2011 Audi TT

2011 Audi TT 2011 Audi TT
First Drive Review

Audi’s climb up the luxury ladder to a full-bore, take-’em-seriously competitor to BMW and Mercedes has been powered by volume models like the A4 and A6 sedans and Q5 crossover, but the first-generation Audi TT certainly helped the brand skip a few rungs. The sexy coupe and roadster had many noticing the four-ringed brand for the first time, and it’s already regarded as an icon of automotive design.

If the second-gen TT’s styling hasn’t taken a leap forward—although it’s still pretty stunning to behold—its performance certainly has, moving the car toward actual sports-car territory for the first time. The transformation was finally completed with the introduction of the 2010 TTS. Two hundred and sixty-five horsepower can do that.

Now it’s the base model’s turn to play. With the disappearance of the 3.2-liter V-6 from the TT’s engine options last year, the 2.0T model got some room to breathe. As such, the entry-level 2011 TT gets an improved version of the 2.0-liter EA888 turbocharged TFSI four-cylinder. The valve lift on the exhaust side is now variable, and horsepower rises from 200 to 211. More important, however, is that torque takes a huge leap from 207 lb-ft to a lofty 258. As with the 2010 TT lineup, the only drivetrain available in the U.S. pairs Quattro with the S tronic dual-clutch automated manual. Audi expects the 2011 2.0T coupe to knock at least 0.3 second off the previous 0-to-60 time. We clocked a 2009 2.0T Quattro with S tronic to 60 in 5.7 seconds, so look for something in the 5.4-second range.

The rest of the package remains the same as before, which means you get a fantastic interior with supremely comfortable seats and nicely weighted steering. Of course, 60 or so percent of the car’s weight over the front axle means a good dollop of understeer, but the Quattro system sorts out what adjusting the angle of your right foot can’t.

Knockin’ on the TTS Door

The engine is of course the news. The real-world difference between the old and new 2.0-liter TFSI is not earth shattering, but it is definitely noticeable, with horsepower and torque peaks available at lower rpm. Previously, maximum torque was available at 1700 rpm, whereas the new engine delivers its 258 lb-ft from 1600 rpm. Peak horsepower is available from 4300 rpm, as opposed to 5100 before. As such, engine response is even more dynamic, a characteristic helped by the newly variable lift on the exhaust valves. In fact, the regular TT is now so responsive and delivers so much low-end oomph that it feels eerily similar to the TTS, which you may notice also offers 258 lb-ft of torque, albeit at a higher 2500 rpm. (For 2011, the TTS carries over its 265-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four, although it’s based on the older EA113 architecture.) The TTS remains the quicker car, but the gap has narrowed significantly. The 2.0 TFSI is quite quick—it doesn’t feel much slower than the 332-hp, V-6–toting Nissan 370Z, which we’ve tested to 60 anywhere from 4.6 to 5.1 seconds, depending on transmission. But really, the 2011 TT 2.0T outclasses just about every other four-cylinder coupe we’ve driven.

What’s more, the TT also now looks like a TTS if you spec the optional S line package. The TTS differentiates itself only with some aluminum strips in the grille, as well as a strange horizontal bar that runs through the massive lower air intakes and terminates into round fog lights. The extra cost of the TTS delivers some bragging rights: A TTS coupe clocked a 4.8-second sprint to 60 in our hands, so there’s that. But the bottom line is that we don’t think the TTS delivers enough extra to justify the price difference between the two models, which is likely to remain close to the $8000 to $10,000 it was for 2010. Of course, Audi won’t let this rest. We’re already detecting rumbles of a 300-hp, EA888-based turbocharged 2.0-liter for the TTS, and that should sort out the pecking order in a hurry.

We’re also hearing that the 340-hp TT RS could finally make it here as Audi resurrects plans to offer RS cars to U.S. customers, which would complete a very compelling TT lineup. The TT RS, a 300-hp TTS, and now this new, even better 2011 base model? Sounds good to us.