Friday, April 4, 2008

Epitomised stylish

THE AUDI TT KNOWS HOW to walk The Walk. Drive down any street in any town and you can watch the envious glances as everyone admires the TT's sculpted body. Hood aside, the Roadster is faithful to the Coupé's silhouette but, top down, it looks even more ultra-modern. Stop at the lights and chances are someone will grin with approbation and give you a nod or thumbs up.
Epitomised stylish audi tt
From the very first day of its launch, the TT has epitomised stylish and spirited driving. Five years on, it's more than just a pretty face. The TT lives on as the cool face of automotive technology.
Epitomised stylish audi tt
Thanks to Audi's ground-breaking twin-clutch semi-automatic Direct Shift Gearbox, the TT has just got even better. Mated to a naturally-aspirated 247bhp 3.2-litre V6 it makes for a cracking combination. It also comes with beefed-up sports suspension and spring and damper rates specifically tailored to suit the V6 engine, upgraded brakes and a quicker steering rack. And in Roadster form it's even more of an attention grabber than its charismatic Coupé sister.

Starting with the £21K 150bhp entry-level Roadster, the TT range includes two more turbocharged four-cylinder engines of 180 and 225bhp — available as either coupés or roadsters — and tops-out with the flagship 250bhp 3.2 V6 tested here and which in quattro Roadster guise costs £31,995 on-the-road.

In the two-seater Roadster it's not where you fetch up but the getting there. A finely-honed performance machine, the TT is as fast as one could wish for. Thanks to Audi's quattro permanent four-wheel drive system it has superb levels of roadholding in even the worst conditions. With quattro you can always be sure of getting down every last bit of the 3.2 TT's 247bhp.

The TT looks fast even when it's parked on the drive. Distinguishing the 6-cylinder 3.2 from its lesser 4-pot stablemates are 18-inch seven-spoke alloy wheels wearing 225/40 Continental rubber, a larger lip for the rear spoiler and a deeper front air dam housing honeycomb-covered air inlet apertures, a central air intake and gill-like side slits. At the rear, large-bore exhaust pipes exit at either end of a new diffuser that is finished in black honeycomb to match the front. If you miss all that then all you have to do is look for the subtle '3.2 quattro' badge on the tail!

Fire up the V6 and you'll discover eager throttle response from idle along with vivid acceleration — 62mph comes up from standstill in a cracking 6.6 seconds. Floor the accelerator and you'll be catapulted forward by the 24-valve V6's 236lb ft of torque, with real power building from around 2,500rpm. In fact the V6 is impressively tractable, pulling cleanly in sixth from very low down. Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph and although we didn't go there, you just know it's going to track straight and true at those autobahn figures.

The Roadster eschews metal for a quick-folding fabric roof that is good enough to keep the cabin insulated from the outside world when raised. Top down and wind deflector in place — at the touch of a button a shaped clear glass panel glides up from between the two substantial silver roll hoops behind the headrests — the cockpit remains well protected from blustery winds even when keeping up with the faster motorway traffic. Having said that, it didn't pass the tangled hair test.

The power-operated soft top requires a single locking lever in the screen header rail to be manually released before using the switch to fold it away electrically. Raised, it keeps the cabin quiet enough to easily listen to the quality sound system, even when it is turned down low.

How well it goes was no real surprise. What we didn't expect with so much performance on tap was exactly how far the 3.2 TT would travel on a single gallon of petrol. Our overall test figure came out at an impressive 28mpg, while several 200-mile motorway trips saw this jump to a welcome 36mpg. The tank holds 13.6 gallons of unleaded, which gives the TT a touring range between refills of close to 500 miles.

The range-topping TT's muscular new 3.2 V6 and Audi's terrific Direct Shift Gearbox are both superb. The V6 is a real goer that not only sounds melodious working hard but pulls with real gusto. With the roof down, the velvety burble from the exhaust sounds good enough to make you switch off the radio. Widely regarded as a major breakthrough in transmission technology, DSG — which has its roots in Audi's motorsport — is a six-speed transmission controlled by some extremely clever electronic and hydraulic actuators that offers all the advantages of a sporting close-ratio manual gearbox and a slick shifting automatic. With none of the negative aspects of either.

The new gearbox features not one but two automated clutches — one for the gear you're already in and the other for the one needed next. The moment a gear is about to be changed, the next has already been pre-selected and is ready to go. When it happens, the change is unbelievably quick — one fifth of a second to be precise. Even more amazing is the fact that acceleration continues virtually uninterrupted. Toggle the up and down shift paddles behind the steering wheel rim and you'll be delighted with the shift quality. Skipping through the six ratios is executed with an uncanny smoothness — even during hard acceleration — that borders on the spooky.

Naturally, the electronic wizardry has built-in failsafes to protect you by making sure pre-selections go the right way. So, if you're on the brakes it selects a lower next gear. If you're going for it, it pre-selects a higher gear. But that's not all DSG can do — it even lets you change up or down mid-bend without upsetting the car's balance.

Another tricksy 'toy' you get is 'launch control'. Switch off the ESP, select Sport mode, press and hold the brake pedal and crank the engine up to around 3,200rpm. Slip your left foot off the brake (there's no clutch pedal), power dumps to all four wheels and the V6 TT will rocket off the line to post a full-bore 0-62mph getaway, the gutsy V6 snarling all the way to the red-line. The perfect standing start. Time after time after time.

Traditionalists can relax: Audi have supplemented the TT's steering wheel-mounted gearchange paddleshifts with a 'normal' gearlever. In manual mode the 'paddles' work superbly and keen drivers will love flicking through the six gears simply by tapping the wheel-mounted shift paddles or nudging the gearlever up or down through its short manual mode gate. Slot the gearlever into Drive and the DSG turns the hardcore V6 into a relaxed urban cruiser that changes gear with velvet-smooth shifts as sweet as those of the best automatics on the market. At low speed the ride is a tad on the firm side, but this smoothes out noticeably as you up the speed.

Bored with all the silkiness? Then select Sport mode and the TT will get your adrenaline pumping as it hangs on to the revs like an Olympic sprinter going for gold. Downshifts are accompanied by a crisp throttle blip to match engine revs to gear selections. Use kick-down while in Sport and you'll find the DSG 'box itching to drop two or even three gears.

Underpinned by Audi's brilliant quattro all-wheel drivetrain, the compact TT feels literally glued to the road — even in the slipperiest of conditions — charging accurately through bends and around corners with a composure bordering on the indestructible. Drive the V6 TT and it will bring back memories of childhood, of doing exactly what you want to do. Just like then, the TT makes you want to stay out, playing all hours.

Backed up by anti-lock and electronic brake-force distribution, the
17-inch dual-piston brakes with vented discs (adapted from those used on the acclaimed Audi RS4 Avant quattro) are highly-effective speed killers, pulling the TT up four-square and fuss-free. The well-weighted steering is good, too, with just 2.7 turns lock-to-lock and crisp turn-in that sees the TT reacting very quickly to driver inputs — whether they're called for on a series of fast sweeping bends or weaving through commuter traffic in town.

As is usual for a car wearing the four interlinked chrome rings on its nose, the TT is superbly built. The materials used throughout are first rate, and attention to detail is superb. The distinctive and beautifully built cabin is a joy to behold, equally as satisfying to look at as the exterior. It also features some striking and symmetrical detailing, particularly the clever use of polished aluminium around the instruments, the stubby selector lever, centre console, flip-up aluminium radio cover panel and the crafted roundel air vents that dominate the black fascia. What's particularly nice is that everything that looks like metal, really is metal.

Especially neat are the rotary switch controls for the heated seats that pop out with a push and adjust with precise turns. The heated seats have five settings and really do keep you comfortable without making you overheat. All the controls are functional and work with typical Audi efficiency. Two large silver-bezelled dials with red needles (a rev-counter and a 160mph speedometer) sit immediately in front of the driver either side of the on-board computer display which, along with driver information alerts and trip computer information, also highlights the engaged gear. Two smaller dials (engine coolant temperature and fuel) complete the instrument pack. At night the red-lit dials are restful on the eyes and crystal clear.

Lower yourself into the TT's sporty well-bolstered leather seats and you know you're in a proper sports car. You sit low — in rather than on them. The high doors sills and waistline and low windscreen header rail lend a feel of hewn-from-rock solidity to the cocoon-like cabin, which serves to make the excellent driving position — thanks to full adjustment for the seat and chunky sports leather steering wheel — reassuring. More than reassuring. When you get behind the wheel of a TT you immediately feel at one with the car.

Despite the TT's compact dimensions there is a lot of space inside, with good-sized footwells and ample headroom. There is also a lot of fore and aft seat travel, freed up by the absence of the rear seats fitted to Coupé models. A massive alloy left-foot rest is useful on long trips, while the brake and accelerator pedals are alloy ribbed with rubber. Electronic climate control and a first-class Bose stereo with
6-CD stacker keep you cool and entertained. The V6 flagship TT is fully loaded with kit including a Driver's Information System, Xenon head-lights that provide strong blue-white light both on dip and main beam, plus headlight washers, heated screen washer jets, heated electric door mirrors, heat-insulating tinted glass and power steering. Both front windows have one-shot up/down switches. Options include SatNav, GSM telephone preparation and cruise control.

There's ample stowage space dotted about the cabin. A discreet, partially-hidden cubby ahead of the gearlever with a curved sliding lid is handy for valuables but it also houses the remote switches for the boot and fuel filler flap. There are also mesh door pockets and a deep lockable glovebox. Two more cubbies are inset into the rear bulkhead and accessible from behind the front seatbacks, while a third is sited between the backrests. The boot is shallow but long and wide and surprisingly accommodating, taking 180 litres of luggage.

The TT follows every other Audi in providing an array of sensible safety kit that, in addition to the obvious safety benefits of the quattro permanent all-wheel drive, includes substantial twin rollover protection hoops, front and side airbags (head and thorax), belt pre-tensioners, ABS, ESP and traction control.

Without a doubt the TT's devastatingly good DSG gearbox makes for a whole new driving experience. Smooth normal driving or, with a flick of the selector, quick and responsive when you feel like a bit of fun. It's worth pointing out that the DSG actually does far more than simply enhance the driving dynamics because it does away with the fuel- and power-sapping torque converter found on conventional automatic gearboxes, resulting in worthwhile savings at the pumps.

But, DSG aside, consider how much of a day-to-day real-world contender the TT is. Not only is it a 'fun in the sun' vehicle but it is an extremely quick cross-country and bad weather car, coping admirably with the worst of Britain's unpredictable climate. The TT's allure is enhanced by rock solid resale and remarkable residual values, under-scored by what is clearly a car that has been built to last. And it appeals as much to the young as it does to the young at heart.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tangible advantage

Audi have approached the issue in an ingenious way. The TT 3.2 V6 DSG uses a sequential manual gearbox in order to ensure efficiency and rapid responses, but it also uses a clever twin clutch system to ensure creamy smoothness. Engage first gear and the gearbox will pre-engage second gear in advance, the second clutch engaging as soon as you flick up to fire the TT instantly into second gear.

This means a seamless flow of power. The electronics predict what gear youre about to engage, depending on whether youre accelerating or braking and the result is astonishing, making every other gearbox look distinctly clunky. The other option is to slip it into D and drive it like a normal automatic. Even in this mode its butter smooth.

One comes away with the impression that Audi have a tangible advantage over everybody else with this system and that some day all gearboxes will be made this way. Porsche are already said to be sniffing about Ingolstadt to licence the technology. The rest of the TT V6 is no slouch either. Although many will question the wisdom of fitting a bigger, heavier engine that only develops an additional 22bhp over the existing 225bhp turbocharged 1.

8-litre model, the V6 powerplant transforms the cars nature. Make no mistake, its quick enough for some serious fun, notching off the sprint to 60mph in 6.4 seconds before running onto a terminal velocity of 155mph. Its the same engine found in Volkswagens Phaeton luxury saloon and the Touareg 4x4 but has been subtly tweaked by Audi to generate 247bhp.

Unlike its turbocharged understudies, the TT 3.2 V6 suffers no lag when you prod the throttle pedal. Instant urge is the name of the game here, and the potent snarl when the engine ascends the rev range is a welcome improvement to the rather anodyne whoosh and blare of the 1.8T.

The exhaust has been tuned to produce a sporty sound and if you back off the throttle at high revs theres a series of crackles and pops as unburnt fuel detonates in the exhaust. If that doesnt make you feel like Walter Rohrl in a classic Quattro rally car nothing will! To accommodate the extra power, the TT 3.2 V6 enjoys a suspension upgrade, the 18-inch wheels fitting extremely snugly into the lowered arches. As well as being more firmly sprung, this TT is also possessed of a more direct steering rack that feels purposeful and sharp.

Whilst its not Porsche-style communicative, it at least excises the somewhat numb feeling that has characterised Audi performance cars of late. The other accusation levelled at Audi sportsters has been the charge of overservoed brakes. The TT 3.2 V6 addresses this as well, offering more feel and modulation in the pedal travel.

The car is available as a manual but most buyers really should find the £1,400 to get the DSG. Its a well-judged package of changes. Audi know not to mess with a winning formula and have wisely left the superb cabin design ostensibly unchanged. It looked great when the TT was launched in 1999 and its still the benchmark by which all other coupe interiors are judged.

Rear seat accommodation is as catastrophic as ever. Mild body styling changes include a modified rear spoiler and apron, bigger cooling inlets in the front spoiler and titanium-coloured headlight trims. The TT 3.2 V6 DSG arrived just in the nick of time for Audi.

In the face of a revised Porsche Boxster and threats from the Nissan 350Z, the Mazda RX8 and the BMW Z4, Audi have breathed new life into a car that was in danger of being knocked from the limelight. The TT has always been a great entertainer, one of the few cars with the performance to match the persona. With its revolutionary transmission and satisfying engine the TT 3.2 V6 DSG moves the game onward.

Monday, March 24, 2008

DSG Coupe

Although Many Will Be Drawn To The 3.2-Litre V6 Engine, The Real Advance In This Audi TT Is Its Amazing Gearbox. Andy Enright Reports

Think back to the last time a car manufacturer introduced a groundbreaking innovation that really did catch everyone else on the hop. Its probably fair to say that it was Audi who saw the potential of the four-wheel drive sports car way back at the turn of the Eighties. Just as this development changed the way we viewed performance cars today, another innovation to come out of Ingolstadt may well leave an equally significant impression. Its the Direct Shift Gearbox fitted to the flagship TT model, the 3.

2-litre V6 quattro DSG.

Bear with us here. Many of you may understandably be less than enamoured at the prospect of a lengthy description of a bunch of oily cogs however clever the controlling mechanism may be, so well try to keep things relatively simple. Jump into the TT 3.2 DSG and youre greeted with what looks like a relatively conventional automatic gear lever sprouting from the transmission tunnel.

Closer inspection reveals that the gearstick can be knocked sideways into a slot so that you can push it forward to change up a gear and pull it back to drop down a ratio. There are also paddle shifters behind the steering wheel to achieve the same effect. But then a number of cars already feature such a system. Whats the advance? Its important to understand how these other cars gearboxes work.

Basically, they can be split into two forms. The first is a proper automatic gearbox that can double up as a rather poor manual box as typified by Porsches Tiptronic system, and the second is a sequential manual box that will, at a pinch, function as a somewhat clonky automatic as typified by Alfa Romeos Selespeed, Ferraris F1 or BMWs SMG system. Neither system is ideal. Tiptronic style gearboxes use a torque converter and as such are inefficient and a touch slow witted albeit very smooth.

The sequential manual gearboxes can be brutally efficient in manual mode but are neither smooth nor very convincing when trying to mimic an automatic gearbox. Just try a hill start in reverse and youll see what we mean.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cool, efficiently

audi tt Cool, efficiently

Audi is not particularly known for producing exciting cars - cool, efficiently clinical yes, thrilling and sexy, no - but the TTV6 is definitely one. Another is this, the fabled Quattro of 1980. The Quattro was really the car that sounded the starting gun for Audi's inexorable rise to the automotive super-league, a journey that has culminated this year with the launch of their Porsche-rivaling A8 supercar. Where previously Audi had been known for producing sturdy, unadventurous saloons for Bonn bank managers, the 1980 Quattro brought the company a new audience and new respect thanks to its dominance of the World Rally Championship for years after. The key to the car's success was its four-wheel drive system which was bolted to an Audi 80 chassis and five-cylinder, 2144cc engine. Four-wheel drive had been used on road cars before, but this system had been developed for military use and within five years virtually every rally car would follow suit. Today, the fact that so many road cars are available with four- wheel drive is largely down to the Quattro.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Quattro Roadster


Would suit: Felons
Price: £31,535
Performance: 155mph, 0-60mph in 6.1 seconds
Combined fuel consumption: 27.2mpg
More information: 08457 699 777

You may have noticed that in recent weeks (OK months, oh alright then, since it started) this column has become as much a platform for me to spout my puerile, often incoherent opinions on stuff, as it has been a place for rational contemplation of contemporary automobiles and their role in society. But as Paul McCartney sang with searing self awareness in "No More Silly Love Songs", well, here I go again.

I've been thinking: isn't it about time that we calculated prison sentences on a sliding scale according to the age of the felon involved? You are familiar, I am sure, with the idea that time passes with increasing speed the older one gets? Surely then, while a three-year stretch for robbery will seem an eternity for an 18-year-old, for an 80-year-old it will be two Sidney Sheldons and an afternoon nap.* Let's get a little balance here: why not weight sentencing according to age with, say, 70 as the threshold for significant sentencing reductions? Sentences can be reduced by perhaps a month or two for every year that you are below that figure, so that if you are, I don't know, let's say, 35 (coincidentally my own age), you can knock off 35 months from a standard sentence for, let's for argument's sake say, car theft.

I raise this now mainly for the altruistic reasons that lie behind all of my writing (or, as I call it, my "giving"), but also because I have just driven the new Audi TT V6 convertible and I now want one so badly I am not going to let a little insurance fraud, a few covert raids on my wife's bank account, or even the temptation to just steal one outright get in the way of raising the £31,530 shortfall in my current budget.

It's a cracker, the new TT, not only subtly sexy, but at last now a proper, tight little sports car. I tried the entry-level, 2.0-litre coupé a few months ago and loved it, rashly pronouncing it far superior to the larger-engined, V6 version, despite never having driven that car (I do the same with films I've never seen and books I've never read). I claimed the 2.0 litre handled better because it had less weight over the front wheels. I was guessing and I was right, but what I had forgotten was that, in most circumstances, more power means more fun, and damn the consequences.

Taut, agile, fast and extremely well made, the new TT is very nearly so perfect it's annoying. In fact the only criticism you can really level against it is that, if the ubiquity of its predecessor is anything to go by, we will be sick of the sight of them in a couple of years' time. That's not Audi's fault of course - the iPod is still a work of genius even though there are now more of them than grains of sand on Bondi - but it might well be all the likes of Alfa and Mazda have to hold on to if they are to remain sane. s

*My wife has pointed out that, although time does seem to go by more slowly for the young, old people have far less of it ahead of them, so time is more precious to them and so their sentences should be shorter. Or the same as they are now. She is also changing her passwords.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Audi TT Biturbo Images

L.A. is the premier event for showcasing convertibles, so we’re not surprised that Audi waited until now to unveil the roadster version of its new TT. Featuring a canvas soft-top roof, the drop-top TT will be ready for sale midway thorough next year and sticks to the design philosophy of the original.

Not only is weight reduced by avoiding a complicated folding metal hardtop, the TT Roadster’s centre of gravity is also lowered and the canvas top takes less boot space when folded than its metal counterpart. Standard models still receive a manual-folding top with a single-latch release mechanism, while top-of-the-line versions use a power-operated top. The roof takes roughly 12 seconds to move into place and it can be operated at speeds of up to 30km/h.

Engineers added reinforcements to the car’s aluminum and steel frame, including a new bulkhead housing pop-up roll bars. More reinforcement in the form of steel tubing runs around the windshield and A-pillars. Audi claims that the new Roadster is twice as stiff as the previous model. Buyers can opt between a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 250hp 3.2 V6 with 236lb-ft of torque and Quattro AWD. Transmission options include a conventional six-speed manual or Audi’s S-tronic dual clutch gearbox.

Audi TT V6 3.2 Review

Price and equipment

  • Four Star
The flagship TT operates in a pretty stratospheric part of the market when it comes to pricing, but against its elite Euro sports coupe competition it is actually pretty good value. It clearly undercuts equivalent Porsche (Cayman) and Mercedes-Benz (SLK) competition, while managing to offer a pretty decent equipment list that includes leather upholstery and stability control.

Under the bonnet

  • Four Star
The TT's 3.2-litre V6 is a known proposition, but that doesn't mean it's unimpressive. It manages to combine strong acceleration with acceptable fuel economy despite including the weight of an all-wheel drive system. The transmission is Volkswagen Group's dual clutch DSG - or S Tronic in Audi-speak - and it works well in almost all situations. Its only real issue is smoothness at takeoff.

How it drives

  • Three Half Star
Impressively, the second generation TT V6 is actually 30kg lighter than its predecessor, mostly thanks to the increased use of aluminium. It also replaces the old car's torsion beam rear suspension with a multi-link. Both of these initiatives help make the V6 TT that much more enjoyable and responsive to drive. It has a coarse ride and a noticeable level of tyre noise intrusion into the cabin.

Comfort and practicality

  • Three Half Star
By the impractical standards of coupes the TT is actually a stand-out - partly because it is a hatchback. The two rear seats are almost useless for passengers, but fold down to help create 700 litres of luggage space. That's enough to fit a mountain bike with the front wheel removed. The front seats are very comfortable, but storage spaces around the cockpit are not abundant.


So far no word on NCAP independent crash test rating for the TT, but the roadster version of its predecessor gained four stars. Standard equipment includes dual front and front-side airbags, stability control and ABS.