Audi has gone for techno boost over drum and bass and lightweight over lard to deliver a flexible, strong 200kW machine that whips to 100km/h in just over five seconds.
This review was first published in MOTOR Magazine's August 2008 issue.
But while it’s about to apply the turbo blowtorch to BMW’s ageing Z4, Benz’s SLK, Porsche’s base Boxster and a host of Asian upstarts, it’s Audi’s own 3.2-litre V6 TT that will cop the brunt of its abilities. The TTS is so fast, flexible, friendly and nimble that it’s made the 3.2 seem like a lazy-man’s touring car. The TTS’s styling changes are limited to the front bumper, sills, rear diffuser and quad exhausts, but there’s a lot more to it under the skin.
The TTS doesn’t feel any less impressive in coupe or convertible forms. While it’s no match for a Boxster S in the twisties or in throttle response, it’s right on the pace for in-gear flexibility and for practicality.
From idle, the TFSI 2.0-litre four-cylinder feels strong but, with your foot planted, it adds to its slightly dull note with a metallic whistle from the turbo. It happens, in gear, with more urgency in the 20kg-lighter manual. But from a standing start, the DSG-equipped TTS will be faster, sprinting to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds.
PCOTY 2008: Audi TTS
It’s hard to launch, as even with ESP off it’ll bog down, so it’s difficult to achieve a consistent time. The sound is the only disappointing thing about the TTS’s engine. It’s flat with an annoying drone, even when pulling a mere 2400rpm at 100km/h.
The straight-line performance starts working hard from low speed and the engine keeps pulling uphill, even in fifth from 50km/h, with ease; every time you squeeze the accelerator above 2000rpm, the torque kicks in.
When matched to Audi’s peerless six-speed DSG ’box, it’s superb under any conditions. The twin-clutch unit has no clutch pedal and is happy running as an auto, but feels more natural when you use the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Grip is never in question, partly because the handling is so predictable and because it’s the second car to offer the new Haldex IV part-time all-wheel drive system, which, being electronically operated, is fast and accurate.
The handling is crisp as well; far nicer than the flagship. While both cars share magnetic suspension, less weight over the front wheels helps the TTS change direction, despite 59 percent of its weight still being over the front axle.
It’s stable at high speed and unaffected by crosswinds – even on Germany’s autobahns at about 250km/h. And while early TTs had some handling quirks, lift off or brake hard in any corner and all the TTS will do is tuck towards the apex just the way you want it to.
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Its ESP is admirably reluctant to interfere, even across mid-corner bumps when the car’s balance is finely poised. The interior is sporting, clean and beautifully finished, and the TTS even has the audacity to ride pretty well.
Audi has been in a sweet spot with its smaller cars ever since it figured out that a hard ride did not equal a fast or sporting car. And there’s not much wrong with this one.
Fast Facts - 2008 Audi TTS coupe
ENGINE: 1984cc 4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo
POWER: 200kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE: 350Nm @ 2500-5000rpm
WEIGHT: 1415kg (DSG)
0-100km/h: 5.2sec (claimed, DSG)
TOP SPEED: 250km/h (limited)
PRICE: $92,900 (m), $96,500 (DSG)
LIKE: Brilliant engine; fine balance; slick ’box; superb cabin
DISLIKE: Exhaust note is droney (a wasted opportunity)