If you're in the market for a small and sporty car that can satisfy technolust, the Audi TT impresses with its LCD gauge cluster infotainment system, and the car is a hoot to drive.
Audi Virtual Cockpit
Google Earth map overlay
Bang & Olufsen sound system
Fun to drive
No Android Auto or Apple CarPlay
Adaptive cruise control unavailable
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Audi's … I love them. There's something about plush, all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles with understated German styling, outstanding driving dynamics, perfectly-executed interiors and long-roof wagon options on most models that really does it for me.
I've only owned one Audi in my life: an '83 Coupe GT with the glorious-sounding, 5-cylinder engine and manual transmission. It was the theoretical predecessor to the TT, at least before the A5 was released in 2007. I owned it in 2009, and it was wonderful to drive, despite the age and obvious need for repairs.
That brings me to today's car: the 2016 TT Coupe 2.0t that Audi sent techradar for review. Audi equipped the car with the technology package, 19-inch wheel package, S Sport seat package and Bang & Olufsen sound system, which brings the price to $50,600 (approximately £45,000 when similarly equipped or AU$96,000 before options).
The latest TT shares the same general shape as the original 1998 model, a vehicle penned by designer Peter Schreyer, but it's a completely different vehicle inside and out. Now on its third generation, the latest TT sports sleeker styling that sheds the bulbousness of previous generations for sharper, angular lines.
Audi employs LED lights inside and out, including the bright-as-day Matrix LED headlights. The backside features sleek, LED tail lights and finishes with a hidden spoiler. The spoiler automatically pops up when you hit 75 mph for aerodynamics, but my test car didn't have the flux capacitor option for when you hit 88 mph.
I dig the look of the TT. The styling reminds me of a sinister Volkswagen Beetle – like its evil, but much more fun, twin.
Reach for the door handle with the keyfob in your pocket, and the doors automatically unlock. A capacitive touch button lets you lock the car. While capacitive touch buttons look nicer on a car, I prefer physical buttons, but maybe I'm just old school and like my buttons to click when pressed.
Step inside, and you'll find a modern, driver-focused interior that ignores the existence of the passenger seat. The center vents and controls are skewed towards the driver's seat. Every surface is soft touch or wrapped in leather, and every switch and button has a solid click or turn – no costs were spared.
Every vent in the TT resembles a jet engine turbine, finished with a display, button and dial. The vent displays have differing functions: the center displays are for climate control, while the outer ones control the seat heaters. A twist of the inner vent dials control the fans, climate temperature, cooling and heating modes as well as the three levels of seat heat.
The TT offers an S Sport seat package with diamond-stitched Nappa leather, which looks fantastic. Sitting in it is a pleasure as well, with aggressive bolsters that keep me in place during aggressive driving. The lumbar support helps relieve my lower back pains, too. I spent many hours driving the TT around and found the seats extremely comfortable.
Frankly, I wish I could turn the seat into a desk chair.
Grab the steering wheel, and you're presented with a flat-bottom sport wheel with thumb grips that are comfortable to grab for aggressive driving. The wheel features a ton of buttons to control the Audi "virtual cockpit," which also serves as the infotainment system.
The Audi MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system in the TT is simply amazing. There's just one 12.3-inch LCD in the entire car that serves double duty as the gauge cluster and infotainment display. A single LCD lets Audi create a lower-flowing dashboard, making it easier to see out of the car – not to mention it prevents the passenger from changing the music.
My wife didn't appreciate my choice of blasting Adele's "Hello", but there wasn't a thing she could do about it. All she could do was sit back and enjoy my poor sing-a-long and plot her revenge for when we got home.
Audi dubs the single-LCD approach its "virtual cockpit," and it's the best replacement for analog gauges that I've used. It even beats out the excellent LCD display that Lexus employs in the IS350 F-Sport, which was my previous favorite for form and function.
The LCD features two animated gauges that resemble an analog tachometer and speedometer. You can have the gauges occupy the outer parts of the screen with infotainment functions sandwiched between, or have the gauges occupy a lower part of the screen and let the infotainment functions take over most of it.
I prefer the techier approach, and dedicate most of the LCD display for infotainment functions, because the navigation maps are gorgeous. Audi uses Google Earth's map overlays on top of the regular maps for gorgeous topography, a compelling reason to use the infotainment system over just relying on your phone.
The downside is that the Google Earth map overlay requires a data connection, which needs a subscription after the initial 3-month trial. Audi relies on AT&T's LTE network for connectivity in the US, which was reliable during my week of testing. If you're already an AT&T customer, you can add the Audi to your family share plan for $10 a month.
The Audi MMI Navigation Plus system isn't just a beautiful facade. It's easy to use once you get the hang of it. There are two methods of control: steering wheel buttons and a control knob with finger writing recognition.
Audi's control knob provides direct access to the navigation, phone, radio and media functions, with toggle switches placed below the shifter, while the round surface recognizes drawn gestures for text input. Otherwise, the other functions, like menu, back and the dial, are also available on the steering wheel.
During my time with the TT, it took 20 minutes of sitting down and playing with the infotainment system to get the gist of it. After I figured out how the menus were laid out, it was a breeze to live with. I wouldn't recommend the infotainment system for your grandmother, but, if you're a tech geek, it's phenomenal for daily use.
Audio-wise, the system has a single USB port, SiriusXM and HD Radio support. Audi ditched the CD player, which wasn't missed at all. I spent most of my music listening time with my iPhone 6S connected, with an Apple Music subscription.
The infotainment system displays cover art, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but it's way more visually pleasing than plain text. Audi still needs to work on the radio functions, however. It requires too many button presses to get your presets going, because you have to navigate sub-menus just to set one station.
It makes me miss the regular radios, which you could hold down the preset number for a few seconds to assign a preset. Positively, Audi lets you mix SiriusXM and HD Radio presets, so you don't have to manually change the radio source.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not supported, the missing ingredient that would've made the TT infotainment system perfect. Audi supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the 2016 A4 and Q7, but those cars have separate infotainment displays, in addition to the virtual cockpit.
After a week with the TT, the infotainment system continues to amaze me. Every time I hop in the car, I can't help but be amazed at how sharp everything looks. The animations and transitions are buttery-smooth, exactly what I expect from a luxury marque.
One feature I can't seem to grasp is Audi Connect, which provides weather, gas prices, travel information and news via the LCD gauge cluster. Maybe I'm just old school, but the ambient temperature read out and my eyes are enough confirmation for weather. Plus, I always pull into the most convenient gas station on my drives and have no troubles seeing the prices on their large signs.
I'm not even sure why you'd need to see your travel information or want to read the news on the infotainment display. The in-car display is the last place I'd want to read news, since it's a lot slower than simply whipping out my phone and reading Google News.
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