Some cars are instantly recognizable, for all the right or wrong reasons. In the Audi TT's case, the now familiar soap-dish silhouette evokes mostly lust and passion among fans of the German-engineered coupe and roadster (both TTs are assembled in Hungary). But of the two body styles, the slinky 2+2 coupe usually garners the most attention and sales.
The TT caused a sensation when it was first introduced to North America for the 2000 model year and the third-generation editions now arriving in dealer showrooms are set to do it again for 2016.
Some critics might quibble that the TT really hasn't changed much over the years and you'll get no argument from Audi on that point. The Volkswagen subsidiary is on the record as purposely respecting the iconic status the TT has earned after 15-plus years and more than 500,000 in worldwide sales.
Still, cloaked with new sheetmetal, the TT duo has never looked sharper. The sloping hood shares at least a passing nod to the renowned R8 supercar, while the hexagonal grille denotes the shape of things to come for future Audis. The reshaped grille flanked by prominent twin air intakes also integrates neatly with the angular LED headlights. As for the rest of the exterior, the changes here are so subtle that the 1.4-inch gain in distance between the front and rear wheels will likely go unnoticed. That slight increment is partly due to the TT's new "MBQ" platform that's common to numerous other Audi and Volkswagen models
Once aboard, the new-for-2016 stuff becomes more readily apparent. Although the flat-bottom multi-function steering wheel is back, the display screen has melded with the gauges into a feature called the Multi Media Interface (MMI). Located between the scalable (adjustable for size) tachometer and speedometer, the 12.3-inch-wide MMI screen can display communication, infotainment and other data such as a trip computer, fuel status, outside temperature, etc.
As well, the MMI is home to the optional voice-activated navigation system. All of the info is accessed via a rotating control knob/touchpad on the console or by pressing the appropriate buttons or by rotating a thumbwheel on the steering wheel.
The array of techno-focused features will be important for many, but pushing the most vital button - the start button - brings to life Audi's familiar turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The powerplant now generates 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque (the 2015 version made 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque).
The returning TTS model is expected to follow the TT a few months hence. Its turbo 2.0's output has risen to 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque from 265/258.
As before, a six-speed paddle-shift automated manual transmission is the sole transmission. It parcels out engine torque through Audi's permanently engaged all-wheel-drive Quattro system that also comes standard.
Audi's test results give the TT a zero-to-60-mph time of 5.3 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph. Official government fuel consumption estimates are 18 mpg in the city and 25 highway.
At $43,800 ($47,300 for the roadster), including destination fees, the TT is no slouch in the content department. Included with that price is dual-zone climate control, keyless start, 12-way power-adjustable heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, 18-inch performance summer tires and a nine-speaker audio system. Along with the navigation system, a quartet of packages includes more heavily bolstered sport seats, premium leather seat coverings, rearview camera and a premium Bang & Olufsen sound package.
No matter how you equip your TT, you and your passenger (passengers, plural, if you order the coupe, which has a back seat) will likely have the time of your lives.
Being recognized for the all the right reasons simply comes with the territory.
What you should know: 2016 Audi TT
Type: Two-door, all-wheel-drive coupe and roadster
Engine (hp): 2.0-liter DOHC I4, turbocharged (220/292)
Transmission: Six-speed automated manual
Market position: Offering two distinct TT body styles means that Audi can cater to a wider range of sports-car buyers. Adding all-wheel-drive and a relatively affordable price tag makes the TT a compelling purchase.
Points: Impressively attractive R8-influenced redesign; Turbo four-cylinder engine lags behind competition in peak horsepower, but kicks out plenty of torque; New interior with integrated gauges and Multi Media Interface is user-friendly, but hardly necessary; Forthcoming TTS model built to take on BMW M and Mercedes-Benz AMG models.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags (coupe); anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 18/25; Base price (incl. destination) $43,800 (coupe), $46,400 (roadster)
BMW 4 Series Base price: $42,900
Coupe, convertible and four-door Gran Coupe are roomy and powerful.
Porsche Boxster Base price: $53,100
Athletic roadster is a fun ride. Similar Cayman coupe costs $500 extra.
Jaguar F-Type Base price: $66,000
Pricey, but supercharged V6 and V8s are available on coupes and roadsters.