Diesel just got sexy, with the arrival of the turbocharged Audi TT TDI 2.0 quattro.
And the TT range just became more affordable with a new base model: a turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol variant. The former entry-level 2.0-litre front-wheel drive will now also joined by a quatrro version.
Audi claims the new TDI makes its TT the world’s first series-production diesel sportscar. And it seems like an odd path to take, until you remember the success they’ve had in the Le Mans 24 Hour and the American Le Mans Series with their R10 TDI race car.
So it’s no surprise the oilburner version of their sexy little coupe simply feels right. There’s plenty of torque in the four-cylinder to punt the car off the line, and mid-range bursts for overtaking are an easy ask. The only thing missing is the howl. And while music might change over the years, you have to wonder if even the best turbodiesel will ever offer the eargasm of myriad petrol cylinders.
But the short-throw six-speed manual is slick and quick, and – combined with the prodigious grip of the quattro all-wheel drive and the great balance afforded by the weight distribution – you can just settle into the seat and dig in for some fun.
The quattro drive is probably behind the hint of resistance to the steering turn-in, but it’s a tiny price to pay.
And that’s a problem that disappears in the front-wheel drive of the new 1.8-litre base variant, which also gets a big helping hand from its turbocharger to add some spirit to what is quite a small engine on paper.
It has more than adequate spring for most tasks, although it becomes a tad breathless when you plant the foot for an urgent manoeuvre.
But it will appeal to those looking for a more affordable access to the TT’s stunning design and road presence.
The common-rail engine in the TT TDI develops 125kW of power at 4200rpm and 350Nm of torque at 1750-2500rpm, which gets it to 100km/h in 7.5 secs and to a top speed of 226km/h. However it uses just 5.3L/100km – making it the most frugal engine in the Audi range apart from the 1.9TDIe.
A variable vane turbocharger, electriconically controlled, adjusts exhaust gas flow for fast spooling and torque build-up, while swirl flaps control tumble effect. It has a high level of exhaust gas recirculation, and lower combustion temperature, both of which join with the diesel particulate filter in taming emissions to 139g/km.
A short-throw six-speed manual transmission drives all four corners through Audi’s signature quattro drive, with its hydraulic multi-plate clutch rear-mounted for better weight distribution. Sadly, there’s no DSG version, as – while Audi admits they have other 2.0-litre turbodiesels with the twin-clutch gearbox – they believe the manual six is the ‘best combination for that sports car 2 TDI’.
The 1.8-litre TFSI engine – borrowed from the A3 and A4 – is a 118kW/250Nm compact and light unit that (also mated to a six-speed manual transmission) has a 0-100km/h time of 7.2 seconds, and logs an official fuel figure of 6.7l/100km with emissions of 158gm/km.
The official fuel figures of both newcomers should appeal to those wanting to escape the Luxury Car Tax. And although we didn’t quite match Audi’s economy, we came close, posting 6.9 in the TDI and 7.2 in the 1.8 TFSI – the latter after some high-rev running that upset the previous tester’s result of 6.8.
The 2.0-litre TFSI quattro (not tested) will develop 147kW and 280Nm mated to a S-tronic sequential automatic transmission, manage 0-100km/h in 6.2 seconds and hit its peak at 238km/h.
Across the TT range, the body uses space frame technology, with the body shell 69 per cent aluminium and 31 per cent steel – with the steel section all at the rear to aid the weight distribution – resulting in a light weight (1370kg for the TDI and 1240kg for the 1.8 TFSI) and high rigidity that enhances the handling efforts of the firm suspension.
The interior is snug, and can feel visually a bit claustrophobic, but is not physically cramped unless you’re sentenced to the luggage shelf that passes for a rear pew. The low-slung front seats and flat-bottomed wheel make the most of desirable driving position ergonomics, and the manual gearshift is perfectly positioned to fall into your hand.
Safety features include stability and tractions controls, assist and force-distribution for the anti-skid brakes, four airbags and a backguard system for extra protection in a rear-ender.
Both cars are well kitted-out, although the more expensive TDI gets more fruit – with 17” alloys wheels, Bluetooth, electrically retractable rear spoiler, six-CD changer and all the usual goodies. But there is a long range of options to trick up the car – and the price – including magnetic ride suspension at $3178, rear parking system for $900, electronic front seats for $2224 and a nav/inof/entertainment system for $4450.
Pricing and sales
The TT 2.0-litre TDI quattro costs $70,900, while the 1.8-litre TFSI is $64,900. Both prices include GST and exclude dealer and statutory charges, but low official fuel consumption figures puts both vehicles outside the clutches of the Luxury Car Tax, which kicks in at 7l/100km. Audi pointed out at the Australian launch that this gives them 21 models fuel-efficient enough to slip under the LCT bar, while BMW has only nine and Mercedes-Benz has eight. The third newcomer, the 2.0 TFSI quattro, comes in at $76,900 – which includes GST and LCT, but not the other statutory and dealer charges.
Audi is aiming for sales of 500 TT Coupes this year, with about 60 Roadsters on top of that, which would bring them about level with last year’s sales. And they’re tracking well so far, with 387 sold.
They expect the TDI to account for 15 per cent of sales, with the 2.0 TFSI taking point at 50 per cent, the TTS at 20 per cent, and the new entry level 1.8 TFSI at 15 per cent.
But with the TDI they are looking for a different buyer, marketing head Immo Buschmann says.
“This is for the person who is looking for emotion of a sportscar but also does a lot of driving and so is looking at fuel cost and environment,” he says.
“They will be confident enough to drive a diesel sportscar, technologically-oriented so they understand the tech, and – dare I say — more intelligent.”
But Audi is also embarking on an education process to ‘continue to communicate about progressive performance and diesel’, with a targeted approach to current TT owners or those in other segments with TDI engine.
And there are plenty of those, with TDI taking up a fair share in models across the Audi stable. Diesel accounts for 97 per cent of the A8, 93 per cent of the Q7, 53 per cent of the Q5 and 41 per cent of both the A5 and A6.
Audi TT 2.0 TDI
Engine: 125kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel
Performance: 0-100km/h 7.5 secs, top speed 226km/h
Economy: 5.3l/100km (official) 6.9 on test
Transmission: six-speed manual
Audi TT 1.8 TFSI
Engine: 118kW/250Nm 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol
Performance: 0-100km/h 7.2 secs, top speed 226km/h
Economy: 6.7l/100km (official) 7.2 on test
Transmission: six-speed manual