April 1, 2013

The S factor

Audi TTS combines luxury and comfort with German utility in a car that takes everything up a notch

BY ANDREW McCREDIE

It’s been 15 years since the Audi TT sports car debuted to critical acclaim, lauded as much for its design language as for its performance attributes. Penned by J. Mays and Thomas Freeman – the then-young designers behind the inspired VW Concept 1, which would become the New Beetle – the TT is named in honour of the famous Isle of Man TT, or Tourist Trophy, motorcycle race.

In many ways, the TT looks like a Beetle that has been stepped on, but unlike the iconic VW model, with its reputation of being pretty but underpowered, the TT has always been about performance. Move ahead to the present day and the second generation TT continues to enjoy success in the showroom and the race track, with subtle design tweaks to its interior and ongoing upgrades to its comfortable, driver-friendly sport cockpit.

This is particularly the case with the TTS model, a high-performance version of the base TT that dials up the handling thanks to Audi’s Magnetic Rice system, which provides almost instantaneous suspension set-up changes on the fly. Powered by a 265-horsepower 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine, a very efficient power unit that provides impressive fuel economy, the TTS rockets from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.3 seconds. That nimbleness comes thanks to a number of innovative features, including an aluminum space frame design that provides a significant weight-savings, and the six-speed S tronic gearbox that uses two clutches and combines the advantages of a conventional 6-speed manual-shift gearbox with the lightning quick shift times provided by onboard computer systems.

How fast? The S tronic spends a mere 0.2 seconds between shifts. Keeping things under control is Audi’s battle-tested quattro all-wheel drive system, which in the TTS employs a sophisticated control module that continuously monitors road speed, cornering and traction. When wheel slip is detected, it instantly responds to the driver’s needs.

Celebrated as it is for its exterior design, the TT also has a decade-and-a-half of sophisticated, yet sporty interior appointments that provide luxury comfort with classic German utility. The TTS takes that up a notch with high quality silk Nappa leather seats, leather cowl above the instrument panel, leather centre console and leather door pulls. For 2013, the TTS is available in coupe (pictured here) and roadster configurations, making for a tough choice as the coupe offers that wonderful hardtop esthetic while the convertible offers top-down cruising.

Andrew McCredie is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and writes for The Vancouver Sun Driving and Travel sections.

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