Expert Reviews

First Drive: 2016 Audi TT & TTS Roadster

Mallorca, Spain – The luxury roadster market may be small, but it is an important one, a status symbol, a toy and transportation that allows you to have an open air experience while enjoying high craftsmanship and attention to detail that makes you feel special.  Because of the importance of this segment, Audi pulled out all the stops to give us a chance to drive the new TT and TTS Roadster in an environment where it could demonstrate many of its fine traits.

Audi is so detail oriented, in fact, that they managed to welcome us Canadians to the Balearic Islands south of Spain by making it snow upon our arrival, an impressive feat indeed.  The good news is that this journalist came prepared as we raced our way up the mountainous terrain with the top down in near freezing conditions.

The soft-top can be raised and lowered at speeds up to 50 km/h and will open or close fully in just 10 seconds.

The first-generation Audi TT was styled almost directly from the Volkswagen New Beetle, with round soft lines and what many consider to be a “feminine” persona.  The second generation TT took that same design and hardened the lines slightly; while keeping a similar shape they managed to create a more masculine look to the vehicle, which I found more appealing.  The 2016 TT, the third generation, continues to flesh out and update that same design.  The styling has changed only slightly but the visual impact is dramatic, with a much more chiseled look that makes the TT look more grown up and purposeful, rather than cutesy.  The 2016 TT and TTS Roadsters will be available in 11 exterior colours including seven colours new to the TT line and two completely new colours for Audi (Nano Grey and Tango Red).

This new look is needed in order to take the TT and TTS seriously as the sports car it is.  Often overshadowed by competitors like the Porsche Boxster or Mercedes-Benz SLK, the Audi TT Roadster is no slouch when it comes to performance and open-air motoring and this toned physique will convince buyers to try it out for themselves.

While the competition is attempting to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by moving to smaller four-cylinder turbo engines, Audi has been in that game for a number of years now.  A 2.0L TFSI four-cylinder plant powers the TT Roadster with 230 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque while a 310-hp version with 280 lb-ft of torque will power the 2016 TTS models in Canada.  Official Canadian fuel economy numbers have not been released yet, but we can expect close to or under 7.0 L/100 km for both engines combined average (city/highway), all the while offering the performance you expect from this type of vehicle including a 0-100 km/h romp in under five seconds.

As with the outgoing model, the TT and TTS roadsters will only be available in Canada with the six-speed dual-clutch S Tronic transmission and only with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system.  The Quattro system has been improved for the 2016 model year, now including torque vectoring for better cornering performance.

And for the first time, Audi has integrated management of the Quattro clutch into the optional Audi Drive Select system (standard on the TTS Roadster), which offers various driving modes.  The system controls steering boost, adaptive shock damping via Audi’s magnetic ride and throttle pedal sensitivity.

The TT and TTS Roadsters are available exclusively with a retractable fabric top; Audi has decided to stay with the soft-top rather than moving to a convertible hardtop to save weight and storage space while maintaining the roadster feel and quick operation of the top itself.  The soft-top can be raised and lowered at speeds up to 50 km/h and will open or close fully in just 10 seconds.

More TTs: 2016 Audi TT and TTS in pictures

The acoustic top is three kilograms lighter than the previous generation top while still offering excellent sound deadening properties.  With the top up the TT and TTS Roadsters are extremely quiet and you do not miss the tin top at all.  With the top down the 2016 TT and TTS Roadsters still offer quiet cabin atmosphere – even at highways speeds a conversation can be had without raising one’s voice.

The biggest change from the outgoing model is on the inside.  Audi is extremely proud of their award-winning interior design that boasts a 12.3-inch virtual cockpit design.  Eliminating the centre stack screen display and nearly all buttons along the dash, this display offers navigation, audio and configuration settings and digital tachometer and speedometer gauges directly in front of the driver.  This new virtual cockpit display emphasizes the driver-centric focus of the TT and TTS Roadsters.  Although this will be standard in Europe, in Canada the TT will be offered with a conventional centre screen with the new virtual cockpit as an optional extra.

The driver-focused cockpit is certainly unique and innovative, with a dash that is extremely clean looking and almost retro in its design simplicity, but does create some concerns. Adjusting settings and controls are left up to the driver exclusively, which can be distracting at times. The HVAC controls are actually centred within the round air vents as are the controls for the heated seats and Audi’s neck vent system (available on S-line bucket seats). 

The Island of Mallorca is a beautiful place and perfect backdrop for sporty roadsters like the TT and TTS.  With its tight twisting mountain roads filled with switchbacks and death drops, top-down motoring doesn’t get much more exciting than this.  As we wound our way up the mountains of Mallorca, the rain and snow that greeted us stopped and we were presented with sunny dry roads to hoon on.  The speed limits on these mountains passes range from 60 km/h to 90 km/h on roads so twisty and tight that 90 km/h seems like a death wish.  In these conditions we were able to easily stay within the law while being able to test Audi’s new torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive Quattro system.

With 310 hp, a quick downshift of the S tronic gearbox and a squirt of throttle made short work of those pesky Fiat Pandas and Volkswagen Lupos we kept catching up to in the high-speed switchbacks.

First up was the TT Roadster with its 230-hp engine; the TT was fun and tossable, as was the outgoing TT Roadster.  Although the TT is quick on the very short passing zones available on the mountain roads, I did not feel very comfortable making many passes when the locals were out for a Sunday drive in front of me.

The TTS, on the other hand, is a whole other animal. With 310 hp, a quick downshift of the S tronic gearbox and a squirt of throttle made short work of those pesky Fiat Pandas and Volkswagen Lupos we kept catching up to in the high-speed switchbacks. The S tronic transmission suits the TT and TTS perfectly while the various driving modes are clearly defined and different.

In Comfort mode the TT is just that, comfortable. The transmission is quick to upshift and slow to downshift for relaxed everyday driving, while Dynamic mode offers the exact opposite.  In Dynamic mode the TT and TTS offer an extremely firm suspension response, quick precise steering and incredibly quick up- and downshifts that can be manually controlled or left to the transmission to decide.  We had the aural pleasure to listen to the exhaust fart and howl as we accelerated through tunnel after tunnel in the mountain roads – a true highlight of the drive.

The 2016 TT and TTS Roadsters will be available for delivery around late August of 2015. Although official pricing has yet to be announced, we expect that pricing will be similar to the outgoing models, around $55,000 for the TT Roadster and around $65,000 to start on the TTS version.

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