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This is the 2011 Audi TT. It looks the same, it steers the same and it sticks the same. But there's one major difference: torque. Audi has managed to coax an additional 51 pound-feet of twist from its ever-evolving 2.0-liter TFSI four cylinder. The result? The standard TT isn't just the Bauhaus design icon that propelled Audi into the luxury limelight at the end of the last decade – it's finally a proper sports car. And it's about damned time. Follow the jump to see what we're torquing about.

Exterior photos by Damon Lavrinc / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Even the most hardened Audi aficionado would have a hard time spotting the differences between the 2011 model and its predecessor, so here is the Cliff's Notes version from our time spent with new TT in Germany this week.

Both the TT Coupe and Roadster sport a new front bumper with larger air intakes, high-gloss black grille accents and chrome bezels framing the fog lamps. The most obvious visual additions are the 12 LEDs lining the bottom of the optional Xenon headlamps, the larger dual exhausts and the new front splitter and rear diffuser. Both come standard in matte black, but for our money, the optional carbon fiber pieces are a racy, sophisticated touch that we'd check on the option box. Add the carbon fiber mirrors to the package and you can brag to your friends that they're the same units fitted to Audi's six-figure R8. Also, we're totally crushing on the new Oolong Gray exterior (pictured), one of four new exterior colors available for the 2011 model year.

The updates inside are far less dramatic and include a smattering of high-gloss interior trim and shiny accents, along with new brushed aluminum pieces on the center console, door liner and flat-bottom steering wheel. It's all subtle, all subdued and all available in three new interior colors: Garnet Red, Nougat Brown and Titanium Grey. But forget all that. The engine is clearly the belle of the ball, and it's time to put on our tux.

The 2.0-liter TFSI's interior code name (EA888) gets a new designation affixed to the end: AVS. In conjunction with a revised intake manifold and a new turbo, the Audi Valvelift System electronically controls and manually actuates the exhaust valves on the iron block four-cylinder to coax out 211 horsepower (up from 200 ponies) and 258 pound-feet of torque beginning at a thoroughly usable 1,600 rpm. By no accident, the four's torque output begins to fall off at 4,200 rpm, just as peak horsepower arrives at 4,300 rpm and continues unabated until 6,000 rpm. Equipped with the six-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox and Quattro all-wheel drive, the retuned TT is good for a claimed 0-60 mph sprint of 5.6 seconds and top speed of just over 150 mph. If you had any reservations about Audi nixing the 3.2-liter FSI V6 from the TT lineup last year, leave them at the door. We did just as we crested 130 mph on the Autobahn.

Our initial blast from Munich to Ingolstadt was behind the wheel of a Euro-spec front-wheel drive TT – a budget option we don't get in the States. That's just fine, because you don't want it.

As we learned earlier this week, Audi is committed to reducing the weight of its vehicles by using an amalgamation of composites, aluminum and steel. In the TT, this is key. With the engine mounted up front, Audi took pains to balance weight distribution by using plenty of aluminum in front, with a steel floor pan in the rear. Yet despite the heavier material out back, the resulting 59/41 front-to-rear weight distribution isn't exactly sports car-ideal on the FWD model. Our triple-digit 'bahn-burning and brief backroad blast exposed the front-driven TT as slightly squirrely and less planted at speed. However, add the all-wheel-drive components out back, and the short wheelbase and better weight distribution makes for an eminently more entertaining driving experience.

With the seven-speed S tronic set to manual and the new Sport button depressed (tightened steering, sharper throttle and quicker shifts), any and all questions about the TT's sports car pretenses were immediately laid to rest. The amount of tractable torque in the lower rev-range was predictably reminiscent of the hotter TTS – it's putting out the same amount of twist, after all – with things beginning to run out of steam at around 5,500 rpm. Gear changes by the six-speed dual-clutch remain clean and precise, and with the additional twist on tap, turns we would've taken in second are easily dispatched in third, allowing you to sprint from bend to bend without having to rely on the steering wheel-mounted paddles or push-and-pull gear lever. Since we haven't been overly enamored with the pedal placement on the the manual TT (heel and toe has always been an issue), the dual-clutch tranny continues to be our favorite 'box of the bunch.

Throw the S-Line package into the mix, along with the new Sport button and extra torque, and you've got a budget TTS for thousands less. Which brings up a point: While the 265-hp TTS is still the king of the hill (unless the TT RS gets greenlit for the U.S.), Audi is sure to be planning an EA888-based upgrade in the near future. Until that 300-hp coupe arrives, the upgraded 2011 TT is easily one of the best value propositions in the segment, and finally achieves what Audi set out to accomplish when the TT was introduced in 1998. It's finally a proper entry-level luxury sports car, balancing style, substance and speed into one of the most attractive two-doors ever to hail from Deutschland.

Exterior photos by Damon Lavrinc / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Travel and lodging for this test were paid for by the manufacturer.

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