The verdict following recent drives in a number of new and revised Audis
TT Coupe (new)
SOMETIMES, not often, you recognise something that shifts the game on a bit. I think Audi have done that with their 'virtual cockpit'.
With their virtual instrument cluster (we had most fun with it in the new TT) you can pick what view you want. So you can prioritise speed, phone, radio stations etc. If you just want speed/revs; you simply make them the main display.
I also loved the idea of having controls for fan, temperature and the direction of ventilation on the outlets themselves. Why didn't I think of that?
And the voice recognition was excellent. Well, it was good. The 'lady' in the system understood most of my instructions. That's the first time really in any car I could ask 'her' to switch radio stations, for example, without too many hitches. That has not been the case too often in the past.
The virtual cockpit is a transformation as far as I can see and it steals a march on rivals, no doubt about that. This puts the whole area of information display and use on a completely different plane.
Anyway, I drove two versions of the TT. The front-wheel-drive 2-litre diesel (184bhp) was so-so. I'd put it no stronger than that.
But the 231bhp petrol quattro? Ah! that was different altogether. That's the one. It costs a good few grand more but I'd opt for it - if I had the money.
In dynamic mode it will, at high speed, transmit most, if not all, the power to the back wheels. If you lift off at the apex and put back on again it will slightly pull in so you get more oversteer than understeer. I think I noticed it. Really you need to be on a track or something to get the best out of that. But it is a fine drive with lots of zip from a standing start (0-100kmh in 4.6secs).
That virtual cockpit setup is now standard on the TT but we also had Google Earth on our quattro. You can nearly see the colour of hall doors on your route. The range starts from €47,550 OTR . There is a TTS (310bhp) in March: €63,350.
They have improved the diesel 2-litre. You can now have a 150bhp or 190bhp (up from the 177bhp). We drove the latter which is expected to be the more popular. The A6 also has an S-tronic gearbox (same as the DSG in Volkswagens - just a different name) which changes gears quicker than you can. When you select first the second clutch already has second gear pre-selected. S-tronic used to cost €2,800 more than manual box; now the gap is €2,300.
Automatics now account for 85pc of sales (it used to be 65pc). Prices start from €44,750 for the 2.0TDI 150 SE.
A3 e-tron (new)
This plug-in hybrid costs from €39,950 on-the-road including grants. It can manage 50km on electric charge alone and, with the 1.4TFSI petrol has a total potential range of 940km.
This is based on the A3 Sportback and they say there is no loss of boot space compared with quattro versions. There is a €499 PCP offer which, I think significantly, allows for a 40pc guaranteed future minimum value (40pc of its cost price). That is more or less in keeping with other Audis (some of which start around 37pc). APR is 4.9pc.
Extra equipment includes MMI radio, 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel, automatic air con and Audi drive select). Lively drive and another underlining of how good the A3 chassis really is.
And it was good to get back into the A7 (had it on test recently). The big fascination is the Matrix beam (you can have it on the TT as well). There are 25 bulbs in each light linked to a camera which monitors the road. So you can travel down a country road on full beam but not dazzle anyone. It will block out rear the driving mirror of the car in front, for example, so it doesn't dazzle. It's the same with cars coming.
The systems can deal with six cars at the same time.
They say there are one billion different combinations of illumination. The A7 also has cleaner 3-litre TDI engines. There is a 2-litre TDI (218bhp) 2WD on the fleet but they expect most buyers to opt for quattro versions.
Interesting footnote: Sales of the A3 saloon are 80pc conquest with Audi saying they are taking buyers from Hyundai, Toyota, Opel, Peugeot, Ford and Volkswagen.