Audi TT, Porsche Cayman in comparative test: Sports cars: the old vs. the new
Audi TT 2.0 TFSI vs. Porsche Cayman. This means: front vs mid-engine, front vs. rear-wheel drive, turbo vs. naturally aspirated engine, inline four cylinder vs six-cylinder box engine. Off we go with the comparative test.
How long have traditional sports cars like the Porsche Cayman, with aspirated mid-engines and rear-wheel drive been around for now? Turbo charged front-wheel drive sports cars from the new world surge forward with irreverent ambition; promising similar agility at a lower price. This is the case for the new Audi TT. The 2.0 TFSI model costs 35,000 Euros.
Audi TT fits well in the digital age
However, we do not wish to prevent it from competing in this battle of the concepts. Audi TT vs. Porsche Cayman, turbo vs. naturally aspirated engine, inline four cylinder vs. six-cylinder box engine, front vs. mid-engine, front vs. rear-wheel drive, building block system vs. individual development and, last but not least, analogue vs. digital. In the Porsche Cayman the displays feature actual instruments, in the Audi TT a computer display imitates the classic instruments, as well as displaying the Sat nav screen and various on-board information.
This is inexpensive and perfectly in keeping with the building block construction system: the same screen film can be integrated into various models, different instrument designs are simply a matter of programming. And in the case of the Audi TT the display is successful: large and razor sharp, directly in the field of view. And since we are trying to keep things simple: the operating controls for the air-conditioning system are between the ventilation slots.
It takes a while to get to grips with the new MMI-system. Similar to in the Porsche, except that here all functions are controlled by a single button. So in both vehicles you have to rummage through: in the Audi TT through the menu, and in the Cayman through the thicket of buttons. Once understood, both routes lead to the same destination without any problems.
Regarding the destination: this is the country road, and finally both feel dominant as they make their way through the corners. And in spite of the front-wheel drive, the Audi TT doesn't want to miss a trick here, lunging into the fray with the S-Line sports package (2,490 Euros) including 19-inch rims (920 Euros), sport seats and lowered by ten centimetres
Audi TT replicates bumps
The passive sports chassis has already drawn attention to itself during the journey via the motorway – as a replicator of bumps. In the city the gentle rolling left reason for hope, but in its response to bumps the Audi TT is clunky and taut. All those who place value on travel comfort should treat themselves to the adaptive dampers for 1,300 Euros.
However, because the Ingolstadt-based engineers wish to prove that the Audi TT has earned a placed in the sports car premier league, the test car is fitted with bearlike suspension. It gives the body less lateral inclination than the standard chassis, maximises steering precision and has you expecting exceptional drive dynamics scores.
And how it hustles, corners briskly, indeed almost hastily, doesn't deviate one inch from the chosen course and even avoids drift when accelerating at the apex of the corner. Understeer Only on the wet. In the drive dynamics tests on a dry surface on the other hand, there is none. Surprised, the driver noted how the Audi TT pulls more strongly into the curve than the steering angle would suggest – this is thanks to the selective torque control. However, all this feels a little like you're playing Playstation.That Porsche feeling is immediately there
So after the Audi TT we climb into the Porsche Cayman. Porsche feeling, immediately: the narrow, low-profile seats. The large, centred rev counter. The ignition switch on the left. Everything impacts the driver before he has even started moving. When he then turns the key and the box engine barks, it is there: this desire to go on the hunt for corners.
In any case, the basic Cayman cannot score any points on the motorway; the turbo-charged Audi TT is breathing down its neck, can hardly be shaken off. Although while this rattles its driver, in the Porsche the driver enjoys good suspension comfort. Its adaptive dampers absorb bumps, almost like a saloon, without allowing a single vibration.
Like a saloon? Only with regard to comfort on long journeys. On country roads on the other hand, the Cayman is a purist sports car. Like a perfectly broken in horse, the Porsche reacts to gentle leg pressure, taking the corner smoothly and without haste. This sure-footed stroll on the perfect, fast line pulls the driver under its spell. No longer the sweaty hands of earlier years; the Cayman is at peace with itself, come what may – even with an Audi TT breathing down its neck, which, incidentally, is practically identical in the drive dynamics test.
Audi TT with improved steering
Even the fear of sudden lunges of the mid-engine two-seater is unfounded. Porsche has designed the Cayman to be neutral or tending to slight oversteer – in so far as that the rear of the vehicle helpfully corners with the driver, which the Audi TT cannot offer, at least when under load. It is just as incapable of performing a power slide on blocked off roads, as is so valued by experts. In spite of all of their ingenious ambition: this is something that front-wheel drive vehicles will never be able to do.
Disadvantages such as drive influences in the steering are only rarely evident in the Audi TT – for example when the torque pushes over the front wheels in wet corners. At full throttle the 2-litre four-cylinder engine really packs a punch, almost like a TDI, surging from the low range and storming up the rpm range. The turbo charger kicks in with a slight delay, but you don't have to deal with any actual lag.
The box engine of the Cayman can only counter this by means of its direct response and lust for revs. Or is it a duty to produce high rev speeds? For below 4,000 rpm there is little thrust. Generally speaking, the 2.7-litre box engine is disappointing, with restrained power output. Like last time, it remains below the factory specification in the 0 to 100 sprint – in spite of the intentionally shifting PDK dual clutch transmission. And on average the Porsche requires 1.8 litres more fuel per 100 kilometres than the Audi TT.The naturally aspirated engine is dying out
Given the measurement values for the Audi TT and Porsche Cayman: is that it for the naturally aspirated sports car? To a large extent, yes. The comparative test illustrates the superiority of the modern turbo charger drive system when it comes to torque and consumption. Porsche is also aware of this fact and will in future deploy a turbo box engine in the Cayman. And the mid-engine principle with rear-wheel drive? This will live on.
For what the mere acceleration and consumption figures cannot generate is this feeling of being connected to the earth, this growing with the car, this warming tingling of a perfectly flowing sequence of corners in the Cayman. The Audi TT did not evoke similar emotional reactions in the test team, being perceived as too perfect. It is the type of car that can do everything, which earns plenty of points. Thus, it wins the features assessment in this comparative test. When it comes to cost, the expensive Porsche never stood a chance anyway.
We are witnessing the conquest of the digital world. Traditional sports cars must submit, in order to avoid losing their right to exist. When it comes to mass production at least, there is no longer any point pleading on behalf of the naturally aspirated engine, although it is still worthwhile speaking up for the mid-engine principle. It may no longer convince the stopwatch in curves – but it does convince the heart of a driver.
Date20 February 2015