Monday, March 24, 2008

First Look

No, it's not the new Chrysler Crossfire, it's Audi's second generation TT, launched in Berlin overnight and the first major revision of the sporty coupe since its inception late in 1998. So what's happened in the seven-and-a-half years between drinks?
Well, like model updates, the next generation TT is bigger, more sophisticated and of course more physically attractive while offering improved performance.
New Audi TT
Importantly for Audi, the new TT adds something special to the German automaker's range, something that no other car in its range has - some call it élan - and though not the most practical car on the market (have you ever tried sitting in the back seats?), it will do wonders for the company's overall image.

Looking at the changes to the second generation TT, which again will probably live a long and prosperous life like its predecessor, the most obvious change is its exterior style. While the side profile is unmistakably TT, what with the long bonnet, curvaceous roofline, compact rear end and flared wheel arches, there are myriad subtle changes that won't alienate previous owners, while simultaneously modernising the cars mercurial retro style.
New Audi TT
Starting at the front, the new headlight clusters are conservatively stylish, and form parallels with the blacked-out fog-light surrounds below them, creating a pleasing symmetry as they angle inwards, lining up with the single frame grille. Speaking of the ostentatious grille, it integrates rather nicely into the front end, initiating the power lines in the bonnet that flow back towards the A-pillar, where they seamlessly carry through the car's high shoulder line in Teutonic style.

Looking at the new TT from the side, the wheels arches are as pronounced as ever, while a medium front overhang gives the headlights room to sweep back towards the wheels. The fairly low ride height and large wheels give it a solid, road-hugging look, which will no doubt contribute to its driving dynamics.

From the rear, Audi's new king of style has a slight resemblance to the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class when viewed from down low (evidenced in the launch photography), with a smoother rump retooled brake light clusters.
New Audi TT
All told, it's quite a pleasing new look for Audi's pin-up boy, and though there's nothing dramatically different about it, the new TT still manages to impress with its compact and sporty image, and is bigger too, measuring 4,178mm in length (an increase of 137mm), and 1,842mm in width (up 78mm).

Beyond the visual updates, Audi has tinkered with the TT's driveline, which gives both models - the blown 2.0-litre and the 3.2-litre bent six - improved performance.

Featuring the same 2.0-litre turbocharged, intercooled engine that powers VW's impressive Golf GTI, the entry-level TFSI Audi TT generates 200 ponies, or 147kW, which is coupled with a 6-speed manual gearbox delivering power to the front wheels. Audi reckons this model can accelerate to 100km/h front standstill in 6.4 seconds, which is not to be baulked at, with a top speed of 240km/h.

Much of the new TT's speed can be attributed to the extensive use of aluminium. For instance the new TT body sits atop a rigid ASF (Audi space frame), which is comprised of a mixture of steel and aluminium; Audi says that 69 per cent of the superstructure is made of aluminium, where the remaining 31 per cent steel components hang over the rear end to improve its front to rear weight bias.

The second model on offer will be powered by Audi's 184kW/250bhp 3.2-litre V6, and unlike its 4-cylinder sibling it will be an AWD model, or should I say quattro. The larger V6 engine cuts the TT's 0-100km/h sprint by an impressive seven tenths of a second, taking the time to 5.7 seconds, and cannot surpass 250km/h thank to an electronic governor. Like the turbo four, the 6-cylinder TT comes as standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, but Audi has indicated that both models can be optioned with its S tronic dual-clutch gearbox, which sounds suspiciously like a second generation version of the dual-clutch DSG.
New Audi TT
Seeing as the Audi TT is essentially a sports coupe, suspension and chassis changes were always going to be part of the second generation's updates, and in addition to the car's wider track, which will improve cornering stability somewhat, Audi explains that it has fettled the suspension to offer "neutral to light understeer" which sounds pretty good.

Wheel sizes for the new TT range from 16- to 19-inches, providing adequate looks and/or grip, and a new rear suspension array has been incorporated to ensure "optimum driving dynamics at a sports car level".

Like Ferrari's evolving suspension systems, Audi will also offer the high-tech and very cool sounding magnetic ride damper system. Simply put, there are billions of microscopic magnetised particles floating around the oil inside the shock absorbers, and when a current is channeled through the oil, one assumes the viscosity of the oil changes, and therefore alters the damping rates almost instantaneously. If equipped, the TT would be able to adapt to various driving situations at the press of a button.

Audi calls the TT a 2+2 coupe, and with the increased length the rear seat may become slightly more usable. The interior features new sports seats, a leather-trimmed instrument cover (plus a choice of three leather styles) and a tasty-looking flat-bottomed leather steering wheel. There's plenty of aluminium accents in the interior, while boot space is 290 litres, rising to 700 litres when the rear seats are folded down.

So, there you have it. Eight years in the making and not a great deal of difference visually, but that was always the plan - a slow, steady evolution of the look, which has been widely praised in the past. Dynamically the new car should be a barrel of laughs (particularly with the magnetic suspension option), and the new engines will inject new life into the compact coupe as well. Audi has also revealed that the second generation convertible TT Roadster is "scheduled for later launch" and we expect to see it at one of the major motor shows in 2007.

No comments: