(Pocket-lint) - The Audi TT is a car that's always had an image problem and it all stems from the curvaceous and bubbly first iteration. That was 1998, however, and as much as there was pointing and laughing from some drivers, it didn't stop the TT making its mark on our roads.
Fast forward to 2015 and there's a new TT. Audi says that it wanted to pay homage to the original design and that's manifested in the curved emphasis to the wheel arches, but not a lot else.
Instead we're faced with a new car that's more aggressively styled, technologically enhanced and most definitely built around the driver.
Where we once had curves, we now have creases. Continuing the work started in the 2006 update, the latest Audi TT looks like the sporty coupé many have always wanted it to be. Aside from keeping that curved detailing around the wheel arches, the new Audi TT is slicker and meaner than ever before.
The dropping roofline makes this car instantly recognisable, but from the front, there's a healthy sports-car-of-the-future look. Honeycombed air intakes sit beneath the lights as every element fits together like a geometic puzzle.
The Audi grille meets the headlights with angles, sharp creases run up the bonnet, and where once we had rounded shoulders, now we have angles, edges, more aggressive lines.
This masculinisation of the Audi TT's face follows through to a rear that keeps some of the original's curved form, transected by more angles and lines. Splitting the exhaust pipes reinforces that sporty look that was previously missing.
Perhaps the rear looks a little wide compared to some of the models it will be compared to - like the Nissan 370Z or Toyota GT86 (both notably rear-wheel drive) - but we love the looks. If the Audi TT was after an image change, then it's certainly found one.
Cleaning up the front also sees Audi's four rings move to the bonnet, a detail you'll find on Audi's sportscar proper, the R8. But we can't help alikening it to VW's own sporty number, the VW Scirocco.
A drivers' car
Saying the Audi TT is a drivers' car would be to use a cliché that's rather stale. But in a practical sense, that's exactly what the TT is.
Sit in the passenger seat and that's what you'll feel, because in clearing up the interior of the TT, you're presented with a dash that's almost free of clutter. The driver gets all the goodies, and everyone else in the car is left to enjoy the ride.
The arrangement is better than many other cars on the road too. The lack of a central display, in a world where giving increasing real estate to central screen is the norm, makes the Audi TT stand apart. Instead it offers a 12.3-inch driver's display - called the Audi Virtual Cockpit - beyond the steering wheel. More on that later.
The centre of the dash houses three large air vents, with the controls built into the centre of each vent. It's a manual aircon system as standard, which might come as something of a surprise. Unfortunately, if you want the automatic aircon you'll have to stump-up £1,590 for the Comfort and Sound package (also including a centre armrest, B&O sound system and rear parking sensors). We'd be tempted to scrape together that extra cash, because the TT can get warm inside and we found ourselves regularly fiddling to get the temperature balance right.
But otherwise, the interior takes a step forward from before, where things were a little cramped. For example, the gear lever previously blocked access to some controls, but having removed almost everything from the centre, that's no longer a problem. The quality is high and there's a lusciously premium feel to the steering wheel and other switches.
There's the usual array of Audi controls, with a central dial sat on the transmission tunnel to the near side of the gear stick. That's as standard, or buy the Technology Pack (£1,795) and you gain the added option of a touch panel to its top, enabling you to scrawl letters for text entry. In addition the Technology Pack adds voice control, MMI Navigation, and Audi Connect for mobile data on the go.
There's also the additional volume control that's the preserve of the passenger - if they want to crank up the volume, it's there to be abused. Otherwise, all the controls you really need are on the steering wheel, with additional options to make the digital driver display more interactive than previous displays have ever been.
An all-digital display
For many, it's the new 12.3-inch driver's display - or Audi Virtual Cockpit if we're going for the marketing talk - that's the talking point. The best feature, certainly, is the option to change the sat nav view, shrinking the dials down to give your map more space. There's a dedicated button for this and you can apply the same effects to the different pages you can view.
In reality Audi has transported much of the user interface deployed in its centre displays and put it into the driver's display. Certainly, if you've driven a recent Audi, you'll find the interface familiar. Perhaps it's a little conservative - where's the full screen album art takeover? - but this being a car, avoiding distraction remains an important point: this might be the first step in gadgetisation of your car, but it's still some way removed from being a smartphone with wheels.
The reason we previously said that the arrangement is better than many other cars is that a simple glance down gives you the information you need, rather than more deliberate look into the centre of the car. In some cases, those fancy centre displays are too low, meaning a glance down away from the road, whereas in the TT, we always felt we had the information as readily as checking the speed.
Our initial concerns with a digital display was that strong rear light would make it difficult to view, but it's shaded and cowled enough to remain visible - whether that's going to be the case in Audi's larger cars getting the digital makeover, remains to be seen.
For those worrying that it's not just the same as having an analogue dial, fret not. The speedo remains as responsive as ever and, let's be honest, it's probably not been truly analogue for some time.
It is, then, a triumph. The Audi TT is sent roaring into the future, giving the driver all the toys at their fingertips and doing so with aplomb. We love the options for media through the Audi MMI system, we love seeing contact images imported from our phone, just as much as we like being able to say a contact and navigate to their address.
The navigation system, for all the fancy display, isn't the best it could be though. On occasion it couldn't find postcodes we were entering, so we resorted to dictating the address line-by-line. Although we never failed to get where we needed to go, it feels like it could be improved.
A delight to drive
But slip into the cosseted interior of the TT and the leather S-Line seats grip you as you power into the corners. Paired with Quattro (petrol S line and Sport models only), for traction and power through all four wheels, and the TT's low centre of gravity, it's plenty of fun when it comes to throwing it around twisty roads.
Audi's drive modes make more of a difference here than they perhaps do in other models. The dynamic (sport) model will give high engine revs, and you're rewarded with exhaust pops on downshifts and everything feels at its most responsive. If you're driving your friend around the block to show off the TT, you'll do it in dynamic mode.
But those with an eye on fuel consumption will be happy that the other driving modes put the TT back into its cage. We're not sold on the lighter steering of the comfort modes, but the individual settings option will let you choose how the car is setup. If you want heavier steering, slightly more engine noise, but the gear changes for maximum efficiency, you can have it.
The TT Coupé doesn't have a huge range of engine choices, in fact it's one of Audi's range that doesn't have too many options at all, and we like that. The ample 230PS of the 2-litre petrol of our test model is the "standard" engine, with choices for front-wheel drive or Quattro, auto or manual box. The 184PS diesel alternative is only offered with front-wheel drive and manual, but you're rewarded with slightly more efficency.
The exhaust is better tuned than the older model, which we found could sound a little drony through mid-revs just before gear changes. Those looking for more will have to step-up to the TTS with its 310PS petrol engine and Quattro as standard, but we found the 230PS engine spritely enough and found the 40+mpg we averaged to be welcome too.
Backseat for bags
You don't have to drive alone, as much of a drivers' car as the TT is. There is a backseat that will probably let you seat two legless adults (either physically or alcoholically), but is probably best left for your bags. We tried sitting two children in the back and both complained about the lack of space for their legs and the lack of view. It is, admittedly, a bit like sitting behind a bookcase.
The boot, however, has a depth to it that makes it useful (but not for legless adults). You can easily slip your suitcases in, so the TT Coupe isn't a sports car that's limited to an overnight bag.
Even better, the rear seats will fold flat, and the shelf removes easily, meaning you get a lot more stowage space. It might not be first choice when buying a new washing machine, but you'll be able to stack up a lot of shopping or luggage for a longer holiday without a problem.
The Audi TT is a better car than it has been before. It's from the driver's seat that it makes most sense: the drive and handling make it a real pleasure to sit behind the wheel, never failing to put a smile on your face. It might be a cliché to say the TT is a drivers' car, but it really is.
Howeverm, the Audi TT will never be good for carrying more than one passenger, as like other 2+2 sports cars, the rear seats just aren't built for it. But there is a nod to practicality when it comes to the boot, so it's a car that can fit into your daily life too.
On the road you get a combination of a car that's economical enough in comfort or efficiency modes to not make you wince, and responsive enough in dynamic mode to keep you grinning hard, with the precise handling and control to always make you feel like you're somwhere special.
Yes, the Audi TT comes with a legacy of pointing and laughing, and some may still call it a hairdressers' car. But we simply don't care, and once in the driving seat neither will you, because the new Audi TT is a delight to drive.