Are you one of the many misguided fools who dismiss the Audi TT as a mere hairdresser’s car? Repent, for the four-ringed fastback is, in actual fact, pretty handy at the kind of performancy things you wouldn’t associate with a salon sportscar.
Keep in mind that my TT Sport quattro long-termer is just one rung up from the very bottom of the TT hierarchy. It’s not the hotter 210kW/380Nm TTS quattro, and it’s a long way from the monstrous 294kW/480Nm Audi TT RS that tops the range. Nevertheless, the TT Sport’s on-road performance has hinted that it would shine fairly brightly in a more demanding environment.
On mountain roads there were suggestions of a playful chassis lurking behind the electro-nannies, and its 169kW 2.0-litre turbo and six-speed dual-clutch combo deliver terrific thrust. But the only safe way to truly explore its limits is at a circuit, and Wakefield Park would be the venue.
On the track, stability control gets in the way of fast laps. However, engaging the less-intrusive ESC Sport mode allows more slip at the rear, which assists turn-in by taking load off the front tyres. Switching the aids off entirely unlocks lift-off oversteer shenanigans, though to the detriment of lap times. As we know, sideways is slow.
In any mode, the TT feels incredibly light on its feet. Credit that to its fast-ratio steering rack and its aluminium-intensive construction; at 1335kg empty, the TT Sport quattro is svelte for an AWD luxury car. End result: an entirely respectable 1min 11.7sec lap time with ESC Sport.
Ultimately, though, as chuckable and rapid as the TT Sport is, it’s reluctant to engage in the kind of lairy behaviour that makes a sports car truly joyful. You need to work hard to get its tail out, and there’s no cheeky drift mode to help you keep it wagging. It’s fast, but maybe too unshakeable for its own good.
That said, if you think the base-model TT lacks performance cred, you’d be absolutely wrong. It’s a sweetly balanced machine, with just the right amount of power to match its grip. Put stickier tyres on and it would be faster, but less slidey and less fun as a result.
The only part of the TT Sport that didn’t enjoy the trip to Wakefield Park was the brakes, which couldn’t take the heat. The car’s stability control and brake-based torque-vectoring system appear to punish the rear stoppers most of all. New pads may be on the menu.
SERVICE WITH A SMILE
Remember how I bitched and moaned about the TT’s meagre back-seat accommodation last month? Well, it turns out the best thing you can do is eliminate them entirely by folding the seatbacks down. Do so and the TT transforms into a veritable van – seats down, it had no trouble taking all of our track-day essentials, including a floor jack, toolboxes, cameras, helmet, gloves and boots, plus two spare wheels for another car.
This article was originally published in Wheels magazine Summer 2016.