Audi TT Roadster
SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide
By Annabelle Frankl
I have found the cure for the common cold. Take a half hour spin in the Roadster and all symptoms simply fly out the window – or open roof even! Of course, my week of testing coincided with extremely chilly weather and torrential rainstorms, but I did manage a couple of days with the roof down, and a beaming smile was the result.
This car is a lot of fun. It looks fun and it says to all who will listen that the driver is fun too. Compact, to say the least, this 2-seater may not have the most amount of horsepower or be the most responsive sports car on the road, but for the price tag, it packs a good punch. Well, except for 1st gear which is, frankly, gutless until you reach 2,5000rpm. So you either have to rev the engine like a girl-racer at the lights, or be faced with a lackluster pulling-away maneuver. (I highly recommend the former!)
Powered by 1.8 liter DOHC turbocharged 4-cylinder, intercooled engine, with electronic turbo boost regulation and 5-valves per cylinder technology, the Roadster produces 180 hp @ 5500 and 173 ft-lbs of torque @1950 rpm. Not all that impressive, I hear you mutter. But the figures almost don’t equate with the actual performance derived. Yes, 1st gear lacks grunt, but 2nd and 3rd are wonderfully torquey and I never once had the feeling of lacking power or acceleration ability once on the move, so long as one watches the revs and ensures they don’t dip too low.
The Roadster clung to the road as if glued and is definitely not for those seeking a cushioned ride. Wonderfully hard MacPherson strut front suspension with 3-point lower control arms, directly coupled stabilizer bar and negative steering roll radius, and torsion beam rear axle with trailing arms, separate coil spring and shocks, and toe-correcting axle bushing made for a bone jolting (in a good way) ride. Add to this a rigid 2-sided fully galvanized body, ABS and full-time traction control, and you’re hard pushed to get bent-out-of-shape. I did, however, find that the low profile 205/55 performance tires (on 16” 5-spoke cast alloy wheels) had a hard time in the wet, with several losses of traction when pulling away from a stationary position – definitely better suited to LA’s usually sunny climate.
The 5-speed manual has a good, short shift and the clutch is reassuringly stiff – none of this spring-loaded rubbish. Cruising in 5th at about 80 mph and 3,000 rpm made me wonder of the Roadster’s true top speed capability but, alas, the Roadster has an electronically limited top speed of 130mph in the US, so I don’t know what the Autobahn reality would be!
Once inside, you may never want to get out. Audi have done a superb styling job. Not a tasteless accessory or faux mahogany trim to be found anywhere, just oodles of black leather, chrome accents and red-illuminated dials. Features include power one-touch windows, sport seats (which would, I think, be rather uncomfortable for those with ample posteriors), 3-spoke leather sport steering wheel, cruise control and driver information display, including radio, auto check system and 6-function trip computer (mpg, miles to go, temp etc). My Roadster came with the Audio package of a Bose premium sound system and 6-disc CD changer (craftily hidden in the first aid compartment behind the driver’s seat) and the 120-watt, 7 speaker system easily competed with wind and road noise when the roof was down.
The manual roof was quick and easy to operate, although fitting the cover is not recommended for those wary of manicure damage. I think with a bit of practice it would become more simple, but I had a couple of pinched fingers on my first few attempts. Once on, though, the Roadster really comes into its element. Super sexy styling – it really looks the part, and loses none of its structural rigidity with the roof down. With really good heat, plus heated seats as extra, and I could have a great time, bombing around Sunset’s curves on the way to the ocean, despite very chilly weather and roaring winds. I didn’t attempt it with the windows down, but with a couple of sweaters, the Roadster kept me sheltered from the elements. Evidently, visibility is much better with the roof down too. Looking over one’s left shoulder proves mostly useless when it’s up, although good mirrors compensate a little.
Safety and security features include driver and front passenger next generation airbags, and thorax and head side airbags, all with supplemental restraint system, fixed headrests and anti-theft alarm system. One point to note: one can open the trunk from the car, with a button ‘hidden’ in the center console by a sliding lid. Surely this compartment should be lockable? Given that the glovebox is the size of a glasses case, the trunk is the only secure area to stow things and one shouldn’t have to put up the roof every time one leaves the vehicle to ensure no one gains access. Just a thought.
I thoroughly enjoyed driving the Roadster – one of the few cars I didn’t want to part with at the end of the week. My friends either! Everyone wanted a ride and it was universally appreciated and ooh-ed and aah-ed over. I think because it’s just so damn good looking. Whatever the TT lacks in performance, it more than compensates for in looks. Certainly not particularly practical if you’re thinking of fitting more than a couple of soft bags in the trunk, and possibly rather unforgiving on the bottom on long journeys, you will, however, be having so much fun, you more than likely won’t care.