THE PROS & CONS
- Selling Points: drop-dead gorgeous styling, seamless power, crisp interior
- Deal Breakers: non-existent rear seat, eye-watering option prices
- The Bottom Line: a pricey but bleedingly fun toy
This world is full of surprises. The McGregor/Mayweather fight, for example, or Jay-Z turning down the offer to perform at this year’s Super Bowl.
The north shore of Nova Scotia is another surprise. In the rural Maritime town of Tatamagouche, where one would expect to find fishing gear and the scattered wharf, we instead find a vibrant German community, complete with lederhosen and the largest Oktoberfest east of Kitchener-Waterloo. It is completely surprising, and completely fabulous.
So, too, is the 2017 Audi TTS. Many dark corners of the internet are awash with keyboard warriors hammering out missives from their parent’s basement about how the TTS is nothing more than a Golf R in a fancy dress. They are welcome to their opinion but, as with most of their propaganda, they are completely wrong.
Sure, the TTS shares its powertrain with its fraternal brother (and a couple of other cars in the VW Group stable), cranking out 292 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque from its 2.0L turbocharged inline-four. All-wheel drive (Quattro-branded in the Audi) shuttles power to all four wheels, while a host of electronic safety nannies sort out when and how much of that power to apply in any given circumstance.
The difference in spirit between the takes-itself-way-too-seriously Golf R and the wanna-have-fun TTS is loudly hinted at via the Audi’s chiseled body work, raised an octave via its gorgeous interior, and fully revealed once the driver mashes the console mounted start/stop button.
Its 2.0L turbocharged inline-four (TFSI in Audi parlance) snarls to life, making all sorts of naughty noises not found in nature. Slip the six-speed S tronic transmission into gear and one is rewarded with an amount of forward thrust seemingly unkeeping with the Audi’s let-them-eat-cake interior trappings. Those with professional testing equipment report a dash to 100km/h in under five seconds, on its way to a top speed of nearly 250km/h. That’s not far off the mighty R8 when it was offered with eight cylinders. Upshifting through the gears, its exhaust barks like men in stovepipe hats furiously smelting ore.
Also Read: BMW M2 a delightful drive
Driving out to our German village of Tatamagouche takes drivers over the fabulous Rural Route 326, which sets an opening bid of freshly-paved switchbacks and seals the deal with a fine set of whoop-de-do undulations along a whip straight section of tarmac. With the driving mode firmly set in Dynamic, the TTS chassis proved itself a willing dance partner, with its confidence-inspiring turn in and non-existent body roll. While its most aggressive driving setting does firm up the suspension, it’s worth noting that I did not return the Audi Drive Select setting to Komfort for the remainder of the week, even though the roads around my home resemble those of rural Beirut.
Audi is well known for its seemingly effortless ability to craft a sumptuous interior, and the TTS is no different. Our tester wore quilted bright-red Nappa leather on its S-Sport seats, looking (and smelling) like the inside of an expensive designer purse. The dashboard takes minimalism to the extreme, dispensing with all manner of centrally mounted screens and displays. Ventilation is handled by way of round knobs expertly integrated into the centre of the air vents, with discreet digital displays nestled at their centre to provide temperature and airflow information. It is a slick package, one that should be copied relentlessly and without apology by every other manufacturer on the globe. It’s that good.
Equally surprising is that all information – nav maps, infotainment details, phone calls – is shown in front of the driver using Audi’s ‘Virtual Cockpit’ display. A stunning piece of tech, it is a 12.3-inch LCD screen housing an animated instrument cluster. Drivers can choose a variety of information to display on the high-resolution screen, all of it directly in the driver’s line of sight. Particularly striking is the setting, which fills the screen with a crisp navigation map, relegating the tach and speedometer pair to the screen’s lower corners. Not once did I pine for traditional gauges.
The TTS is billed as a four-seat conveyance but the mere suggestion of a back seat is laughable. In most instances, the seatbacks for the front chairs are tight up against the leading edge of the rear seat cushion, meaning there is no legroom for aft passengers. That is not an exaggeration: I mean none. As in zero. Zip. Null. Best to treat it as a lavishly upholstered parcel shelf.
Our tester rang the bell at $71,535 and came equipped with $6640 worth of options. This figure includes a $1400 ‘Driver Comfort’ package, which includes parking aids and Audi’s Advanced Key system. This author thinks that driver comfort in any machine costing north of $70,000 ought to be, y’know, an unavoidable part of the deal.
Further padding the TTS base price of $62,700 were fripperies like pneumatic seat bolsters and red brake calipers. Leave them on the factory floor. The only option I recommend is the navigation package, which includes the stunning nav map in the Virtual Cockpit and dents your wallet for $2200. Spending extra for metallic paint is also unnecessary; three solid finishes which are offered gratis do a fine job of complimenting the TTS and its jaw-dropping bodywork.
Yes, the TTS has its impractical moments. The USB port is hard to reach and all but invisible to the naked eye. Its cupholders accept only a thimble full of water. Your friends will have to cut off their legs if they wish to ride in the back seat. The Golf R is indeed the more sensible choice. However, the Golf R is simply a car. The Audi TTS is an entertaining car and a fashion statement. Surprised? Me, too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to learn the words to Ein Prosit in preparation for the greatest party in Atlantic Canada. Sometimes, like with the Audi TTS, the Germans are full of surprises.