Do real men drive Audi TTs? Michael Booth tests the testosterone in the new 2.0T

Would suit Posh middle-aged women from Chiswick
Price £29,095
Performance 149mph, 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds
Combined fuel economy 36.7mpg
Further information 08457 699 777

In a rare display of what, if you didn't know me better, could be mistaken for conscientious professionalism, this week I have arranged to test a direct rival to last week's car, the new BMW 3 Series Coupé. This is an excellent chance for me to do some serious, What Car?-style, back-to-back testing of suspension dynamics, gasket tolerances, brake-differential seismology and so forth. But, before I ready my slide rule, a little background.

The original Audi TT is generally held to be a 20th-century design icon, like the Marmite jar or Brucie's wig. Designed by J Mays, the current Ford design president, the original TT was unveiled to gasps of wonderment at the 1995 Frankfurt show. It changed the urban roadscapes of the western world forever.

Such was the TT's influence that, for some years after it was launched, no manufacturer could countenance building a coupé that didn't have bathtub overtones and fiddly aluminium bits inside. But the TT had its faults, chief among them that, beneath that shocking retro-futurist styling, it was really just a VW Golf, like your sister's. Personally, I was more troubled by the fact that you couldn't see out of it, but my peers in the motoring-journalism world clung to this dynastic dynamic dissonance like terriers to a punctured football, complaining incessantly that the TT didn't "handle" like a proper sports car. Audi tried to placate them by fitting what is still the best paddle-shift gear-change system in the world, but they wouldn't have it. If you were a proper man you bought a BMW 3 Series Coupé; TTs were for metro-/homosexuals they said, to which demographic I would add angry, posh, childless, middle-aged women from Chiswick (although that's just my own, empirical observation).

But what of the new one? Well, I will come clean and admit that, if I really were a dedicated, disciplined professional I would have got hold of the 3.2-litre V6 version, which is more of a rival for the road-ripping BMW 335i I tried last week. Instead I opted for the 2.0T, which costs six grand less, but is a mere 0.7 seconds slower to 60mph, and will account for 60 per cent of sales in the UK. It looks virtually the same - sleeker, sexier and, as is the regrettable way of the motoring world these days, more aggressive than the old car - and I suspect it is the nicer car. The V6 has four-wheel drive and, obviously, more power, but the 2.0T is lighter, particularly over the front wheels and, frankly, 197bhp ought to be enough for anyone. It was for me. Though the 2.0T engine - from the Golf GTi - makes a noise like a Nissan Micra, it accelerates with a pleasingly alarming verve, plus the odd steering-wheel wriggle just to let you know you are driving a proper sports car. The smaller engine is free of any turbo hesitancy, and I think is more appropriate to TT2's all-new, partly aluminium chassis; the whole thing weighs a miraculous 1,660kg and feels soufflé-light on the road. It's a really, brilliantly, nice drive.

The old TT had microscopic back seats and the new one is barely any roomier, but I would always rather have two tiny rear seats than none at all, if only for the sadistic frisson of hearing friends' moans when they have to cram into them. As always with Audi, the rest of the interior is exemplary, except for the angle of the pedals which reminded me of old Alfa Romeos and made my ankles ache. Which, I'm afraid, is about as What Car? as I get.

It's a classic: Audi 75

Given its current gravitas, it is odd to think that between 1932 - when the company amalgamated with Horch and DKW to form Auto Union - and 1965 there was no such thing as an Audi.

The name was revived in the mid-1960s, for a DKW-based saloon with a pitiful, two-stroke engine. That car, which was initially called the D-B Heron and, re-engined, became the Audi 75 and its smaller-engined sibling, the 60. With its superior quality and sophisticated suspension, this dainty, upright, four-door saloon created a solid foundation for the company to build upon.

It may not have been fast - the top speed was 86mph - or sexy, like the new TT, but the 60/75 was reliable and functional. More importantly, it was relatively cheap - Audi's social climbing didn't really get under way until the early 1980s - and the small 1.5-litre engine was appealingly frugal.

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