Volkswagen’s new Golf R hot hatch has been receiving heaping doses of praise from enthusiasts and the media alike. Heck, as one of three finalists for the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s Canadian Car of the Year Awards, it was nearly crowned the best new car for 2016.

It receives these kudos for good reason. It’s a car that’s simultaneously solid, yet tossable; refined, yet playful and reasonably practical to boot. But when pushing north of the $40,000 mark, it does start to sound a little expensive for a car that most fellow motorists couldn’t discern from a $20,000 Golf.

So, imagine a car that amplifies all that’s endearing about the Golf R (taut MQB underpinnings, smooth and powerful EA888 engine), and wraps them in a lighter, better-looking package. That’s just what the Audi TTS is, and more.

Of course, at a starting price of nearly $62,000 – or about twenty grand more than the feisty Vee-dub, the TTS needs to impress. The body of the TTS is more aggressive than it was before, with its front end being particularly fearsome thanks to squat LED lighting and a sharper-edged grille opening that gives the TTS a decidedly R8-look – never a bad thing, that.

As with the last-generation TTS, the new car features a lot of aluminum in its construction, enabling some weight saving versus last year’s car to the tune of about 45 kg (and versus the Golf R at about 85 kg). What’s more, the mass is carried lower in the TTS, contributing to improved overall handling.

That handling remains a strong suit of the TTS. Turn-in is very quick as is the steering in general. The car responds immediately to driver inputs and remains impressively flat in cornering, especially in Dynamic mode, where the trade-off is a pretty firm ride, made especially noticeable on frost-heaved winter roads during our test week.

Thanks to Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system – and on the press car, a good set of Continental winter tires – our TTS test car proved to be a great companion for some of the back roads we discovered when the car’s navigation system directed us down some ridiculous rural roads en route to the Blue Mountain ski area. Stable, and with loads of grip, the Audi was a willing partner in fulfilling some quasi-rally-driver fantasies tearing down the snow-and-gravel roads through the region’s forests at night (the brilliantly bright LED headlights were also a welcome standard feature).

With the 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine twisting out 280 lb-ft of torque from 1,900 rpm, and 292 horsepower, the 1,485 kg TTS will reportedly reach 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds. Being generally lag-free, the little turbo leaves the driver with little doubt that that time could be easily achieved, especially with the traction of the all-wheel drive, and the effortless (and blazingly quick) shifting of the 6-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission doing all the hard work for you.

In Pictures: 2016 Audi TT and TTS

Midrange power feels particularly robust, meaning that passing is almost comical, especially if the driver clicks the left paddle shifter a couple of times to get the engine really boiling. With S mode selected on the shifter, revs are held longer, shifts are quicker and there’s even a louder burble from the exhaust. And thanks to the enhanced induction noises being pumped into the cabin, it even sounds halfway decent when you give the little engine the boot.

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