Motoring » Road Tests
If ever there was an automotive definition to the title, and indeed some of the lyrics of Elton John’s 1983 hit, I’m Still Standing, it has to be the small sports car.
Virtually down and out for the count with the advent of the hot hatchback in the late 1970s, the small two-door sports coupe/cabriolet has seen off the brief spike that was the MPV rush of the early 2000s, right-up until today where its biggest threat comes from the crossover/SUV.
In arguably the same mould as that chart-topping track, the Audi TT has and is, uhm… still standing in spite of recent reports casting doubt on its future within the manufacturer’s model line-up.
While initial reports claimed that the TT could go the Sportback route and rival the Mercedes-Benz CLA, Audi CEO, Bram Schot, officially set the record straight some two months ago after telling a Dutch radio station that “I am a person of flesh and blood and I also like beautiful things. Of course there will be a successor to the TT”.
As further proof of Audi not wanting to part with the model that set it on track as a style icon, the company’s Managing Director for South Africa, Trevor Hill, remarked at the recent Kyalami Festival of Motoring, “every brand needs an icon to shape its future and the TT was that icon. As far as we know, the TT will stay with us”.
While the remarks have seemingly secured the TT’s future, it was nonetheless time for a refresh as the current third generation had been on sale since 2014 with very little updates having occurred apart from the introduction of the TT S and of course, the TT RS.
This however changed in July last year when the updated model made its long awaited appearance, which culminated in it being introduced into the South Africa market last month as either the base front-wheel-drive 45 TFSI or the flagship TT S with the famed quattro four-wheel-drive system. Conversely, only coupe models are now available and only with the S tronic dual-clutch gearbox.
One of the first models underpinned by the MQB platform, the hard-to-spot updates soon become less of a talking point as the Pulse Orange tester depicted bore that hallowed “S” badge and rode on glistening 19-inch, five-spoke Audi Sport alloy wheels wrapped in 245/35 profile Bridgestone Potenza S001 rubber.
Whereas the revisions to the TT consist out of a new Singleframe grille design and slimmer LED or optional Matrix LED headlights, the S has the former finished in Titanium Black and with a honeycomb pattern, while also adding a model specific bodykit, wider air inlets on the flanks of the front bumper and a new rear diffuser.
In addition to the aforementioned colour and wheels, air inlets integrated into the rear bumper, a full length front splitter and quad exhaust outlets rounded off what is arguably still one of Audi’s prettiest models, albeit pumped-up with more attitude and spoiling for a fight.
In a case of “don’t mess with a winning formula”, the interior has largely remained unchanged where the clean, minimalist layout has stood the test of time well. In typical Audi fashion, the cabin is awash with soft touch plastics, premium leather finishes, layers of aluminium inserts and Alcantara, however, an annoying rattle persisted over our seven-day test period, which came as a surprise given that the test unit has done less than 1 500 km.
One of the innovations at its initial launch, the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit Display houses all the major functions for the infotainment system and instrument readouts, which is viewed by the rotary MMI dial or a series of shortcut buttons located behind the gear lever. In addition to being customised, the display does take a while to get used to, but once familiarised, is easy to navigate through.
In coupe form, the TT’s cabin has never been strong on practicality and it shows with no rear head or legroom to speak of, while the boot is satisfactory with space ranging from 305-712-litres. In all honesty though, the TT S is about the drive and the way it goes than its cargo capacity or the afterthought rear seats. Although buyers can have the ‘‘S’’ with a new 12-speaker, 680 watt Bang & Olufsen sound system that provides excellent clarity, it is the 2.0 TFSI engine nestled up front that provides the better soundtrack.
Essentially the same engine powering the Volkswagen Golf R, it produces 228kW/400Nm and with the help of the six-speed S tronic gearbox, will launch the all-paw gripping TT S from 0 to 100 km/h, as proven by Road Test Editor Mark Jones’ findings, in five seconds and on to a proven limited top speed of 256km/h. However, it is the way the ‘‘S’’ does that that is the most remarkable.
In Comfort or Auto modes, it feels docile and surprisingly comfortable given the size of those wheels. Punch it though and it reacts with vigour accompanied by a wave of power and those iconic pops from the exhaust a la Golf R.
Switch it to Dynamic mode as part of the five mode Drive Select system, the other two being Efficiency and Individual, the TT S becomes an animal as the full force of that 228kW/400Nm pushes you back into the superbly supported and bolstered S branded sport seats as a crescendo of noise and even angrier sounding pops and bangs are emitted.
It is a fantastic experience that is reinforced by the sheer levels of grip from the slightly rear biased quattro system, the slick shifting nature of the S tronic even in its ‘’neutral’’ modes, the immediate response and feel of the steering, and a ride that despite being firm, is not overly harsh in its sportiest setting.
The segment it competes in might be shrinking at a rapid rate, again, but with Audi not yet willing to consign it to the pages of history, the TT S still proves that no SUV can offer the same thrill as an enclosed, small sports coupe. Coupled to fact that its rivals, the BMW Z4 is a soft-top only and that the entry-level Porsche 718 Cayman has less power and is priced at R926 000, the TT S’ R782 000 asking price is best described as a comparatively cheap thrill.
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