Ah the 90's. The era of multiculturalism - a confused and charming time, when women sported bell bottom jeans from the 70's and men couldn't decide if they were siding with 2Pac or Biggie. Men's shirts started to shrink like wet suits and were often found with glow sticks at hand in dark warehouses they liked to call raves.
It was a time when people loved to accessorize themselves. People modified their phones from cases to backlights, to who can forget, operator logos. This fetish even pushed Nokia to release an 8890. A 40,000 peso light alloy phone that didn't do anything particularly special, except that it was the size of your palm. The 90's was all about being trendy. It was all form with not a lot of regard to function, and the same could be said about some cars. Take for instance the Audi TT. When it was launched in the late 90's, everyone I knew was a fan - except myself.
Surely, it couldn't have been designed by those that built the legendary Quattro rally car nor could have been the idea of those behind the RS wagons. It could have only been built by the Spice Girls with an engine developed by S Club 7. And since the 90's is also the decade in which scientists were able to create Dolly The Sheep, the very first cloned mammal in history, Audi decided that it would be cool to clone the front of the TT to its rear. Unsurprisingly, it was a hit. Every single corner of Beverly Hills and San Francisco had one and they blasted to the tune of Alice Deejay's Better Off Alone.
See what I mean? It was the same story when I landed in the United Kingdom, which by the way is where Audi says they sell the most number of TTs. Obviously, it didn't sell as much in the Philippines, because a nation like ours is not a melting pot for coupés and roadsters. We don't have that kind of median income to be driving one of those to work on a daily basis. We suffer from extreme taxation and potholes.
In this country, sports cars are often driven on weekends, particularly on Sundays to have breakfast with like-minded people, who toot each others horns about all things under the sun. This brings me to a question. If you are going to blow some cash on a toy, why on Earth would you buy a stretched Volkswagen Beetle? Surely, there's something better out there, including a real Audi - like an S2 or an S4.
I was so uninterested with the Audi TT made by the Spice Girls in the 90's, that I never bothered to look at its successors. Had I not been told that there was an all-new model, I probably would have never known or cared - but after driving it, I realized what a great catastrophe that would have been.
This new third generation TT is, for the lack of a better word, stunning. It is a beautiful piece of kinetic art that throws in hints of the original TT's stylishness while being more Audi and less Backstreet Boy. It's muscular and handsome, and it oozes with confidence. Of course, styling isn't everything, but believe me, at this kind of price point - it counts for a lot.
It sits on beautiful alloy wheels that scream European performance car more than Beverly Hills hair dresser. It has intricate details littered all over the car, from the iconic aluminium fuel filler cap to the functional but equally pretty electronically activated rear wing. It is the perfect evolution to the TT from a design standpoint.
"The interior of this car is one of the best in the industry at any price range. It really is a very special place to be in."
If you think the exterior is pretty, wait until you open the door of this car. We've known for quite some time now that Audi are masters of interior fetishes, but I wasn't expecting this. The TT is by no means cheap, but it feels several cuts more expensive inside. The moment you sit down, the first thing that draws your attention is the ginormous TFT multi-function display that Audi likes to call a Virtual Cockpit. You can control everything in the car from there. It is quick, responsive, and stunning to look at.
The best bit of that is they've removed the TFT screen that usually sits at the top of the center stack, which more often than not, looks like an afterthought. This design makes way for cleaner and more organic lines in the cabin. Since all cars today have screens in the middle, it's quite refreshing to see one without it. Also, this means that your passenger is really just a passenger, which to every car guy, is priceless.
"My favorite bit is the exhaust. It has a habit of popping and banging at virtually every shift and loss of traction. It's a theatrical superstar."
The controls are ergonomic. It takes some time to familiarize yourself with everything, but after you've gotten enough time in the car, pushing all the buttons start to feel like second nature. The squared-off bottom steering wheel is as tactile to hold as it is beautiful to look at. The leather and Alcantara seats hugged me like it never wanted me to go.
Don't even get me started on those air vents, which have to be best in the business. Also, the interior cabin lights are touch sensitive. I have never turned on cabin lights so intimately. It must be said that as a whole, the interior of this car is one of the best in the industry at any price range. It really is a very special place to be in.
Ready for take-off.
Now you may be thinking, "Well that's all very nice, but how does it drive?". Well, it accelerates a whole lot quicker than you'd expect and the suspension although stiff, never feels like it's going to break your back. It will happily cruise north of 230 km/h all day without breaking a sweat. The TT feels rapid. All this wheel-spinning power is generated by a 2-liter turbocharged four banger that's mated to a dual-clutch 6-speed S-tronic gearbox, which really makes the digital tachometer snap at every shift. This must be the reason why they went for a digital tach, because an analog needle might just snap off completely.
I don't particularly like the tires fitted to this car. They struggle at putting all the power down on first gear despite having a front-mounted engine with a front wheel drive system. A Quattro setup would be better, but based on my experience, most AWD systems tend to extinguish the thrill of acceleration. It must also be said that the brakes are excellent. On the twisties, the TT remained happy and graceful. It seems to be its playground. It grips really well with only the slightest hint of understeer. My favorite bit is the exhaust. It has a habit of popping and banging at virtually every shift and loss of traction. It's a theatrical superstar.
You dare or you don't.
What is the essence of this car? To me, the TT isn't just a car that goes around a track quickly or a machine that devours the road faster than most that you share it with. It is the ultimate escape. Driving this car through the bustling metro and up into the foggy mountains remains to be one of life's greatest concerts. The beauty of it all is ingrained in my memory. It heightens the senses and urges you to appreciate what surrounds you - a contagious aspiration that can only be shared with those who dream.
The sound, the smell, the sensation of acceleration, and the sense of occasion. From a routine of mundane dullness, the Audi TT brings back one's zest for life. It breathes life into its driver, and that's so much more than I can say about any other inanimate object. It is quick, it is comfortable, it is luxurious, and most importantly - it has the power to replenish all the endorphins that the universe drains from you. This is several cuts above what I think the TT should have always been. I am utterly left in awe.
The power of freedom.