Audi makes great cars. The engineering is amazing and they are always a blast to drive. I should disclose that I’m a huge fan of Audi. I put over 100,000 miles on an Audi A6 twin turbo commuting from McLean, VA to Baltimore, MD. I was really excited when I discovered that I’d be spending the week in the 2016 Audi TTS Coupe. Excited partially because I would be in yet another Audi. But mostly because I would get to experience Audi’s new and revolutionary virtual cockpit.
Audi’s virtual cockpit, as they call it, was introduced in the Audi TT and Audi TTS in 2016. Audi is expanding its offering in 2017 to include the Audi Q7, Audi A4 and the Audi R8. So what is a virtual cockpit? Perhaps one of the coolest changes to the dashboard since the first touchscreen was introduced more then 30 years ago (in the 1986 Buick Riviera, believe it or not). Audi’s virtual cockpit is a customizable, fully digital, high-resolution instrument cluster located in front of the steering wheel where the old circular instrument dials used to be. Gone are the old mechanical dials. Gone is the centrally located touchscreen.
Audi uses a 12.3-inch TFT display that allows for a totally customizable dash panel. There are two primary views that the virtual cockpit allows. In classic view mode, the speedometer and rev counter are the standard size with a smaller screen in between (reminiscent of most cars these days). Infotainment mode shrinks both gauges and moves them to the corners thus utilizing the majority of the 12.3-inch screen for nav, phone, media and other important information. With the available wifi, you can link google maps into the nav system and have satellite images of the street you are driving on. Cool! Really, really cool! It takes some getting used to looking straight ahead for nav and media info rather than turning your head to the side to stare at the center of the dash. But after you get used to it, you start to wonder how long it will take before all car manufacturers are doing it.
While the virtual cockpit is probably reason enough to go take a look at the 2016 Audit TTS, the car still has to be driven. So let’s talk about the rest of it. The 2016 Audi TT comes as a coupe and roadster while the more aggressive TTS comes only as a coupe. The TT and TTS come with a four-cylinder turbocharged TFSI engine putting out 220 hp for the TT and tuned to 292 hp for the TTS with 0-60 speeds of 5.3, 5.6, and 4.6 for the TT coupe, roaster and TTS, respectively. The top track speed is 130 mph for the TT and 155 mph for the TTS. Both come only with a six-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission with quatro all-wheel drive. There is no available manually shifted transmission. Let me say that again – no available manually shifted transmission!!! What?!?! Its my biggest disappointment with the Audi TT and TTS. Its blasphemy to a car guy. Its one thing to not have a manual shift available in a coupe. Its understandable, maybe, in this day and age of the clutchless paddle shifter (but it doesn’t make me happy). But to not have one in a roadster? Isn’t that the whole point of a roadster? Working your way through the gears, winding your way down scenic Pacific Coast Highway, top down, wind in your hair, girlfriend or boyfriend at your side? Make a note Audi – some of us still like to manually shift our transmissions.
It’s a small car, make no mistake, and it drives like one. The back seats are seats in name only. Not meant for regular sized human beings. Even my kids complained when I jammed one of them back there – I’m not sure both would have fit. But hey, it’s a sports coupe and really a two-seater at that. Even Audi when referring to the TT and TTS speaks of its “true two-seat sports car performance”. Its meant to be driven and not used for hauling people and their stuff, so I don’t find the tiny backseats an issue. Other manufacturers insist on including useless backseats in their coupes – its just what some of these manufacturers like to do. By adding the back seat, a car manufacturer lets middle-aged, family guys like myself get away with buying these cars. Because with four seats, we can explain to the wife that its really a family car (what else would it be if it has four seats, right?) and not a sports coupe with a 0-60 time around 5.3 seconds, 12-way power racing seats, and low profile, super sticky tires.
While the performance and handling of the TTS are quintessential Audi, it’s the interior that sells this car. The Alcantara Express Red Leather interior grabs the eye immediately, particularly the quilted seat insets and the raised S on the seat backs. The D-shaped, thick steering wheel begs the car to be raced. The dash is about as clean and simple as I have seen in any modern day sports car today. Audi makes this possible through use of its virtual cockpit which allows for the elimination of the centrally located touchscreen. Audi went further by building the climate controls into the front of each vent (two vent controls actually control the seat heaters, which took me a while to find). After moving all of these item around, only seven buttons remain on the entire dash. Very clean. Very neat.
Notwithstanding the lack of an available manual transmission, the Audi TTS is still a fun car to drive. With enough horsepower to be quick and fun, but not too much that it is overpowered. For me, I would boost the horsepower by about 50 and it would be a dynamite driver. I think for most drivers, the car will be quick enough. If you are a horsepower junkie, this isn’t the car for you. But if you are looking for a sports car that is fun to drive (sans manual transmission), the Audi TTS coupe, with its tight steering, good handling and reasonable 0-60 times, fits the bill.