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2007 Audi TT 2.0 S-tronic Road Test

$102,800 Mrlp
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I’m not normally an attention seeker – in fact – I try and steer clear of attention wherever possible. This is of course before I drove around in Audi’s new TT. Ten minutes wouldn’t pass before a group of punters would almost trip over themselves to get a gawk at Audi’s sexy new coupe.

It didn’t take long to get accustom to people huddling around the car when it was left unattended for a short while. Audi has spent a great deal of time – and money – converting the Audi TT into an extremely desirable piece of kit. Little delicacies like the circular aluminium air vents and TT insignia make this such an exciting car to be in, and around.

After spending no less than 20-minutes salivating over the new God-like, V10 powered Audi S8 at the Melbourne pickup facility, I turned the TT over and headed straight for the hills to figure out what this new body was all about.

The inner –

On approach to the vehicle, you are met with a very low-slung door that opens long and wide, demanding plenty of space. Surprisingly, getting in and out isn’t an affair that you would associate with a low, ground hugging sports car. It feels almost as though you are climbing into a regular sedan, just slightly lower. I was honestly expecting the need to get out on hands and knees, opposed to opening the door and swivelling around.

Once you’re comfortably seated, your body moulds into the very accommodating seats that hug you in ever so tightly. This seating arrangement adds to the element of sportiness, and in practise, these seats managed to hold their own in remarkable fashion when pegging through corners.

A further hunt around the interior uncovers the extremely logical climate controls. Three circular knobs take care of fan speed, temperature and vent direction…why can’t all cars be this logical?! They are a change from Audi’s trademark digital temperature readings which honestly look quite dated in today’s day and age.

The TT is all about the drive and that’s why everything is tailored toward the driver. The centre dashboard arrangement is slightly angled toward the driver (much like the Toyota Supra of yesteryear) and everything is perfectly visible, beyond a doubt. The trademark Audi/Volkswagen steering wheel lives on in the TT. It has a shaved off end, allowing for more leg room, along with making steering easier. The steering wheel features paddle shifters for the gearbox, along with controls for the audio and speech recognition.

The indicator stalks feel a bit brittle and flimsy if you would. This seems to be associated with all Audi and Volkswagen models. I would prefer if they were a bit thicker and had a better feel to them, they simply feel rather plastic-like. The speedometer and tachometer look fantastic. The tachometer has big numbers clearly outlined and watching the gauge shoot around to red-line drives the adrenaline rush. The cluster also features a digital screen that displays vital information such as radio station/CD, trip computer information, temperature and cruise control information. It’s a valuable asset, as the driver only needs to look at one spot to find all the information they’re after, opposed to taking their eyes off the road to find the time or radio information.

The seats were entirely manually operated, aside from electronic lumbar support that allowed up/down and in/out adjustment via a dial located to the side of the seat. The light green coloured interior looked quite attractive and was a talking point amongst passengers. It added to the sense of prestige. Audi also offer drivers the option of subtracting leather seats when ordering and opting for a suede/Alcantra style arrangement.

Carrying more than one passenger is something that I doubt any TT driver will ever want to try. I’m not quite sure how/why this car is classed as a 4-seater, or even has two extra seat belts in the rear. Although my freakishly long legs played a part, my regular driving position meant that there were no more than two-centimetres between by seat back and the edge of the rear seat, meaning that the only way somebody was able to fit was with their legs crossed in the rear seat. So the TT unfortunately doesn’t work as a 4-seater.

Boot size was quite impressive. Although it wasn’t too high, it was quite deep and offered enough room to carry around small amounts of luggage if so desired. Due to the lack of space-saver spare tyres, Audi had the ability to increase room in the boot. If you’re scratching your head at the thought of no spare tyre, don’t worry. The TT features a repair kit that includes an air-compressor and sealant that helps fill any punctures for short periods of time, allowing the tyre to be driven on.

When it came to pumping out some golden oldies, the Audi treated the passengers to an in-dash 6-stack CD-player, along with 6-speakers. Although two of the speakers were BOSE branded, there was a total lack of bass in the sound system. Even with bass turned up to its maximum, sound quality was average rather than above average, as you would expect from a premium sound system. The in-dash arrangement deviates from the glove box housed 6-stack player that features in models optioned with the MMI (Multimedia Interface).

Overall, the interior was a great place to be, it was very comfortable (even for long journeys) and everything was in-reach and easy to use. It also felt quite large, which normally isn’t associated with vehicles of this size.

The outer –

It was hard – wait, make that impossible – to find a person that didn’t like the look of the new Audi TT Coupe. All and sundry – from older men, to young ladies – couldn’t fault the new design. The rear tail lights are clad with two rectangular lights that accentuate the car’s aggressive tone; they almost look 3D like and really needed to be seen in person to be appreciated.

The 2.0-litre turbo model (being test driven) is also gifted with two gargantuan exhaust pipes that emit the sweetest sound this side of the VW Golf R32, more on this later though.

Flared wheel arches add further definition to the car’s wide stance on the road. The 17” wheels filled with brake dust not long after a hammering through the mountains, so due care is recommended in keeping them clean. Once the brake dust builds up, it becomes nigh on impossible to remove.

The doors use grab handles that look like they have been crafted to aid the car’s aerodynamic stance. At speeds of 120km/h+ the rear spoilers launches out of its hiding spot and creates extra down force for the rear of the vehicle. It then automatically goes back into place at speeds of below 80km/h. The rear spoiler can also be manually raised or lowered by the button located just below the gear console.

The wing mirrors are clad with ultra-bright LED lights that pierce the night’s darkness. They look an absolute treat and can be seen from quite a distance.

On the tarmac –

We were meant to have the 3.2-litre V6 Quattro TT for this road test. Unfortunately, due to a mix-up, we were placed into the 2.0-litre turbo. At first, I thought it would fail dismally when it came to handling. Oh boy was I mistaken!

Soon after getting used to the TT’s ways, I found some stretches of windy road that would really test the TT’s abilities. Grabbing the ‘S’ mode with the gear shifter proved to extract the most out of the TT. The ‘S’ mode allowed the S-tronic gearbox (similar to Volkswagen’s DSG) to shift later and hold gears for as long as necessary.

I did several runs through the same stretch of road, a couple with Magnetic Ride Control sport mode (MRC) on and a couple with it off. In general terms, Magnetic Ride Control is a continuously variable, real-time damping system. It improves responsiveness and increases driver control. The following exert from a GM press release explains the system:

The system responds in one millisecond to provide superior ride, handling and control on even the roughest road surfaces. Magnetic Ride Control uses a simple combination of sensors, as well as steering wheel and braking inputs from the driver, to reduce noise, vibration and harshness for a smoother ride. The system's onboard computer reacts to wheel inputs from the road-sensing suspension by sending an electronic signal to coils in each damper, changing the damping fluid's flow properties. This fluid contains randomly dispersed iron particles that, in the presence of a magnetic field, align themselves into structures adopting a near-plastic state. This action regulates the damping properties of the monotube struts, changing up to 1,000 times per second. The system offers an expanded range of soft-to-firm damping capabilities for increased control over vehicle motions for a flat ride and precise handling. The active suspension helps maintain the maximum amount of tire patch in contact with the road, providing improved wheel control for a safer more secure ride. This new technology also helps reduce the traditional tradeoff between ride and handling.

There is also a video available here that offers a more detailed explanation, along with samples of the technology at work. Again, this is courtesy of GM:

It was quite clear that the MRC sport mode managed to control the car with greater accuracy. When the TT was pushed hard into a corner with acceleration, there was less understeer due to the car’s flatter stance. The TT managed to belay my fears of typical Front Wheel Drive mayhem. Often a FWD sports car will lack finesse and composure through corners because of the excess amount of power being sent through the front wheels. The Audi TT held its own through a corner and kept up with the Volkswagen R32 we had on test at the time – and bear in mind that the R32 has the advantage of two extra cylinders and All Wheel Drive.

A character trait associated with the Volkswagen DSG – and one that seems to haunt Audi’s S-tronic system – is the finicky selection of gears at low speeds. When coming to a halt, the gearbox seems to confuse itself and when it finally chooses its desired gear, the revs drop to a level that make you feel like the car is about to stall. And likewise, when removing your foot from the brake pedal at a standstill, there is no motion for a second or two and then all of a sudden there is a mild shunt and the car starts rolling forward. If you put these minor nitpicks to the side, the S-tronic is a fantastic gearbox and works at optimal efficiency when you are going hell for leather.

If the looks don’t steal glances, you can bet your bottom dollar that the exhaust note will. From the outside, if you sink the right foot, the exhaust lets out a bellowing roar that follows all the way through to redline, when you finally grab the next gear, the S-tronic emits a bark that resonates off any wall near by. It almost sounds like a pre-meditated backfire. One thing that is certain thought; when you grab the next gear, anyone standing within a 100m radius is going to know about it.

The steering and brakes are on par with vehicles of much higher calibre. The steering is incredibly direct and the sculpted steering wheel ensures that moving through bends is a task that requires minimal fuss and attention. The paddle shifts on the steering wheel are slightly overrated for fast driving, it becomes far too hard to change gears on the exit of a corner when the wheel is turned half way. That’s why I always used the ‘S’ mode, which tailored the gear changes for performance driving. The brakes received a torture test and came out gleaming with confidence. They constantly retained feel and didn’t exhibit any signs of fade. This could be in part due to the vehicle’s meagre 1.2-tonne mass.

Firing the TT off the line with the gearbox’s launch control is a task that only the brave-hearted should attempt. Enabling launch control requires the need for the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) to be disabled. This in turn means that you get wheel-spin – and plenty of it. After loading up 3000 revs, you drop the brake pedal and the car launches off the line in a semi-psychotic manner. Soon after releasing the brake, the front wheels break into wheel-spin and full attention is required to steer the car in the right direction.

The ESP system works in tune with the car to control the direction with minimal interference. If the car is pushed too hard into a corner, the system intervenes with minor braking intervention, along with minor torque reduction. This style of protection still permits hard driving, whilst providing a safety mechanism if things start to get out of hand.

In general, the new TT is very well behaved on the road and complies with most driver commands without too much power bereavement. This makes for a very, very well sorted vehicle that doesn’t resemble a Front Wheel Drive as much as it should, it feels much more like a Rear Wheel Drive vehicle.

Under the hood –

The TT range is available with two different engines. The base model features a 2.0-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. This engine produces 147kW between 5100RPM and 6000RPM. It also lays out 280Nm of torque between 1800RPM and 5000RPM.

The V6 TT is powered by a 3.2-litre V6 engine that produces 184kW at 6300RPM, whilst emitting 320Nm of torque between 2500RPM and 3000RPM. This model features Audi’s Quattro All Wheel Drive (AWD) system. The two vehicles (2.0-litre and 3.2-litre) weigh 1260kg and 1410kg respectively.

After driving over 1000km in the new TT, I was easily able to achieve the stipulated 7.7l/100km fuel efficiency (very good). The V6 on the other hand is rated at 9.4l/100km (average).

Our test vehicle was fitted with the renowned S-tronic gearbox. After enabling launch control and launching the vehicle from 3000RPM, 0-100km/h times of 6.4s were easily achievable. The V6 on the other hand can perform the naught-to-one-hundred dash in just 5.7s.

Price, safety and features –

There are three guises available in the TT range. The base model features the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and receives a 6-speed manual gearbox; this vehicle is priced at $68,900. The next model up features the same engine and features, but gains the 6-speed S-tronic gearbox; it’s priced at $72,500. The ‘bees-knees’ of the TT range is the 3.2-litre V6; it’s priced at $88,900.

Standard features on the base model include: Valleta leather upholstered sports seats; leather sports steering wheel; automatic air-conditioning that varies ventilation depending on the angle of sunlight; BOSE sound system; cruise control; fog lights and central locking.

In addition to the base model features, the 3.2 V6 gets: Electric sports seats; fine nappa leather; quattro AWD; 18” alloy wheels and electro-chromatic rear vision mirror.

Safety features common to all models include: Two-stage airbags for driver and passenger; Electronic Stability Program; electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering; side impact protection and sports suspension.

Our test vehicle was fitted with the following options: Storage package ($400); fine Nappa leather upholstery ($800); Audi Magnetic Ride ($3000) and BOSE surround sound ($1300). This took the RRP of $72,500 up to $78,000.

Conclusion –

To put it quite simply, the new Audi TT was an absolute pleasure to drive. The power on tap was very impressive and the lightweight chassis was capable of changing directions without a moment’s hesitation. The interior was quite seductive and well laid out, allowing all the controls to be in perfect reaching distance.

The new TT is the type of vehicle that can easily be driven around town day in and day out. It’s also a vehicle that can instantly turn into a spasmodic corner eater. The optional Magnetic Ride Control keeps the TT in tune and ensures that there is no misbehaviour when powering through bends, so if you’re in the market for a TT, be sure to option it with Magnetic Ride Control, I think it’s worth every penny.

In my opinion, the new Audi TT is a stellar performer. With looks to kill and handling to boot, the TT is good value for money when you consider the job it does through the bends. Do yourself, your eyes and ears a favour and take one out for a test drive!