have been included in the coupe's cache.
While the modern Audi TT doesn't hold the same kind of iconic place in car culture's heart as the original, it has evolved and been refined by Audi into something just as special. As a result of not quite being a hardcore sports car, it feels like an overlooked gem of a more casual enthusiast's car. It's quick off the line and hits 60 mph in just over five seconds with wonderfully sharp shifts, and is more than capable of being driven aggressively, but just as fun to cut back and carve corners or slip through traffic in something small and sharp while looking good. It's close to being the perfect all-rounder.
The Anniversary Edition takes the styling and interior up a notch with its subtle homage to the first generation. It feels like the celebration the TT deserves. If the writing on the wall is correct and the TT is going away soon, then this is how it should be remembered; as a cultured classic at the top of its game.
The 2019 Audi TT is competitively priced with an MSRP of $44,900, excluding tax, registration, and licensing fees as well as Audi's $995 destination charge. With only the one trim available in the lineup, consider fully optioning it with the available packages; a fully-loaded 2019 Audi TT will bring its price up to around the mid $50,000 mark.
The 20th Anniversary Edition weighs in at $52,900 plus destination for the coupe, and $56,800 plus destination for the roadster version.
As a standalone model, the Audi TT offers what would usually be trim-dependent in a wider model lineup, in a single, well-equipped package. A standard TT rides on 18-inch five double-spoke wheels and is fitted with all-LED exterior lighting and a dynamic rear spoiler. Accessing the inside of the TT with Audi's keyless entry leads you to a newly designed multifunction steering wheel with paddle shifters and manual tilt/telescoping adjustment. There is also an auto-dimming rearview mirror with digital compass and HomeLink universal garage door opener. The front sport seats are heated and feature eight-way power-adjustability with four-way lumbar support. Dual-zone automatic climate control, Alcantara and leather seating surfaces, and LED interior lights deliver comfort along with the now-standard wireless smartphone charging pad and signal booster. The TT also comes with Audi's parking system plus, with front and rear parking sensors along with a standard-fit rearview camera.
The Audi TT's $3,500 Technology Package accords the TT with MMI Navigation Plus, Audi Connect with online services, Audi side assist, Audi's smartphone interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, and a 12-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system.
The $1,250 S Sport Seat Package upgrades the TT with fine Nappa leather-upholstered S Sport seats with diamond stitching and a leather-covered center console and door side armrests.
The S Line Competition Package costs $2,200 and equips the TT with 19-inch Anthracite Black Audi Sport wheels, red brake calipers, S Line Sport suspension, high-gloss black exterior trim, a fixed rear wing in high-gloss black, high-gloss black exterior mirror housings, black exhaust tips, three-spoke multifunction flat-bottom S line steering wheel with shift paddles and stitching. It upgrades the virtual cockpit with a Sport mode while adding aluminum S line door sills, brushed aluminum inlays, leather door armrests, and center console, and leather/Alcantara S sport seats with S line embossing.
With only the single trim and the 20th Anniversary Edition making up the 2019 TT lineup, there's only the decision of what packages one should include. Definitely worth considering is the Technology Package for the MMI Navigation plus, blind-spot monitoring, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, as well as the premium 12-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system. The upgraded S Line Sport suspension, red brake calipers, and sportier 19-inch wheels alone make the S Line Competition Package appealing, but the upgraded steering wheel, leather interior trim and Alcantara leather sports seats, Sport Mode virtual cockpit overlay, and a handful of exterior cosmetic modifications seal the deal.
Hey, sometimes the older sibling is sexier, stronger, and better in the streets, if you know what I mean, and at only around $9,000 more than the baby TT, we wouldn't blame you for an affair with the TT S. Also equipped with the turbocharged 2.0-liter straight-four, the TT S flexes peak outputs of 288 hp and 280 lb-ft, enough muscle to get it to the 60 mph mark nearly a full second faster than the TT. Yes, the TTS won't be as efficient as the TT, but what does that matter when the ride is so much more fun. It displays its superior athleticism to the TT with some prominent exterior design contrasts such as sportier body skirtings and polished quad exhaust tips. Its adaptive suspension matches its handling precision to its performance capability while on the inside, the pneumatic side bolsters embrace the passengers for the ride. The TTS comes standard with a few more luxuries and performance-orientated gear than the TT and is, in terms of performance, the superior coupe by design.
The Nissan 370Z is more of a traditionalist's sports car, but has seen its age take a toll on its overall appeal. Though not turbocharged, it's powered by a beefier 3.7-liter V6 engine with peak outputs of 332 hp and 270 lb-ft. That doesn't, however, make it much faster than the TT, with a 0-60 mph time of only around half a second quicker. The 370Z lineup favorably offers a lot more choice, from an affordable yet barebones base trim to the well-equipped and more powerful performance-focused Nismo, offering the greater capability. It is, however, dated, and detrimentally so when stood alongside the TT. In terms of comfort, convenience, and most significantly, technology, the 370Z has absolutely nothing on the TT as the more premium package. For day to day drivability, the Audi TT takes the cake; it better balances its performance with its ride comfort for a well-rounded package as a daily sports car, and regardless of the 370Z's old-school driver charm, the TT is more dynamically talented, proving that in this case, new is indeed better.