When it comes to iconic sport coupes and convertibles, the Audi TT is pretty much the go-to car in the segment. The German company has been refining its TT offering over the last 14 years, and while it has certainly grown up since its early days, the Audi TT is still as fun and exciting as ever.
With the current, second-generation Audi TT nearing the end of its life, Audi has pretty much perfected the model’s design and engineering. Offered in either a 2+2 coupe or two-seater soft-top roadster (tested here), the TT is the ideal sports car if you’re after something that’s exciting but not completely impractical.
Our test car was the Audi TT 1.8 TFSI S-tronic Roadster, which is the cheapest way you’ll find yourself in a soft-top TT. It retails for $72,400 (before on roads), which is $2450 more expensive than the previous 1.8 TFSI TT that used a continuously variable transmission but still noticeably cheaper than its direction competition, the hardtop Mercedes-Benz SLK and BMW Z4.
The base model SLK200 automatic retails for $83,450 while the eight-speed auto Z4 sDrive20i is priced from $80,400.
Nonetheless, unlike the rear-wheel-drive Mercedes and BMW roadsters, the base model Audi TT is driven via the front wheels, with the cheapest four-wheel-drive TT, the 2.0 TFSI quattro S-tronic, being priced from $81,600.
If a hardtop isn’t a prerequisite, all three German roadster offerings are excellent examples of state-of-the-art engineering, so to pick between them presents a rather hard challenge. The BMW is more of a driver’s car, solid and more engaging to drive while the SLK200 is softer and more about having a pleasant time with the roof down. The Audi TT sits somewhere in the middle.
From the outside the TT is an almost universally liked shaped. Despite having evolved from its very curvy shape of the late ’90s, the current model is still instantly recognisable as a TT. It’s bold and masculine without being over the top, and the signature Audi daytime running lights (an $1800 option as part of the xenon plus headlights package) give the model a very bespoke look.
Our test car came in “glacier” white exterior paint with a black roof and a “Chennai” brown interior. To finish the look, 19-inch 7-twin spoke alloy wheels ($3600) and the S-line exterior package ($2436) were optioned.
With the roof up or down, the TT is gorgeous. It’s not just our opinion, but also those of the many bystanders who couldn’t help but stare as it drove past. It’s fair to say it turned far more heads than we expected it to.
It’s also fair to say that our Audi TT test car was a little more expensive than the $72,400 retail price would have you believe, wearing an impressive $17,016 worth of options. Apart from the three already mentioned, the list also included $4600 for the navigation system, $2265 for the leather upholstery, $1300 for metallic paint, $850 for rear parking sensors and $165 for hill-start assist. That makes the full price $89,416 before on-roads.
This is no different to its rivals, which also have exhaustive options lists and something we’ve all become accustomed to. The reality is, even at a near $90,000 price point, it’s a damn fine car.
Sit inside and you’ll instantly appreciate the top-notch Audi quality interior that so many manufacturers have desperately tried to replicate. It’s by far the nicest and most expensive-feeling interior of a car in its class. The audio system and the centre console are angled towards the driver, which makes life easier on the go.
The flat-bottom steering wheel and sporty dials are a class act and the brown seats and upholstery really add that final touch to set this apart. If you want a car to impress your friends, this will exceed your expectations.
Although you may think a fabric roof is a disadvantage in a convertible, it couldn’t be further from the truth. First of all, once it’s tucked away it makes no difference to the look and Audi has done a fantastic job in sealing the cabin tight, so cabin noise is a non-issue.
Furthermore, it weighs less, which is good on all accounts and the TT’s standard electrohydraulic roof system closes and opens the top in just 12 seconds and can operate at speeds of up to 50k/h.
Comparing this with the SLK and Z4, both are not only slower but in the SLK’s case, you need to be standing perfectly still to operate the roof while the Z4’s works only up to 7km/h. That’s a big deal because in the TT you can operate the roof while at a traffic light and continue to do so as you get going. In the other two you may end up in a sticky situation as you’re forced to start driving half way through the job and come out looking a little awkward.
Despite being the entry model to the range, the Audi TT 1.8 TFSI is anything but mediocre. The 1.8-litre turbo produces 118kW of power (4500-6200rpm) with 250Nm of torque (1500-4500rpm). Given it weighs around 1250kg, the power to weight ratio and the rev range in which its might is delivered, results in a very reasonable 0-100km/h time of 7.2 seconds. Meanwhile fuel economy is rated at just 6.4L/100km (we were averaging around 7.5L/100km under heavy testing).
Given its small size and good power delivery, the TT is perfect for a spirited drive through mountainous roads. It has a fairly firm ride that makes it an enjoyable driver’s car but can become a problem if you frequent poor-quality roads.
Despite its front-wheel-drive nature, the short wheelbase allows the physics to work so you get plenty of grip from the Toyo Proxes tyres and not much grief from the car’s electronic nanny controls when pushed hard into a bend. The steering is direct and precise but not a match for the Z4.
We found the S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox could hesitate at times if left it in ‘drive’ (a problem more evident on the diesel TT variant we drove briefly as well) but in ‘sport’ mode or using the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters, it’s ultra quick and fun to use.
The one aspect of the car thayt frustrated us the most, was the relatively pricey satellite navigation system. At a cost of $4600, you’d expect a system to be more intuitive to use. It’s a little clumsy and slow to navigate and the map display and screen pixel resolution can certainly be improved.
We also couldn’t get Bluetooth music audio streaming to work, although telephone connectivity was simple to set up with excellent clarity (with the roof up).
Overall, the Audi TT 1.8 TFSI is an excellent choice if you’re after a luxury German roadster. It also happens to be the most affordable way into the class. Without any options, the $72,400 retail price is still generously equipped with highlights including 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth interface, cruise control, front sports seats upholstered in Valetta leather and multifunction sports steering wheel with gearshift paddles.