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.
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.
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.