This is new for me, in more ways than one. I’m not only the FNG at Wheels (which I’m assured stands for Fantastic New Guy), but barely a week had elapsed at my new desk before I was on my way to collect my brand new long-termer from the new car delivery garage at Audi Centre Melbourne, which was only recently renewed.
Like the barely dry ink on my business cards, everything on my box-fresh Audi TT Sport, from its unblemished leather-and-microfibre upholstery to its glossy solid white paint, is fresh, sparkling and pristine. How long will it take for the lustre to fade? I’ll have six months to find out.
On day one, though, it was time for induction. Salesman James put me through the standard customer-delivery process to give me a taste of what new Audi buyers experience before getting the keys. I’m glad that he did. Though I’m no stranger to the TT, getting an in-depth one-on-one tutorial on the car was invaluable.
With just one screen in the TT’s slick cabin, every infotainment function and settings menu must be accessed from what is otherwise the car’s instrument panel. It’s the ultimate digi-dash. Audi named it Virtual Cockpit, but I call the TT’s 12.3-inch TFT screen a potential minefield for tech novices. Even as a seasoned car tester, I learned about sub-menus I never knew existed and features that would have taken weeks to figure out on my own.
But does having just one screen in a car make sense when it needs to display critical information to the driver and be the primary interface for phone, audio and sat-nav? Sure, so long as you don’t want to reset your home address while driving and you’re comfortable with the idea that your passenger might, at any moment, start fooling around with what’s displayed on your screen. I admire Audi’s commitment to making the TT as driver-centric as possible, but lord help the poor passenger who dares touch that MMI dial while I’m driving.
It looks damn cool, though. The Virtual Cockpit display wouldn’t look out of place in a concept car, which is exactly where it came from (the Audi Allroad Shooting Brake Concept from the 2014 Detroit auto show).
Is it a menu-laden nightmare? Not really once you get used to the way the interface works. If you can get the hang of how an iPhone works, mastering the TT’s infotainment system should come naturally.
“Does anyone skip this?” I ask James. “Do any customers just forgo the tutorial and jump in the car and drive?”
“Absolutely not,” he says firmly.
I’m normally the kind of guy who avoids reading the owner’s manual when I buy a new TV, but I paid close attention as James showed me how to call my mum using the voice controls before educating me on how to adjust the dwell time on the exterior lights after the car is locked. As intuitive as the interface is, I’m happier learning its finer points in the comfort of a showroom garage instead of while I’m barrelling down a highway.
After four weeks behind the wheel there’s not a whole lot to complain about. The Sport’s 169kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four may not have the extra muscle of the TT S variant, but it’s a willing performer at almost any point on the tacho – especially in its torque-laden mid-range.
I wish I had a manual transmission, but it’s simply not available in the TT Sport quattro. That’s a shame because I’m struggling to warm to the sometimes-excellent, sometimes-frustrating dual-clutch six-speed auto. A crack in the facade already? Let’s give it some time.
NO FRILLS, NO WORRIES
Luxury marques are fond of piling on the extras when they spec cars for press duty, so it was a breath of fresh air when I saw the as-tested sheet for my TT. Only two options: metallic paint and LED headlights. No big wheels, no exxy unicorn-skin upholstery, no megadollar high-end audio. At the risk of sounding a bit dull, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The standard leather/alcantara seats are superb, the ride on the 18-inch alloys (the smallest wheels you can spec for a TT) is surprisingly decent for a sports coupe, and Audi has already gifted the TT with a quality stereo.
Adding options would just add distractions from the core experience. But there’s one option that should be standard: a digital radio receiver. Sliding behind that gloriously futuristic instrument panel only to discover there’s no DAB+ tuner seems a touch strange. I’d happily trade the LED lamps and metallic paint for digital radio.
This article was originally published in Wheels magazine November 2016.