Sportier than a Porsche Boxster, not much more expensive than a Volkswagen Scirocco: Audi readies the third-generation TT. Due in 2014 as a 2015 model, the next TT will be even more dynamic and performance-focused than the model it replaces. Although the MkIII version won't close the gap to the R8 supercar, it does move further up-market, thereby reducing the terrain for the proposed -- and now almost definitely canceled -- mid-engined R5 developed by Porsche. The sports car maker, which may become part of the VW family before the year ends, has always kept a close eye on the iconic TT that rivals the Boxster/Cayman twins. Although the next TT will increase the pressure by offering a fresh look along with an even wider range of equipment and drivetrain options, Porsche has already threatened to strike back with entry-level models powered by an all-new four-cylinder boxer engine.
The TT is, of course, based on the 20 percent more cost- and space-efficient MQB components set pioneered by the new A3, which will be making its official debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Thanks to the less complex MQB architecture and a higher percentage of lightweight materials, the next TT will shed about 132 lbs. Other efficiency-enhancing measures include a low-friction all-wheel drive drivetrain, improved aerodynamics, and a set of more economical engines.
The complete engine range looks like this: a 1.8-liter TFSI I-4 with 180 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, a 2.0-liter TFSI I-4 good for either 220 or 280 hp and both with 258 lb-ft, a 380-hp and 406-lb-ft turbo 2.5-liter I-5 for the TT RS, and a 2.0-liter TDI four-cylinder good for 180 hp and 258 lb-ft.
Audi's current engineering chief Michael Dick has confirmed that the next TT RS will be positioned above the current model, so it seems safe to expect a beefed up 2.5-liter turbocharged motor good for 380 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, which puts the high-end TT right between the 350-hp 911 Carrera and the 400-hp 911 Carrera S -- for about 40 percent less money. At the same time, this TT on steroids would move within 70 hp of the next V-8-powered R8, which further explains the controversy around the aforementioned R5.
Both the coupe -- set to debut in June 2014 -- and the roadster -- November 2014 -- can initially rely on six forward ratios, but there is a seven-speed S-tronic double-clutch gearbox in the works for calendar year 2015. While Quattro all-wheel drive is standard on the TTS and TT RS, the TDI switches to front-wheel drive only; what a shame. All-wheel drive is an option for the 220-hp TFSI. Standard features on all models include start-stop, braking-energy recuperation, and a Euro-6-plus emission rating.
Still a Design Hallmark
As befits a design halo car like this, the next TT retains the character and the unmistakable proportions of the current vintage. The design is evolutionary in a way Porsche purists might object to: after all, the revised silhouette almost mimics the 911, which makes the coupe in particular look butch and masculine and emphatically sporty. The only trace of three-boxiness runs along the trailing edge of the rear window where a large boomerang-shaped tail spoiler extends at motorway speeds. The front end features yet another variation of the trademark single-frame grille, this time boasting a set back main air intake; even more elaborate LED headlights, foglamps, corning lamps, day-time running lights, and indicators; some contrasting brightwork; and a pair of fake lower black vents to spice up the bumper graphics. The taillights are equally ornate with L-shaped indicators, dot-matrix brake lamps, and trendy jewel-like clusters.
Inside, we find the next evolution of Audi's famed MMI ergonomics. Abandoning the familiar in-dash monitor, it incorporates a large display in the driver's primary field of vision. Through the MMI controller, which still sits proud on the transmission tunnel, one can personalize the info screen content that incorporates the speedometer as the sole must-show item. Alternative read-outs include a large-scale map complete with fully animated navigation guidance, an extensive web-linked on-board computer that takes Audi Connect to the next level, a variety of infotainment functions, or simply a set of four round quasi-analogue instruments. Audi is confident that the upgraded MMI will give the brand the edge again over BMW's iDrive and Mercedes' Comand systems.
Although Audi has toyed with addition TT bodystyles in the past, things like a shooting brake (from Tokyo 2005) and a spyder (from Woerthersee 2007), projected sales volumes don't seem to justify anything but a status quo mix of hard and soft top.