Pros: Distinctive looks, premium interior, standard all-wheel drive, better acceleration than regular TT.

Cons: Rivals still offer better performance at better prices.

Introduction

If you've read our review of the regular TT, you might be expecting more of the same regarding the 2012 Audi TTS. And, well, you'd basically be correct. After all, the TTS uses essentially the same engine as the TT, albeit with the horsepower cranked up from 211 horsepower to 265, and it keeps the base car's six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. The TTS also employs the same Quattro all-wheel-drive system, and even its standard adaptive magnetic dampers can be specified on the base TT as an option.

So, yes, we're inclined to view the TTS as a "style first" kind of car, just like its less-exclusive sibling. But in fairness to Audi, the TTS is undoubtedly quicker in a straight line. Thanks to that 25-percent horsepower gain, the TTS accelerates with real gusto. The TTS also has a ride height that's lower by 10 millimeters, which incrementally boosts the car's handling capability. Moreover, the TTS offers some unique exterior styling cues that signal its special "S"-ness to observant passersby.

Oops-we're already back to talking about appearances. In sum, this car will never be called a performance bargain or even a true performance rival to price peers like the BMW 335i (not to mention the cheaper 135i), Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche Boxster. But it sure looks great, doesn't it? And for those seduced by its style, the TTS will likely provide more than enough speed for whenever the mood strikes.

Comfort & Utility

The 2012 Audi TTS coupe and convertible ("Roadster") are offered in two trim levels: Premium Plus and Prestige.

The Premium Plus comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, an electronically adjustable magnetic-ride suspension, xenon headlamps with LED accents, fog lights, a power-retracting rear spoiler, Nappa leather upholstery, power front seats with adjustable lumbar, a three-knob climate system with automatic temperature control, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel with shift paddles, Bluetooth connectivity and a 140-watt audio system with an SD-card slot, an auxiliary input and satellite radio.

The Prestige steps up to parking sensors, interior LED accents, heated front seats, a 255-watt Bose audio system and Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI) with a 6.5-inch display screen, a dash-mounted control knob, navigation with real-time traffic, a six-CD changer and two SD-card slots.

Some of the Prestige's standard features are available on Premium Plus, including MMI. Optional on both trims is special leather upholstery stitched in a baseball-glove pattern. Only MMI-equipped models are eligible for iPod integration.

The TTS's interior boasts state-of-the-art materials and design, and it serves up an intimate, cockpit-like driving position that's enhanced by the driver-focused angle of the central control panel. The front sport seats, which are essentially carryovers from the regular TT, provide satisfying lateral support in corners. Although the TTS is a tiny car, tall folks fit just fine thanks to the tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel and the standard power height adjustment for the driver's seat.

As in the regular TT, the TTS wheel has a cool race-inspired flat-bottom design, and behind it are a classic analog tachometer and speedometer with numerals rendered in Audi's distinctive font. Ergonomics are unusually good for an Audi. Notably, the climate controls eschew Audi's typical two-knob digital setup in favor of a simpler three-knob setup that actually lets you adjust the fan speed without going through an extra step or two. However, the TT's outdated previous-generation MMI system (see "Technology," below) is not particularly user-friendly.

The TTS coupe's back seat is one of the least useful in the world, on par with the 911's for passenger-carrying futility. We'd probably leave it folded down most of the time to take advantage of the coupe's hatchback convenience and 24.7-cubic-foot maximum cargo capacity (compared to 13.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats). The Roadster has only two seats and a cargo capacity of 8.8 cubic feet.

As for the Roadster's soft-top, it raises and lowers quickly, and Audi says the top can be operated at speeds up to 30 mph. A power-operated wind deflector is standard.

Technology

Relative to other Audis, the TTS is a bit behind the times when it comes to tech. For example, you can't get full iPod integration on the Premium Plus unless you pony up for MMI, which will run you about two grand. Other Audis let you add iPod integration as a separate, far cheaper option. Also, while the TT comes standard with SD-card compatibility, a USB port is absent, so you'll have to adapt if you're used to carrying around a flash drive full of mp3s or connecting your mp3 player via USB.

Additionally, the MMI system offered in the TTS isn't the latest version, so it's got an older, less-intuitive menu structure-and it's DVD-based, so its performance lags behind that of the latest hard-drive-based MMI in other models. Another issue with this version of MMI is that the control knob is located on the dashboard rather than on the center console. The latter is a more convenient spot for the driver, and it's increasingly becoming Audi's default.

But don't get us wrong, the TTS still has a competitive technology roster relative to other cars in its class. It's just not Audi's best effort.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The TTS is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that generates 265 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, as is a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. The turbo four is basically the same engine that's in the regular TT-it makes the same amount of torque, and the horsepower gains have more to do with software programming than anything else. The TTS used to have this version of the "2.0T" all to itself, with the TT sporting something akin to the Volkswagen GTI's more modest 2.0T, which made the TTS's honor easier to defend. Nonetheless, let's give credit where credit's due: the TTS is a pretty quick little car, and the dual-clutch automatic (also available on the regular TT) is always on time with a smooth, precise shift.

According to the EPA, TTS drivers can expect the same fuel economy as regular TT drivers: 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway.

Safety

The 2012 Audi TTS comes with standard stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front side, front knee).

Like the rest of the TT family, the TTS has not been crash-tested in the US.

Driving Impressions

The TTS's standard lowered suspension-by 10 millimeters-is something you can't specify on the regular TT, and it gives the TTS an ever-so-slight handling advantage. Also, the standard magnetic dampers (optional on TT) strike a solid compromise between comfort and body control, and you can choose between "normal" and "sport" modes depending on what kind of driving you're up to. As with the regular TT, grip is tenacious thanks to Quattro all-wheel drive, making the TTS good safe fun on tight roads.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Mustang GT: We said it in the regular TT review, and we'll say it here: the Mustang's got strong styling credentials of its own, both coupe and convertible. Plus, the GT model's delectable 5.0-liter V8 blows the TTS's turbo four into the weeds.

Mini Cooper S Coupe/Roadster: The two-seater "MCS" Coupe and Roadster are already strong rivals to the base TT, and while the TTS's added power gives it an advantage, its higher price doesn't. We'd think long and hard about forking over the extra 20 grand or more for the Audi.

BMW Z4: BMW's hardtop roadster is available for about the same price as the TTS Roadster, and we find the Z4 better to drive and (thanks to the retractable hardtop) safer to park.

Porsche Boxster: The Boxster has a vinyl top like the TTS Roadster, and it's certainly more of a driver's car. The styling race is your call.

AutoTrader Recommends

Styling sells, and the TTS's fastback profile in coupe form is a major selling point in our eyes. To hold the price down, we'd take the Premium Plus coupe and add MMI as an option.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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