Audi has just raised the bar for all-round techno-mastery with the new TT coupe. And we’ve been to Germany to get a hands-on feel for all the new features.
Here’s a quick taste of what we’re talking about. High-res LCD panels, twin quad-core CPUs, 4G data, touch control, natural-language voice recognition, iOS-aping search functionality, intelligent auto-dimming headlights, hybrid aluminium and steel construction, computer-controlled four-wheel drive. And more more, plenty more.
Yup, the new TT goes way beyond the ‘virtual cockpit’ tech that grabbed the headlines when Audi first announced the car, even if that is the show-piece feature. But let’s start there anyway.
All-new Audi MMI
The new TT debuts a totally re-engineered Audi MMI infotainment platform. For the TT it’s driver-centric and involves a 12.3-inch 1,440 by 550 pixel virtual instrument panel and no central MMI display. Other less sporty Audis are expected to get the virtual cockpit plus a central display.
Anyway, for the TT Audi has gone with no less than two Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processors. One powers the virtual cockpit including digital rev counters and speedo, the other powers the infotainment functionality like mapping and media playback.
Output from the two chips comes together on that single 12.3-inch screen directly ahead of the driver and the sheer power means Audi can claim a constant and super-smooth 60 frames per second at all times. Nice.
The result is superb. The graphics are a major improvement on previous MMI iterations. Currently, two modes are available. The first is a classic mode with a big rev counter one side, a speedo on the other. In the middle you get a mini multimedia display – maps, song titles, whatever.
The other option is multimedia mode which sees the dials shrink and the mapping or media info pop out across the whole screen. Suddenly the instruments in just about every other car look seriously old hat.
It gets better. Audi has implemented a new MMI search feature that works just like a high-level search on a smartphone. There’s no need to drill down into multiple menus.
Just start typing an address on the touchpad – a contact, a point of interest, a song title – and MMI will work out what you’re on about. Really clever.
Oh, and this is all backed up by in-built 4G data connectivity, which helps drive things like Google Earth in the nav and real-time traffic data.
Next up, the head lights. OK, you’ve heard of LED headlights, but the TT’s LED Matrix headlights are something really special.
Without any moving parts and thanks to 12 segments in each headlight, they can steer around corners and auto dip to avoid dazzling other drivers and cyclists.
But here’s the really brilliant bit. Thanks to sensors, the system can detect and auto-mask up to eight targets. In other words, the high beams don’t just dip. They stay up but the beam is partially masked just enough to prevent dazzling oncoming cars and cyclists.
And it can mask the beam in up to eight places, all actively controlled. We’ve seen the system demonstrated and it’s something quite special.
Hop in the quattro, love
The final technoflourish that really got our attention is the new computer-controlled quattro four-wheel drive system. Vectoring of torque to all four wheels is now fully computer controlled. If the system chooses, it can turn the TT momentarily into a 100 per cent rear-drive coupe.
In practice, that doesn’t often. However, when set to the sportiest of the three user-configurable modes, Audi says the TT has a rear-drive bias. We did ask if the driver could flick a switch to turn the TT into a rear-drive drift mobile and while that is technically possible, it’s not something Audi plans to offer.
No doubt it clashes with the ‘quattro is best’ marketing message. Pity, but the technology is impressive all the same.
As is the hybrid aluminium and steel construction which makes this latest TT fully 140kg lighter than the 1998 original. That’s pretty astonishing when you observe how much larger, better equipped and more sophisticated the new model is.
Overall then, it’s very hard not to come away seriously impressed by the technology in the new TT. Will this make the car a world-beating sports car? In truth, we actually doubt that. For sports car purists, both BMW and Porsche will likely retain the edge.
But the technology will make the TT a superb all-round car to drive and own and live with. It’s a major step forward and in many ways it sets the standard that other car makers will struggle to match.
The all-new Audi TT goes on sale later in 2014, prices are yet to be confirmed.