Hostilities can resume. The arrival of the new Audi TT S on British roads calls for the continuation of a contest that will interest a great many sports car fans and that began in Autocar last autumn.
So now that what ought to be the definitive version of the TT is filtering into UK showrooms, who makes the best £40k German sports coupé?
Act one of this story concluded quite memorably back in November. The lesser 227bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre TT ran a BMW M235i close enough to suggest that when Ingolstadt’s bigger-hitting compact coupé pitched up – complete with the engine and driveline from a Volkswagen Golf R, no less – Munich’s muscle-bound 2 Series could be in real trouble.
We liked the TT S very much on first Continental acquaintance with it even earlier last year, when it showed the kind of alacrity and balance in its handling that very few of Audi’s fashionista coupés have ever possessed. But back then, expectations of the Audi as a driver’s car were understandably low. A full road test of the Read the full TT has since confirmed that this is indeed a more engaging and dynamically well- rounded machine than either of its predecessors.
Audi TT S review
Time to ask the ultimate question, then. Today, there will be no adjournments and no excuses – and there is not only a BMW to beat but also our long-time standard-bearing coupé for driver appeal: the Porsche Cayman. Knowing the previous TT, you may think that trumping both is an unrealistic challenge to set the Audi – and that may yet prove to be true for the new version. But it certainly shouldn’t be.
Less than £4000 separates these three cars on list price. Moreover, with our residual value experts suggesting that the market will bring the cars even closer together for those buying on contract, they can be considered to be well and truly on the same shopping list. For now, the TT S trumps even the Cayman on forecast retained value over a typical ownership period.
The Audi’s shrink-wrapped, compact looks and ground-hugging stance contrast as starkly with the BMW’s more old-school three-box shape as they do with any other car on the road. There seems little point debating which is the better- looking car of the two, since they’re so different. Traditionalists and modernists will inevitably be drawn to either side of the argument. Handily, the elegant Cayman makes the comparison redundant anyway, because it’s the best-looking and most desirable car of our three by a distance. Natch, Porsche.
But on usability and cabin quality, the TT claws back its early advantage. As we’ve written before, the Audi’s interior has a brilliantly judged and executed mix of material richness and technological sophistication. It’s architecturally and ergonomically daring but comfortable with it and, but for a few places, easy to use. It looks and feels not just more expensive than the M235i but also infinitely more special, the BMW showing its junior executive car roots through its broadly pleasant and solid but straight-jacketed fittings.