I had a soft spot for the outgoing Audi TT Roadster. A compact, quick and sporty looking convertible. But it was always marred with the 'hairdresser's car' image — something that always confused me given a hairdresser's average salary.
Nevertheless, Audi has done what it can to depart from that image with a very sharp and somewhat masculine looking 2016 TT Roadster, which we've just driven on the picturesque Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
Taking styling cues from its more powerful two-door supercar sibling, the R8, Audi has gone to great lengths to enhance the TT's image and make it more appealing to a greater cross-section of the market.
New LED headlights with a vertical bar design, dynamic LED indicators that light up in sequence, even a set of Audi rings on the bonnet — previously reserved for the R8 only — are just some of the design highlights employed on this latest model.
Launching in Australia this week with a starting price of $81,500, the TT Roadster goes on sale at the same price as the outgoing model, despite the addition of $8000 in value (you can read our story on 2016 Audi TT Roadster pricing and specifications here).
A sportier looking S-Line model is priced from $89,000, which adds a mean looking front-end with air scoops and a rear diffuser, in addition to unique sports seats and bigger 19-inch alloy wheels.
Both of these versions are $3550 more expensive than the equivalent TT Coupe.
Available in one engine and gearbox specification, the TT Roadster is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The TT Roadster is also only available with quattro all-wheel drive.
The feisty four-cylinder engine produces 169kW of power (up 14kW of power over the previous model) and 370Nm of torque (up 20Nm of torque over the previous model), which allows it to sprint from 0-100km/h in just 5.6 seconds (0.3 seconds quicker than the outgoing model). Likewise, fuel consumption has reduced by 10.0 per cent to just 6.7L/100km.
Sitting some 3mm lower than the previous model, the TT Roadster uses a 10mm wider track and 37mm longer wheelbase to help it sit with confidence through corners. Optional magnetic ride control ($2250, or $1731 exclusive of LCT) is also available, which offers three damper firmness modes and allows the car to sit an additional 10mm lower.
From the outside, it's clear to see the TT Roadster has evolved from the first bubble-shaped sketch of a TT Roadster in 1994. This latest model sits confidently on the road with sharp lines and impressive angles.
Dynamic LED indicators on the front and rear work with a boot-mounted LED brake light strip. A range of alloy wheels sized from 18- to 20-inches are available, allowing customers to add character to their purchase — there's even an out-there yellow colour called Vegas Yellow.
In true Audi fashion, it's the interior that sets the TT Roadster apart from the rest. Featuring a host of new technology features, such as a 12.4-inch 60fps Virtual Cockpit display, neck-level heating, seat belt microphones and brand-name-specific voice recognition technology, you won't be left wanting in terms of technology — with the dubious exception of no reversing camera, and the lack of a heads-up display (a less egregious complaint).
Debuting on the TT Coupe, the Virtual Cockpit sits in front of the driver and is used to select music, change vehicle settings and displays both the speedometer and tachometer. With a 60fps display rate, everything is crisp and operates sharply. The Nvidia graphics card is powerful enough to cope with the demands of screen switching and constant speed/tachometer changes. The navigation can even use GPS data to pre-angle lights as the vehicle approaches a corner.
The sports seats on both the TT Roadster Sport and S-Line are fantastic. They hug you in tightly during cornering and offer sufficient bolstering, and in the case of the S-Line with pneumatic side bolstering, to keep you nestled under even harder acceleration and braking.
The seats feature a leather heat treatment that allows a surface temperature reduction of up to 20 degrees Celsius. This bodes well with hot days if you leave the car outside with the roof off, since there's less chance of burning your skin as you hop in.
Both the driver and passenger seat belts come with built-in microphones to help amplify Bluetooth phone audio quality. We tested this feature out and the person on the other end of the phone was quite impressed with the audio quality, even with the roof down at 100km/h.
Optional on S-Line models is a neck level heater that pumps warm air at three speed levels on to the driver's neckline. It's a perfect addition to a mild day and is fairly reasonably priced at $615.
Despite facilitating the roof mechanism, boot capacity is only 25 litres down on the TT Coupe, offering 280 litres of storage.
An uncharacteristically sunny day meant dropping the canvas roof via its switch was mandatory — despite the low double-digit ambient temperature. Donning both a beanie and jacket, we cranked the cabin, seat and neck level heaters before setting off in the hunt for corners.
It's immediately obvious that this feisty little engine has the goods as the first gear-change crack emanates within the cabin. Using the drive select button, we slotted the car into its dynamic mode (other available modes include comfort, automatic, eco and individual) where it selects the gearbox's sport mode and more actively sends torque to the rear axle.
Featuring torque vectoring, the all-wheel drive system can send up to 100.0 per cent of torque to the rear in some instances, giving the car a sporty feel on the road. The TT Roadster also comes with uniquely tuned dampers that react differently to those in the TT Coupe.
After the first few corners, the TT Roadster's steering begins to shine. The communicative and nimble rack uses progressive electrical assistance to tuck the front end in on the approach to a corner. It teams perfectly with the sharp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and all-wheel-drive system to literally slingshot out of corners at phenomenal pace.
The understeer-prone second generation TT Roadster is almost like chalk and cheese in comparison to the new one. It handles like a far more mature vehicle and makes the most of a more rigid chassis and new quattro all-wheel drive system to enhance delivery of torque.
The ride on the TT Roadster Sport's standard 18-inch wheels is excellent. The slightly chubbier tyres allow the car to glide over bumps and settle quicker during mid-corner bumps. The step up to the 19-inch wheels in the TT Roadster S-Line causes the car to sometimes become unsettled on rough mid-corner stretches.
On smoother surfaces, though, the lack of body roll and epic exhaust note bouncing off the walls of the Great Ocean Road push it close to motoring nirvana. It's hard to remember the last time I found a car to be this enjoyable on an open stretch of road.
The 312mm/300mm front/rear ventilated disc brake combination works perfectly to pull up the TT Roadster with little fuss. Even after a downhill run back into Lorne, the TT Roadster felt composed and unfazed by the constant braking.
Arguably, the best way to drive the TT Roadster is using the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters to manually up-shift and slow the car before corners. The sport mode also works well, but could be more aggressive.
As we ventured higher into the mountains, we closed the roof — which only takes 10 seconds at speeds of up to 50km/h. This element of the drive highlighted a complaint we had with the TT Coupe, which was road noise from the tyres. It's quite prominent in the cabin and becomes quite intrusive as speeds increase.
Audi expects around 50.0 per cent of purchases to be skewed toward the more expensive TT Roadster S-Line, with a majority of those buyers being women.
The new Audi TT Roadster represents one of the most engaging convertible sports car purchases under $100,000. It's a marked improvement over its predecessor in almost every area.