The Audi TT has something of an image problem. The original, with its curvaceous arches and bubbly behind, quickly became stereotyped and although this model, the second-edition TT is much more aggressive in design, much of that stigma still exists.
When we proclaimed on social networks that the Audi TT had arrived, we were surprised to hear that the universal reaction was that it was either a car for hairdressers or for girls.
One shining voice of reason cut through the presumption about Audi’s award-winning coupé however, saying: "Well, girls need good cars too." That’s very true, and whatever judgements you make from a distance about the Audi TT, it’s the car that matters.
So we slipped into the cosseted leather driving seat of the Audi TT Coupé to see what it’s really like to live with and decide for ourselves.
Sporty look, good design
The Audi TT Coupé has a 2+2 arrangement in a sporty two-seater design. Sitting close to the ground, the low roofline, with a long drop to the powered rear spoiler, makes it easy to forget that the back seats even exist.
The roofline also brings to mind supercars such as the Ferrari F430, with it’s big back window, although in the Audi TT, the engine is firmly planted in the front of the car, as this is based on the same platform as the Audi A3 and the VW Golf.
The Audi TT shares the design DNA of the rest of the Ingolstadt crowd, and with rapidly expanding coupé models like the A5 and A7, you can see that the TT fits in. The squint of the headlights, with an underscore of LED driving lights, and that dropping open-mouthed front grille carrying the number plate and four-ringed badge, matches other members of the Audi family.
Around the back it's a slightly different story, the dropping roofline meaning small quarter lights, but the expansive rear window is a real boon for visibility. Unlike some coupés or even hatches, the visibility out of the Audi TT is rather good, especially when you glance in the blindspot when changing lanes, making this, to use a cliché, feel like a driver's car.
Also sitting on the back is a powered spoiler, deploying automatically when you hit the right speed, designed to keep the back well planted on the road. There's a vanity button inside so you can manually deploy it when sitting in traffic, if that's the sort of thing that appeals to you.
That boot lid opens to give you good access to the luggage space in the rear and that's not too bad with 292 litres of stowage. You won't be standing cases up in the back, but you can fold those rear seats down should you need the space. This isn't a sports car with a cubbyhole of a boot, it's altogether more useful than that.
Those two back seats, however, are pretty hard to seat people on. There's very little space for legs, and from our tests, not really enough space for a child seat, although ISOFIX is an option and a darned sight easier than securing it with a three-point belt.
Getting access is tricky too, although the front seats will move forward enough to make it possible. The - optionally powered and heated - front seats fitted to our review model take quite some time to wind all the way forward, but we don't seriously think anyone would look at the TT with consideration for regularly using the back seats for anything other than a bag.
It's a different story in the front, however. Large doors mean easy access and although the body and roof follow the low-slung sporty design, the TT is easy to sit down into and get out of, which isn't always the case. There's plenty of headroom too and even at over 6ft, we didn't feel there was a lack of head space.
We wouldn't say it's light and airy - this is a sports coupé, after all - but as we've said, visibility isn't a problem. There's also plenty of space for your feet, so should you choose to engage the (optional) cruise control, you can rest your feet out of the way. We did find our left knee resting against the central bodywork, which might get uncomfortable on long journeys, but overall, it's a wonderfully comfortable place to be.
Dressed in the S line trim with black leather interior, the Audi TT is dripping in quality. That's what you expect from Audi and that's what you get. The steering wheel feels great to touch and with the firm sports seats giving plenty of support when you turn fast into those corners.
There's a slight feeling now, however, with this TT version unveiled in 2006, and this model appearing in 2010, that the interior layout could be due a refresh, especially having seen the inside of the new Audi A3. The window and heating controls take a little reaching to get to, around the door grab handles and gear stick respectively.
With the technology package in place on our test model, you get Audi's MMI (multimedia interface), giving you DVD-based satnav, as well as Bluetooth and a connection for your iPhone or iPod in the glove compartment. The satnav system is reasonably responsive, but you miss out on things like full postcode navigation, and you'd get more from a standard TomTom.
The controls aren't the most intuitive either. Set to one side of the display, it's not up to the standard you'll find in the A3, but we'd imagine this will be revised in the next generation of TT. However, we're being picky, because, although it takes a fair amount of time to work that main dial, we never struggled to get what we wanted out of it.
Many of the functions work in tandem with controls on the steering wheel, and there's a fair number on there, so although we think the main volume knob is too small, you'll soon only use the volume on the steering wheel, so it isn't a huge problem.
Paired with the Bose surround sound system, however, the Audi TT sounds great, with nice powerful distortion free delivery, even with the volume cranked up high.
On the road
Our test model was the 2.0-litre TFSI (211PS) engine, with the 6-speed S tronic automatic gearbox. It's a powerful combination, and incredibly easy to drive. Start it up and you're greeted with a reassuring purr as the needles in the information display spring to life.
This is a front-wheel drive model and we had winter tyres fitted, which we'd recommend. There is the option for Quattro on the same engine and gearbox if you'd rather have four driving wheels, but it'll cost you approx £1,500 extra. You get exciting eyebrow-raising acceleration, taking you from 0 to 62 in 6 seconds and topping out at 152mph, a speed you'll probably never get anywhere near.
If you're looking for economy, then the standard driving mode will keep you in sensible rev ranges, changing up with timely fashion. But it is nice and responsive too: if you put your foot down, the TT responds with plenty of power, letting you run a little higher in the range before changing up. We found ourselves getting in the high 30s for mpg, based on mixed driving.
There's one aspect of the standard driving mode that we don't like. We're not sold on the exhaust tuning of the model we had on test, and sitting somewhere around the 2500rpm point, the noise from the exhaust sounds a little hollow. All that empty space behind you in the car means you hear it, unless of course you've cranked up that sound system.
However, the Audi TT also offers a sports driving mode. Slip the gear stick down and the driving experience changes rather dramatically. Rather than switching through the gears low in the rev ranges, the TT will run the needle to the red before switching up. That gives you full and exciting acceleration and you also quickly roll through that questionable 2500rpm zone we don't like.
There's also a manual option, or the override using the paddles on the steering wheel. Again, this gives you the option, for example, to change down in normal driving mode to give you instant power for overtaking.
The ride is nice and firm, which you expect from a sports coupé. It's great on nice flat winding roads, but running around the suburbs you'll have to slow right down for those speed bumps. That's a given for this type of car, but what you get in return is a car that's great fun to drive, is nippy in and out of corners and still pulls admiring glances, whatever preconceptions might be held.
At a basic level, you can get a new TT from around £24,000 with a 1.8l petrol engine, but the version here would cost you £34,690 on the road. But we can't help feeling that keeping an eye on the future is important: with the new MQB platfrom likely to bring a new Audi TT fairly soon, you might be eyeing a new version, or better prices on this version.
Perhaps rear-wheel drive sports coupés like the Nissan 370z - or more recently, the slightly crazy Toyota GT86 - run away with the "manly" tags, but there's no justification for the stigma that the Audi TT carries.
What the Audi TT delivers, unquestionably, is quality. It's a car that's lovely to drive, with oodles of sophistication and plenty of practicality. If it happens to be popular with ladies and hairdressers, then that's probably just because they have good taste.