It turned heads, drew stares, and elicited more than one comparison to the noted Bauhaus design ethos. It was the original Audi TT, and since joining the brand's lineup in 1999, it has held its own as a unique and attractive personal luxury coupe. For 2018, it still looks like nothing else on the road, and still remains as tasteful and stylish it was twenty years ago.

Best Value

Within the base TT range (the higher-performance TTS and TT RS are covered separately), it's not too hard to parse out the best value, as there are no trim levels or powertrain options to choose from. The biggest choice is whether you want a steel turret ensconcing the cabin or to opt for the convertible and have the sun and sky overhead. Regardless of which body style is chosen, a few option packages are available. We would opt for the S Sport Seat Package (which includes rich-looking diamond-stitched leather seats) and the Technology Package. The latter is a bit pricey at $3,500, but includes a number of worthwhile gizmos, such as a 12-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, an upgraded version of the 12.3-inch digital cluster that includes navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Here's our Audi TT as it would roll off the assembly line:

  • Model: 2018 Audi TT Coupe
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output: 220 horsepower / 258 lb-ft of torque
  • Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel-drive
  • MPG: 23 City / 30 Hwy
  • Options: S Line Sport Seat Package ($1,250; Sport seats, leather interior package, and diamond-stitched upholstery), Technology Package ($3,500, MMI infotainment software with navigation, Audi Virtual Cockpit, Audi Connect with online services, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and 12-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system)
  • Base Price: $44,925 (includes $975 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$49,675

Performance

Audi TT

Is the purposeful-looking TT a true driver's car, one of those Sunday playthings hungry for twisty backroads? Or is it rather a capable touring machine, a Germanic GT more adept at high-speed cruising? Despite what the marketing schtick is or what the styling suggests, with a little poking and prodding the answer becomes pretty apparent.

The first big clue is the 220-hp turbo four-cylinder, which can motivate the 3,150-pound TT from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. That's not slow, but in the crazy world we live in it's barely enough to keep up with a four-cylinder Mustang - not quite the kind of straight-line performance worth salivating over. The six-speed dual-clutch transmission does crack off shifts that are smooth and quick, but only so much lemonade can be made from the 220 lemons under the hood.

In the corners, it's a similar story. With the engine located ahead of the front axle, the car is nose-heavy. Because of this frontward weight bias, aggressively taking corners results in the TT plowing into them rather than neutrally sailing through – understeer, in other words. To help combat this, Audi Drive Select lets the driver select one of three driving modes, with each mode bringing revised handling settings. Comfort mode will maximize comfort at the expense of cornering and steering feel; Dynamic mode does the opposite, stiffening the ride and firming up the steering. Auto mode sits right in the middle, not prioritizing anything.

Dynamic mode helps neuter the TT's propensity to understeer for those pushing the car to the limit, but ultimately the fact remains that the standard TT is much better as a smooth and stylish cruiser than a bona-fide sports car.

Style

Since it debuted, style has been the main calling card of the TT. The current iteration continues that tradition, but pulls off the rare feat of adhering to the philosophy that guided the original without aping exact lines or details. The result is a car that clearly has lineage to the original yet is not retro or outdated.

While the old TT's design theme has been retained, the new one has embellished it with modern and more aggressive detailing. The fender arches sitting abreast rather than flush with the fenders, a large black upright grill that insinuates menace and power, and a more sloping roof rather than the bubble-top worn by the original; all this helps the current TT imply performance with a more assertive tone than it's predecessors.

Inside, the idea of sleek minimalism reigns. There is no traditional infotainment screen in the center stack; instead, all commands are toggled via the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster unit, which is operated by either buttons on the steering wheel or a touchpad mounted on the center console. This interface can be upgraded with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Audi Connect online services as part of the $3,500 Technology Package.

If the impressive graphics of the infotainment system don't catch your eye, the beautiful HVAC vents with miniature screens in their center will. They also are the most aviation-inspired detail of the well-trimmed cockpit-style interior. Though there are two back seats, don't expect to shove full-size adults in there for long trips, as it is simply too small. The front seats, though, are very comfortable, and look exceptionally premium when upholstered in the optional leather hides with quilted stitching. Trunk space is unsurprisingly limited; 12.0 cubic feet in the coupe, and just 7.5 cubes in the roadster.

The Best and Worst Things

The interior is really first rate, constructed of high-quality materials and laid out in a sensible yet aesthetically pleasing way. There's few other cars around $45,000 that feel so premium and bespoke.

Even though this is the entry-level TT, and there's certainly more chutzpah to be found in the TTS and TT RS, the overall performance is lackluster. That the sleek and evocative exterior seems suggest more than the car is actually capable of is disappointing.

Right For? Wrong For?

Audi TT

Small, unique, and efficient, the TT would be a perfect ride for someone who is single and doesn't have a family or lots of cargo to haul around.

If you're often shuttling around more than just one passenger, or are looking for a sports coupe that has genuine sporting pretensions rather than just wisps of performance, there's better choices out there.

The Bottom Line

The 2018 brochure calls the TT a "brilliantly engineered expression of spirit," and that phrase succinctly sums up this Teutonic two-door. While it doesn't have the performance one might expect, the luxurious trappings and stylish sheetmetal will always exude an expression of spirit - which is, after all, the point of a personal luxury coupe. As long as you don't try to race any Mustangs, the TT will be sure to please.