THE year 1995 was a significant one for Audi, as it premiered its TT concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show to much fanfare. Three years later, in 1998, the model went into production almost unaltered from the concept, which at the time was unconventional for manufacturers to do.

To say that the model was a success would be an understatement. At the time the company was going through a renaissance as it geared up to take on BMW and Mercedes-Benz in all spheres of the premium car segment. To the Ingolstadt manufacturer, the TT was the halo model to place the brand in the psyche of premium car buyers as an alternative.

The company had a resounding success on its hands, as one could say that this was the precursor to the R8, which remains a compelling sportscar. That said, the first generation TT exuded a coolness factor, particularly with those polished five-arm wheels and bright colour palettes. There was even the limited edition TT Sport, which was the swansong of the model that this scribe was fortunate to drive back in 2006.

The second generation model was introduced in 2007 and while it had similar proportions and design cues to its predecessor, it was a new generation of car altogether. The first generation’s 1.8 turbocharged petrol engine made way for a 2.0l turbo variant. The 3.2l V6 remained, before it was duly replaced by a 2.0l TFSI quattro model in the following years. Sportier variants in the form of the TTS and TTRS were also part of the local lineup.

We travelled to Malaga, Spain for a first drive impression of the third generation TT. It has now found a more dynamic styling mojo, thanks to it donning a sharper athletic suit that has the right quotas of creases and character lines to make one do a double take. While the new model shares the same length as the outgoing one, the wheelbase has been extended slightly to offer a much larger cabin. Thankfully, the designers have looked back at the original for inspiration, which is evident in the placement of the tailpipes, which are much closer to one another. The grille assumes a more pronounced, 3D-like design.

Using mixed composite materials that include steel and aluminium and loosely based on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform, the new car has a lower centre of gravity, is 50kg lighter and manages to be 23% stiffer than its predecessor.

The interior is a great departure from the previous model and features a full colour digital display screen in the instrument binnacle that shows all vital information for the driver, including the speedometer and rev counter, as well as the navigation system. The new design dispenses with the multimedia information screen that would conventionally sit atop the dash. Even the climate control adjustments are located on the air vents themselves. The company has taken the minimalist layout to the next level, but it has done so tastefully without making the interior look spartan.

While the new model shares the same length as the outgoing one, the wheelbase has been extended slightly to offer a much larger cabin. Thankfully, the designers have looked back at the original for inspiration, which is evident in the placement of the tailpipes, which are much closer to one another.

Three models were on offer for us to sample in the form of the 2.0l front-wheel drive with 169kW and 370Nm, a quattro variant with the same outputs, and the headlining TTS with 228kW and 380Nm. The latter utilises a mill similar to that used in the S3, but we are told by Audi SA that our models will be detuned to 210kW and 380Nm due to our poor fuel quality and hot climate. It is claimed to dispatch 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds and go to a 250km/h top speed.

I first spent a spell at the helm of the front-wheel drive variant, replete with a six-speed manual transmission, and it proved to be a competent performer with a sprightly engine and tidy handling antics. I later traded the model for the TTS version allied to a dual clutch automatic transmission. On the road and around some twisty bitumen it felt quick, adept and easy to pilot at speed. As we have come to expect of the engine, it delivers a warble not dissimilar to the five-cylinder in the previous generation RS version, punctuated by dual clutch exhaust burps between gear changes.

The quattro system has been cleverly apportioned, sending up to 100% power to the rear axle in some instances. Driving the vehicle around the technical Ascari racetrack with the electronic stability control system set to sport, the front end felt a lot pointier, allowing for more precise turn-in. The TT, particularly the S, is a more driver-focused car than its predecessor yet equally easy to drive quickly, thanks to the sure-footedness of the quattro system. On the road is perhaps where it is more at home, scything through mountain passes and offering prodigious amounts of grip.

On average the new TT will cost R36,000 more than its predecessor. There are sadly no plans to bring the open-top roadster model to SA.

You can expect the new TT to reach our shores in March 2015, while the TTS is touted for next July. We can expect the headlining TTRS to join the lineup in 2016.

Pricing:

TT FWD: R558,000

TT quattro: R642,000

TTS: TBC

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Tue Dec 06 04:49:39 SAST 2016