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

Cons: Rivals still offer better performance at better prices.

What's New: The 2013 TTS features the optional S line competition package, some new wheel styles and a 2-tone leather interior.

Introduction

In our review of the regular TT, we suggested that Audi's cutest 2-door is primarily about outer beauty. So where does that leave the 2013 Audi TTS? The new model is basically a regular TT with 54 more horsepower, a slightly sportier suspension and a heftier price tag. Are these improvements just window-dressing, or do they justify the added cost?

Here's the good news: The TTS is undoubtedly faster in a straight line than the regular TT. Thanks to those additional horses, the TTS really leaps forward when you squeeze the throttle. The TTS also has a ride height that's lower by 10 mm, which sharpens the car's athleticism. The TTS offers some unique exterior styling that signals its special S-ness to observant passersby.

But, on the other hand, the regular TT delivers most of the TTS's pleasures for considerably less cash. You can even add an S line package to the regular TT if you want a little extra cachet. We think the TTS's platform-mate, the Volkswagen Golf R, is a better all-around car. It's certainly a better value.

Nonetheless, if you love the TT and want more, the 2013 TTS will surely have you eagerly anticipating each drive. The TTS might be uncomfortably similar to the regular TT, but roads could always use more cars with style and performance to spare.

Comfort & Utility

The 2013 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; Napa leather upholstery; power front seats with adjustable lumbar; a 3-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 with parking sensors; interior LED accents; heated front seats; Nappa leather upholstery; a 255-watt Bose audio system and Audi's Multi-Media Interface with a 6.5-in 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. Special leather upholstery in either two-tone or baseball-glove style is optional. Only MMI-equipped models are eligible for iPod integration. The S line competition package adds matte-black 19-in alloy wheels, black exterior trim, a rear spoiler and sporty interior styling cues.

In our interior evaluation, we found state-of-the-art materials and design, as well as an intimate, cockpit-like driving position that's enhanced by the central control panel being slanted toward the driver. 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. The ergonomics are unusually good for an Audi. The climate controls forgo Audi's typical 2-knob digital setup in favor of a simpler 3-knob setup that actually lets you adjust the fan speed without going through an extra step or two. But the TT's outdated MMI system 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-cu-ft maximum cargo capacity (compared to 13.1 cu-ft behind the rear seats). The Roadster has only two seats and a cargo capacity of 8.8 cu-ft.

As for the Roadster's soft-top, it raises and lowers quickly, and Audi says the top can be operated at speeds up to 31 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 and 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. It has 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 the center consol. 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 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, as is a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

The 2.0T turbo four is basically the same engine that's in the regular model. It makes the same amount of torque, and the horsepower gains have more to do with software programming than anything else. Nonetheless, let's give credit where credit's due: The TTS is a 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 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), TTS drivers can expect the same fuel economy as regular TT drivers: 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, which is one mile per gallon less in the city than last year.

Safety

The TTS comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock 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 United States.

Driving Impressions

The TTS's standard lowered suspension by 10 mm is something you can't specify on the regular TT, and it gives the TTS an edge in handling. 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, the 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, too: The Mustang coupe and convertible have strong styling credentials of their own, and 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. To hold the price down, we'd take the Premium Plus coupe and add MMI Plus 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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