Car Review

The new Audi TTS marries speed with sensibility

It’s not the most challenging of sports cars, but the Audi TTS remains a solid all-rounder

22 December 2019 - 00:00
The 2019 Audi TTS is understated yet sporty.
The 2019 Audi TTS is understated yet sporty.
Image: Thomas Falkiner

I heard the Audi TTS is now less powerful than it was before. Is this true?

Audi has had to fit its second sportiest TT with a particulate filter to help reduce harmful exhaust emissions. Consequently power output has dropped by 3kW.

Fortunately, maximum torque has swelled an extra 20Nm. This means the all-important 0-100km/h dash is now dispatched a full tenth of a second quicker.

And although the motor’s natural timbre is filled in with sneaky artificial engine noise piped through the speakers, at least it does sound better than that dreadful four-cylinder boxer doing duty in the Porsche 718 Cayman. Unlike in the 718 you really do want to wring the neck of the TTS all the way up to its 7,000rpm redline.

Any other updates I should be aware of?

Apparently Audi made some styling tweaks to the interior but I wouldn’t be able to point them out to you.

Exterior wise you can choose between three styles of 19-inch alloy wheels and two new shades of paint – Turbo Blue or Pulse Orange. Both remind me of colours you used to find applied to Porsche 911 models back in the ’70s — quite nice.

There’s also an updated Single-frame radiator grille that trades the horizontal blades of old for a more contemporary honeycomb matrix pattern.

Other than that the new TTS looks more or less identical: understated yet sporty.

Could I live with this car every day?

You definitely could.

Despite being relatively compact by modern standards, the TTS actually packs a usefully-sized interior with two rear “+2” jump seats similar to what you’d find in a Porsche 911.In a pinch you can use them to stow two extra passengers although you’d have to slide the front seats all the way forward to give them any semblance of legroom. Or simply cut off their legs — the choice is yours. Nope, in reality these tiny aft perches are best left for stowing smaller pieces of baggage you don’t want in the boot.

As sports cars go the TTS is immensely practical for what it is

Speaking of which, I’m always surprised at how much you can actually pack into an Audi TT: a weekend’s worth of luggage for two adults is swallowed up easily. Fold flat the rear seatbacks and even larger items can be accommodated. Indeed, as sports cars go the TTS is immensely practical for what it is and consequently makes for a surprisingly adept GT.

Equipment levels are good too. From dual-zone climate control and heated seats right through to Audi virtual cockpit and smartphone interface, there are more than enough features on board to help tear the teeth out the dullest of journeys.

Finally, there’s Audi drive select that allows you to tweak the mapping of the car’s steering, suspension, gearbox, differential and engine. Stuck in Efficiency or Comfort mode the TTS feels like a slightly firmer Audi A3. Select Dynamic mode and the whole car becomes noticeably sharper.

Let ’s get down to brass tacks. How does it drive ?

Equipped with Quattro all-wheel-drive and 245/35 R19 profile tyres, the TTS is one of those cars that massages your confidence with incredible levels of mechanical grip.

Unlike a rear-driven Nissan 370Z or Porsche Cayman, here in the Audi you can take far greater liberties when presented with a series of twisting high-speed corners. Simply look ahead, steer, floor the throttle and the TTS will pretty much take care of everything else. It’s safe and rapid and impressively effortless — even in the wet conditions we’ve recently experienced up on the Highveld.

FAST FACTS: AUDI TTS

• ENGINE: 1,984cc four-cylinder turbo

• POWER: 225kW at 5,400rpm

• TORQUE: 400Nm from 1,800–5,700rpm

• TRANSMISSION: Six-speed S-Tronic

• 0-100KM/H: 4.5-seconds (claimed)

• TOP SPEED: 250km/h (limited)

• FUEL: 8.5l/100km (achieved)

• PRICE: From R782,000

Unfortunately it’s not the last word in fun or interactivity. Like most modern Audi products I’ve piloted lately, the TTS isn’t endowed with a lot of feedback. No matter how much I experimented with the drive select modes that steering remains disappointedly muted: you just never really get a sense of the forces flowing through the front wheels, which is a shame. The same goes for the chassis.

Similar to the one used in the Golf R (with an extra complement of aluminium), it lacks that level of playfulness you get in the aforementioned Nissan or Porsche.

This locked-down surety is nice when you want to squirt from A to B as quickly as possible, but if you’re keen to indulge in some old-school sports-car hooliganism, the Audi TTS starts to feel very inert very quickly. If you revel in feeling part of the machine , this isn’t the car for you — a Cayman will satisfy way more.

Although it doesn’t necessarily feel it (a testament to fine cabin insulation) the TTS is blisteringly quick in a straight line and will have no problem clinging onto the rear aprons of considerably more expensive sports machinery. The ride is firm and one needs to adopt a fair bit of caution on choppier surfaces. Also be aware of those low-profile tyres: it won’t take much to bubble them to oblivion.

So is it still worth my money on this eve of a new decade?

With its sleek but under-the-radar styling, proven practicality and rapid performance, the TTS remains an attractive sporting all-rounder.

Dynamically speaking it may not be as exciting or as involving to drive hard as some of its rivals are but on certain roads and in certain conditions this Audi will actually hold an advantage due to its predictable handling and almost limitless traction reserves.

Factor in that tech-rich cabin and a punchy turbocharged engine that can, if driven with some care, deliver quite frugal fuel economy figures and you get a sports car that checks an awful lot of boxes for the money.