Short Take Road Test: 2009 Audi TTS
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Tony Swan of Car and Driver
Some say the Audi TT is fine — for the male hairdresser — but argue that it's just not a real sports car. So here's the more powerful, 265-hp Audi TTS, and we say who cares what those guys say. Sports car, gran turismo, sports coupe — the distinctions are slippery. What matters are capabilities, and the TTS has capabilities galore: speed, agility, grip, brakes — not to mention good looks and an interior that's an unfailing treat to the eyes as well as the tactile senses.
Our TTS Quattro test coupe sprinted to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and turned the quarter-mile in 13.5 at 104 mph. Perspective: The 200-hp, front-drive TT 2.0T in our "Four of a Kind" comparo [June 2007] hit those marks in 6.0 and 14.6 at 97 mph, respectively, even though it weighed in 304 pounds lighter (2960 pounds versus 3264).
More perspective: Check the sprints recorded by the BMW Z4 M coupe and the Porsche Cayman S, posted in a two-car duel in our August 2006 issue. Both cars ran to 60 in 4.8 seconds, with the Cayman prevailing in the quarter: 13.3 seconds at 107 mph versus 13.4 at 105. Both cars have significantly more horsepower than the TTS, and both were equipped with six-speed manual transmissions. The TTS comes with Audi's six-speed DSG automated manual. (Bulletin: The DSG is not a handicap, though we do wish it wouldn't automatically upshift at redline.) And from a standing start, all-wheel drive offsets the TTS's power-to-weight disadvantage versus the rear-drive Z4 and Cayman (we have yet to test an updated Cayman S, which received a 25-hp bump).
The engine is an upgraded version of the well-traveled VW/Audi turbocharged, intercooled, and direct-injected 2.0-liter four. In basic TT tune, fed by an IHI turbo delivering 13.1 psi of max boost, it generates 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Enhanced by a beefier block, an aluminum-silicon alloy head, and a heftier crank — and nourished by a bigger BorgWarner turbo blowing 17.4 psi max — this engine churns out 265 horsepower and 258 pound-feet from 2500 to 5000 rpm. We observed occasional hints of turbo lag in full auto mode, but this is the hottest TT yet (pending the 340-hp TT RS version, unveiled at Geneva in March).
There's more here than straight-ahead scoot. Audi's adaptive damping and a ride height 10 millimeters lower conspire to keep cornering attitudes flat. The damping provides two presets — normal and sport — but even in normal mode, this setup is pretty stiff on cratered Michigan pavement, a condition amplified by the optional 19-inch wheel-and-tire package ($800).
Steering is overly light, as well as numb at low speeds, but effort and feel improve as the speedometer needle climbs. As with most all-wheel-drive cars, there's understeer, but the TTS doesn't mind being pitched into corners, and its balance is good despite its forward weight bias. The stability-control system can be disabled, but the threshold is high, and there's almost no point in shutting it down. Grip, via a set of Continental ContiSportContact 3 tires, is better than good at 0.95 g, and braking performance is even better than that: 154 feet from 70 mph.
This car's as-tested price — $52,125 — drew a few shrieks, but if you delete the $5000 Prestige package (navi, CD changer, audio upgrade, etc.), it's less painful. And even with the extras, it's $9050 less than the base price of a Cayman S. Whether you perceive the TTS as a sports car or not, that's hard to ignore.