by Jared Rosenholtz
Audi's sporty and compact TT S coupe neatly fills the performance gap between the regular TT and the fire-breathing TT RS. Producing 288 horsepower from its turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, the TT S produces 60 hp more than the regular TT to shave more than a second from the benchmark 0-60 mph sprint, which the TT S sees off in only 4.4 seconds. A uniquely tuned suspension with adaptive dampers as well as sportier aluminum exterior details, help to set the TT S apart as a bona fide sports car. Beyond the added pace, the TT S shares many of the same attributes that make the TT range so satisfying. The squat and purposeful styling is instantly recognizable, the interior typically well-built and modern with Audi's excellent virtual cockpit digital display, and dynamically the TT rewards thanks to the quattro all-wheel-drive system and MQB underpinnings. While cargo space is limited and the rear seats cramped, the TT S is focused on providing a sharp and responsive driving experience and it does that with aplomb.
For 2019, the TT S gets a new seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission, replacing the six-speeder used previously. Newly available is also a Competition Package that includes Audi Sport carbon fiber inlays, Nappa leather sports seats, a three-spoke flat-bottom steering wheel with Alcantara finishing, high-gloss black exterior trim, and red brake calipers behind larger 20-inch wheels. On the tech front, there's now a standard Audi phone box with both a wireless charger and a signal booster, while the virtual cockpit includes a special sport mode.
On the base of the already stylish TT, the TT S adds an extra dose of aggression. The TT S's exterior is distinguished by 19-inch Audi Sport five-spoke alloy wheels. Unique to this model are also four-piston front brake calipers with S badging, polished quad exhaust tips, and Aluminum-optic mirror housings. The sporty look is also emphasized with standard full LED headlights, LED tail lights, an adaptive rear spoiler, and LED turn indicators, while signature Audi LED daytime running lights take the form of a crisscrossed trio of lines.
A large part of the TT S's appeal is that, 20 years on from the original, Audi has maintained the tight proportions which make this coupe so maneuverable. The TT S is 165 inches long, 52.8 inches in height, and 72.1 inches wide, without the mirrors, making the coupe similar in size to the Porsche Cayman - the TT is, however, a fairly significant 7.4 inches shorter. The wheelbase stretches to 98.6 inches. Curb weight for the S is pegged at 3,263 lbs, marginally heavier than the regular TT. Overall, the TT S remains ideally sized for convenient city driving while feeling quickly and easily adjustable through a series of tight bends.
The TT S is available in a choice of eight standard exterior colors, including no-cost options of Ibis White and Vegas Yellow. Optional exterior colors cost $595 and are Glacier White Metallic, Mythos Black Metallic, Nano Gray Metallic, Tango Red Metallic, Daytona Gray Pearl, and the new for 2019 Turbo Blue. Colors that have fallen away are Brilliant Black, Ara Blue Crystal Effect, and Florett Silver Metallic. For those willing to customize their TT S at any cost, Audi Exclusive paint colors cost $3,900 but can reflect just about any color you can imagine.
Just one variant of the TT S is available: the turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing a meaty 288 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel-drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission are standard, and while an automatic may be par for the sports car realm, all-wheel-drive is a rarity, with rivals like the new Supra available exclusively in rear-wheel-drive guise. The added power and quattro system help to catapult the TT S from 0-60 mph in a rapid 4.4 seconds - 1.1 seconds quicker than the regular TT coupe, and marginally quicker than the base, price-competitive Porsche Cayman. The maximum speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. With torque always instantly available from low down, the TT S never feels short of urge. While the cheaper, more powerful BMW M240i offers similar performance, the TT S nevertheless asserts itself well against key rivals and feels like a worthy step up from the standard TT.
With a 60 hp advantage over the standard TT, the TT S's outputs of 288 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter, turbocharged TFSI four-pot ensures a tangible boost in performance. A slick-shifting, seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission from the VW Group makes it easy to keep the engine on the boil, although there is a surfeit of torque to ensure that the TT S never feels unwilling. Even in automatic mode, the gearbox is quick to select the appropriate gear to deliver snappy acceleration from a standing start, and once up to speed. With a 0-60 mph time of comfortably under five seconds, the TT S's engine (which it shares with the Golf R) provides plenty of performance in the relatively lightweight TT S body. While lacking the sonic thrills of the TT RS's five-cylinder, the TT S still provides a sporty soundtrack and remains refined even when pushed to its red line.
With its quattro all-wheel-drive system, the Audi TT S is an exceptionally effective tool for carving through a series of corners at high speeds with minimal effort. Grip levels are staggeringly high, and the firm suspension is perfectly set up for secure road holding. However, effective doesn't necessarily translate to engaging, and here the TT S can leave its driver a bit cold. The electric power steering system allows the TT S to be accurately controlled but it simply doesn't translate into the most engaging experience, with a numbness through the major controls that you won't find behind the wheel of the Porsche Cayman or even the BMW 2 Series. That said, the TT S will flatter an average driver and this generation remains the most accomplished TT dynamically.
While the suspension is never cushy, comfort is enhanced by Audi's magnetic ride control and adaptive dampers, making the TT S capable of covering longer distances without it feeling like too much of a chore - provided the road surface is smooth. While striking 20-inch wheels are available, they do the ride quality no favors and in this guise the TT S will be too uncomfortable for some. Audi's drive select is standard with four modes - Dynamic, Comfort, Auto, and Individual - tailoring the steering weight, transmission shift points, and throttle response. Overall, the TT S will leave many more expensive competitors behind on a twisty road, but it's not the most thrilling sports coupe out there.
The TT S's fuel-efficiency is on par with rivals and expected for the level of performance on offer. EPA mileage estimates are 23/29/25 mpg city/highway/combined, which is slightly superior to the base Porsche Cayman and the BMW M240i, each of which manages a combined 24 mpg. With a fuel tank capacity of 14.5 gallons, the TT S will get 362 miles on a single tank of premium unleaded in a mix of city and highway driving.
Audi has a well-earned reputation for crafting exceptional interiors and the cabin of the TT S is no different. Despite the basic design now being a few years old, it still imparts a distinctive and appealingly minimalist impression. Build quality is also rock solid and the materials used are both nice to look at and to touch. In the center of the dashboard, three large air vents dominate and house integrated climate controls. This means that the TT S relies solely on the virtual cockpit display for both instrumentation and infotainment, doing without a center screen. The seats are firm but supportive, and space for the front two occupants good. On the contrary, the tiny back seats serve better when thought of as extra packing space.
The Audi TT S can seat four passengers with its 2+2 arrangement, but the rear seats are severely restricted for both legroom and headroom - and accessing them is difficult. Small children will be able to fit, but even they are likely to feel claustrophobic back there. In front, the news is much better. Ingress and egress are made slightly challenging due to the TT S sitting low to the ground, but once inside there is more than enough space on offer. Slim roof pillars enable a clear view out and, together with the TT's relatively wide stance, this engenders a pleasant feeling of spaciousness.
Leather and Alcantara upholstery on the seats make for an appealing combination. The seats also get diamond stitching and S-embossing to differentiate the TT S from the standard TT. Brushed aluminum inlays with a matte finish and a flat-bottom sport steering wheel are tastefully executed and unique to the TT S. The standard interior colors are either black with silver contrast stitching or Rotor Gray with anthracite contrast stitching. Carbon fiber trim, Nappa leather upholstery, and a striking Express Red hue with Granite Gray stitching are optionally available.
For what is a small, sporty coupe, the TT S can accommodate a surprisingly reasonable amount of cargo. With 12 cubic feet of trunk space behind the back seats, there is enough room for one large suitcase or two small suitcases, although the shallow design of the trunk means that your suitcase or other large items will need to lie flat. Folding down the 50/50 split-folding rear seats is easily done with release latches on the seatbacks, and allows a bicycle to be loaded, although the front wheel will first need to be removed.
Inside, small item storage space includes a tray for your mobile phone positioned just ahead of the gear selector. A medium-sized bottle can fit in the door pockets and there are cupholders in the center console as well, although using them is a bit awkward as they're placed quite far back. Still, overall storage space is acceptable and makes the TT easy to live with on a day to day basis.
The TT S' positioning just below the TT RS brings with it a welcome level of standard features. The front seats are heated and eight-way power-adjustable, in addition to featuring four-way power lumbar adjustment and pneumatic side bolsters. Automatic climate control, a sport steering wheel with shift paddles, keyless entry and ignition, automatic wipers and headlights, and a rearview camera are all standard equipment. The exterior side mirrors are powered, heated, and have an auto-dimming function, while parking is made even easier thanks to front and rear parking sensors. Finally, the interior's star attraction is Audi's virtual cockpit - it is bright, clear, and highly configurable, depending on what the driver wants to have displayed; all crucial information is housed within a 12.3-inch digital display in place of the standard instrument binnacle.
Without a more commonplace central display, Audi's virtual cockpit does double duty for both infotainment and instrumentation. Thankfully, the LCD screen's expansive 12.3 inches of real estate helps in displaying this vast amount of information. Three modes - Sport, Classic, and Infotainment - give the driver lots of choice in what information is prioritized on the screen. It's all controlled via Audi's intuitive MMI system, with both touchpad and voice control capability. The standard sound system boasts 155 watts of power through nine speakers and includes MP3 playback, HD radio, SiriusXM with a 90-day subscription, two USB ports, Bluetooth audio streaming, dual SDXC slots, and Audi's phone box with a signal booster and wireless charger. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are optionally available by opting for the Technology Package - this also adds an upgraded Bang & Olufsen 12-speaker sound system and a navigation system.
With a predicted J.D. Power reliability rating of three out of five, the TT is expected to offer average dependability. The NHTSA has not issued any recalls for the 2019 TT range, providing peace of mind for prospective buyers. However, 2016/2017 TT coupes were previously recalled for side marker lights which may not illuminate, and the 2017 TT coupe for a driver's frontal airbag inflator which may rupture. Both issues appear to have been resolved as the 2018/2019 models have not been affected.
The TT S is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a four-year/50,000-mile drivetrain warranty. Both the Porsche Cayman and BMW 2 Series offer identical warranties.
Vehicles like the TT are often not crash-tested due to low sales volumes, and the TT S, therefore, hasn't been rated by the NHTSA or the IIHS.
The TT S' complement of airbags include dual front airbags, a knee airbag, and head and side airbags. A tire pressure monitor, stability and traction control, brake assist, ABS, and a rear parking aid are all standard. However, the TT lacks accident avoidance technologies such as cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, and lane departure warning, while a blind-spot monitor is only optional.
The Audi TT S is undoubtedly an accomplished all-round sports coupe. While more generic in its appearance than the iconic first-generation model, the latest TT - especially in TT S guise - looks aggressive and ideally proportioned. Inside, the minimalist interior impresses with rich materials and the advanced Audi virtual cockpit. While Android Auto/Apple CarPlay integration, and the latest accident avoidance technologies, are missing from the standard features list, the TT S is otherwise well-specified. Performance-wise, there is a tangible increase in acceleration over the base TT and, together with the quattro system's stupendous grip, not many cars will be able to keep up with the TT S through the corners. For some, the TT S lacks a true emotional connection to its driver, but it's also far from a dull driving tool. If ultimate space and practicality aren't priorities, and if you want a classy and rapid sports coupe with that typically German brand of solidity, the TT S is an excellent competitor.
The TT S is only available in a single variant at an MSRP of $53,900, exclusive of licensing, tax, and a $995 destination charge. This model uses a more powerful version of the regular TT's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and its mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. No manual option is available and all-wheel-drive is standard.
Only one model of the TT S is available: the 2.0-liter, turbocharged TFSI using a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system.
The single-trim TT S is well-equipped. Outside, the model is distinguished by 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, full LED headlights, LED tail lights, polished quad exhaust tips, an adaptive rear spoiler, and an aluminum-optic finish for the exterior side mirrors. Dynamically, the TT S gains Audi's magnetic ride suspension which can adjust the firmness of the dampers to improve handling traits. Audi's Drive Select allows the driver to choose between four distinct driving modes.
Inside, the TT S' superbly crafted interior is dominated by the 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display ahead of the driver. It houses information for both primary instrumentation and the infotainment system. The supportive front seats are heated and power-adjustable, and upholstery is a combination of leather and Alcantara. Climate control, a rearview camera, a nine-speaker audio system, HD radio, and Bluetooth streaming are all standard features.
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Several appealing packages are available for the TT S. The cheapest of these is the S Sport Seat Package at $1,000, and this includes extended leather on the door panels and armrests, console, and instrument panel, as well as Nappa leather seats. The Black Optic Package costs $1,500 and makes for a more aggressive exterior with 20-inch wheels and gloss black trim. The Competition Package takes things a step further and includes a fixed rear wing spoiler, carbon fiber trim, a red 12 o'clock marker on the steering wheel, red brake calipers, 20-inch wheels, and gloss black exterior trim.
While these packages are all about enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the TT S, the $3,500 Technology Package packs in a number of useful features: MMI navigation plus, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, and Audi Side Assist blind-spot monitoring are all included. While this package doesn't come cheaply, its features are by far the most useful.
With just one trim available, buyer choice for the TT S will come down to how best to option this model. While the Black Optic and Competition Packages undoubtedly boost the TT S' presence, they add larger 20-inch wheels that firm up the ride unnecessarily. Instead, the Technology Pack offers an excellent array of features that are genuinely worthwhile.
For just over $10,000 more than the TT S, you can get behind the wheel of the manic TT RS. Featuring a five-cylinder turbocharged engine, it's one of the fastest sports cars available at any price and provides astonishing acceleration. The five-pot's soundtrack also elevates the overall driving experience. However, other than its insane performance, the TT RS isn't drastically different to the TT S. Some exterior detailing differences set them apart, but both provide well-appointed interiors and sensational grip levels, but lack that additional layer of feedback offered by competitors at the limit. The TT RS also doesn't get the bump up in standard equipment you may expect at its elevated price. Rather, the extra cost has clearly gone towards that epic engine. For many, this alone is worth the additional outlay.
Although not immediately thought of as rivals, the TT S and Golf R do share both a platform and a powertrain. This makes them comparable performance machines, even considering the addition of two doors and a more traditional hatchback body style for the Golf. The lighter TT S is the superior handler of the two, but the Golf is the more comfortable drive with a more forgiving suspension setup and the advantage of a spacious rear seat. At $40,395, the Golf is also more than $12,000 cheaper than the TT S. Still, the Audi boasts the more exclusive design and has the more premium badge of the two.
Like the Golf R, the Audi S3 sedan shares an engine with the TT S. Also like the Golf, the S3 provides the same level of performance while having space for five occupants. The S3 sedan is stylish but far more restrained than the TT S. Both feature class-leading, upscale interiors and the fully loaded S3 Prestige is still almost $5,000 cheaper than the TT S. While equipment levels are similar, the S3 gets navigation and adaptive cruise control as standard, which the TT S doesn't. Surprisingly, the TT S doesn't lose out much in terms of cargo capacity when compared to the S3. Two fantastic efforts from Audi, the TT S wins on desirability but the S3 is the more practical performance car.