A select few cars make a driver feel good every time he or she places butt in seat. The Audi TT is one of them. Pressing the switch to fold the roof back on the roadster model for open-air motoring sets the grin factor a couple notches higher up the scale.
Audi’s TTs (coupe and roadster) are all-new for 2008 and the updated design subtly blends a chiseled physique with the rounded shape of the old version. The new look is more serious about its sports car intentions, not that the old model faltered in that category.
This second generation TT comes with increased dimensions inside and out. Overall length and width increase by slightly more than five and three inches respectively, while the wheelbase grew slightly less than two. Though the new TT punches a bigger hole in the air, it slips through with no increase in drag, which contributes to a quiet cabin.
A larger footprint usually equates to increased heft but the new TT roadster lost 188 lbs. by way of increased aluminum in its body structure. The light-alloy diet results in less mass to accelerate, turn or brake, and when combined with 18-inch high-performance tires (an $800 option) the drop-top TT generates tremendous grip and delivers nimble response. Audi’s magnetically controlled suspension further contributes to the driving fun by automatically adjusting to dynamic inputs. When switched to Sport mode, the damping stiffens slightly yet never deteriorates ride quality.
TTs are available with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, 225 horsepower four-cylinder engine or normally aspirated 3.2-liter V6 with a power output of 250 hp. The latter occupied the engine bay of the test car and included Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system to get the power to the road. Augmenting the driving mechanicals was Audi’s new S Tronic dual-clutch, six-speed automatic transmission that enables the driver to shift manually via paddle shifters mounted within a finger’s reach behind the steering wheel. When driven in normal automatic mode, the transmission was hesitant to shift but using the paddle shifters in sport mode allows you to impersonate Le Mans winning, Audi factory racing driver Allan McNish and click off shifts in two-tenths of a second. It’s a slick setup but is most useful for attacking two-lane twisties.
The TT has all of the pieces that make it a great road car. Power flows so smoothly that you find yourself going 10 mph faster than anticipated. The Quattro system contributes to the composure from a solid chassis, while suspension and steering systems communicate great road feel and isolate the cabin from the worst pavement surfaces.
Of course, the TT’s driver environment underscores the overall experience. Switches and controls are within easy reach of the flat-bottom steering wheel that feels good in your hands, and the seats are among the most supportive you’ll find. Nappa leather covered those in the test car and was further enhanced with baseball-style stitching. These seating options alone are a $2,250 option. Though it seats only two, the little TT feels private instead of claustrophobic.
To tan while driving, one switch releases the insulated roof from the windshield header and power-folds it onto itself behind the cabin without intruding on trunk space. The roof cleverly Z-folds for a clean appearance, negating any need for a tonneau cover. Turbulence isn’t bothersome at around town speeds with the top and windows down, and a pop-up wind deflector helps reduce it to nearly nil. The roof seals out wind and rain well enough to forget you’re driving a convertible.
The new TT is a great all-around sportster, especially with the V6 and Quattro-drive. Having the option of going topless is always welcome and delivers a more involving driving experience when weather allows. Our test car got expensive in a hurry with a base price of $45,900, and only a few options vaulted the tag to $55,800. Audi’s navigation system could use some more intuitive controls and a better sense of direction considering its $1,950 cost. When choosing a local business from the navigation database, the directions led to an empty field. The only consolation is that a TT roadster is a great car in which to get lost.