It's cloudy, cool and dark, but we drop the top on the 2008 Audi TT anyway. Impatient for a pure summertime experience, we dial up the heat and punch the seat heaters to the third level. We're not going to be stopped by the chill breeze blowing off the gloomy fog bank that hangs overhead. There's 250 horsepower waiting to be pushed to full throttle and we long for the feel of the wind blowing in our hair.
We pop the black roadster into gear, grab hold of the flat-bottom steering wheel and take off. People stare, children point and dogs bark. We're feeling great, and then we realize that maybe everyone is reacting to the way our hair is flying in the air, as if we were Medusa in a sports car. So we raise the power-operated wind blocker behind our head and, ahhh yes, this is how you're supposed to drive the new Audi TT.
With hair in check, we cruise the boulevards in the night and we can feel the attention that comes to us from every direction. This Audi is sexy, it's shapely and the contours are in all the right places.
The 2008 Audi TT Roadster makes driving a spectacle.
What's New and What's Not Redesigned for 2008, the new Audi TT Roadster has more generous proportions in every direction but has lost 200 pounds thanks to the liberal use of lightweight aluminum. Though the TT is still more than 500 pounds heavier than a Porsche Boxster and more than 300 pounds heftier than a BMW Z4, this exercise in slimming has done wonders, making it more of a driver's car at last.
Engine specifications are the same as last year's TT, and the 3.2-liter DOHC V6 is capable of 250 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 236 pound-feet at 2,500 rpm. This is enough power to be a blast, yet there's also plenty of power high and low on the tach to make driving effortless, and the engine has the same substantial yet smooth character as a song by Frank Sinatra.
The engine does business with Audi's S tronic (formerly DSG), six-speed automatic dual-clutch gearbox. In Drive mode, the transmission makes for a relaxing tour around city streets but leaves the car numb on the highway. Once you shift into Sport mode, the TT suddenly wants to play. Passing maneuvers on the highway are a breeze, and you feel as if far more than 250 hp is in play here. For more hands-on driving, the shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel let you choose the gear you want when you want.
Measuring Time The power gets to the ground with Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, so you just grab the same flat-bottom steering wheel that graces the Audi R8 supercar and drive with confidence.
When you leave a stoplight, you'll want to take advantage of new launch-control software that Audi has built into the TT. Deactivate the stability program, select "S" with the shift lever, then you can brake-torque the drivetrain at full throttle and the engine revs will hold steady at 3,200 rpm. Then let go of the brake and start laughing. At the test track, the TT gets to 60 mph in 6 seconds flat, then reaches the quarter-mile in 14.5 seconds at 94.3 mph without either wheelspin or a smoky clutch.
At the other end of the racetrack, the vented disc brakes and excellent 18-inch Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires bring this car to a halt from 60 mph in only 112 feet — and there's no screeching, shaking or head-bobbing. Though the brake pedal should feel firmer, the braking performance proves consistent and free from fade.
The 2008 Audi TT is far crisper in the corners than the previous-generation TT, although it still won't stay with a Porsche Boxster or a BMW Z4 on a winding road. Even so, it uses its 245/40YR18 tires to slice through our 600-foot slalom course in 5.8 seconds at 70.2 mph. The heavily damped suspension helps firm up the 2008 TT enough for the agility you want, and Audi is definitely going for performance over comfort here, but there are no unpleasant consequences.
The adoption of electromechanical steering has actually significantly improved the TT's communication skills over the previous model. The steering is precise and the effort is on the firm side, but the car always feels easy to handle, while the flat-bottom steering wheel affords a feeling of control.
Looking Good Is Our Revenge We've never had so many comments from fellow commuters. "Hey, nice Audi," we're told. "Looks sweet," everyone says. The exterior of this glossy-black TT looks particularly fetching, and even the grille is shiny black with some contrasting trim in an aluminum finish. An aluminum gas cap imprinted with the "TT" logo and dual-tipped exhaust pipes also add a little edge to our raven beauty.
With its optional enhanced interior package, this TT features soft, leather seat upholstery in a gorgeous tan called Luxor Beige. The seats feel great, but we noticed that they were starting to show some grime with only 3,000 miles on the car's odometer. Audi always tries hard to present a great interior and this TT proved exceptional, neither fussy nor overgadgeted.
Climate and audio controls are within easy reach and work intuitively. We especially love Audi's rollerball-style volume control for the audio system that's mounted on the steering wheel. It operates so easily and feels right under your thumb.
Splendid design is where the Audi TT spanks the Boxster and Z4. At the same time, the TT actually manages to lose a small amount of interior space despite its larger size, although not enough that you would notice very much. Also the high-waisted beltline of the bodywork further reduces your sense of interior volume since you can't see the exterior of the car.
Top Story A fully automatic retractable soft top opens in an impressively quick 12 seconds, so you can easily open or close it fully at a brief stoplight. And the top stays low to the body while in operation so you don't have to worry about scraping the ceiling in low-hanging parking garages. And of course the power-operated mesh-type windscreen reduces flyaway hair and noise.
Audi is just as thoughtful about safety, and all the usual modern safety accoutrements like ABS, ASR and ESP are included, as well as front-, side- and knee airbags; rollover bars; side intrusion protection; a parking assist system; tire-pressure monitoring; and run-flat tires. An automatic rear spoiler activates at 74 mph, retracts at 50 mph and can also be operated manually.
EPA estimates for the Audi TT Roadster are 18 city/24 highway using the new 2008 methods. We averaged 19 mpg overall.
It's a Way of Life With a base price under $46,000, our 2008 Audi TT Roadster priced at just over $51,000, much in the same league as the BMW Z4 or Porsche Boxster.
For all the emphasis on performance, the Audi TT isn't a sports car in the same style as a BMW or Porsche. It makes its statement with gorgeous style, a sense of luxury and an ability to take you far distances in comfort and safety.
The 2008 Audi TT Roadster is fun to drive, but it also has a significant talent for making you feel special, and this is where it has something that the competition from BMW and Porsche do not.
It's like showing up at a party with a really hot date.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Executive Editor Michael Jordan says: Audi TT.
This car is gorgeously presented, and its deep black paint and warm tan interior make an impression wherever it goes. Audi is really in the art car business, and the reactions we got while driving around in this reminds us that lots of people know it.
But with the new-generation TT, Audi has tried to transform this affordable roadster into a major sporting player, something between a BMW Z4 and a Mercedes-Benz SLK. It's meant to be a showcase of technology, with all-wheel drive, a twin-clutch transmission and a direct-injection V6 with a serious 250 hp.
Yet for all the effort, this is still much the same Audi TT as before, only with a far more intimidating price tag. Style remains the primary message here, although you have to say that Audi's designers phoned in their work when they unsuccessfully tried to reinvent Freeman Thomas' original design. Meanwhile, the mechanical package works well, but it lacks the strong driving character that would make you mention it in the same breath as a BMW Z4 or Porsche Boxster.
It's great that Audi is proud of its technology, but maybe it doesn't have to be a company like BMW or Porsche. Maybe this company doesn't have to try so hard to acquire the traditional hard-core enthusiast. Maybe it should look ahead and imagine an automobile that is about the way real people drive in the real world.
That's what this Audi TT is about. Don't imagine it to be something more, hefty price tag or not.
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