IF FERRARI or Lamborghini ever produce an affordable sports car, it might be something like the Audi TT.
The cheapest car from those two supercar companies cost around £180,000 which means you could buy six TTs for the price of one Ferrari 488, for example.
OK, so the TT isn’t quite a supercar. The ride is much, much softer than an exotic Italian model and the engine purrs rather than growls but it is a fantastic vehicle for the money.
It looks good, it drives well, it’s quick and, best of all, it offers running costs a Ferrari fan could only dream of: more than 70mpg on a run and more than 54mpg around town.
It seems a distant dream that Ferrari or Lamborghini might build a £30,000 sports car, but stranger things have happened. After all, Jaguar created an SUV and Kia have done sexy sports hatches. And Lamborghini is a sister brand of Audi in the Volkswagen group, so don’t rule out the concept entirely.
One of the things which makes the TT so special is its heritage. It first appeared in the late 1990s and subsequent models have maintained the design of the original.
The design is credited to Peter Schreyer (the man credited with Kia’s success over the last decade or so) and Martin Smith (the Sheffield man known for his work at Vauxhall and Ford).
Seventeen years after launch, TT remains a stunning car. Not perfect, but certainly the best mid-market coupe on the road and it earns favourable comparisons with cars costing twice as much. It manages to combine being a sexy sports car with being a versatile runaround, a feat few cars manage to pull off.
There are two features in this test version, the 2.0 litre Ultra, which are particularly strong.
First, the engine. Engineers have made great strides in making the traditional internal combustion engine better in recent years and nowhere is that more evident than in this unit.
It is a 2.0 litre diesel which manages to be sporty (150mph and 0 to 60mph in 7.1 seconds) and economical (more than 70mpg on a run) while also being green (117g/km). It engines like these that make electric vehicles seem not quite so attractive after all.
Secondly, the cabin. Interiors of most cars have improved in recent years as manufacturers seek to replicate the simplicity and smartness of iPhones into their vehicles, but Audi are way ahead of the game.
This model features a terrific system in which the central binnacle, where you might expect to see the speedometer and rev counter, replaced by a 12.3 inch screen which can display everything from the satellite navigation system to the radio and CD player settings. You can switch from display to display using fantastic user-friendly controls on the stalks.
The seats, too, are good. The test model features synthetic suede which looks good and the seats are firm and sporty without being uncomfortable.
It has a push-button ignition (the day when the ignition key becomes extinct can’t be too far away now) and a push-button brake and lots of exotic touches from ambient lighting to chrome trim.
Standard features include climate control, alloy wheels, air conditioning and powered adustable mirrors.
S line specification is the most comprehensive and the most performance-oriented in the initial TT line-up. It adds larger 19-inch alloy wheels with a five-arm star design, all-weather LED headlights and LED tail lights and S line body styling. It also offers the no cost option to swap to tauter S line sports suspension bringing a 10mm reduction in ride height.
From the options list, even more of the remarkable Audi virtual cockpit’s potential can be unlocked by the Technology Package, which includes hard disk-based navigation mapping that can completely fill the screen, and also beams the Internet to the car via Audi connect.
This brings features such as Google Maps, Google Street View, Audi traffic information online, price-graded refuelling locations in the vicinity and the latest news, flight and train information. It also adds Audi music stream and access to social media services such as Facebook and Twitter. For sound that is as attention-grabbing as the cabin’s visuals, a 680-watt, 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system can be specified.
This car is almost identical in length as the predecessor but the wheelbase is longer. The boot is slightly bigger - 305 litres, up 13 litres on the previous model - and it can rise to 712 litres with the rear seats folded.
The performance and economy is not only down to the engine. The lightweight body plays its part, too, with plenty of lightweight aluminium.
The steering system is also worth a mention. It is a hi-tech system whcih becomes more direct the more the wheel is turned. The result is light steering at city speeds and heavier at higher speeds and it feels perfectly balanced with just enough ‘feel’.
The ‘active lane assist’ also helps the driver if required by steadily correcting steering or warning if there is a danger of drifting out of lane. This feature is standard for the 2.0 TFSI model and optional for the 2.0 TDI ultra.
All in all, the TT is a remarkable model. There are cheaper coupes but few offer the class, style and all-round ability of this model. It might not be quite a supercar but it is a super car.
Audi TT 2.0 TDI Ultra
PRICE: £30,545. TT range starts at £27,585
ENGINE: It has a 1,968cc four cylinder diesel engine generating 184bhp
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 150mph and 0 to 60mph in 7.1 seconds
COSTS: Town 54.3mpg; country 70.6mpg; combined 62.8mpg
WARRANTY: Three years’ 60,000 miles