The Audi TT probably isn't the first car you'd think of as an eco special but the ultra models may well alter a few perceptions. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
Set the controls for 'Unfeasible Economy' and enjoy the 184PS Audi TT 2.0 TDI ultra. This third generation TT has enough about it to get to 62mph in just 7.1 seconds and on to 150mph, yet driven with a bit more circumspection will average 60.1mpg and 124g/km. There's a choice of Coupe and Roadster bodystyles and the option of quattro 4WD. At the kind of money you'd pay for that boring compact execuitive saloon you might have been thinking about. It seems that looking good in a hard-driving sportscar doesn't need to cost the earth.
It's a fact. If you're in the market for a coupe or a roadster, the boring nuts and bolts of everyday practicality probably aren't at the forefront of your buying decision. That doesn't mean you'll automatically gravitate to a model with a 6.0-litre V8 engine and room in the boot for a credit card and a toothbrush. We all need to make certain compromises in life, and balancing style and sustainability is just one of them. The current Audi TT certainly appears to rack up the style points and with the availability at the foot of the range of this economical 'ultra' model, you needn't break the bank in looking the part. The ultra is powered by a two-litre diesel engine of almost comical efficiency. Before you turn the page muttering about 'diseasels', consider the fact that here you have a car that looks great, delivers the economy of a supermini and the torque of a Porsche 911. That's quite an opening gambit.
The ultra's 184PS 2.0-litre TDI diesel sends power to the front wheels - uness you pay the extra for the quattro model. Clever traction control electronics help you get as much of this unit's 380Nm to the road. You'll need to be pretty handy with clutch and stick as the front-driven ultra variants are only offered with a six-speed manual 'box, but these derivatives will still get to 62mph in 7.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 150mph. Go for the quattro model and you have to have it with S tronic auto transmission. The front suspension is a fairly conventional MacPherson strut design but comprises a high aluminium content to reduce unsprung weight. At the back there's a four-link setup which can process the longitudinal and transverse forces separately, allowing Audi to separately tune the car's roll and 'jounce' responses. This TT also gets a progressive steering system, the effective gearing of the rack becoming more direct as the steering wheel is turned, enabling the TT to be steered precisely with little movement of the steering wheel in both urban and open roads. The degree of steering assistance is controlled by the Audi drive select adaptive driving system. Offering Comfort, Dynamic, Efficiency, Individual and Auto modes, Audi drive select also marshals the operating parameters of the engine and, when Efficiency mode is selected, the operation of the air conditioning and start-stop system. Electronic stabilisation control (ESC) stands guard in all versions, but the advanced system can also be switched off either partly or completely. In Sport mode the ESC allows a bit more leeway, allowing more committed driving without intervention.
Design and Build
One thing's for sure. Even if you'd never seen this car before, you'd know it was an Audi TT. It's still a handsome car but it looks like a midlife facelift of the second generation model more than an all-new piece of design. The big front grille gives the car a meaner look and there are some lovely details. The fuel flap on the right side panel is the classic circle surrounded by socket screws. This shape is again reminiscent of the first-generation TT, although here there is no filler cap beneath the flap. This means that there is nothing to be unscrewed and the pump nozzle slots straight into the tank neck. Buyers choose between Coupe and Roadster bodystyles. The interior is a real piece of work. There's a full virtual dash, the hardware coming courtesy of graphics specialists Nvidia. Pure, clean lines dominate and seen from above, the instrument panel resembles the wing of an aircraft; the round air vents - a classic TT feature - are reminiscent of jet engines with their turbine-like design. The vents also contain all the controls for the air conditioning system, including seat heating where applicable, temperature, direction, air distribution and air flow strength; as an option they can also house small digital displays which show the chosen setting. A 2+2, the TT Coupe gets a load area with a capacity of 305-litres and this can be extended by folding the rear seat backrests forwards.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £31,000 for the 2WD Coupe manual model - or around £33,000 for the Roadster version. There's a big premium of just over £3,000 if you want the same car with quattro 4WD and S tronic auto transmission. Either way, equipment runs to features like Audi's MMI radio and an electromechanical parking brake. Alongside the S sports seat with various leather and trim variants, options include the advanced key, hill hold assist, high-beam assist, the LED interior lighting package, front seat heating, and the storage and luggage compartment package. The connectivity package features the touchpad-based MMI touch system. At the top of the modular range is the MMI Navigation plus with its flash memory, two card readers, DVD drive, Bluetooth interface and voice control system. The S line specification starts at around £34,000 and gets its own look for the bumpers, air intakes, grille, sills and rear diffuser, plus larger wheels and the no-cost option of 10mm lower sports suspension. There are also some piercing LED headlights fitted as standard to the S line.
Cost of Ownership
It's easy to take bizarre-looking fuel consumption figures for granted these days but let's just take a moment out to reflect on the Audi TT ultra's numbers. It returns 60.1mpg and emits just 124g/km of carbon dioxide. A 1.2-litre Ford KA+ which manages a mere 70PS will get you 56.5mpg and 114g/km. We clearly live in exciting times as far as engine technology goes, and while 60mpg might well seem quaint in a few years time, for the time being it'll be more than enough to guarantee some stellar residual figures. We'll be extremely surprised if there's a cheaper coupe or roadster to run in this price bracket.
Audi's third generation TT looks to meld the sharp design of the first gen car with the driveability of the old MK2 model and combine that with a slicker, user configurable digital feel for this version three. The frugal ultra model adds formidable efficiency to that mix, its 60.1mpg fuel consumption figure bettering that of some city scoots. Despite that, the powerplant suggests that it hasn't forgotten that it's a sporting car; something that a 184PS and 380Nm combination ought to drive home. There aren't many rivals which offer this combination of quality, depth of design and efficiency. Porsche's 718 Cayman is often touted as a TT rival but there's nothing there to match the ultra. BMW's 2 Series Coupe is now the TT's closest competitor but these two cars are so different in execution. You're either in the BMW or the Audi camp and there are few floating buyers in the middle of that particular Venn diagram. The TT ultra demonstrates that you can have just a tiny bit of hedonism in your life, even if you are old enough to know better.