First drive: 2015 Audi TT Quattro and Audi S3 Sedan in the UAE
What makes a sports car? Should it have two seats or are five acceptable? Should it have two doors or is four okay? Should it only be rear-wheel-drive or will all-wheel-drive do? While Audi is generally seen as a maker of cookie-cutter sedans, they’ve been breaking conventions for a while now with a few of their niche models, such as the Audi TT Quattro and the Audi S3 Sedan. We drove both of them at the GCC launch event in the UAE.
The 2015 Audi TT Quattro doesn’t look a whole lot different than the previous two generations, but it is actually all-new, right down to the platform. The version we drove was the 230 hp 2.0-litre turbo one, badged as “2.0 TFSI 45.” It turns out “45” stands for how well it accelerates relative to other models in Audi’s line-up, so a slower model would have “35” and a faster model would have “60.” This numbering system was cooked up only for Asian and Middle East markets.
The TT is still a good-looking car on the outside, if a little too familiar. The interior is nicely done, and we’re glad Audi didn’t skimp on the trim materials. There’s very spacious seating for two, and two more vestigial seats behind. And we liked the trick new design ideas such as putting the a/c controls and digital readouts in the middle of the three circular a/c vents on the centre console! Even the gauge cluster is now a huge LCD display that’s not as laggy as on some other luxury brands’ cars.
The engine is superb, with lots of kick at low revs and a good top-end that allowed us to hit 190 kph on the main straight at the Dubai Autodrome. There’s an annoying delay on initial throttle tip-in and the manual mode doesn’t hold gears at redline, but otherwise the DSG automatic is very responsive, with instantaneous shifts in sport mode using the paddles.
Out on the track chasing an Audi R8 pace car, the TT offers clean take-offs and corner-carving prowess thanks to its all-wheel-drive setup, although with ESP on, it’s pretty easy to reach its limits and delve into mild understeer. Body roll is unnoticeable, while the steering is sharp and well-weighted with a hint of feedback. The brakes are great, if a little light in pedal firmness.
On the highway, the ride is somewhat firm and there’s a fair amount of road noise, all the traits of a typical sports car. But reach some corners and you start remembering why you bought this car in the first place. It feels a lot like driving a VW Golf R, only with a bit more chuckability thanks to its smaller size.
Moving on to the 2015 Audi S3 Quattro Sedan, this is a car that generated far more interest from the young ‘uns at the event. It looks a bit stubby and understated, and is very similar to a regular A3 sedan with an S-Line body kit, unless you’re a fanboy who’s proficient in Audi “S” design cues. But it seems to hit the right notes with its target market.
Powered by a 286 hp 2.0-litre turbo, slightly detuned for the GCC, the S3 doesn’t feel a whole lot quicker than the TT on account of its slightly higher weight, but it is mighty quick for a little sedan. In fact, it could eke out an extra 20 kph on top of the TT’s speed at the end of the Autodrome’s main straight. Under hard braking though, the S3 feels the slightest bit squirelly, but never in danger of anything more given the computer-controlled all-wheel-drive and a whole host of other nannies.
On the sharper curves, it’s easier to reach the S3’s understeering limits than it is with the smaller TT, but the amount of available grip on the longer corners is fairly impressive. The sharp steering offers little feel, but is nicely weighted. Again, it feels a lot like driving a VW Golf R, but with added speed and a nicer interior.
When we hit some open-country back-roads, the S3 proved to be a decent high-speed cruiser, with a firm but bearable ride and mildly noticeable wind noise at legal speeds. We were doing way in excess of that at one point, and the S3’s handling composure was similar to that of a Bentley, even in strong cross-winds on the straight desert road.
Both the TT and the S3 are niche products within Audi’s wider range of vehicles, and appealing in their own separate ways, yet underneath they clearly feel very similar, primarily as ideal cars for drama-free high-speed progress.
For prices and specs, visit the Audi buyer guide.