Recently I was given the opportunity to briefly drive an Audi TT S around some familiar and challenging pieces of blacktop.
First impression? The price figure. Holy cow! In Aus, this thing starts at $99,900 plus on roads, then Audi go to town on the options list. Want metallic paint? There’s another 1,400 bucks. Leather seats? Another $800. There’s an S Performance Package (hang on, aren’t we already in the S?) which boils down to 19″ 10 spoke titanium alloy rims, LED headlights, higher quality leather(Nappa), silver coloured interior lighting and a better sound system. How much for these added items? $6,300! It continues…. Want heated mirrors? Parking assistance? High-beam assistance? (who seriously can’t dip their own headlights?). They’re all in a pack called the Driver’s Assistance Package and total up to another $1,100. Oh, and there’s a high gloss pack that specifically makes all of the black pieces of the exterior glossier that is another 1,100 bucks.
For those of you playing along at home, if you tick all the option boxes, you’re up to a figure of $111,400 before you even pay to put the thing on the road. That is some serious moolah and puts the TT S dangerously deep into Porsche Cayman S territory.
Okay, forget the pricing for a moment, what is the actual car like?
Well, it looks pretty great. Pictures don’t really do justice to the amount of presence the new TT body oozes when seen in the metal. There’s very little here to distinguish the S from it’s non-S sibling, but that is no bad thing considering the purposeful but sweet shape it is based off.
Walk up to the TT S and get in and you’ll find an absolutely spot-on driving position. There’s plenty of adjustment in all directions for drivers of all sizes and the seats are some of the best in the business. The steering wheel is just the right size and feels solid in your hands. The interior has an almost aircraft feel to it. There are circular air vents with polished surrounds that contain digital displays in their centres and rows of toggle switches. You’re surrounded by brushed and polished metallic pieces and diamond-quilted leather everywhere. It’s a modern, plush and flashy place to sit and everything is made to make you feel just a little bit special.
Fire it up and the 2.0L Turbo Four hums away, almost silently, waiting for you to set off. Set the launch control and give her a boot full. 210kW of power and 380Nm pushed through all four wheels propels the Audi’s 1385kg to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds and onto the 400m mark in 12.99.
Once rolling, the engine has very little hesitation and pulls strongly all the way from 1800rpm(which is where it makes peak torque) all the way to 6500rpm(peak power is at 6200rpm).
The dual-clutch transmission in the TT S has 6 very closely spaced ratios. It responds and changes cogs much more quickly than the previous model and actually works on winding roads well (now). It’s almost a shame that the torque-spread of the engine is such that you don’t need to move around the gears as often as before. In fact, 3rd and 4th of the six speed box is basically all you need on even the tightest of roads.
The Haldex AWD system makes it pretty easy to put whatever the engine makes to the ground. Audi says this system can send up to 100% of the grunt to the rear wheels. On the evidence of my drive, I’d say such an occasion happens very infrequently though. There were no power oversteer antics here. There is plenty of overall grip from the 245/35/ZR19 Hankook tyres. Mild to medium level understeer on corner entry is the norm, while the torque vectoring system grabs hold hold of the inside wheel and points the nose back towards the middle on corner exit.
Overall, the balance of the chassis combined with the outright grip from the AWD system inspires confidence because it allows fluid flow from one bend to another without totally letting go and with plenty of telegraphed signals as to what is going to happen next.
Unlike most Audi product, the steering is reasonably weighted, and only becomes better when Dynamic mode is selected. There’s less sense of “wooden-ness” than we’re used to from Audi, with actual feel on the straight ahead and while turning.
This is all great, but the TT S has a major stumbling block and we’ve reached it now.
Ride Quality : Quite simply, the TT S has none. It’ll shake your guts out and make you fear for your kidneys. It fully crashes into potholes, is nervous over minor undulations while corrugated sections and minor bumps make you feel like you’ve done a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. It jars and crashes. Unless you live on a well-maintained airstrip that is perfectly flat, you’re going to get out of the TT S with some bashes and bruises.
Audi need to take a look over the fence to Porsche or Lotus(or even their parent company VW) to learn that body control and cornering ability isn’t the antithesis of ride quality. Those brands manage to make their vehicles do both. On this occasion, Audi haven’t and it mars an otherwise fantastic driving experience.
The 2016 Audi TT S is an amazing machine and a wonderful car in so many ways. I really enjoyed my time with it.
It looks great on the outside. It has a cabin that makes you feel special each time you sit in it. It is reasonably practical in terms of space to throw your luggage etc, it goes like a scolded cat in a straight line and takes corners with extreme ease while giving the driver plenty of feedback through the wheel.
Unfortunately, the lack of ride quality and the extreme pricing make it hard to justify the TT S over the likes of a base Porsche Cayman (let alone the Cayman S), which makes you feel just as special, handles even better, is almost as quick and manages to deliver on ride, all while costing less.
Close, but no cigar.
Mike Adams for Infinite-Garage
(Photos provided by Audi)