2008 Audi TT Roadster 2.0 TFSI Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2008 Audi TT Roadster 2.0 TFSI

Audis are different. The German manufacturer was an early adopter of front-wheel drive, back in the 1930s. It was also a pioneer in all-wheel drive technology, starting with the Quattro coupes of the early 1980s. And in styling and design, Audi copied no one.

So when Audi decided to add a sports car to its lineup, that car was bound to be distinctive. And it was. The TT, named after the Tourist Trophy auto races held in Great Britain in the past, made a statement. Its styling, derived with little change from a concept car, was geometrically simple in a manner that could best be described as neo-Bauhaus. Offered initially in coupe form, later followed by a convertible, the TT had its engine mounted transversely in front, driving either the front or all four wheels. Unusual for a sports car, perhaps, but completely Audi.

Time and competition march on, and competition in the small sports car class is relentless. So a new TT was called for. It's an evolution of the original, with styling updated to reflect the current Audi look, and powertrains updated to the current state of the art. As ever, it's offered in coupe or convertible form. TTs outfitted with the 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder engine are front-wheel drive and utilize Audi's six-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox, now called S-tronic. Replace the four with a 3.2-liter,250-hp V6, and you get quattro all-wheel drive and the choice of a six-speed manual or the S-tronic gearboxes.

The second generation TT is noticeably larger than the original, but not enough to diminish its road manners. As was its predecessor, the new TT is more a sports-touring than pure sports car, as it trades a serious sports car's narrow focus on performance for a broader palette, adding comfort and convenience that play well in the everyday world.

I've just spent a week with a well-equipped 2.0-liter convertible. It rained the entire week, but I stayed warm, dry, and comfortable inside. Visibility with the top up, often a concern in convertibles, was a non-issue, and sure-footed handling and excellent brakes made driving a pleasure. As did the torquey turbo-motor coupled to the S-tronic gearbox, and the first-class nature of the cabin. Most welcome was the stiffer unibody structure, which banished cowl shake and the attendant creaks and rattles.

APPEARANCE: The second-generation TT is a logical development of the first. As Audi's other cars have gone from simpler to more complex shapes, with straight-cut character lines offsetting large rounded surfaces so has the TT. Ditto for the large "single frame" chrome-trimmed eggcrate grille. Even without badging, it would instantly be recognizable as an Audi TT, as the original geometric shape is retained as a base. A central bulge in the hood hints at the power beneath, and is carried forward to house the grille. The grille is flanked at the bottom by dark panels carrying the foglamps and at the top by long, almost feline complex headlights. The hood is only marginally longer than the rear deck, placing the center of the passenger cabin just slightly behind car's midpoint. Bold semicircular wheel arches and an incised shoulder line between them highlight the sides. The rounded rear features wide taillights, a movable spoiler that is retracted at low speeds, and twin exhausts in a dark lower panel. Many convertibles look ungainly with their top up. Not the TT.

COMFORT: In style, the TT's interior follows the dictum of its exterior - functional simplicity is esthetically pleasing. And the TT's interior is a little larger and roomier in every dimension now, too. A variety of colors and materials can be specified, with leather for the seat bolsters and alcatara synthetic suede for the centers standard, and matte aluminum trim on the doors and console and bezeling the instruments and climate-control vents. Upgrades, with Nappa leather and a variety of interesting color schemes, are available. For driver comfort, seat cushion height is adjustable, and the leather-rimmed steering wheel is adjustable for both tilt and reach. The seats offer first-rate comfort. Instruments and controls are easily seen and used, although it may take a few minutes to get used to the MMI control interface for the navigation and audio systems if the navigation system is specified. My test car was comprehensively equipped with most options - over $12,000 worth - but it was quite the pocket sports-luxury machine. A fabric top is used, as a folding metal one was deemed too heavy and expensive. In the basic 2.0, it's manually operated; power operation comes with the Premium Package or the 3.2 engine. There are no "2+2" rear jumpseats as in the coupe, as the top is stowed at that position. There is a trunk, and it is large enough for a long weekend for people who travel light.

SAFETY: The TT's chassis structure is designed to channel crash energy around the reinforced passenger compartment. Dual-threshold front, seat-mounted chest side, and knee-protection air bags are standard, as is an alarm system. On the active safety front, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist and the ESP electronic stability assistance system are found in all TT models.

RIDE AND HANDLING: As with the original, the TT roadster differs considerably from the coupe in its aluminum-intensive Audi Space Frame (ASF) structure because of the large hole in the top that is the passenger cabin. To make up for the lack of a structural top, the lower side sills, rear passenger compartment bulkhead, and windshield frame A-pillars are all reinforced. That makes the roadster between 165 and 200 pounds heavier than the equivalent coupe, depending on model. But, where there was a noticeable amount of chassis flex and cowl shake in the old roadster, the new one feels, and is, solid and tight. Suspension is fully-independent by means of MacPherson struts in front and a multilink setup at the rear. The optional Magnetic Ride Suspension, which was in my test car, utilizes shock absorbers filled with fluid that changes viscosity in the presence of an electric current. There are two settings, soft for comfort and firm for sport driving. Soft is best around town and on poorly-paved roads; firm makes for a more performance-oriented ride, but still with good comfort.

PERFORMANCE: In the front-wheel drive TT 2.0, power comes from Audi's namesake 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It's a fine example of all that is right about turbocharging. Direct fuel injection allows a high 10.3:1 compression ratio for maximum efficiency and minimum emissions, with further benefit from intercooling the intake charge. Boost is moderate, at 1.8 bar. Maximum torque, 207 lb-ft worth, is developed from 1800 rpm, barely above idle, all the way through 5000 rpm. Peak horsepower - 200 - is developed from 5100 rpm through 6000 rpm. What does that mean? instant acceleration in any gear at any time, with no need to bury the tach in the red zone. The S-tronic gearbox is icing on the cake. Essentially a manual transmission, it uses two clutches and computerized electro-hydraulic gear engagement to shift very quickly either by driver command - by pulling on the shift paddles behind the steering wheel spokes - or completely automatically. Manual shifts are executed more quickly than would be possible with a conventional manual gearbox, and automatic operation is as smooth as any torque-converter automatic.

CONCLUSIONS: Audi has further refined the essence of its TT sports roadster.

SPECIFICATIONS

2008 Audi TT Roadster 2.0 TFSI

Base Price			$ 36,800
Price As Tested			$ 49,700
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 16-valve direct
				 fuel-injecton turbocharged and
				 intercooled inline 4-cylinder
Engine Size			2.0 liters / 121 cu. in.
Horsepower			200 @ 5100-6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			207 @ 1800-5000 rpm
Transmission			6-speed dual-clutch automated manual
Wheelbase / Length		97.2 in. / 164.5 in.
Curb Weight			3130 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		15.7
Fuel Capacity			14.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		unleaded premium gasoline suggested, 
                                unleaded regular permissible with diminished 
                                performance
Tires				P245/40 ZR18 Pirelli P-ZERO rosso
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, BA, ESP standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		22 / 29 / 23
0 to 60 mph				6.3  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Sahara Silver Metallic paint and black roof		$   475
Premium Package - includes:
  power folding top, Homelink(r), multifunction
  leather steering wheel, heated 10-way power 
  sports seats, auto-dimming interior mirror,
  Symphony radio with 6-CD in-dash changer		$ 3,050
Audi Exclusive Line - includes:
  black fine nappa leather seats with colored stitching	$ 2,200
Audi Navigation Plus - includes:
  navigation system, iPod(R) interface that deletes
  Premium Package CD changer				$ 1,950
Magnetic Ride Suspension				$ 1,400
Audio Package - includes:
  Sirius satellite radio, Bose(r) premium
  sound system						$ 1,000
18" alloy wheels with performance summer tires		$   800
Bi-Xenon adaptive headlights				$   800
Bluetooth (r) phone preparation				$   450
Destination charge					$   775
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