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.

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