Take the bones of a Volkswagen GTI, give it AWD, and drape a seductive coupe body over the whole setup. This is the basic formula Audi used to create the all-new 2016 Audi TT. It makes use of the same new MQB architecture as the new Golf and Audi A3, but by simple virtue of the TT’s design, it is faster, more aggressive and much more interesting than either of those more practical machines. The TT is a tool for stirring emotions, drawing eyes, raising heart rates.

Under the hood sits a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 220 horsepower, but more importantly it produces 258 lb-ft of torque. This new motor effectively couples the wonderful, meaty torque of a diesel engine to the high-revving powerband of a turbo gas motor, and the result is a perfect combination of speed and smiles. Like all sporting Audis, the TT uses Quattro AWD, and this particular model comes with the six-speed S Tronic dual clutch automatic.

The short wheelbase and low slung nature of the TT means that despite its nose-heavy design, the car rotates quickly and precisely in the corners. The fact that the whole machines weighs under 3,200 pounds helps with that feeling of agility. For comparison, that is about 100 pounds lighter than a Chevrolet Corvette.

The TT is a surprisingly neutrally balanced car despite its platform setup. Between the AWD system, and the lower center of balance, the little coupe feels lithe and willing. Turn-in crisp and immediate with very little body roll, and the car feels planted even as you push hard. Over mid-corner bumps the car can feel slightly unsettled, but it was never a serious issue. Just enough to remind you that you are in a sports car. With the thick powerband, swift-shifting dual-clutch, and the extra grip of AWD, the TT has that perfect canyon-carver feel with just a touch of muscle car.

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From a design perspective, the TT is truly above anything in its class. The new wide, flat grille, sharper creases in the body lines, and the angry LED lines in the headlamps make the entire car look like a smaller R8. A comparison that quite a large number of people made during my week with the machine. Something tells me that having people confuse your affordable sports car for a six-figure supercar could be seen as a pretty big plus.

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The biggest story of the TT, and my favorite part of the car, has nothing to do with the exterior design or the powertrain. It all comes down to the interior. The TT is one of the first major production cars form Audi to make use of the new “virtual cockpit” interior design. In short, Audi has removed almost the entire center stack, and completely re-imagined the standard ideas and concepts that we accept to be common with an interior. There is no main center display, no dash mounted radio controls, even the climate control switches are gone. Instead the TT has a huge open cabin with sharp lines, minimal design, and very little else.

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Every piece of information that needs to hit a display happens in the driver’s console. A huge multi-function LCD screen moves and morphs as necessary to display information about infotainment, navigation and the various gauges of the car. As for the controls for things like climate control, that has been moved to the vents. Each round pod vent has a small dial and screen in the center of it. The far outside vents hold the switches for the heated seats. The inner vents hold the controls for temp, fan speed, etc.

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If this entire setup sounds foreign, alien and utterly confusing… it is. In fact, it took me a full three days to even find all the major functions and switches I would use on a normal basis. But once you figure out where everything is, and you start interacting with this new interior on a daily basis, it makes so much sense that it’s hard to image why we haven’t been doing this for decades already. The look is clean, handsome, elegant, and striking. It feels like the future in all the right ways, and it makes the cabin feel more open, larger than it really is, and that lends a sense of freedom to the experience. It also feels intelligent in a way that I haven’t experience before. In a world where our cars are coming with more features, more technology, and more switches to control it all, the virtual cockpit concept feels like the fresh start that our industry needs.

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On top of the forward-thinking design, the interior is just plain beautiful and luxurious like all Audis. The quilted leather seats, the tight fitment of the various panels, the soft-touch materials covering everything, and the nice use of metal trim all add that dash of class and finesse that is expected of a German luxury brand. In short, the TT is the best interior of any car I have ever experienced. It’s not as high-class and luxurious as the thick slabs of wood or baby-soft leather in something like a Range Rover or a Rolls-Royce, but as a total package, I have never encountered a cabin I have loved more.

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On a more practical note, the back seats of the TT are utterly pointless, and even a friend of mine, who stands under five-feet in height couldn’t stand them for more than hour. Trunk space is substantial for a car this size simple by virtue of the hatch, but you have to remove the plastic privacy covers from the rear glass to make any real use of the area. With an EPA rating of 23 city, 30 highway and 26 combines, the fuel economy is just par for the segment, and the as-tested sticker price of $50,600 is not substantially higher or lower than much of its competition like the Mercedes C250 Coupe or Cadillac ATS Coupe.
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From a purely statistical point of view, the Audi TT is fine car that is competitive with its competition in almost every measureable way without excelling in any single area. On paper there is no reason why you should choose it over anything else aside from personal preferences on brand and aesthetics. But like so many things in the automotive world, it’s all the little details and sensations that make the difference.

The thick torque provided by that motor, the industry-leading interior design, the luxury touch of the diamond-stitched seats, and the extra practicality that comes from the hatchback all add together to push the TT higher than its peers. I love the ATS Coupe 2.0T, and I think the C-Class Coupe is one of the best looking cars on the road today, but after my week with the Audi TT, after a week experiencing the future of car cockpits, I wouldn’t have either of them. This is what progress looks like, and that alone makes this machine worth your money.

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