Audi convinced me -- the new 2016 TT Coupe is a mini R8

Audi’s approach to designing and engineering vehicles can be aptly summed up in two words: maniacal brilliance.

The women and men at Audi are brilliant maniacs, and they’re going for the jugular of Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

If the 2016 TT Coupe is any indication of Audi’s success so far, the other brands should be shaking in their Pirellis.

One thing you should know about the completely redesigned Audi TT Coupe is that Audi — the company best-known for its workhorse sports sedan — the A4, its luxury SUV — the Q7, and its unapologetic misfit — the R8, is that Audi completely went in on the TT.

In this 3rd-generation example, the TT is sharper and quicker, with the kind of next-generation technology that makes it a truly world-class luxury sports coupe.

Audi told me they specifically engineered this car to be a “mini R8.” That’s a bold declaration considering the real R8 is the fraternal twin of the Lamborghini Huracan — and both of those supercars will leave you breathless.

After driving the 2016 TT down California’s winding coastal highways between San Francisco and Santa Cruz this weekend, it’s clear to me that Audi is dead serious. The TT is a mini R8.

Come with me, I’ll explain.

Here she is, the 2016 Audi TT Coupe. This is the third generation of what is now a classic 2+2 sports coupe from the German automaker. The TT just went on sale in the US in mid-summer.

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Just look at that profile.

The TT we drove is pictured here with the S-Line package, which includes 19-inch aluminium wheels. This is among the first of Audi's newest redesigns, arriving ahead of the 2017 A4. The TT is a two-door, four-passenger, all-wheel-drive sports coupe with the heart of a supercar.

Audi produces some of the best LED lights arrays in the car business. The TT looks menacing, even in the middle of the afternoon with the daytime-running lights on.

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This TT has the performance cred to back up that angry scowl.

The new TT comes with Audi's 2.0-litre TFSI, four-cylinder turbocharged engine. It's got 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque -- which, bottled-up in this package that weighs just barely over 3,100 pounds -- scoots this car along with shocking urgency. It goes from 0 to 60 in 5.3 seconds, according to Audi.

The faster TTS model has the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that bumps up the go-juice to 292 horsepower.

This car happily carved up the challenging canyons on Cabrillo Highway in the San Francisco Bay Area. It stays tight and flat in the corners and inspires tremendous confidence, even on the trickiest curves.

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I hardly wanted to get out of the car to take these pictures.

The TT comes standard with Audi's quattro powertrain. That's an all-wheel-drive setup that sends engine power to the wheels that have the most grip. The end result is a car that dances gracefully on the pavement.

This car is highly customisable. You can select from pre-set drive modes that change how the TT performs on the road. There's also an 'individual' setting that allows you to cook up your own mix of steering, suspension and engine dynamics.

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2016 Audi TT

Dynamic mode in this car is the most aggressive. It keeps the engine RPMs high, which is great for quick merging and passing. It also tightens up the steering wheel. The TT in dynamic mode inspires the kind of driving confidence you would normally get from a more expensive Porsche 911 or BMW M4.

Once the boost kicks in, the TT's turbocharged engine delivers an unrelenting surge of power that leaves traffic far behind you -- quickly.

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Exhaust sounds from those two pipes are routed though the TT's speakers. A disconcerting experience, to be sure, but we'll take it.

As good as Audi's TFSI engine is, it does suffer from a bit of turbo lag off the line, but it makes up for that tremendously as the RPMs climb higher.

Handling and driving dynamics are where the TT really shines, and that's why it feels like a mini R8.

Bryan Logan/Business Insider
It's tight, light and nimble.

The other reason why it feels like a mini R8 is that Audi over-engineered this car. It's rock-solid, substantial and has baked-in performance that is quite satisfying.

The new TT comes with Audi's virtual cockpit, an all-digital readout that gives you access to all elements of the car from the driver's seat. But first, let's talk about the most important part -- the steering wheel.

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The wheel is thick, grippy, and extra-meaty at the 10-and-2 positions.

The flat-bottom steering wheel pictured here shows up in a handful of performance-oriented vehicles these days. This was my first experience with one, and though I love the look, the flat-bottom takes some getting used to when whipping the wheel around quickly in tight spaces.

Our test car also had the optional Bang & Olufsen audio system. That's 680 watts pumping through 12 speakers in this car. 12!

The virtual cockpit features these digital gauges, which look great. The vibrant readout is sharp, but there are some drawbacks.

Bryan Logan/Business Insider
A well-executed design here.

This is the only screen inside the TT, and while that makes for a clean, minimalist design on the center console, it is potentially distracting.

That blue arrow you see in the center of the map is you, and it follows along in real time as you drive, which is fine under some circumstances, but you may want to switch to one of the many other available information displays instead.

You can control the display from the steering wheel and from this handy dial -- which doubles as a touch pad that you can write on with your finger.

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The touchpad is intuitive, and simple to operate -- words that haven't always been used to describe the Germans' attempts at in-car tech. They have come a long way.

Here's the other most important part of a sports car -- the seats. The TT takes it up some notches with an attractive diamond-stitch pattern

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Hop in.

The seats in our test car are fantastic. They are deeply contoured, and 12-way power adjustable with lumbar support. The side bolsters will keep you planted as you swing around corners at speed.

As equipped, our TT retails for $56,300.

Bryan Logan/Business Insider
Worth it.

This model included the optional 19-inch aluminium wheels ($US1,000), Bang & Olufsen premium audio ($US950), S sport seat package ($US1,000), and Technology Package that includes navigation, side and rear-view cameras and Audi Connect, which features in-car WiFi ($US3,250).

Audi did well with this third generation TT. The car is light and nimble, but still feels incredibly substantial. Its driving behaviour conjures thoughts of faster, wilder supercars (like its big brother, the R8), but still manages to be a more-than-capable daily driver.

Bryan Logan/Business Insider
It exudes a quiet confidence when parked.

Audi calls this a 'moving work of art.' An enthusiastic description, yes, but it is a special car indeed.

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