Driven: Audi TTS – turbocharged four-pot with 286hp/380Nm, but could less be more?

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There’s a lot to like about Audi’s third generation TT – although much of the car’s silhouette echoes its predecessor, the new car is sharper and even more stylist than ever before. Launched only some months back, we managed to get our hands on Audi’s latest TTS and were keen to find out how it would compare against the standard TT which I drove some months back.

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In essence, the Audi TT and TTS are similar in concept with VW’s Golf GTI and Golf R. Underneath all that good looking body work is VW Group’s now familiar MQB platform. However, the TT benefits from Audi’s hybrid construction of aluminum and steel. This helps to keep weight down, maintain a lower center of gravity and improve on fuel efficiency.

Both the TT and TTS are powered the EA888 two litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, in two different states of tune – 230hp/370Nm and 286hp/380Nm respectively. Both are mated to a six-speed S tronic, dual clutch gearbox. While the standard TT gets power sent to the front rubbers, the TTS gets Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system and is able to send 100% of torque to either front or rear axle.

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Unsurprisingly, the TTS is faster than ever before – it slashes a whole 1.2 seconds off the standard car’s century sprint, now taking only 4.7 seconds. Just in case you weren’t impressed, we want to remind you that the previous generation R8 with the 4.2-litre V8 only manages 4.6 seconds to get to 100km/h from rest. This is the sort of bonkers performance that places the TTS well within sports car territory.

For a whopping RM105k premium over the standard TT, you get a fair bit of standard kit. This includes a re-profiled front and rear bumpers and rear diffuser, along with a massive RS-styled front grille. You also get quad exhausts – dual tailpipes on each corner, massive 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, electric sports seats, a 680 Watt 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, along with the handsome LED headlamps. The Matrix LEDs are available as a RM5,000 option, but are unnecessary in my opinion.

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We had the TT parked under our porch for quite a number of days and in that time, we managed to add several hundred kilometers to the odometer, including one very wet run up Ulu Yam – and we’re happy to report that, performance wise, the TTS does not disappoint. Performance is blistering; simply stomp on the accelerator and there’s just a pinch of hesitation before you’re blitzing past legal speeds. For the best driving experience, we recommend leaving the car in dynamic mode in Audi’s Drive Select – this keeps power delivery biased to the rear.

Someone commented that the brakes on the TTS looked a little too small. In reality, they were more than sufficient for the type of stresses on city and touge roads. Yes, there is some pedal travel, more than I liked, but wasn’t hard to modulate and stopping power was always readily available.

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On both dry and wet roads, the TTS slices through corners with little aplomb. The TTS is an efficient, precision tool that seems to add driver points to whoever is behind the wheel. The steering is light, lacking some feedback but weighs up at speed and is incredibly accurate. I spent a lot of time through my favourite curvy roads; approach a fast corner then tap on the brakes, the nose points in the exact direction you command and you can sense the computers working to keep the car grounded, then heavy throttle out of a hairpin. Such is the breadth of ability in the TTS that this sort of hooning around felt almost sterile.

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Undeniably, the best place to be is in the cockpit of the TTS. This has got to be one of the best interiors available today, across models from all manufacturers. The air conditioning vents seem to be inspired by jet turbines, with controls integrated into the radial dials. Overall build quality along with fit and finish is impressive – the car feels expensive, and you’re aware of this as you slide your bum into the plush,quilted leather seats. Switchgear placement is intuitive, so there’s no need to ever whip out the user manual.

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The TTS’ party piece has to be the massive 12.3-inch virtual Cockpit – a high res, multi-colour display nestled behind the steering wheel that displays all sorts of information to the driver. This car is almost completely driver focused – as a passenger, you won’t even be able to see what radio station is playing on the quality B&O speakers. You can try to catch a glimpse of the Virtual Cockpit, but apart from a slight indication of speed, you get nada. We played around with the on-board 3D navigation system and found the maps to be pretty accurate. The MMI touch and hand writing recognition software worked very well too, but was ultimately too slow, especially when compared to the ease of navigating off modern day mobile phones. Take note Audi – if you can get MMI to integrate with Google Maps or Waze off smartphones, this would be a huge win.

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Now let’s move on to a few things I didn’t like about the TTS. Perhaps my biggest gripe with the car is its lack of comfort. The sport seats look good, but for some dark, unexplainable reason, I wasn’t able to find a comfortable seating position. Yes, the 19-inch wheels look fantastic but when wrapped in 245/35 rubbers and paired with the car’s harsh suspension, does no good. Audi’s magnetic ride system has gotten its share of praise, but even in the softest setting, I found myself jiggling across potholes, my lower back straining from the lack of support. As I returned the keys to Audi Malaysia, a small part of my heaved a sigh of relief – I have a bad back and all the time I spent behind the wheel left me in some discomfort. To clarify, I had no such issues in the TT.

My other qualm was with the car’s steering. Don’t get me wrong – the car’s electronic steering is quick and millimeter precise but the weightlessness and lack of communication to my hands was disappointing, especially in a car like this at when driving at speed. Imagine a ravenous person eating a plain mantau and you kind of get my drift. Oh, and don’t get me started about the lack of legroom in the rear; yes this is a 2+2 sports car, but the rear seats are only good for very short trips. For children in the back.

Audi TTS (13)RM400k is a lot of money for a sports car, but you do admittedly get quite a lot of car. In fact, if you compare the TTS against its closest rivals from Mercedes and BMW marques, you get a whole lot more, for a whole lot less. I’ve not driven the SLK or Z4 before so I cannot compare how they drive dynamically, but on paper at least, the TTS easily bests them, especially the variants that are closest in price.

Start looking at used car listings and your options grow even wider – the Porsche 981 Boxster S is within range, as is the first-generation Porsche Cayman, in case soft tops aren’t your thing. In fact, you might even consider stretching for a 4.2-litre Audi R8 (although one with less stellar R-tronic box, and completely different service and ownership costs!) if you were in the market for a purely weekend car. Alternatively, Volkswagen’s Mk7 Golf R (stay tuned for our review; teasers already up on Instagram) comes very close in terms of ability, for much less, but also at the compromise of style and wow factor.

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But the most important question for us, is how the TTS stacks up against the standard TT. Yes, there is no doubt the TTS is a better car than its lesser brethren, but not by a significant enough margin; at least not when driven on public roads. Out on track, this would be a different story. If your budget allows, by all means you should go for the TTS – there is no bad choice here. Personally, I’d likely go with the standard TT, ticking the box for the optional LED headlamps. And with all that extra Ringgit saved, I may just pay a visit to my friendly neighborhood tuner some months down the road. Ahem.

Let us know what you think in comments section! In the meantime, enjoy our full gallery of the Audi TTS below:

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About Author

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From supercar spotting on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Won has moved onto the realms of motoring journalism since 2011. He has a keen eye for automotive photography, a penchant for fast cars, and the occasional hunger for munching corners.

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