Capsule Review: 2015 Audi TTS Coupe Competition

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
capsule review 2015 audi tts coupe competition

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.

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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...

  • Dukeisduke I still think the name Bzzzzzzzzzzt! would have been better.
  • Dukeisduke I subscribed to both Road & Track and Car and Driver for over 25 years, but it's been close to 20 years since I dropped both. I tried their digital versions with their reader software (can't remember the name now), but it wasn't the same. I let it lapse after a year.From what I've seen of R&T's print version, it's turned into more of a lifestyle thing like The Robb Report. I haven't seen an issue of C/D in a while.I enjoyed both magazines a lot when I was subscribing. R&T for the road tests (especially the April Fools road tests), used car reviews, historical articles, and columns like Peter Egan's Side Glances and Dennis Simanitis's Technical Correspondence. And C/D for the road tests and pithy commentary, and columns like Gordon Baxter's, and Jean Shepherd's (that goes way back to the early '70s).
  • Steve Biro It takes very clever or amusing content for me to sit through a video vehicle review. And most do not include that.Tim, you wrote :"Niche titles aren't dying because of a lack of interest from enthusiasts, but because of broader changes in the economics of media, at least in this author's opinion."You're right about the broader changes in economics. But the truth is that there IS a lack of interest from enthusiasts. Part of it is demographics. Young people coming up are generally not car and truck fans. That doesn't mean there are no young enthusiasts but the numbers are much smaller. And even those who consider themselves enthusiasts seem to have mixed feelings. Just take a look at Jalopnik.And then we come to the real problem: The vast majority of new vehicles coming out today are not interesting to enthusiasts, are not fun to drive and/or are just not affordable.You can argue that EVs are technically interesting and should create enthusiasm. But the truth is they are not fun to drive, don't work well enough yet for most people and are very expensive.EVs on the race track? Have you ever been to a Formula E race? Please.And even if we set EVs aside, the electronic nannies that are being forced on us pretty much preclude a satisfying driving experience in any brand-new vehicle, regardless of propulsion system. Sure, many consumers who view cars as transportation appliances may welcome this technology. But they are not enthusiasts. I don't know about you, but I and most car fans I know don't want smart phones on wheels.There is simply not that much of interest to write about. Car and Driver and Road & Track are dipping deeper into nostalgia and their archives as a result. R&T is big on sponsoring road trips for enthusiasts - which is a great idea. But only people with money to burn need apply.And then there is the problem of quality in automotive writing. As more experienced people are let go and more money is cut from publications, the quality and length of pieces keeps going down, leading to the inevitable self-fulfilling prophecy.Even the output on this site is sharply reduced from its peak. And the number of responses to posts seems a small fraction of what it used to be. This is my first comment since the site was recently relaunched. I don't expect to be making many in the future.Frankly Tim - and it gives me no pleasure to write this - but your post makes me feel as though the people running this site have run out of ideas and TTAC's days may be numbered.Cutbacks in automotive journalism are upsetting. But, until there is something exciting and fun to write about, they are going to continue. Perhaps automotive enthusiasm really was a 20th century phenomenon..
  • THX1136 I think that the good ole interwebs is at least partially to blame. When folks can get content for free, what is the motivation to pay to read? I'm guilty of this big time. Gotta pay to read!? Forget it! I'll go somewhere else or do without. And since a majority of folks have that portable PC disguised as a phone in their pocket, no need for print. The amount of info easily available is the other factor the web brings to bear. It's perhaps harder now to stand out. Standing out is necessary to continued success.In an industry I've been interested (and participated) in, the one magazine (Mix) I subscribed to has become a shadow of it's former self (200 pgs now down to 75). I like print for the reasons mentioned by another earlier. I can 'access' it in a non-linear fashion and it's easily portable for me. (Don't own a smarty pants phone and don't plan to at the moment.)I would agree with others: useful comparison reviews, unique content not easily available other places, occasional ringers (Baruth, Sajeev, et al) - it would be attractive to me anyway. I enjoy Corey, Matt and Murilee and hope they continue to contribute here.
  • Daniel J I wish auto journos would do more comparisons. They do some but many are just from notes from a previous review compared to a new review. I see where journos go out to a location and test drive and review a vehicle on location but that does absolutely nothing for me without any comparison to similar cars. I also wish more journos spent more time on seat comfort. I guess that doesn't matter much when many journos seem to be smaller folks where comfort isn't as important. Ergonomics are usually just glossed over unless there is something very specific about the ergonomics that tick the journo off. I honestly get more from most youtube reviews than I ever do about reviews written on a page.
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