Fast, fun, and Extroverted
Sports cars like the BMW Z3 and M Roadster, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Chevrolet Corvette, and Porsche Boxster have set new styling benchmarks in recent years, but perhaps the boldest styling exercise lately is the Audi TT, specifically the new Audi TT Roadster.
Its eye-catching styling is even wilder than the TT Coupe introduced last year. With the top down, the TT Roadster displays two prominent aluminum-coloured roll hoops, a bright aluminum trimmed dash, and racy leather-stitched seats. Combined with its rounded front and rear styling, prominent fender flares and side sills, covered headlamps, and five-spoke alloy wheels, the TT Roadster is really a stand-out in a class full of stand-outs.
In particular, the TT Roadster’s interior styling is striking and sporty, making extensive and creative use of aluminum trim and a circular styling theme. Aluminum interior features include prominent round air vents, rings around the instruments, door handles, shift knob, parking brake release, and steering wheel hub. There’s also a folding aluminum cover which hides the stereo, and prominent aluminum support bars in the lower console.
The TT also has polished steel accelerator and brake pedals and a polished steel ‘dead’ pedal to the left of the brake pedal.
My test car, an AWD TT Roadster, had optional Amber red leather upholstery with large ‘Baseball-glove’ leather stitching. This interior includes leather inserts in the doors, leather-covered shift knob and handbrake lever, and leather pads on the support bars connecting the dash with the console.
All TT Roadsters include an AM/FM/cassette with vehicle-speed dependent volume control hidden behind that flip-up aluminum cover. A 6-disc CD changer and a Bose 175 watt sound system are optional. Dash controls include unique rotary fan and temperature dials: by turning and holding the dial, fan speed increases until you release the dial.
There are two metal-ring cupholders between and behind the seats, which I found difficult to reach.
The TT Roadster is strictly a two-seater. Whereas the TT Coupe offers two additional (though very small) rear seats, the TT Roadster has no rear seats and offers minimal storage space. This includes a small covered bin behind the seats, mesh pockets behind the seats, a small storage area just ahead of the gear lever with a sliding cover, a tray on the passenger side, a coin holder next to the handbrake lever, and a small glovebox.
In addition, the Roadster’s trunk is much smaller than the Coupe’s. The FWD Roadster has 7.8 cu. ft. while the FWD Coupe has 13.8 cu. ft. The AWD Quattro Roadster has 6.4 cu. ft. while the AWD Coupe has 10.8 cu. ft. In addition, the Coupe, which is actually a hatchback, has fold-down rear seats which more than double the cargo area.
All TT’s include dual front airbags – the passenger airbag can be turned off via a switch located inside the glovebox – and side airbags mounted in the front seats. There are also seatbelt pretensioners, side door beams, and a strengthened windshield frame. The roll hoops, by the way, are functional safety features, not just ‘style bars’.
Theft prevention is handled by a unique monitoring system that uses a pulsed radar beam to detect intrusion, even with the top down.
Two TT Roadster models
In Canada, two TT Roadster models are offered: one with front-wheel-drive and a 180 horsepower 1.8 litre turbocharged four cylinder engine, and the other with all-wheel-drive and a 225 horsepower 1.8 litre turbocharged four cylinder engine. Both engines have five valves per cylinder and twin overhead camshafts.
The FWD model has a standard five-speed manual transmission and the AWD quattro model has a six speed manual transmission. An automatic transmission is not offered in the TT Roadster.
The AWD system works by sending engine power to the rear wheels via a centre-mounted Haldex electronically-controlled multi-plate differential which automatically apportions more torque to the rear wheels when the front wheels lose grip. Though it performs the same function, this is a different system than the Quattro system offered in other Audis.
For a small displacement engine, the 1.8 litre turbocharged four has plenty of power through most of its rev range. The turbocharger boost kicks in about 2000 rpm, and there’s not much ‘turbo lag’. From then on, the driver experiences a continuous surge of power right up to the engine’s 6700 rpm redline. Audi quotes a 0 to 60 mph time of 6.7 seconds for the AWD model and 7.4 seconds for the FWD model. The engine is not particularly noisy, and highway cruising is quite pleasant with the engine turning over 2600 rpm at a steady 100 km/h in sixth gear.
Both FWD and AWD TT Roadster’s have independent front suspensions which consist of MacPherson gas-charged struts, three-point lower control arms, and stabilizer bars. However, at the rear FWD models have a semi-independent suspension while AWD models have a fully independent suspension. FWD models have a torsion beam axle with separate coil springs, gas shocks and stabilizer bar – AWD Roadsters offer a fully independent parallelogram multi-link suspension with coil springs, gas shocks and stabilizer bar.
I found the AWD TT Roadster’s handling to be flat and stable, with very high limits – the standard Bridgestone Potenza P225/45R-17 inch summer performance radials offer excellent grip. However, the TT Roadster doesn’t feel as balanced as some of its rear-drive competitors which have a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution – the TT Roadster has a 60/40 front/rear weight distribution.
The 6-speed manual shifter in my test car had direct, solid throws which were a bit stiffer than I liked. Rowing through the gears produces some driveline jerkiness, a problem I first noticed on the TT Coupe, and probably attributable to its transversely-mounted front engine and transaxle.
The TT Roadster features rack and pinion steering with variable power assist. At higher speeds, steering effort was firm and appropriate for highway driving. At low speeds however, I thought the steering effort was too heavy for easy parking and low-speed turns. The TT Roadster does offer a fairly tight turning circle of 10.45 metres (34.2 feet).
All TT Roadsters come with four wheel disc brakes with standard ABS, and I found these brakes to be extremely powerful.
I found that the front seats offered excellent support when cornering, and include electric seat heaters with variable heat settings. It’s easy to find a good driving position because the driver’s seat is height-adjustable and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes.
FWD TT Roadsters have a manually-operated convertible top while AWD quattro models offer a power-operated top. To put down the power top, the driver releases a single latch on the windshield header and presses a button to retract it. The black fabric top, which includes a glass rear window with electric defroster, lowers in just seconds. A semi-hard boot cover can be clipped into place over the lowered top to prevent dust and moisture from getting in. The boot cover also improves the appearance and aerodynamics of the car. However, when the boot cover is not in use, it must be stored in the trunk where it takes up about half of the precious little trunk space there is.
On the road with the top down, wind buffeting is noticeable but not unpleasant. An electrically retractable glass windbreak shaped to the outline of the roll hoops helps reduce wind buffeting.
Outward visibility with top down is excellent – the hood is low and the rear deck is not too high, as it is in some sports cars. With the top up, there is the usual difficulty with visibility to the right rear three-quarter area when changing lanes. Most convertible tops don’t have a rear side window.
Standard and optional equipment
FWD TT Roadsters, which start at $50,500, include the 180 hp engine, 5-speed manual transmission, ASR all-speed traction control, front disc/rear drum brakes with ABS, 205/55R-16 inch tires and alloy wheels, torsion beam rear axle, and manual top. Standard interior features include automatic climate control, Nappa leather upholstery, power windows with pinch protection, cruise control, power central locking, anti-theft system, intermittent wipers, AM/FM/cassette, information display with outside temperature gauge, and front and side airbags.
AWD TT Roadster quattro models, for $59,000, have a 225 horsepower engine, 6-speed manual transmission, 225/45-17 inch tires and alloy wheels, fully independent suspension, and power folding top.
Options include Xenon gas discharge headlamps, heated front seats, Bose sound system, 6-disc CD changer, navigation system, hands-free phone, and baseball-stitch leather upholstery.
Competitors for the Audi TT Roadster include the BMW Z3 2.8 ($55,900) and BMW M Roadster ($62,900), Honda S2000 ($48,000), Porsche Boxster ($59,010), Mercedes-Benz SLK230 ($54,350) and Mercedes-Benz SLK320 ($60,150).
TT Roadsters and Coupes are manufactured jointly in Ingolstadt, Germany and Gyor, Hungary.
|2001 Audi TT Roadster AWD|
|Base price||(FWD) $50,500|
|Price as tested||(AWD) $59,000|
|Type||2-door, 2 passenger convertible sports car|
|Layout||transverse front engine/all-wheel-drive|
|Engine||1.8 litre 4 cylinder, turbocharged, intercooled, DOHC, 20 valves|
|Horsepower||225 @ 5900 rpm|
|Torque||207 ft-lb. @ 2200 – 5500 rpm|
|Tires||P225/45R-17 performance radials|
|Curb weight||1525 kg (3362 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2429 mm (95.6 in.)|
|Length||4041 mm (159.1 in.)|
|Width||1856 mm (73.1 in.)|
|Height||1346 mm (53.0 in.)|
|Trunk capacity||180 litres (6.4 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 11.6 l/100 km (24 mpg)|
|Hwy: 7.6 l/100 km (37 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/80,000 km|