First Drive Review: 2009 Audi TTS & TT TDI
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Ian Adcock of Road & Track
Ingolstadt, Germany — "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" was the adage that justified a manufacturer's involvement in motorsport. A claim that is difficult to justify in the rarefied world of Formula 1, but it's certainly one that Audi can apply to its mainstream products in several ways.
Not only has its participation in the ALMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans heightened the German manufacturer's global presence, but it has successfully transferred technology pioneered in competition to its road-going cars — and nowhere is this more evident than in the latest pair of TTs I drove over streaming wet roads in and around Ingolstadt in southern Germany.
The latest TT, with its new hybrid aluminum/steel structure and revised Quattro all-wheel-drive system that shuffles torque seamlessly fore and aft depending on grip (rather than splitting it 50/50 as in the old model), is dynamically far ahead of the original. But even with the old car, there was always the feeling that the chassis was crying out for more power. The new TTS model now has that power, in the form of a new 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection engine (TFSI). DI technology was first used by Audi in the V-8 gasoline engines campaigned so successfully at Le Mans.
The headline figures for this new 4-cylinder are: 265 bhp at 6000 rpm and a diesel-like 258 lb.-ft. of torque on tap from 2500 to 5000 rpm. With Audi's latest 6-speed dual-clutch transmission (developed from the shifters used in Audi's Quattro rally cars and Porsche's 962 endurance racer) and magneto-rheological adaptive suspension, the TTS has a dream recipe of specifications.
But does it deliver? The simple answer is "yes," and in spades. Top speed is limited to 155 mph, 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) achieved in 5.4 seconds, yet the car still returns an average of 29.3 mpg. With the adaptive suspension set to Sport mode, the ride gets jittery even on excellent German blacktop. There's a bit more body roll, but the car flows fast and evenly through bends with just a hint of understeer. Reset the ESP and you can drift the rear wheels slightly, balanced with a touch of opposite lock. Add to that a rorty exhaust note and beautiful auto-blip downshifts, and the grin was difficult to wipe from my face.
On another positive note, the slight lurch on take-off experienced with the original DSG boxes has been eliminated. What's more, the faster-reacting Haldex center differential shuffles torque between the axles more smoothly and faster than before.
Over here in the U.K. and Europe we have a love affair with diesels. With our petrol costing nearly $10 a gallon at my local gas station, it's not difficult to understand the potential appeal of a sports coupe that returns 44.4 mpg while still accelerating to 62 mph in 7.5 sec. and maxing out at 140 mph, such as the new TT TDI does. The great joy of the direct-injected 168-bhp engine is the 258 lb.-ft. of torque it produces between 1750 and 2500 rpm. The engine might be a little coarser, and the steering a tad heavier (thanks to the increase in engine weight), but the TT TDI enjoys being pushed and responds enthusiastically to hard driving. All this in a car that cruises at 100 mph on the Autobahn while showing just 3000 rpm on the tachometer.
Money no object, the TTS coupe would easily find a place in my garage. But the substantially less expensive diesel (in both purchase price and operating costs) is hard to dismiss. For now Audi is not saying whether it will bring the TT TDI to the U.S. To me, it's a no-brainer. The TTS reaches the U.S. in late November, in both coupe and roadster forms, likely to start at just under $50,000.