Overall rating: 4/5
Diesel power and sports cars don't always make for a comfortable combination, but the new Audi TT's rounded ability, fine pace, poise and tax friendliness make for an appealing anomaly. People will be too busy admiring the new coupé to care what's powering it, too.
In the Metal:
It's a TT, so despite some fairly comprehensive changes to the mechanicals underneath it's instantly recognisable. The stretch in wheelbase - for more interior space says Audi - does shorten the overhangs, though the wheels now at each corner are still framed by some large wheelarches that bow to the iconic design of the groundbreaking 1998 original. Upright flanks, tapering roofline and a clamshell bonnet? All present and correct. Delightful details like LED lights, a cool (now cap-less underneath) fuel filler flap and prominent exhaust tips are all obvious too, the TT remaining utterly faithful to its overtly design-orientated focus. Nothing wrong with that either, when the results look as good as this does.
If the exterior is a greatest hits medley of its gen I and gen II predecessors the interior is more of an experimental B-side. Sure, there are some obvious Audi TT signifiers, such as the round air vents (five now) that dominate the dash top, and there's plenty of space for them given the location of all the info and entertainment functions into a 'virtual cockpit' in front of the driver. The screen displays everything from satnav to what's playing on the stereo, as well a number of conventional-looking, but pixel-generated instruments. It's a cool feature that'll appeal massively to the TT's target audience, even if it takes a bit of learning to use effectively in practice. Fit and finish are exemplary, while those jet-like air vents cleverly contain the heating and ventilation controls within them. The TT eclipses absolutely everything in its class inside for sheer desirability factor.
That appeal waned slightly in its predecessors once you'd stopped dribbling over the design and got down to the business of driving it. This TT changes that, even here with front-wheel drive, a manual transmission and a diesel engine under its quattro coupé concept-aping bonnet. Aside from the slight tell-tale mechanical clatter on starting up, the TDI diesel engine is a paragon of refinement. No, it's not as smooth as its petrol relations, but then what noise it does make isn't unpleasant, and the big-banging torque output makes it feel way less frenetic when you're on the move.
It'll rev too, the four-cylinder turbodiesel not giving up quickly if you go chasing the redline, though likewise it's so potent in its mid range there's no real need to, unless the mood takes you. The six-speed manual gearbox is fairly unremarkable in its shift, but the TT's biggest surprise is how it steers. There's a keenness to turn-in that's entirely new to the TT, the steering both precise and faithful. There's a touch of feel there; not much admittedly, but enough to make it less yawn-some than previously. It's backed up by suspension that's supple enough to mask all but the nastiest of surfaces, and retain fine control in the bends too.
A sporting Audi that rides decently? It seems the chassis people had a good day setting this one up. The Audi TT is a more delicate, capable and engaging car to drive than it's ever been, and all the more appealing in TDI Ultra guise when you consider that it'll cost you little to run - especially if the company's paying for it.
What you get for your Money:
Audi Ireland has not yet released pricing for the new TT, though the TDI Ultra version will undoubtedly be the sensible option thanks to 110g/km emissions. We'd expect a minimum specification of air conditioning, the Virtual Cockpit, Bluetooth and leather for the sports seats.
Choose S line specification and the suspension drops by 10mm further and features a more focused set up. It's a no-cost delete option though, and we'd advise most buyers to do that, as it's certain to add nothing but discomfort.
The new TDI Ultra model is an Audi TT you can buy with your sensible hat on, but you'll not regret it the instant the road gets a little bit more interesting. Miserly economy in something that feels gloriously indulgent, and fun like it's never been before.