Don’t get me wrong, it upshifts with satisfying blats and unlike the unit in the S6 you can drive it in sport mode without getting whiplash from the aggressive downshifts as you slow for a stop sign. I’m not even referring to the fact that in standard “D” mode you can still feel each sequential downshift whereas the S6 managed to very closely approximate an actual automatic transmission.
No, my problem is that when you want to get a taste of the truly impressive acceleration from a stop, you either need to use launch control, or factor in that it is going to take one to two seconds before the car starts moving.
You’ll sit there, pressing the pedal, and then pressing it farther, wondering when the car will respond. You’ll feel kind of confused as the car begins moving very, very slowly, and then let down as it begins accelerating at a fairly normal pace. Then, after an unusual delay for a car of this era, the turbo spools up and you struggle to not swallow your tongue as you’re launched into a realm of acceleration you never thought possible from something with “only” 290hp.
Speaking of performance, the engine is VW’s very tried and tested 2.0L inline four. As far as I can ascertain it is mechanically the same unit as is found in the S3 and Golf R.
The biggest issue with the engine is, like I mentioned, “turbo lag”. I don’t think I’ve ever driven a car with this much delay between input and output. Certainly not a high-end car from the last decade. What’s truly odd is if you watch the wholly insufficient boost “gauge” (which is a bar that goes from “min” to “max” in a corner of the gauge cluster), the car hits max boost well before the wall of acceleration hits. Given that some of the reviews of the Golf R that I read mentioned that it always seemed hesitant to go fast, I have to wonder if this is intentional.
What matters is that when the power hits, it’s quite the experience. While metrics are kind of pointless in the era of launch control, the ‘ole butt dyno would place the TTS’ acceleratory power significantly above that of the STI.
Once you’ve gotten moving, the transmission shifts up and down rapidly, although not nearly as instantaneously as some would have you believe. If you need to go up or down more than one gear at a time, the advantage over a manual is lost entirely.
Beyond that, the handling is stellar, feeling perfectly neutral through corners with no hint of understeer, responsive, heavy steering that gives you a good feel for what your front tires are doing. The level of grip available is truly phenomenal, and I don’t know if the Yokohama tires it wears or the magnetowordsalad dampers deserve more of the credit for that. While the TTS, like all small Volkswagens, uses a Haldex AWD system that not even my snobbery can accuse of feeling like FWD. While I will still most likely never seriously consider any “quattro with ultra technology” Audi for my own use, I have to admit that they’ve refined their FWD with benefits system very well.
Ride quality in comfort mode is quite nice, although tire noise can be extremely loud depending on the road surface. Oddly, this was a problem in the S6 as well, across a few different brands of tire.
Also, what is easily the coolest interior available outside of a Lamborghini dealership.
Putting the infotainment in the gauge cluster works amazingly well. You end up with a screen far larger than average that you don’t have to look off-center to deal with. All the functions can be accessed through the steering wheel, save the touchpad writing for inputting text, which also works very well. (My handwriting is funny, so we had some... disagreements on how letters are written)
The gauges themselves are extremely responsive, and never seem to judder or jump. If it weren’t for the obvious flatness of the screen you could believe they were physical objects.
And, being purely digital, can be put in an alternate “sport” layout that puts the tach front and center and leaves you with only a digital speed readout. This takes a few seconds to change during which the gauges are not usable, so naturally the car does not allow you to do this while moving.
The wheel feels wonderful in your hands, and the open spaces on each spoke are a subtle touch that makes the wheel look very sophisticated, at least to my eyes.
The climate controls, too, are cleverly placed to keep the interior clean, and I didn’t even realize they were there until the car was turned on.
The vents do take some time to get used to. You may notice you can’t direct the ducts. Rather, that small tab on the top indicates the direction the pre-curved vanes point. Simply rotate to aim in the desired direction. The lower tab, meanwhile, closes each vent.
Not to mention, heated seat controls that can be turned from off to on to off again quickly, rather than the industry standard “push it five times of which only three are registered to turn off.” My time is valuable, and I appreciate the extra few minutes of life Audi has provided its prospective owners.
The center console features a cavernous storage area ahead of the shifter, in which phones, keys, and small children can be lost for many days. Farther aft, the single cupholder is quite small but does feature a handy little slot for the key behind it. This didn’t concern me since, like any sane person in a keyless car, I keep the key shackled to my body lest I forget it everywhere I go. Between the seats is an armrest that moves forward and back, but not up or down. Being about 4" below my elbow I’m not sure if an armrest your arm cannot reach is actually an armrest. Below that is more storage with a folding cupholder framework that would render the armrest unusable if it was actually high enough to rest your arm on in the first place.
The rear hatch offers a very spacious, if not especially deep storage area, and the rear seats (which CAN fit an adult human) fold totally flat to allow large cargos.
Oh, and the brake light extends across the hatch, which is cool.
Speaking of lighting, the DRLs are very striking and bright, and while the rear turn signals are sequential and look very neat, unlike European examples the fronts all flash at once because updating obsolete car codes is hard.
The “fog lights” interestingly enough, are a second set of lights inboard of the main LED beams that shine off to the side. It is weird to see, but helpful for spotting those pesky elk that like to dart across the road.
It’s not all sunshine and roses; even in the comfort setting the suspension proved too firm for a favored driving road, leaving the car unsettled through corners. As a bonus the car produces a disconcerting whomp sound from the suspension as you crest each wave of tarmac. This was a mountain road trafficked by large tour buses so is in fairly bad shape- once beyond the tour bus route the car tolerated a merely “rough” road well enough. The distinctive whomp sound like someone forgot to bolt in the suspension could be heard over any sizable bump, however.
The infotainment system is still basically the same MMI flavor Audi has been using for years while other brands have been catching up. It can’t hold a candle to Volvo’s system in their new cars in terms of usability, and in terms of features they’re a bit behind many other brands. Despite crowing about being among the first automakers to support Android Auto, Audi is a few years behind Hyundai to claim a car that actually supports it. The TTS, possibly because of the integration with the gauges, does not seem to despite Audi claiming “all new 2016 models” would have it. I must say that while I don’t necessary like having to plug in my phone every time I get in the car, I did miss being able to directly control Spotify, Audible, and messaging apps without having to dig my phone out of my pocket to select different songs, change to audiobook, or send a “fuck off I’m driving something VERY YELLOW” text to a friend.
Of course, that could be “all-new 2016 models.” I couldn’t really tell.
The windshield is like a letter slot and I found myself needing to slow excessively for an ascending hairpin because I couldn’t see around the corner. The rearview camera does nicely during the day but resembles a bad VHS tape at night.
The stereo, despite the Bang and Olufson appellation and the $1k+ option price is disappointingly devoid of body and does not make up this deficiency with impressive clarity. I would normally attribute this to being merely a small car issue, but the BRZ manages similar clarity and superior bass despite having fewer speakers to work with. This is with an aftermarket head unit. The stock stereo in the BRZ is only suitable for torture purposes. One could make the point that this is an unfair comparison, but I would retort that a few hundred dollars of head unit does not give a $30k car an unfair advantage over a $60k car.
This wasn’t really meant to be an actual review. It was originally just me bitching about the DSG. In fact it was originally quite a LOT of that before I realized it’s all been said before.
This was my mom’s car that I only got to drive for a few days while I was visiting (yes, my mom is an awesome lady.) but hopefully I can answer any questions you may have.
This review makes no attempt to be objective, but the author hopes his love of Audi and hatred of Haldex balanced out well enough to approximate the notion.