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WHAT CAR? Awards 2020

Added: 11 February 2020

THE FIRST AWARD IS FOR THE BEST COUPE WHICH WAS WON BY THE TT AGAIN!!

Does familiarity really breed contempt? Well, not in the case of the iconic Audi TT. Here's an example of something that gets more and more appealing as the years roll by.

The original TT, launched back in 1998, had seriously eye-catching looks but wasn’t particularly sparkling to drive. By contrast, the second-generation TT was arguably better to drive than it was to gawp at. This third-generation TT moves things on again, giving you the looks and the driving experience in one, sharply styled package. Small wonder, then, that the TT easily outsells rivals such as the Ford Mustang and BMW 2 Series.

It’s so good, in fact, that the TT has won our What Car? Coupe of the Year award over and over again. But what makes this diminutive coupe so good? Over the next few pages you'll find out, because we have everything that you need to know about the Audi TT, including which engine and trim level to choose

The TT uses a 2.0-litre, petrol engine that’s offered in three power outputs, of which our pick is the entry-level 40 TFSI. It produces 194bhp and pulls strongly from low revs, with more than enough mid-range grunt for quick overtakes. 0-62mph takes 6.6 seconds – fast enough to worry smaller hot hatches, such as the Ford Fiesta ST.

The extra power of the 242bhp 45 TFSI is mostly found at the top of the rev range, so it doesn’t feel that much faster than the 40 TFSI in most driving situations. However, while the 40 TFSI is front-wheel drive only, you can add quattro four-wheel drive to the 45 TFSI; it brings extra traction for cleaner launches, even in slippery conditions. The 45 TFSI engine is the only one that's available with a six-speed manual gearbox (the rest use a seven-speed dual-clutch auto as standard), which may add to the appeal if you're an old-school driving enthusiast.

The 302bhp TTS is quick enough to pip the Porsche Cayman from 0-62mph (4.5sec), and, with four-wheel-drive traction as standard, none of its power is squandered; you simply point the car in the direction you want to go and give it as much gas as you see fit. Stick it in Dynamic mode and the throttle response sharpens up, the S tronic automatic gearbox holds on to gears for longer and the exhaust even adds a satisfying – but manufactured – burble to the soundtrack on your back-road blast.

Sport models have a suspension setup that delivers a firm but generally comfortable ride, and even the optional sports suspension (standard on S Line, Black Edition and Vorsprung trims) isn't too bumpy.

Both suspensions can be a little jarring over motorway expansion joints or particularly intrusive drain covers, but this is a sporty coupe, not a luxury limo, after all. Add big wheels (up to 20in are available), though, and you’ll feel every imperfection in the road, so it’s worth resisting the temptation to do so if you value comfort over sporty looks.

The TTS comes with adaptive suspension (Magnetic Ride in Audi speak) as standard; this allows you to stiffen or soften the ride to taste. It’s an effective system and, in Comfort mode, the TTS's ride is surprisingly agreeable.

Luxury SUV of 2020

We often get asked "What’s the best car in the world?". It’s a tricky question to answer because, well, it depends on quite a lot.

But the Audi Q7 makes a pretty compelling case for itself. This five-metre-long 4x4 has been the benchmark in the luxury SUV class ever since its launch in 2015, making some other very fine cars, including the BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90, look ordinary in the process.

Key to its appeal is its versatility, because it can seat seven people in lavish comfort, yet it has the driving manners of something much smaller and lighter. It’s a great tow car, too, and can even manage a bit of off-roading.

The Q7 was facelifted in late 2019 to freshen up its looks, and at the same time it received a new interior and an overhauled infotainment system (not all good news, as we’ll explain later). On top of that, all versions were given mild hybrid assistance, allowing the engine to switch itself off when decelerating in order to reduce fuel consumption.

Even the less powerful (45 TDI) of the two 3.0-litre V6 diesel engines delivers gutsy acceleration. Mind you, the 282bhp 50 TDI is quite a bit punchier, particularly at low revs. Acceleration builds strongly from just 1500rpm, making the Q7 effortless to drive briskly. Both diesels can pull a braked trailer weighing up to 3500kg, and the Q7 is a really stable tow car.

If you don’t want a diesel, your only option is a 3.0-litre V6 petrol (badged 55 TFSI). This engine is gutsy enough at low revs, too, so you don’t need to work it hard like you do some petrol engines. Fuel economy aside (which we’ll discuss in more detail later), there’s lots to like about it.

At the top of the range is the mighty Audi SQ7, which uses a 429bhp 4.0-litre V8 diesel engine to deliver the kind of acceleration you’d normally associate with thoroughbred sports cars; 0-62mph takes just 4.8sec.

Suspension and ride comfort

Air suspension comes as standard on all versions of the Q7, but it’s the Sport and S Line models that deliver the most comfortable ride. In fact, in these trims, the Q7 is one of the most relaxing and supple cars to waft yourself around in, and far comfier than rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90.

Black Edition and Vorsprung trims give you a 'sports' version of the air suspension system. Given that it lowers the ride height by 15mm, it shouldn't come as a surprise that it doesn't smother bumps quite as well as the regular air suspension. That said, it's still relatively supple compared with rivals such as the BMW X5 – a fact made even more impressive when you consider that the Vorsprung is shod with enormous 22in wheels.

The SQ7 also has a form of air suspension as standard, but it’s a bespoke S setup. As such, it’s still better at dealing with lumps and bumps than most equivalent sporty SUVs, including the XC90 T8 and Porsche Cayenne, but isn't the best choice if comfort is your top priority.

Handling

The Q7 is tailored more towards luxury and comfort than sporty handling, but it’s still remarkably agile for a five-metre-long SUV with seven seats. Compared with a Discovery or a BMW X7, for example, it feels positively compact along narrow country lanes, with minimal body lean (especially with the sports air suspension setup) and strong grip levels that are evenly balanced between front and rear.

The SQ7 is even more agile than the regular Q7. For such a big thing, it stays incredibly upright in corners, allowing you to cover ground at an astonishing rate. Meanwhile, the steering on all versions is accurate, even if it doesn't stream a great deal of feedback to your fingertips.

If you want a really big SUV that’s notably better at cornering, you’ll need to look at the Porsche Cayenne.

Noise and vibration

You'll hear a distant background clatter from the 45 TDI and 50 TDI diesels when starting from cold, but this quickly fades once they're up to temperature. Otherwise, you only really hear these engines under hard acceleration, and they’re smoother and more pleasant-sounding than those of most of the Q7’s rivals – especially the Volvo XC90. However, the diesel engines in the BMW X7 are even more refined.

The SQ7 hides the fact that it’s a diesel very well, too, emitting a muscular V8 woofle – especially in Dynamic mode. Meanwhile, the 55 TFSI petrol is better than any of the diesels when it comes to isolating you from vibrations, although it does sound a little more strained when you work it hard.

The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox changes smoothly up and down through the ratios but proves rather hesitant when trying to accelerate briskly away from a standstill. When decelerating, the engine can switch itself off, allowing the Q7 to freewheel. This is intended to benefit fuel consumption but also reduces noise. On the subject of which, there's little in the way of road or wind noise at motorway speeds.

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