For just over $100K, does the Audi TT S Roadster make sense over the base model?
The Audi TT S Roadster is a unique toy. Essentially, it’s the only two-seat sporty convertible in its price range to offer the benefit of proper all-wheel drive. Consequently, its hardcore nature is also somewhat compromised.
Powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 210kW of power and 380Nm of torque, the 2016 Audi TT S is not for the faint hearted. It’s certainly quick – 0-100km/h in 5.0 seconds (0.3sec slower than its 140-kilogram-lighter coupe sibling) – while providing ample grip and traction through the corners.
The question, though, is why would you pick it over the standard TT Roadster, which is more than adequate for most as a sporty convertible?
That was easily answered as we found ourselves getting a moderate powerslide coming out of a tight corner around a twisty bit of road in very heavy rain. The Audi TT S loves to go fast, and though we expected it to understeer before oversteering, it is very fond of the latter (at least in the wet), which made it inherently fun to drive fast.
In the dry, the $103,900 (plus on-road costs) Audi TT S Roadster feels very capable, but given it shares its heart with the S3, it’s no match for the still cheaper, and far more potent, $78,900 Audi RS3. There is enormous confidence in the package but you wouldn’t be committing to corners in the same manner as you would in the RS. It feels more playful in some ways, and less settled in others.
In fact, that’s our main gripe with this convertible Audi. Be it in Comfort or Dynamic mode, the suspension struggles to cope on anything but perfectly smooth roads. It bounces around and takes too long to settle if driven on regular suburban roads and one learns very quickly to take speed bumps at slower than walking pace to avoid a visit to the chiropractor.
No doubt Audi has favoured dynamics over comfort when it comes to general ride quality and while that’s ideal if you intend to drive it with that in mind, it can get tiring as a daily driver if you frequent anything but the best roads Australia has to offer.
On the plus side, take it up a twisty mountain road with the roof off and it'll become an instant cure for any ailment. There’s basically no body roll in corners and given its size, you can easily place it exactly where you want and power out of corners with little thought as Audi’s quattro system does the bulk of the hard work.
The steering is relatively direct, though it could do with a bit more feedback.
The six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is rapid-fire on the move but we found it really struggling to get the car moving from a standstill. There is an unreasonable amount of lag from take-off, which we suspect is caused by either the turbo spooling and the gearbox hesitating, or both. Whatever the cause, it’s annoying unless you’re willing to violently launch the TT S on every take off.
With the rain gone, the roof down and my wife and I heading to a dinner and movie date, we also found it a rather civilised choice of transport, though she would tell you that I drove it like a child, trying to extract that satisfying exhaust note at every gear change.
That’s because it sounds rather nice, as good as a sophisticated and modern four-cylinder turbo is allowed to. It’s not meaty or raw, it’s just technical in nature without being too loud or manufactured. You’ll mostly turn heads when you instruct the paddle-shifters to change gears at 6500rpm and that well-known Volkswagen-Audi DSG sound blurts out the exhaust pipe. Or shift down at speed and get those rewarding few crackles (which do, indeed, sound manufactured).
The roof operation is relatively effortless and being a soft top, it opens and closes automatically on the move at speeds of up to 50km/h in about 10 seconds. You’ll do best having it open as much as possible because even at 110km/h, conversations can be held at normal volume and with the windshield deployed, wind intrusion isn’t all that bad.
The Audi TT S looks as expected - a beefier version of the TT. In the broader sense though, it’s just a TT, easily recognisable going back numerous generations. What’s inherently different now is the interior, which is utterly gorgeous.
The red leather seats in our car were exquisite to touch and sit in, and the cabin ambience is top-notch. Audi arguably makes the best interiors of the three big German brands at the moment, and the TT is an example of that. In many ways, the TT S interior is better put together and far more luxurious than some significantly more expensive exotics from Europe.
The inclusion of a 12.3-inch driver-focused screen that controls all the car's navigation, speed and other features is very futuristic and shared with the Audi-powered Lamborghini Huracan (and Audi R8). In fact, you can basically swap the Lambo’s dash cluster with the TT and no one would be any wiser, except perhaps the Lamborghini owner who paid more than four times the price.
It’s nice having a giant screen right in front of you for navigational data but it can be somewhat cumbersome to scroll through the media system and select songs or modify the sound tone without being distracted by the speedo and other data being shown side by side. You’ll get used to it, but it’s a significant difference over conventional cars. It would be nice to have a head-up display for the critical data.
The screen aside, the actual metal surrounds of the gearstick and other operational buttons are nice to look at and even touch (the latter being the main difference between Audi and its competitors). We were also impressed by the air conditioning vents - which house a small LCD to show the set temperature and pressure - saving space in what is otherwise a tight cabin. The optional Bang & Olufsen audio system didn’t blow us away, but we haven’t had the chance to compare it to the normal system.
On the whole, the Audi TT S is an amazingly sporty convertible with an interior that shames most supercars. Is it worth about $20K more than the base model TT Roadster ($82,950)? We would say yes, but that’s up to your intentions. Also, for about $100K, it's hard to find a more solid competitor in the world of sporty convertibles - oh, except for that Porsche Boxster, which doesn't cost a lot more...
Options fitted to test vehicle
- Metallic paint $1400
- Extended leather package (colour) $500
- S performance package $6300
19” alloy wheels in 5-twin-spoke design, matt titanium look,
leather package Audi matrix beam LED headlights, fine Nappa
leather upholstery, red brake callipers, Bang & Olufsen surround
sound system and interior elements in quartz lacquer silver
- Assistance package $1900
Audi side assist, park assist, high-beam assist and exterior
mirrors heated, folding, auto dimming with kerb-side function
on the passenger side
- Neck-level heating $800
As tested: $114,800