2017 Audi TTS

Many sports cars just tour around on sunny days, but this one is made every other day, too.

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

Nearly everyone loves sports cars such as the Audi TT, but very few people ever wind up buying them. For practicality and cost reasons, they tend to be slow sellers and, other than in perpetually temperate climes, are brought out from hibernation for only a few months a year.

The TT coupe doesn’t, and maybe shouldn’t, be treated this way. Audi’s acclaimed Quattro all-wheel-drive system installed on each and every one of these fun-mobiles is all you theoretically need, along with the right tires, to make it your four-seasons beast.

The current-generation TT coupes and roadsters arrived in North America for 2012, at which point they surrendered their previous melted-soap-bar-shaped roofline for more angular sheetmetal. Four model years on, they received more potent four-cylinder engines. But regardless of age, the coupe, especially, is instantly recognizable for its low, wide stance and sloping rear hatch.

True, the current model is a bit taller than the original, but entering it still requires a certain nimbleness to avoid messing up your coiffure (the two-seat roadster less so with a more upright folding top attached).

Selecting the coupe-only TTS over the everyday TT means you can forego the suntan lotion, but what you get in return is worth every bit of the extra coin required, over and above a regular-strength TT.

The premium stuff begins with a richly finished interior that includes plenty of brushed aluminum as well as diamond-stitched leather-covered sport seats that are trimmed with suede-like Alcantara. The flat-bottom sport steering wheel is standard, as are the 12-way power-adjustable seats. Fortunately, they’re not too aggressively bolstered and, since they’re also power-adjustable, they’ll fit most humans. Not so for the back seat, which is best suited for small children or as a storage area.

Of particular note is the virtual cockpit — standard in all TT models — with a customizable information screen behind the steering wheel. Just summon up the communications, infotainment and optional navigation systems along with the instrument cluster. Screen configuration is adjusted via a rotating knob on the floor console, with redundant controls on the steering wheel.

Another neat trick is the location of the controls for fan speed, temperature and directional airflow knobs; cleverly integrated into the centers of the fresh-air vents.

But what places the TTS a cut or two above the TT is the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That’s 72 more horses than the TT, while torque increases by a relatively modest 22 pound-feet.

A six-speed automated-manual transmission with paddle-shift controls sends power to all four wheels.

Audi claims the TTS can reach 60 mph from zero in 4.6 seconds. There are competing sporty models that can do the dance more rapidly, but the TTS will still push you into your seat and put a grin on your face. On the down side, the suspension and low-profile tires make it less of a treat on rough roads.

Diving into a tight turn is particularly exhilarating as the car precisely carves the corners with barely a trace of body lean. The TTS-specific brakes are also great at reducing speed, with control.

TTS pricing starts at $53,500, including destination charges, or $9,000 more than a base TT coupe. That gets you all the performance goodies, but pushing up the MSRP is the available premium leather interior, 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and 20-inch wheels (19-inchers are standard).

Option packages add navigation, fancier interior/exterior trim, front and rear parking sensors and blind-spot detection. The dynamic (active) safety technologies available on some competitors’ models — such as emergency braking — are not offered in the TTS.

Ultimately, the Audi TTS is a wily little coupe that can run the roads whenever you’re so inclined, regardless of what’s between the tires and the road.

What you should know: 2017 Audi TTS

Type: Two-door, all-wheel-drive sport coupe

Engine (h.p.): 2.0-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged (292)

Transmission: Six-speed automated manual with paddle shifters

Market position: The TT has become a mainstay sports model for Audi and competes with mostly higher-end German brands, including Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. A distinctive shape and standard AWD are unique to the TT.

Points:
• Can’t-miss-it looks, but a degree of physical dexterity is helpful.
• Interior appointments are rich and detailed.
• Turbo engine is spunky, but the TT RS equipped with a 400-h.p. five-cylinder is coming.
• Stiff suspension, low-profile rubber make for an overly harsh ride.
• Surprising lack of active safety equipment.
• Many competitors have a lot more rear-seat room.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning (opt.) with cross-traffic alert (n.a.); active cruise control (n.a.); emergency braking (n.a.); lane-departure intervention (n.a.).

MPG (city/hwy): 23/27

Base price (incl. destination): $53,500

By Comparison:

BMW 440i xDrive
Base price: $51,700
Roomier than the TTS and just as powerful. Twin-turbo I6 in M4 model has 425 h.p.

Lexus RC 300 F Sport AWD
Base price: $49,900
IS-sedan-based coupe’s non-turbo V-6 puts out 306 h.p. Optional V-8 make 467.

Infiniti Q60 Red Sport AWD
Base price: $54,200
Impressively styled and equipped coupe runs with a 400-h.p. twin-turbo V-6.