2009 Audi TTS
2009 Audi TTS. Click image to enlarge

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First Drive: 2008 Audi TT (LuxuryCarCanada)
First Drive: 2008 Audi TT
Test Drive: 2008 Audi TT
Day-by-Day Review: 2009 Audi TTS

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2009 Audi TTS

Ottawa, Ontario – On the face of it, driving a sports car in the winter seems like a stupid idea. Low hanging bumpers turn performance cars into impromptu (not to mention, ineffectual) snowploughs and low ground clearances mean getting stuck in that mound of snow at the end of your driveway (thanks, Mr. PloughTruck!). Obviously, a high-riding truck or crossover with four-wheel drive is the best way to get through winter’s worst, right?

My revelations (two of them) happened last winter, when I got both a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and a Ford Taurus X AWD embarrassingly stuck in deep, heavy snow – and this without even venturing off public streets!

Before those experiences, I would have questioned Audi’s logic in sending us its new-for-2009 TTS to drive in December. But then, this is the company that launched the redesigned 2008 TT on a Montreal press trip that was nearly rendered a write-off by a freak late winter storm. At the time, Audi used the adverse weather to play up its belief that the TT is a year-round sports car; I suspect similar reasoning led them to send this car our way when it did.

2009 Audi TTS
2009 Audi TTS
2009 Audi TTS. Click image to enlarge

The TTS, as the third letter suggests, is the sportiest member of the TT family. It uses a hopped-up version of Audi’s 2.0TFSI four-cylinder engine, tuned for 265 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, compared to the 200 hp/207 lb-ft this motor normally produces. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard (the base TT is available as a front-driver), as is Audi’s S-tronic dual-clutch sequential manual transmission.

The engine’s extra juice is apparent, but only at higher revs. Low-speed performance, characterized by a bit of turbo lag followed by a torquey punch, is similar, but above 3,000 r.p.m., the TTS’ motor pulls much harder. Acceleration in first and second gears is quick enough that you’ll have trouble keeping up when using the transmission’s manual mode.

The TTS’ fuel consumption ratings are 9.6/7.1 L/100 km (29/40 mpg Imp.) (city/highway). Cold temperatures and snowy conditions during my week in the car conspired to boost my average to 13.8 L/100 km (21 mpg Imp.) in a mix of city and highway driving.

While I prefer a traditional manual transmission, Audi’s S-tronic direct shift gearbox (DSG, as shared with Volkswagen) is hard to say no to. Left in automatic mode, it shifts as smoothly as the best automatics, but a full-on manual mode leaves the decision-making to the driver. The steering wheel-mounted shift paddles let you shift with two hands on the wheel, but because the paddles turn with it, mid-turn shifts are best accomplished via the shifter.

If you’re in a sporting mood, a launch control program allows the transmission to perform the equivalent of a clutch-drop for optimized acceleration.

It’s an easy guess that adding all-wheel drive to any car will improve its performance in slippery conditions, but winter tires (as were fitted to my TTS tester) and Audi’s Electronic Stability Program (ESP) are perhaps even more important: quattro helps get you down the road, but the tires and ESP keep you on it. The TTS also uses an electronic front differential lock to enhance the car’s performance.

2009 Audi TTS
2009 Audi TTS
2009 Audi TTS. Click image to enlarge

I didn’t get to test the TTS’ hardware in any super-deep white stuff (which no doubt saved me from getting stuck once more), but it was reassuring to have it working for me on a snowy, 50-km late-Saturday-night drive home from rural west Quebec. And when you’ve reached civilization and are itching for a bit of sideways fun in a snow-covered parking lot, the ESP can be defeated altogether. That was about the only kind of fun there was to have, too: dry pavement and clear traffic conditions were scarce, so sampling the TTS’ handling and roadholding was difficult. But the steering transmits lots of road feel to the driver, and if the brakes are a little touchy, pedal feel is firm, and confidence-inspiring.

A standard safety kit includes adaptive headlights which swivel side-to-side with the steering, enhancing night-time visibility. The TTS also comes with seat-mounted side airbags, and knee airbags.

Cold weather meant that my top-down time was limited, but I did make one cross-town drive with the roof stowed. Raise the windows and the wind deflector and crank the heater and bum warmers, and you’re set. The deflector does a good job keeping turbulence down and cold wind at bay, making top-down driving comfortable even at around zero degrees Celsius.

Another benefit of driving a little car like this in winter is that there’s less surface area to accumulate snow while the car is parked. That and the low roofline make for less work brushing off in the morning.

2009 Audi TTS
2009 Audi TTS
2009 Audi TTS
2009 Audi TTS. Click image to enlarge

The TTS rides firmly, but so far as I can tell, no more so than a standard TT. What does make a difference is the Magnetic Ride Control suspension that comes bundled in the TTS package. This driver-selectable system stiffens the ride significantly; it’s one feature that didn’t get much use on Ottawa’s already frost-heaved and potholed roads, but having experienced it in fairer conditions, I can say it improves the car’s already impressive handling.

The cabin is snug, but not claustrophobic (this, despite the oh-so-German mostly black interior). Headroom is surprisingly good, though getting in and out under the low roof requires some minor gymnastics. With the top up, rearward visibility is limited, making reversing difficult at the best of times, and unnerving at night or in bad weather.

Small-item storage seems limited, at first glance, to the glovebox, door pockets and the ashtray in front of the shifter. Take a look between the seat backs, though: there you’ll find a two-tier compartment that’s a lot bigger than it looks. For larger items, the trunk is surprisingly useful for everyday stuff like groceries or a couple of bags for a weekend getaway.

I think the TTS’ main appeal is that it’s also available as a hardtop (as are other TT models). The roadster is perfectly sensible as a four-season car, but the hardtop’s extra cargo space and structural rigidity make it the better choice, both for practicality and sports car purity. It’s also $4,300 less expensive to start; my tester was fitted with a couple of cosmetic extras and ran the as-tested price up to $64,450 with freight.

But, coupe or roadster, feel free to park the “sensible” SUV this winter and drive your TTS. You won’t see me point and laugh.

Pricing: 2009 Audi TTS roadster

Base price: $61,900
Options: $1,650 (Phantom Black pearl effect paint, $650; 19-inch five-parallel spoke alloy wheels, $1,000)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $800
Price as tested: $64,450
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications

Specifications: TBA

Related articles on Autos

First Drive: 2008 Audi TT (LuxuryCarCanada)
First Drive: 2008 Audi TT
Test Drive: 2008 Audi TT
Day-by-Day Review: 2009 Audi TTS

Competitors

2009 BMW Z4
2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK
2009 Porsche Boxster

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Audi Canada

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