In S form the third-generation Audi TT possesses real dynamic capability – and plenty of appeal as a classy premium coupé

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Lesser versions of the It’s Audi’s Audi TT in S form, the second fastest, powerful and, from £40,315 (£41,680 with a twin-clutch auto), was the most expensive model in the new Audi TT range. It has now been superceded by the ballistic and Audi Sport tinkered TT RS.

Despite the 394bhp Audi TT RS brute sat at the top of the current Audi TT tree, there are two reasons why the S is compelling.

Although the TTS weighs 1460kg, it feels pleasingly agile, thanks in part to the rapid steering

One: the TT shares not just its architecture with the terrific Volkswagen Golf R, but also vast swathes of its powertrain. Which is enticing. Two: the old Audi TT S was by far the finest driver’s car in the TT range. If that’s the case this time around, and if it has been infused with similar magic as the Golf R, finally we might have an Audi that bothers the class lead of a Porsche 718 Cayman, or at least a BMW M240i.

Some details first. The new TT's appearance is as you’d expect: modernised, more aggressive, but the old 2006-2014 Audi TT was not an impossible act to follow. Not like we believed the first one would be.

The TT has progressed from mould-breaker to range staple and established sub-brand. Once, it was hard to believe this was a car launched by a conventional car manufacturer. Now, it’s impossible to imagine Audi without it.

The new car is, more or less, the same length as before, at 4177mm, but there is 37mm more in the wheelbase (2505mm) and, it’s claimed, up to 50kg less in the kerb weight thanks, in all, to some 27 percent of the chassis/body being aluminium.

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Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front, four-link at the rear. Steering is electrically assisted with varying ratio – faster on-lock than near straight ahead. Magnetically-controlled dampers are standard on the S, but are also available on other TTs in the range.

The engine is a four-cylinder EA888 turbocharged petrol unit. Here it makes 306bhp between 5800 and 6200rpm, and 280lb ft, which arrives at only 1800rpm, and sticks gamely around until 100rpm before the arrival of peak power. Plump, then. To put it in perspective the TT RS uses the same five-cylinder, 2.5-litre unit bestowed under the bonnet of the departed Audi RS3 with the wick turned up slightly.

In the S it drives exclusively through a four-wheel-drive powertrain that’s mostly front-biased but has an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch at the rear axle. Temptingly, as in the Golf R, it can send up to 100 percent of torque to either axle. It’s said to be good for 0-62mph in 4.6sec, while returning 40.9mpg on the fanciful combined cycle.

The TTS comes with an exceptionally classy interior. If you were being picky you might argue that it’s a bit dark inside, but if you weren’t you’d simply admire the fit, the relative simplicity of the layout and the genuine style and panache with which things are finished. On the standard equipment front, Audi has bestowed two options for potential buyers to muse over - TTS and TTS Black Edition. 

The standard TTS model gains all the equipment found on a Audi TT in Sport trim, and adds 19in alloys, Audi's adaptive sports suspension, LED headlights, dynamic rear indicators, automatic lights and wipers and an aggressive bodykit on the outside. Inside the TTS is adorned with a Nappa leather upholstery, heated front sports seats, a flat-bottom steering wheel, lane departure warning and a TTS version of Audi's Virtual Cockpit.

Upgrade to the Black Edition and you will find the TTS equipped with privacy glass, glossy black exterior trim and a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.

A digital instrument panel sits in place of analogue dials. Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) has been re-tuned with fewer buttons and for simpler menu navigation. I think it and the digital display works rather well. If you don’t? Well, I’m sure Audi is sorry, but there’s no physical alternative. Do try to like it, because digital displays will be everywhere before long.

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Our test car rode on 19in alloys, shod with 245/35 ZR19 tyres (by Hankook, unusually). And in that state the ride, with the usual caveat about being on unfamiliar roads, was busy in the dampers’ firmer mode, and even a touch in the softer mode.

The TTS is still a decent town or cruising machine, mind, thanks to a straight driving position and sound ergonomics. The steering’s also fine; although light, it’s accurate enough.

But up the pace and the TTS is now better, I think, than it has ever been. It is not a clone of a Golf R: it does not quite replicate all of that car’s moves. But here, at last, is a small Audi coupe that I would have no hesitation in calling a sports car.

As well as selectable modes for the dampers, you can select different settings for the engine/gearbox calibration, steering weight and ESC intervention: you can choose pre-set modes or pick and choose your set-up.

Thankfully it seems more than just a marketing gimmick, too. I imagine mostly I’d leave the button in Auto, but Dynamic has a lot going for it when you’re in the right mood.

Not only is the exhaust angrier this way, the optional six-speed double-clutch gearbox is more willing too, and the chassis better tied-down. No, the TTS is not quite as composed as – from memory – I think a Golf R is. Nor, rather more pertinently, as much fun as a a Porsche Cayman. But it makes a decent job of casting aside surface imperfections and controlling its body.

And although the TTS weighs 1460kg, it also feels pleasingly agile, thanks in part to the rapid steering, and in other parts to the calibration of the stability control and four-wheel-drive system.

The front tyres do not need to have relinquished grip before power is apportioned to the rear. Turn-in briskly and the rear-mounted clutch starts diverting torque towards the back axle.

Then, when you get back on the power, it’s readily available to tighten a line or quell any understeer. Throw in a chassis that will tuck its nose in if you turn-in on the brakes and you have the deftest chassis ever to underpin a TTS.

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Audi TT are doubtless better value but there is real dynamic capability beneath the TTS. Better still you can have all this dynamic capability with the roof down with the TTS Roadster.

Is it Porsche 718 Cayman? Let’s not be silly. An BMW M240i? Probably not – though I’d like a back-to-back test to say for sure. But if on-limit engagement was your only remit then a Ford Focus RS would be a cannier choice.

Fact is the TTS has always been about more than just that. It has always been a good coupe that gives you sound reasons to buy one. That it’s now rather good fun to drive is another one.


Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes.