Finding the right balance of style, comfort and performance is hard to do, but the Audi TT hits the mark on all three. The Audi doesn't compromise one factor for the other two (like many sports cars tend to do) and while it may not be the top dog in each category, it certainly combines the three impressively.
The TT Roadster is available in Sport or S line trim, and the pinnacle of the drop-top range is the Audi TT S Roadster. All have a 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with Audi's quattro all-wheel drive and six-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, but the TTS has more power and torque.
Our test car is the S line and Audi expects the sales skew to be geared in this direction over the base Sport model, and is also tipping that the majority of buyers will be women.
When it comes to cost, the two-door, two-seat Roadster also draws a premium over the three-door four-seat Coupe. While the 2.0 quattro S line Coupe is $85,490 before on-road-costs, the equivalent convertible is $89,000. You'll find a rundown on the full range here.
That puts the Audi TT Roadster pretty much in the middle of the pack when it comes to its competitors. On the cheaper end of the scale are cars like the Mazda MX-5 and Nissan 370Z Roadster, moving up to the BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK.
The new TT is sharper looking and more masculine than before. The parallelogram LED headlights and sequential LED indicators are etched into either side of the grille and the four-ringed Audi badge takes pride of place on the bonnet, just like its older sibling the R8.
With prominent wheel arches that house 19-inch alloy wheels, straighter lines along the sides and an angular rear - the rounded, bubble-like look of its predecessor has been exiled. It's a convertible sports car with attitude.
The dimensions are considerably different too. Watch those steep gutters because its 3mm lower than before, also 10mm wider and 37mm longer in the wheelbase. Overall the new TT Roadster looks sleeker and more mature than ever.
The differences between the Sport and the S line are largely cosmetic. The S Line package adds a sportier dimension to the front and rear bumpers, different side sills, platinum grey rear diffuser, logos on the side of the vehicle and throughout the interior (steering wheel and seats included) and premium interior trims like a perforated leather gear knob and contrast stitching.
Audi has a long and sometimes complex list of option, and some are cheaper in the higher specification. For example Audi Matrix LED headlights are $1,900 (incl. LCT) for S line compared to $4,400 on the Sport. Heat treated Nappa leather trim is only available as an option in the S line for $1,400, Milano leather is the $900 option for the Sport, but heated front seats are standard in the Roadster.
Inside the interior looks and feels premium with the new Audi Virtual Cockpit instrumentation taking pride of place. The 12.4-inch unit made its debut in the TT Coupe and gives the driver access to vehicle settings, a digital representation of the usual instrument cluster gauges, music, satellite navigation and more.
The nav system receives live traffic updates via SUNA and can even use GPS data to angle the lights as you come up to a corner.
Interestingly, though digital radio is standard in the Roadster, you can't option in digital television like you can on the Sport.
The Virtual Cockpit is impressive, it's intuitive and the different screen layouts make it easy to customise the experience to suit yourself. My favourite part is that the Virtual Cockpit stretches out behind the steering wheel, meaning that you don't need to glance down and to the side like you would with centre-mounted displays. It's a quick glance down just above the steering wheel, and all of the driving functions are right there, either on the steering wheel (cruise control, volume etc), or visible right behind it.
The sports seats in the S line are incredibly comfortable, with pneumatic side bolstering they wrap you in snuggly. One of my favourite features is the microphones built into the seatbelt that help with voice clarity for Bluetooth phone calls, and neck-level heating is yet another option our test car has, it adds another $800 to our 'as tested' price.
There's also a lockable cubby between the two front seats that is a well-thought out feature. It's big enough to hold wallets, phones and any other paraphernalia, ensuring valuables are kept safe and out of sight. However the CD player, though out of sight in the glove box, isn't easy to reach from the drivers seat.
Unlike the Coupe there's no back seat. The electric roof has to have somewhere to go. The roof can be deployed up or down at speeds of up to 50km an hour and takes just 10 seconds. Boot space in the Roadster is quite generous for this style of car, offering 280 litres, which is large enough to swallow enough luggage for a weekend away.
The cabin is really nicely finished with quality materials and though it’s feature packed there are a couple of key items missing - a rear-view camera and a heads up display. That said, one of those issues has been rectified, with Audi including a rear-view camera as standard on MY16 TTs.
Hitting the road in the TT is a tonne of fun. The punchy 2.0-litre turbocharged engine rips out 169kW and 370Nm, which is more power and torque than the previous model.
There are five driving modes available – dynamic, comfort, automatic, eco and individual. My preference has been dynamic and if you're going to drive a car you should experience it in all its glory most often. Comfort is a welcome change, smoothing things out a bit, while Eco is a bit like that awkward third cousin you had to invite to the party. You'll be polite and engage for a moment, but that's not where you're going to spend much time.
It handles everyday trials like traffic lights, roundabouts and stop-start traffic with perky efficiency, when you want or need to put your foot down it responds with what you need. Despite the lack of rear-view camera in our test car, the sensors help with parking and the electrically assisted steering is great. The ride is well-behaved around town, too, absorbing undulations with little complaint.
With the roof down the wind deflector certainly makes a difference, but with the roof up you will notice road and tyre noise.
Heading out of town to a nice twisty road, dynamic mode is the order of the day. It pops the gearbox into sports mode and sends more torque to the rear when needed. With quattro all-wheel drive, the TT feels very sporty on the road. But don't expect this to be just the Coupe with the roof cut off and minus a couple of seats, the dampers have been tuned differently.
Powering through the corners, being a convertible, I'm expecting a bit of flex in the body. Though it feels light, it remains solid and rigid in its structure with very little body roll and no scuttle-shake.
I was having a great time tackling the turns in the TT Roadster. The nose tucks in nicely when you start to turn and it feels glued to the road the whole way around. The understeer that plagued the second generation has been dealt with too.
I mucked around with the paddle-shifters for a while, mainly to build it up then drop back a gear or two and hear it roar. The TT exhaust note sounds fantastic, reverberating through your body whether the roof is up or down.
In the end, other than making it noisier, I wasn't doing that much better at changing gears at the right time than the TT's gearbox. The six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission knows what it's doing.
The Audi TT Roadster is a niche car – with only two seats – best suited to singles, couples or as a second car for a family that acts as a weekend getaway machine for mums or dads. The more aggressive styling does the Audi TT Roadster a lot of favours, performance-wise it delivers and the typically Audi attention to detail in the interior finishes make it a very interesting prospect.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.