Has the former wild-eyed rebel slid slowly into middle-age?

Probably. It’s hard to be cool with a touch of gray.

Still, the dark blue TT Coupe I had recently wore its age really well, able to turn heads with its distinctive low profile.

Believe it or not, the 2016 TT is an all-new model on a fresh Volkswagen-derived platform shared with vehicles such as the Golf and GTI.

While the new third-gen TT hews closely to its original style and shape, it continues to defy modern automotive practice, weighing in at a lean 3,100 pounds, about 300 pounds lighter than the first TT in 1995.

It looked more taut to me, even while retaining its teardrop shape – a taut teardrop.

Like all modern Audis, the TT wore a giant seven-bar grille up front that dominated the front of the car and gave it a vague R8 exotic sort of look.

Slender, highly contemporary headlamps complemented the low, broad hood, curving onto uncluttered fenders defined mostly by prominent wheel arches.

As it has for two decades, the TT sported a low, gracefully rounded top that rocked the design world two decades ago.

Fortunately, as a modern vehicle, the new TT rolled on bigger wheels and better tires: 19-inch gray and alloy wheels shod with 245/35 tires still pushed to the absolute corners of the car.

They get a workout in the TT. Like most modern Audis, the $50,000 model I had included all-wheel drive as standard equipment.

The system is virtually invisible and able to shift power from front to rear and back again depending on available traction.

Though I’m not crazy about the complexity and weight of all-wheel drive, I prefer it to front-wheel drive, which is the typical configuration of vehicles using this platform.
And it works really well with the TT’s venerable VW-derived 2-liter turbo four. This engine seems to get better with each new year’s tweaks.

Oddly, considering all those little improvements, the motor still cranks out a modest – and somewhat questionable – 220 horsepower, Audi says. It feels bigger than that.

Smooth and refined, the engine starts coming on strong at around 3,000 rpm, pulling surprisingly hard to 5,500 or so. It spun one of Volkswagen-Audi’s excellent six-speed dual-clutch transmissions, which like the engine was hardly all-new but offered lightning-quick paddle shifts.

Audi says the TT will zip to 60 mph in a very fleet 5 seconds or so.

With all-wheel drive, a lively engine and a firm suspension, the agile TT turns flatly into corners and then tempts you to feed it some throttle.

Even when pushed pretty hard, the TT delivered decent fuel economy – 23 mpg city, 30 highway. All of which is highly commendable considering that most of the powertrain has been around in one form or another for years.

If you want all-new, just-met-you-last-night stuff, slide behind the small, flat-bottom steering wheel of the TT. The first thing all you high-tech types would notice is the black interior in my car lacked any sort of display screen or center stack, and I had not torn them out. Honest.

In what will probably be an approach we’ll see in several new Audi vehicles, all that information has been moved to the instrument panel. The speedometer and tachometer get reduced to 2-inch-diameter displays in the corners of the instrument panel screen.

If you need help finding your way home, navigation maps will be displayed on the instrument panel.

If you want to fiddle with the audio system or phone or some other feature, they can be summoned with a dial on the car’s broad console.

Meanwhile, five round climate vents are spread across mid-dash, cleverly controlled by small knobs in the centers of the vents that handle fan speeds and temperatures.
It makes for a clean, broad-looking dashboard that gives the small TT an airy, uncluttered feel inside.

The dash, by the way, was cast from pliable, rich-looking plastic, as were the door panels.

Although the TT has a back seat way too small for anyone with a wallet or a purse, it can be used as a shelf for packages or bags. Fortunately, the front seats offer decent bolsters, quilted, stitched centers and a touch of luxury.

But that raises one of the biggest issues with the Audi TT: Is it a true high-performance sports car, or a smallish luxury coupe?

And does it matter?

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