IF AN Audi TT garnished in a blinding metallic-orange hue doesn’t scream ‘hairdresser’s car’, then we’re not sure what does.
This Performance Car Of The Year article was first published in MOTOR Magazine November 2008.
But we’re assured by an insistent AMac, who has already driven one of this type, that this car’s different. And after thrashing the new TTS around Wakefield Park for ourselves, shortly after it crashed through the magic one-minute-and-ten-second threshold under Luff’s expert command, you can call us all hairdressers. Except Morley, for obvious reasons.
In fact, Morley exposed himself early in the week as the TTS’s groupie, initially attracted by the allure of its grunty 2.0-litre turbo engine. With 350Nm from 2500 right through to 5000rpm, there’s power everywhere, pulling hard before it softens about 1000 revs short of its 7200rpm cutout.
At the 400m mark at the airport, the TTS was neck-and-neck with the Evo X at 13.83 and 13.80 seconds respectively. After crossing the 400m stripe at around 165km/h, the TTS pulled well clear of the Evo X to reach the 200km/h mark almost 2.3 seconds quicker. And at the 1000m mark, the TTS was carrying an additional 10km/h.
On the racetrack, the TTS floored us with its astonishing pace. After last year’s TT V6 impressed with its easily accessible performance in PCOTY Round One, we expected the TTS to be a cinch to drive fast. But that proved to be a gross underestimation.
A laptime of 1:09.4 confirmed its place as a deadly serious track weapon, only missing tenth spot on ’s all-time fastest top-ten around Wakefield Park by a hundredth of a second. Dynamically, the TTS is just about idiot-proof. Cocooning its driver inside a remarkably planted, stable chassis, the TTS is still moderately adjustable and has acres of grip.
Furthering the driver’s feeling of security are the powerful stoppers that are impressively fade-free. Its much-improved all-wheel-drive Haldex diff, now version IV, drives the rear enough to minimise power understeer and the steering, while a little dead off-centre, gives a reassuring account of how well the turning wheels are gripping as you pitch the TTS into a high-speed corner.
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Wakefield Park wasn’t the only place the TTS showed its prowess, however. On the fast Brindabella roads skirting Canberra’s west, the TTS made an even better showing than it did on-track. With the firm magnetic dampers switched back from its track ‘sport’ setting to the more appropriate ‘normal’ mode for the road, the TTS’s ride is firm without being crashy, and as a result, demonstrated probably the best iteration of Audi’s magnetic damping system.
Yet for all the TTS’s tangible competencies, it’s still missing a thin veneer of driver involvement that would make it truly great. The TT is still largely a style-driven exercise, offering so much more as an accomplished day-to-day can than the Evo X could ever dream of, and to a certain extent, the TTS’s lofty abilities will be almost wasted on the kind of buyer it will attract.
But for a competent driver, the TTS seems almost too accomplished, lacking that last crucial smattering of breath-catching action. Ponch summed up the judges’ feeling perfectly: “you totally, massively admire it… but it lacks the layer of emotion that makes you ache for it.” But it’s not about emotion, for Morley…