2017 Audi TTS Review – Still More Style Than Substance, But What Style

2017 Audi TTS profile - Image: © Timothy Cain

As an automobile journalist, I’m supposed to qualify certain statements.

This car is gorgeous, I might say, but only with an asterisk that denotes beauty being in the eye of the beholder. This car is gorgeous, I might say, but not as gorgeous as its predecessors, and then I’d draw your attention to the fine print where I describe my lack of a fine arts degree.

Whatever.

The 2017 Audi TTS is gorgeous. Even more stunning than the exterior is the interior.

Yet just because the third-generation TT continues to major in the arts doesn’t mean Audi completely forgot to educate the TT in the modern STEM curriculum.

The Audi TT has always been focused more on style than substance. But the 2017 TTS is more than just a pretty face.

2017 Audi TTS grey - Image: © Timothy CainPRETTY FAST
Fitted with the 2.0-liter turbo from the Audi S3 and Volkswagen Golf R, the TTS serves up 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. That’s 72 more horses and 22 more lb-ft of twist than the basic TT’s 2.0T, but 108 fewer horses and 74 fewer lb-ft of torque than the 2.5-liter turbo inline-five of the 2018 TT RS.

292 horsepower sounds like plenty of power for a 3,220-pound sports car — and it is — but you’ll be forced to truly ask the Audi to deliver it if you want to feel like the TTS possesses something other than a Golf 1.8T’s powertrain.

The TTS’s throttle needs a proper prod, and the Audi Drive Select’s Comfort and Auto modes mask some of the 2.0T’s otherwise abundant resources. Nought to sixty requires significantly less than five seconds (the TT RS will do the deed in under four) but the TTS doesn’t feel nearly that urgent in routine driving.

It’s as though the fries are ready, but the counter staff at your local McDonald’s needs to be reminded if you’re to be served promptly.

Further emphasizing the speed is the TTS’s six-speed dual-clutch, the only transmission available, that in Dynamic mode shifts with enough ferocity and incites enough brap to engage even jaded auto writers. Find a twisty road where speeds fluctuate between 45 and 75 miles per hour and the 2.0T/six-speed DSG combo comes into its own, punching out of corners like it’s grown a pair of extra cylinders. A manual would be great, sure, but the TTS is a ruthless way to make forward progress.2017 Audi TTS grey front - Image: © Timothy CainPRETTY NIMBLE
You’ll be punching the 2017 TTS out of those corners earlier than you expected, too, especially if you’re accustomed to cars that don’t send high levels of bhp to four driven wheels. The TTS is hip-deep in grip. 255/30ZR20 Pirelli P Zeros stick like honey to a toddler’s fingertips.

Again, the TTS’s Audi Drive Select Dynamic enhances this sensation. Instant steering response and an ultra-stiff suspension work with those wide, flat tires to create an extremely tossable car. Smack it around from corner to corner like it’s a ping pong ball being hammered from racket to racket and the TTS just keeps asking for more.

Do not ever let this rally end.

This is where the problems begin, however, because the TTS’s ability to accept whatever the road throws its way doesn’t extend to the quality of pavement. There is no such thing as a smooth road with the 2017 TTS, not on these 20-inch wheels, not even in Comfort mode.2017 Audi TTS gauge cluster - Image: © Timothy CainDespite my slim frame, I’m squeezed between kidney-embracing side bolsters. I’m attempting to see out of a car with less glass than the outside of a Kingdom Hall. As if I’m in Stig Blomqvist’s WRC Audi Quattro, the undercarriage amplifies the sound of every fleck of gravel the sticky tires pick up. The tires themselves drone and hum and chatter on and on like a CNN political panel. Why do all four tires — and all nine panelists — have to talk at the same time?

But above all, the TTS’s suspension is so stiff that smooth pavement no longer exists.

I drove the TTS down a fresh patch of pavement around the corner from my house on multiple occasions. Even there, the TTS just cannot settle down.

This much stiffness could be acceptable. Maybe. Perhaps. But pair the TTS’s poor ride quality with the excessive noise — in a high-priced Audi — and my desire for a more sedate S5 begins to grow. The 2017 Audi TTS is not too rough that fun can’t be had, but it’s rough enough to severely limit the car’s appeal as a daily driver.2017 Audi TTS grey rear - Image: © Timothy CainPRETTY SIBLINGS
The answer here is not to replace the TTS you so desire with one of its platform partners, the Audi A3 or Volkswagen Golf R. The prototypical prospective TTS buyer isn’t interested in a small premium sedan or a mainstream-brand hatchback.

But the dynamic behavior of those cars, particularly the Golf R with a manual transmission, would be more than welcome in the TTS. The Golf R possesses almost all of the TTS’s outstanding dynamics, but it does so in concert with a more sedate, refined, and luxurious ambience when you’re not caning it.

Making matters worse, the TTS’s stiffness masks much of the Volkswagen Group MQB platform’s ability to communicate. The TTS is, for a car that becomes rather raw in Dynamic mode, also somewhat inert.

Although the Audi TTS never stops communicating, it’s always the same message: I can go faster. Filtered out is almost every other communiqué.2017 Audi TTS interior - Image: © Timothy CainPRETTY EXPENSIVE
The price for performance isn’t cheap. While a regular 2017 Audi TT starts at $44,450, the move up to TTS requires an extra $9,000.

Add premium paint, Audi Lane Assist, big wheels, red brake calipers, and a suite of tech and safety gear and this Audi Canada-supplied tester’s U.S.-market price jumps to $58,375.

That’s not cheap. In fact, it’s $2,025 more than the least expensive Porsche 718 Cayman money can buy. (Not that such a $56,350 Cayman exists in the real world.)

PRETTIEST ON THE INSIDE
It’s difficult to consider any other relevant factor once you’ve taken your seat in the 2017 Audi TTS’s driver’s perch.

Audi somehow managed to infuse a minimalist design with an array of eye-catching detail. Removing the central screen so pervasive in the luxury market — MMI is controlled through a large screen in the gauge cluster — reduces visual clutter.

The climate controls are gone, too, or rather, they’ve been replaced by smaller controls in the middle of each vent. It’s so sensible you wonder why it’s not standard practice.

Material quality, from the floor mats to the steering wheel to the dash top, embarrasses a whole host of high-end machines.

True, the TT’s interior isn’t an ergonomic masterpiece: the centre armrest is too low; the volume control knob is a distant reach beyond the shifter. The rudimentary rear seat only works for humans with no legs. Or dogs, I suppose. The cargo area’s opening is vast; the cargo area itself is not. But none of that matters: this is an interior for the ages.

This 2017 Audi TTS costs $58,375, but the cabin feels as though the TTS could be priced at $98,375, even if the exterior is beginning to grow stale, even if the hilariously quick powertrain doesn’t always feel quick, even if the aggressive handling is married to punishing ride quality.

[Images: ©2017 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.