March 29, 2016 @ 07:08 AM

Review: Audi TT - Does the new one get the recognition it deserves?

If the term hairdresser’s car comes to mind, then the all-new Audi TT might as well be driven by Edward Scissorhands

Have you ever sat in the rear of an Audi TT? The experience of that being a fortunate or unfortunate event depends solely on whether one enjoys blood circulation south of the pelvic bone; in which case it’s unfortunate. Or have adequate experience skipping border customs zipped within a travel suitcase – in which case, the pseudo seats cum parcel shelf would present a bang-on workout.
Being very nearly six-feet in stature, the 11-strands of prematurely white hair on my head grace the insides of the large rear windscreen, as my forehead rubs the trailing edge of the headliner. Much to the joy of my front seat passengers - the remaining ounces of my self-dignity is squashed along with my buttocks by the ‘Squatty Potty’ angle of the rear thigh supports. 
One upside, though, the rear speakers are superbly placed at each corner beaming slick, clear frequencies my way.
Not that the rear cabin space would have been any better with the first two iterations. But it does raise a firm suspicion, that with so little to enjoy in the rear, the experience of driving any Audi TT, especially this all-new Mk3 item, can only be encapsulated while seated within the Alcantara and leather clad semi-bucket seats up-front. 
It’s an experience in some aspect – in full view is the sleek glasshouse proportions, gripped in place by the fibres of the pseudo-suede material, hugged into position by the firm side bolsters – reducing the lumbar support extension places you deeper within the seat’s superb grasp, while the tactile and squared leather steering wheel extends outwards to meet the palms. Regardless of one is five-feet-four or six-feet-two, the seating position is spot-on. 
The dashboard is an inspired jab at modern minimalism, the chic air-con vent clusters are grafted with rotary controls, warmly lit in its background – stating climate control settings. This results in a  beautifully purposeful and clean centre console housing only a row of buttons for the ‘Drive Select’ and all important toggle to raise the rear-spoiler – a traditional offering of Audi’s sportster. 
A metallic start/stop button is tacked just to the right of the tall prominent gear-shifter. The globular knob has a wide arc of movement between the ‘P’ and ‘D’ positions – reminiscent of a sequential dog-box setup, I freaking love it. The entire cockpit bristles with intent – which is why the wiper and turn-signal levers stick out like a sore thumb; it’s not that they don’t look good, just too plastic-ky and the jerky switching between nodes is reminiscent of units from mid-nineties Nissans. This is an Audi interior all – so perhaps it’s too much of an overlook. 
Which tends to be forgotten – once u depress that metallic button, the initial gust on spent gases rush out the twin circular exhaust tips with a pronounced bark. Before the 2.0-litre direct injected and turbocharged mill settles into a slightly monotonous drone, the virtual needles rotate from end to end as the full-faced TFT screen glows to life. 
The four-banger’s tone brings to mind another well-known and immensely successful product from the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG) stable, you definitely know this one.
And withstanding the group’s successful transition of a host of models onto the ‘MQB’ platform, is the Mk3 just another mechanical marriage of convenience or a worthy accession into a brand of sports and competition honed heritage that spans the likes of the Ur-Quattro and the R8? 
Rear seat contortion aside, the real question remains – is the Audi a true sports car of a re-clothed hot hatch?
The steering wheel almost feels mounded around the palms of my hands, within minutes of setting off, the first instances implies just how direct the electronic steering-rack is, it’s possibly as alert as the Golf GTi’s system, but the wider track and shorter 2505mm wheelbase means there’s very little delay between the twitch of your wrist and the reactive arc of the front wheels. It’s gorgeously meaty in feel too, requiring a bit of effort from the lower arm muscles, rewarding nonetheless, spared ever so slightly of feedback. 
One would be duly informed of the bigger ruts and bumps of the blacktop, just shy of certain bruises that slip under the 245/40 R18 tyres. And most often, crisscrossing between different surfaces on the highway (such as concrete to tarmac and vice versa) is announced by the slight change of cabin white-noise rather than a polite-jolt from the leather-clad wheel. 
Depending on the prevailing mood – flick the Drive Select toggle downwards, before the TFT screen prompts a list of suggestive angles to tackle the upcoming drive – Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and the newer Individual. The first three modes have a ‘Russian-doll’ effect of incrementally increasing the throttle’s alertness and promptness of the gearshifts. 
For the most part – Auto is versatile enough for 80 per cent of driving situations, casting a good balance of sublime comfort levels and intuitiveness to react when power is needed up a steep hill or for overtaking. Dynamic, however, is an entirely different bag of tricks. The subdued rumble turns into authoritative warble as the exhaust valves of turn full tilt. 
The six-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch gearbox – while it may sport similar final drive ratios and largely remains identical to VW’s DSG package, feels quantifiably smoother and better informed when setting off in traffic or at mid to low speeds. The S-Tronic’s mechatronic calibration adds those final few tenths of silky smooth responses… which are only amplified when in the Dynamic mode.
The irrepressible tone of the engine goads a deeper prod of the throttle every chance I get – until a complex of corners, punctuated by long-ish straights comes into sight. This swiftly funnels out every last quantum of self-control I could muster, and if it’s possible to crystallise just what makes the all-new Audi TT so special, this is it.
From a standstill, the first gear is used up within an eyewink, before a bassy trombone like timbre is emanated within the cabin. This is followed by a substantial burst of velocity as 230bhp is transferred towards the front-driven wheels, 5700rpm is the magic number for this to happen, but the more noticeable event is the 370Nm of torque on tap from 1600rpm. 
The gears come hard and fast as the paddles shifters are prompted, would appreciate if they were slightly larger and returned a tad more positive feedback when engaged. I genuinely wonder how much faster the Audi TT S offering is when the entry level offering revs like a banshee completing the century sprint in 5.9 seconds. Oh, and it will torque-steer if one isn’t firm at the reins through the first two gears. 
Most impressively from the 80kph-130kph window, keep the pedal down and 200kph will come on rather fast. On one sparingly littered patch of highway – gall finally ran out at 237kph. 
Round the corners, tap the left shift paddle to search quickly downwards with the cogs, the brakes requiring not much more than a sharp prod for lesser corners or a firm lean-on for tighter bends. The braking force is immense yet so easily understood and manipulated.
While the drive modes intensify the driving experience progressively, it’s the firm chassis stiffness and low-centre of mass dispersion which form the basis for the rewards that come with the damping, steering and throttle mapping tweaks. 
The Audi TT is a driver’s car in every sense of the word. Charmingly flat through the long sweepers and wonderfully eager on turn in, despite the tight allowances of the drivetrain position (engine or otherwise) borne out platform sharing, the TT commands wonderful front mid-ship driving traits, and the perennial understeer that plagues most Audi of yore is, for the most part, non-existent. 
Very much unlike the trademark slung back low profile of the car. Three generations on, the concept and execution remain as fetching as ever. The sleek headlamps are the focal point up front, followed by the unified proportions of the air vents up front. The pinched waistline along the shoulder harks back to the Mk1 offering some two decades ago – as is the fact that it runs the length of the driver’s side onto rear haunches housing the iconic fuel metal filler cap. The rear fascia, while instantly recognisable sports cleaner, toned edges and commonplace twin tailpipes spaced around the lower halves of the rear bumper. 
The TT is a celebration of iconic design and proportions, and while the formula may have changed over the years – the end-result has remained a closely guarded quantum adhered to by Audi. If anything, it has given what previously might have been a hairdresser’s car, a renewed sense of belief and astounding talent to boot. If only Edward Scissorhands could find racing gloves that fit. 

Words and Photography: Arvind Kumar
Price RM284,900
Engine 1984cc 16v 4-cyl direct-injected and turbocharged VVT, 230bhp @ 5700rpm, and 370Nm @ 1600rpm
Transmission Six-speed Auto, Front-wheel drive
Suspension McPherson Struts front, Multi-link rear
Performance 0-100kph 5.9s, 250kph max speed 6.3l/100km, 146g/km CO2
Weight 1335kg
Rating 4.5/5 stars 

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