2002 Audi TT ALMS
Click image to enlarge

Story and photos by Paul Williams

(This article originally stated the Audi TT ALMS was a 2003 model, when in fact, it is a 2002 model – ed.)

Audi has won France’s prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race for the
past three years. It’s an outstanding record. Toyota tried, but never won.
Cadillac’s giving up after three years. The great Mario Andretti campaigns
annually to pilot a winning Le Mans car, but he can’t get near the podium.

After each championship, Audi brings its R8 Le Mans Prototype racecars from
Europe to North America and competes in the demanding American Le Mans
Series (ALMS) where it coolly repeats the achievement race after race. ALMS
championships predictably followed in 2000 and 2001.

To celebrate its ALMS success, Audi is offering 1000 American Le Mans Series
Commemorative Edition TT coupes in the North American market. They come in
red or silver, the colours of the Le Mans Prototype cars, and we get 50 of
each in Canada.

2002 Audi TT ALMS
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There are no performance upgrades to the car; it’s strictly a trim package.
But the colours and features are not available on other TTs, so the cars
are rare and easy to identify.

The two colours are Misuno Red and Avus Silver Pearl. The contrasting
interior for the red car is Silver Nappa leather and for the silver car,
it’s Brilliant Red Nappa leather.

The 18″, nine-spoke cast alloy wheels are the biggest available on the TT,
and limited to the ALMS model.




Additional features are xenon headlights, a one-year membership in the
Automobile Club de L'Ouest (which caters to Le Mans enthusiasts), a
commemorative sticker discreetly located on each rear-side window, and a
certificate of authenticity signed by Audi USA VP Len Hunt, and billionaire
founder of the ALMS, Don Panoz.

Driving any TT is an event. Critics have gushed over this car since its
introduction in 2000, and TT design cues are popping up on everything from
Hyundais to Nissans to Chryslers. The car is a bone-fide future collectible,
so it's no surprise that people continuously look at, point to, walk toward
and just plain stare at this unique vehicle.

That makes it hard to separate peoples' normal TT response from their
response to the special features of the ALMS edition. What I can tell you is
that never have so many wide-eyed people approached me to comment on a
silver paint job. Nor, in my experience, has a red interior generated quite
the jaw-dropping reaction.

The big wheels were also the subject of many compliments, as strangers
introduced themselves, stood back, walked around and even photographed the
car.

"Just a minute, fella. Can I get a picture with my wife?"

Really.

So in the looks department, I think it's fair to say that you don't buy this
car if you want to be left alone.

2002 Audi TT ALMS
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Driving the 225 horsepower TT is also a positive experience, but it does have a
personality that may require you to, um, adjust your technique somewhat.

Power comes from a high-output version of Audi's 1.8-litre turbo
four-cylinder engine. This engine's found with 170 horsepower in the Audi A4 and
180 horsepower in the base TT and Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T. In the TT, 207 lbs.-ft
of torque is available from 2,500 to 5,500 r.p.m., so it pulls strongly and
consistently throughout this range.

A six-speed manual transmission is supplied, along with all-wheel drive,
but it's not the quattro system found on other Audi cars.

The difference is occasioned by the engine's transverse mounting, which
doesn't lend itself to the use of Audi's celebrated Torsen (torque sensing)
quattro system. Instead, the TT uses a multi-clutch Haldex system that
shifts power from the front to the rear axle as required. It's not a bad
system -- it's just not what you might have thought.

The car is very quick. Audi quotes 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds, but serious
acceleration only happens when the turbo kicks in. That it does regularly,
and quite suddenly. This is where the adjustment to your driving comes in.
If you're not careful you'll find yourself up the tailpipe of a hapless Echo
rather too frequently.

2002 Audi TT ALMS
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Indeed this car is difficult to drive at anything less than ten-tenths. Pull
away briskly from a stoplight and the turbo is bound to come on and fling
you down the road. Pull away slowly and the aforementioned Echo will be
banging its horn behind you.

That being said, the car is a blast to drive. Handling and braking is sharp,
the driving position is comfortable and the car's composure is unflappable.
But it is highly-strung, and definitely no casual cruiser. Top speed is
electronically governed at 230 km/h in North America.

Similar qualifications apply to the busy six-speed transmission. These days,
a six-speed gearbox is becoming de rigeur for sporty cars. The idea is that
you can have fun shifting as you go around corners and up and down hills.
The extra gears give you finer control over the engine's performance,
allowing you to keep the rev's at an optimum level.

The problem comes when you're done having fun, so to speak, and just want to
get from A to B. Even after a week I was regularly confounded by what gear I
was in, and frankly, didn't need the hassle of an extra ratio. Ditto for
Miatas and Minis, etc. Not that I'd want an automatic in this car, mind you,
but a five-speed would be sufficient.

Inside, the car is spectacular. I mentioned the Brilliant Red interior and I
know many will groan at the thought of red seats, panels and trim. But I'm
telling you that it's a knockout. Everyone loved it. Even people who thought
they'd hate it, and planned to hate it, changed their opinion within
half-a-minute.

Audi TT ALMS
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In combination with the bespoke machined aluminum trim, the watch-like red
and white gauges, tactile designer knobs and switches, and the superb black
carpeting and textured surfaces, this interior is an absolute jewel.

However, like all TTs, its beauty from the outside exacts a cost when it
comes to visibility from the inside, no matter how nice that interior is.
All the windows are short. Taller drivers, with the seat well back, view the
road ahead through a letterbox of a windshield. Rear visibility is blocked
by the massive C-pillars. The inside rear-view mirror is too small, but if
it was bigger, it would unacceptably obscure forward vision.

Several riders found that with the doors closed, the cabin was dark. They
lamented the lack of a sunroof. The black headliner doesn't help, and
sunroofs aren't available on any TT coupes.

It's not that you can't see out, but again you'll need to adjust.

The car is, however, worth the adjustment. Furthermore, it's a hatchback, so
it actually has some utility to go with the avant-garde looks and smashing
performance. Lift the hatch, fold the dinky rear seats down, and you've
plenty of room for two golf bags, luggage for a week and a pile of
souvenirs.

Alternatively, those back seats are quite sufficient for two small children,
but don't try to convince yourself they'll fit even one adult. Not going to
happen.

One more thing. At the risk generalising, women just love this car. Many
apparently sensible women took one look at the car, and seemed immediately
willing to hop in the passenger seat, no questions asked.

I guess all you need is $60,000 and my winning smile.


Technical Data: 2002 Audi TT ALMS

Base price $59,850
Type two-door, four passenger sports coupe/hatchback
Engine 1.8-litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 225 h.p. at 5900 r.p.m., 207 lb.-ft. at 2500-5500 r.p.m.
Transmission six-speed manual, all-wheel-drive
Tires P225/40ZR-18 high performance
Wheelbase 2422 mm (95.4 in.)
Length 4041 mm (159.1 in.)
Width 1856 mm (73.1 in.)
Height 1346 mm (53.0 in.)
Brakes Disc/disc
Fuel consumption L/100 km: City 11.7, Highway 7.7
Warranty 4/80,000 with maintenance, and four-year roadside

Standard features: Remote keyless entry, electronic climate control,
xenon headlights, "one-touch" up and down power windows, power mirrors,
tilt/telescope steering wheel, leather upholstery, all-wheel drive plus
electronic safety systems, electronic trip computer, first aid kit
Options: Audi navigation system, Bose audio system with six-disc CD
cartridge.

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