Editorial note: Last week, Business Insider named its 2015 Car of the Year, the Volvo XC90. We also revisited our reviews of the five runners-up. As a bonus, the transportation team is recalling the cars that they enjoyed, individually, the most in the year that's almost past.
The 2016 Audi TT caught me by surprise.
I've always thought of the German automaker's compact coupe to be something of a lightweight.
It's not quite a sport coupe, not all that interesting, and certainly not very exciting to drive.
On top of that, the next step up from a TT (or a TTS or TT RS) is the A5/S5/RS5 coupe.
Suddenly, a TT feels like the minor leagues.
And then I drove one. Using Audi on Demand, a San Francisco-based rental service that is owned and operated by Audi, I ordered a 2016 TT coupe that was delivered to my door the next day.
From the moment I stepped inside this car, every one of my pre-conceived notions evaporated.
The diamond-stitch leather sport seats and flat-bottom steering wheel informed a sense of refinement, and purpose.
Hit the start button, and Audi's new, virtual cockpit came to life in all its crisp, vibrant splendor.
Once in gear and moving about the tricky streets of San Francisco — and later down the winding coastal roads of Cabrillo Highway, I noticed two things: the TT was notably taut — its suspension rode like it was plucked from a faster, meaner car. It turned on a dime, and was both sharp and flat around corners.
It's an unassuming kind of rascal that doesn't betray any of its playfulness until you're behind the wheel, hustling its four corners along with effortless gusto.
And that gusto is really impressive considering the TT's powerplant is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 220 horsepower. Power delivery was smooth and seamless. It doesn't make a scene. It kind of just does it ... stealthily, quietly ... and suddenly the speedometer is cresting 100mph.
I can imagine the TTS multiplies these thrills and the upcoming 400-horsepower TT RS will be even more diabolical.
All told, I don't think the TT is enough to pull me away from my love of big grand-touring coupes, but it has left a stunning impression, nonetheless.