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.
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.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
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.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
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.
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.
|Audi TT Coupe||228 hp||23/30 mpg||$52,200|
|Audi TTS Coupe||288 hp||23/31 mpg||$61,900|
|Nissan 370Z Coupe||332 hp||17/26 mpg||$30,090|
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.
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