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Audi TT Roadster quattro (2001)

SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig


MODEL:  Audi TT Roadster quattro 
ENGINE:  1.8-liter turbocharged four 
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 225 hp @ 5900 rpm/207 lb-ft @ 2200-5500  rpm 
TRANSMISSION:  Six-speed manual 
WHEELBASE: 95.6 in. 
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 159.1 x 73.1 x 53.0 in. 
STICKER PRICE:  $39,450 (base) 

I must admit I am one of the many people who loves the look of the Audi TT. Constant readers may recall I compared the coupe version to the old Karmann Ghia, saying the TT holds a similar position relative to the New Beetle.

Now Audi has come out with a Roadster version of the popular TT, and it's a winner. Our tester was the fully loaded 225 hp version with quattro four-wheel drive. It also had one of the Roadster's best features--"catcher's mitt" seats.

Now Buick advertises that its seats hold you like a catcher's mitt, and they are comfortable. But the Audi TT's leather seats even have the lacing to match; lighter lacing that looks as if it was taken right off a baseball glove. For those of whose youth was consumed by baseball, it's a great touch. But the Audi TT Roadster is far more than just a seat that looks like a catcher's mitt. It's performance, it's style and it's surprising utility. Let me explain.

First, it has the uprated version of the 1.8-liter turbocharged engine that delivers 225horsepower. This is almost too much power for the TT, which is a light car at 3472 pounds. With this engine, 0-60 mph times drop to 6.7 seconds and the quarter mile can be reached in 14.6 seconds. That's impressive performance.

Our tester had a six-speed manual gearbox, which also qualified it as a performance car. This is a nice gearbox with close ratios, so you can shift away to your heart's content and have fun with it.

We took the TT Roadster on a trip to our daughter's in Virginia. This was not a great choice because of the limited luggage capacity. The Coupe only has 8.7 cubic feet of luggage capacity; the Roadster, because of space needed for the top, is down to 6.4 cubic feet. But if you pack intelligently, and use soft-sided luggage, you can store a lot of gear in the Roadster. We also kept the top up, which gave us some more room. It was sort of like the challenge we had in our old MGA, trying to pack for a weekend in a car that had even less luggage space.

The TT Roadster's top can be opened in a single-stage process and is stowed behind the seats. This is great storage area when the top is up. The large rear window of the Roadster is heated to reduce fogging and any ice. With the top down, turbulence is reduced by an electrically retractable glass windbreak that is shaped to follow the contours of two rollover bars mounted behind the seats. These aluminum rollover bars are an integral part of the Roadster's body structure and contribute to its safety. The bars, combined with a strong windshield frame give support to the car in the event of a rollover.

The TT evolved from a concept car, and, to the credit of the designers, it has retained many features of the concept in the production model. Too often, what makes a concept car exciting is lost in the conversion to production. For example, to adjust the heating level, all you have to do is press in the rotary knobs on the dash, which are marked with a ring of illuminated dots, until they pop out again. As the knob is turned to very the heat output, the illuminated dots go on or off in sequence.

Other cockpit details show attention to detail -- the sport steering wheel with its baseball mitt stitching, dashboard instruments with matte surrounds, pedals and stainless steel support for the "dead pedal" are all TT specific designs.

I fell in love with the TT Coupe when it was first introduced. I thought it was a great car design that was enough unlike everything else on the road to not only give it individuality, but panache as well. Other cars have individuality, but I, for one, don't like their overall design.

The TT Roadster retains the great styling of the Coupe, but in a slightly sportier form. While the Roadster may be less practical than the Coupe (which, let's face it, isn't that practical in its own right), it's still a ball to drive and be seen in. What better example of what a sports car should be. The TT isn't for one-car families. So why does it have to be practical?