New Car/Review

Audi

Audi TT Roadster (2001)

SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 32,850
     Price As Tested                                    $ 36,025
     Engine Type              DOHC 20-valve 1.8 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 107 cid/1781 cc
     Horsepower                                   180 @ 5500 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               173 @ 4700 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   95.4"/73.1"/159.1"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     3092 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  14.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      205/55R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                         Two-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.36

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            22/30/26          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          16.0 seconds @ 84.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           130 mph
                * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Bob Hagin says that as far as he knows, Audi never made a true two-seater sports car. His son Matt says that's OK because the new TT Audi Roadster makes up for lost time.)

MATT - The Audi TT Coupe started out as a "doodle" by auto stylist Freeman Thomas and it carried over almost unchanged to the TT Concept Car that showed up at the 1995 Frankfort Auto Show. It was inevitable that the TT Coupe would be followed by a full-fledged roadster, since open-top sports cars have become very popular in this affluent society. Several European auto makers have gotten back into the sports car business and so have a couple of their Japanese counterparts.

BOB - Matt, none of those cars are real "roadsters" because by definition, a roadster has no side windows and only rudimentary weather protection. But what's on the market today is close enough and they all are cars that you drive around just for fun and to see how easily they can be tossed around sweepers and tight turns. But with the TT, the drive system is pretty unique - as it is in all modern Audi products. It's built on the Volkswagen Golf platform and uses an all-wheel drive system that puts all the power to the front wheels while the car is driven in a relatively mild manner and going straight ahead. But when the car goes into a turn or begins to lose traction on any wheel, it shifts over to all-wheel drive. If you're perceptive enough, you can actually feel the traction changeover take place. The brakes are a little on the touchy side and they take some getting used to.

MATT - It shares a little of its design profile with the Volkswagen New Beetle although purists and sports car fanatics will deny it. The Roadster is a natural extension of the Audi TT Coupe, but there's more to it than just chopping off the metal top for the convertible transformation. The chassis and platform were strengthened by using an additional aluminum support behind the firewall and a few other minor changes. I'm told by the Audi press people that the suspension on the Roadster is actually a bit softer than the Coupe which makes it a bit more "drivable" than its relatively stiff stablemate. The engine is a VW 1.8-liter four-banger with a five-valves per cylinder, twin-cams, and an aluminum head with an iron block. It's mounted transversely and it's turbocharged to put out 185 horsepower and 207 pound/feet of torque. Fortunately, the power range is broad enough that the driver has plenty of push even at lower RPMs. The transmission is a six-speed manual, so it's fairly easy to keep on top of the power band. The shifts are a little "notchy," which isn't an unpleasant sensation but again, it takes some getting used to.

BOB - As it is with most two-seaters these days, the driver and passenger sit very low in the saddle. This isn't the kind of car that you can drive with your elbow on the door sill. And it's not the kind of car that you can do much cross-country touring in, unless you travel light because there's very little storage room in the trunk. Most of the space is taken up by the non-flexible tonneau that covers the top when it's down and there's a corresponding lack of space behind the seats when the top is up. Unlike the TT Coupe, the Roadster doesn't have even minuscule seats back there. That space is taken up by a pair of built-in aluminum rollover bars. All the resulting reinforcement and such results in the Roadster outweighing the tin-top by about 150 pounds. At that, the TT is no lightweight at 3200 pounds.

MATT - The interior is very comfortable once you get settled in. The interior is very no-nonsense, with everything being held together with high-profile Allen screws and the analog instruments being big, round and trimmed in stainless steel. This applies to the uncovered brake and clutch pedals which look like they might be somewhat slippery if the driver's shoes were wet. The Roadster almost makes up for its lack of trunk space by having cubby-holes, trays and holders. It's interesting to see that sports cars are now as in vogue as they were 40 years ago.

BOB - The only difference I've noticed is that the new ones are harder to get into than they were when I was in my thirties.

 

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