Capsule Review: 2015 Audi TTS Coupe Competition

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

Perhaps it’s age or jaded eyes. Maybe it’s a desire to move the conversation forward. It might even be experience. One way or another, I’ve become increasingly less likely to allow exterior styling to garner more than a passing mention in my reviews of cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and minivans.

• USD Price As-Tested: $54,595

• Horsepower: 265 @ 6500 rpm

• Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 16.9 mpg

But after feasting my eyes upon a second-generation Audi TT sitting in my driveway – even in 90s yellow; nearly nine years after we first saw the second-generation TT and some 16 years since the first TT went on sale; with the third-generation TT already revealed and about to go on sale – how can my lips be silent?

This 2015 TTS Coupe Competition convinces me that the second TT is the most attractive of Audi’s three TT iterations. I grew to dearly love the first, but it could be faulted for looking the same coming and going. The forthcoming Mk3 TT seems somehow more formal, more serious, and less visually distinct from the (handsome) Volkswagen Scirocco.

This, however, is a visual stunner in both overall form and in detail. From the bulging fenders to the artfully arched roof and the properly proportioned grille, it’s deserving of credit for its general aesthetic alone. But the aluminum-finished mirrors and rear wing struts are eye-catching details, the 19-inch wheels are conversation starters, the strakes that lead into the foglights bring further cohesion to the front end. Moreover, the design as a whole testifies to the fact that new cars don’t all look the same. And though it originally went on sale around the time Peyton last won a Super Bowl, the Mk2 Audi TT appears wonderfully current.

At least on the outside.

You’ll use a key to start the car. There’s no backup camera or much of the on-alert safety gear (there are backup sensors but no blind spot monitoring, for instance) you now expect in $35,000+ mainstream sedans, let alone premium brand cars costing around $55,000. The navigation screen, which works with a less than impressive version of Audi’s MMI, is a bite-sized 6.5 inches. The cabin certainly doesn’t rank among the quietest I’ve encountered in the last number of months, either.

None of this is unexpected for a car which traces its design back to the era of the sixth-generation Chevrolet Malibu. (Yeah, it’s that old.) But no matter how good the TTS looks outside, and no matter how high the material quality is inside, these specific elements recall a bygone era, and not in a nostalgic way.

What the outgoing TT lacks in modernity it ultimately makes up for by consistently providing a memorable experience. Granted, the TT, even in this special edition one-of-500 TTS Competition guise, is not among the purest driving sports cars. Yellow baseball stitching and a freaky rear wing can’t make it so. The steering lacks feedback. The brakes may be slightly overservoed in grand Audi tradition. The ride is ultra-stiff when sport mode is engaged and just plain busy when left in normal.

Yet with less than 3300 pounds to cart around, a quick-shifting dual-clutch 6-speed transmission, and all-wheel-drive traction, 265 horsepower is a far larger number than it initially sounds. The TTS Coupe accelerates to 60 mph in five seconds, shifting more intelligently and promptly the harder it’s driven. It’s a delightfully compact package, and with torque to spare, it darts through traffic like an 80s French hot hatch on nitrous.

While not quite as practical as an 80s hot hatch (or a current Volkswagen GTI, for that matter), the TT does feature a (barely accessible) rear seat, a useable 13.1-cubic-foot cargo area, and the ability to send power to all four wheels. The BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK, and Porsche Cayman can not make the all the same claims.

Our test car, supplied by Audi Canada, rang in at CAD $65,295. In the U.S., the departing TTS starts at $49,595, an $8350 jump from the base TT. The Competition package adds $2500. Audi’s navigation package adds another $1950. The total climbs to $54,595, or $1400 less than a base Corvette.

But the Corvette chases a different market, right? Sure, in the sense that the Corvette is intended for a buyer who still exists.

See, the TT’s market may have moved on, not just from the TT but from its compatriots. Oh, the arrival of a new TT will produce a short-lived spike in demand. But is it any wonder BMW’s own sales boss, Ian Robertson, questioned whether the sports car market will ever fully recover from post-recession lows?

Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche combined for more than 40,000 TT, Z4, SLK, and Boxster U.S. sales in 2003 but only 15,000 TT, Z4, SLK, Boxster, and Caymans last year. While the Corvette was roundly outsold by the aforementioned quartet in 2003, Chevrolet sold 34,839 Corvettes in 2014.

Corvette vs. TT? Hey, if I’m the self-appointed final arbiter on the subject of Audi TT styling, shouldn’t I also be the one to decide which car to buy when all 500 global copies of the Coupe Competition are snatched up?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

Timothy Cain
Timothy Cain

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  • Z9 Z9 on Feb 25, 2015

    The new TT's interior is quite stunning at least in photos and harkens back to the show car that somehow went into production look of first generation. It certainly has a design coherence lacking in the second-generation interior. I think there are a few people left in the world who care about how cars look more than anything else. The TT is for this crowd. But we are a diminishing crowd, particularly those of us who could afford to act on their design fantasies. Furthermore, great product design is not limited to automobiles these days. It's now everywhere and for a fraction of the price of a TT I can have a beautiful pen that I write with far more of the time than I could ever spend suffering stuffed into a noisy harsh-riding bathtub with antiseptic steering feel. I will love the car from afar I guess.

  • PeriSoft PeriSoft on Mar 03, 2015

    BLIS, rear view cameras, and pushbutton start are the domain of $35k sedans? Someone needs to tell Hyundai, because my '15 Sonata came with BLIS, cross-traffic, rear view camera feeding an 8" touch screen, proximity entry, and a keyless trunk for around $21k out the door...

  • El scotto I can get the speedometer from dad's 72 Ford truck back. I can't get dad back.
  • El scotto BAH! No dividers in the trunk for bags of onions or hooks for hanging sardines! Hard Pass.
  • El scotto Hyundai/Kia's true masters are finally revealed.
  • El scotto Stirring up some more. The GSA is required to buy vehicles from the Big 3. This shows the Federal Government tacitly supports the UAW. Yeah I've seen some Hyundai or Kia hybrids. I didn't pay much attention the EV/American parts percentage tax credits. It looks like a lot of skullduggery. The UAW coming to SEC-land may be the beginning of the end of SEC-land being the US's internal third world country.The US is bringing more manufacturing back from China. Our demographics are shrinking. Unskilled labor will cost more, a union job might not pay enough.
  • El scotto I look forward to watching MTG and Tommy Tuberville when the UAW comes to their states.
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