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Audi gives early look at 2015 TT cockpit

Audi used CES 2014 as the venue to show off what it calls the Virtual Cockpit for the as-yet unrevealed 2015 TT model.

Audi TT Virtual Cockpit
Wayne Cunningham/CNET
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LAS VEGAS -- Two years ago, Audi showed off the cabin tech of a new A3 model at CES, long before the actual car was revealed. The company repeats this strategy at CES 2014, showing what it calls the Virtual Cockpit of the 2015 TT, before that car gets its global debut.

The Virtual Cockpit represents a big redesign for Audi's cabin electronics interface, called the Multimedia Interface (MMI), and will end up in other models as they receive major updates.

One of the biggest changes for this new interface has Audi dropping physical gauges in favor of an LCD panel in front of the driver. This panel shows virtual gauges and infotainment system screens. The TT will represent the first production car in which Audi has gone to virtual gauges. The driver can choose to show large or small gauges at the touch of a button.

Enabling the graphics on this LCD is an Nvidia Tegra 3 graphics processor chip.

The current generation MMI gives the driver a dial surrounded by two sets of four buttons on the console for controlling anything on the car's LCD. Audi simplified this hardware controller greatly, and in the process it smoothed the onscreen information flow and menus.

As in the new A3 model, the center dial of the MMI has a touch pad on top. The driver can trace letters onto this touch pad for alphanumeric entries.

Two toggle switches let drivers select navigation, telephone, radio, or media, and replace what used to be four buttons. Four other buttons for context-sensitive menus have been replaced by two buttons. A button to the left of the dial controls higher level menus, while a button to the right brings up option boxes appropriate to whichever function is currently onscreen.

Audi TT Virtual Cockpit
Audi showed off the Virtual Cockpit for the upcoming TT model, incorporating an entirely new MMI, at CES 2014. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

This new controller hardware accompanies a large change to the onscreen menus. With just about any function up, the driver can trace letters on the MMI dial to initiate searches. For example, in navigation, tracing letters will automatically initiate searches across address entry and points-of-interest. When entering an address, drivers won't have to enter street and city names separately. Just start tracing letters until the appropriate city comes up, enter it, then trace letters until the street name shows up in the predictive results.

The same search mechanism works for music and the address book.

The updated TT is set to debut at an auto show sometime this year. Audi will have the TT Virtual Cockpit on display at its booth for the week of CES 2014.