Car review: Audi TTS

Carlton Boyce / 19 July 2016

Ultra-quick, reliable, beautifully finished – but ultimately a bit underwhelming.



Score

8/10

Review

The Audi TTS is a 306bhp, four-wheel-drive rocket-on-wheels that is capable of covering ground at intercontinental ballistic missile speeds. It shrugs off weather conditions that would have flummoxed Shackleton and is as easy to drive as the Nissan Micra you passed your test in. An average driver won’t, I’ll wager, find a faster way of getting from A-to-B. It is a technological triumph clothed by Vivienne Westwood.

So why did it leaving me feeling a little underwhelmed?

A terrific looking car

First impressions were good. The TTS is a terrific looking car, inside and out. The exterior is curvy and muscular and steroid-pumped, which is exactly what you want from a sports car.

It’s also refined and honed and as sleek as a freshly oiled otter. It screams refined good taste, which is also what you have every right to expect when you buy a modern Audi.

This good taste extends to the interior, which is every bit as nice as every other Audi, which is to say that it is brilliantly restrained, with under-stated instruments and controls that are impeccably finished and intuitively distributed. 

Everything is exactly where you want it and the attention to detail is astonishing: the centre of the air vents doesn’t only function as a control, they have digital displays built into them. That’s clever and exactly the sort of detail that makes long-term Audi ownership so rewarding.

And, of course, it goes without saying that the driving position is perfect and the seats snug, supportive and adjustable in every direction you could ever need. Legroom in the back is so tight as to be just about useless, but then you knew that, didn’t you?

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All set for a saunter or a sprint

You can pootle around in the Audi TTS with the six-speed s-tronic gearbox in fully automatic mode, leaving it to slur and shuffle the gearbox almost unobtrusively. The four-cylinder turbocharged engine is tractable and quiet, with no hint of the power and noise it is capable of developing. You could shuttle your mother to bingo in it without giving it a second thought.

Yet when you want to exploit the power and traction, the TTS delivers in spades. The accelerator acts as a combined throttle and volume switch, and the deeper you press it the faster you go and the more noise you make. 

The muted hum turns into a snarl and the TTS hurls itself at the horizon with a ferocity that is extraordinary, especially in Dynamic mode, which tautens everything up, including the pops and crackles on the overrun. (Yep, childish, but great fun.)

I flew along the Welsh Marches during a cloudburst and the stability of the chassis, the sure-footedness of the four-wheel-drive and the broad plateau of mid-range torque meant that nothing was travelling faster than I was on that dark and stormy night. I exploded along the border is a blaze of noise and fury and inch-perfect cornering and enjoyed every single, spine-tingling minute of it.

Yet, despite all that, I couldn’t ever count it as one of my Top 10 drives despite weaving the Laws of Physics around itself and delivering me at home half-an-hour earlier than the sat-nav had originally predicted, jittery with adrenaline.

A bumpy ride

The problem is that the chassis and steering are curiously inert. There is almost no feel to either and the ride is too choppy even when you dial the magnetically controlled dampers all the way round to Comfort. The ride in anything firmer is almost intolerable on anything other than a very smooth surface.

The TTS is mightily competent – you will run out of bravery long before it runs out of grip – but the way it demolishes roads works against, rather than for, it. It is so toweringly competent that the driver is almost along for the ride rather than working alongside it.

All work and no play

For that reason I can help thinking that a TT with a smaller, less-powerful engine might be a better bet for the keen driver.  

Don’t get me wrong; the TTS would be very, very near the top of the list if I needed an ultra-quick, dead-reliable, beautifully finished executive sports car to whisk me around the country no matter what the weather but sports cars are about more than ultimate speed. A sports car needs to engage and seduce and flatter the driver, because without that why would you accept all the compromises that are inherent in buying such a car?

So, if you’re thinking of buying a TTS you might like to stop thinking about the performance figures and start thinking about the pleasure. That might mean choosing the 1.8-litre TFSi and pocketing the £16,000 saving.

Or you could try and find another £3,000 and buy a Porsche 718 Cayman S.  It’s just as fast and while it doesn’t offer the TTS’s indomitable all-weather pace it is a lot more fun, which is, after all, the whole point, isn’t it?

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Stats

Power – 306bhp

Torque – 280lb ft

0-62mph – 4.6 seconds

Top speed – 155mph

Kerb weight – 1,460kgs

Official average fuel consumption – 40.9mpg

CO2 emissions –159g/km

VED class – Band G

Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles

Price – £39,745

Price as tested - £47,090

Competition

Best-in-class – The Porsche 718 Cayman might only have a four-cylinder engine but is has the best chassis and handling in its class and remains the benchmark by which all else is judged.

The best of the rest – The Audi TTS is breathtakingly competent, so if you just want to travel very fast in complete security there isn’t a single reason not to buy one.

Left-field alternative – The Subaru BRZ/Toyota GT86 (they’re essentially exactly the same car) offer all the old-school rear-wheel-drive fun you could ever want. They’re also as cheap-as-chips at £25,000, so you’ll have a few pounds left to judiciously tune it to better suit your taste.

For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles.

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