My wife called me a MAMIL when I bought my first compression tights the other day. I thought she was referring to my “manliness”, but alas I was wrong. I didn’t know what a MAMIL was, so I googled it. It stands for: Middle Age Man In Lycra. It is an expression that has been used in the past 10 years to describe middle-aged males (I’m 44) buying expensive bicycles instead of the old days of buying an expensive sports car. Well, I think she is wrong, since I don’t have an expensive bicycle nor an expensive sports car.
Oh wait, could she be referring to my 2009 Audi TT S that I bought earlier this year??? I personally thought it wasn’t expensive, but I guess I’m biased!
Let me take you back to 2018-early 2019. For the past 6-12 months, a few of my similarly-aged close mates/family member had been buying various cars such as a V8 Commodore, M3, WRX, 911 Carrera, Fiat 500 (!!!), etc to move away from the mundane cars that take us from “A to B”. I wanted to join that group too.
So scrolling away on a certain car sales website late at night became a “thing”. I would dream of what I could buy for $X, 2 or 4 doors, Japanese or German, would the kids bump their heads on a sloping rear glass panel and most importantly, how would I convince the missus or how could I sneak this purchase in? In 25-plus years of driving, I’ve never owned an used car, so this was also adding some excitement to this mid-life crisis car searching.
Having a couple of young kids, we had a Volvo XC60 and a Mazda 3, so we are your typical 4-person family that tends to replace normal and safe cars every 3-5 years. The Mazda 3 was my daily 50-kilometre inner Sydney commute car. It was an extremely reliable, zippy and surprisingly thirsty car that got the job done. However, I was yearning for more excitement during these 2 hour round trips.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Audi TT MkII (8J) model. When they first came out in 2006, I thought they looked great but I wasn’t prepared to spend $75,000 plus on a 2 door sports car with my girlfriend, who ended up becoming my wife. So we ended up with a silver “bells and whistles” 2007 VW Eos convertible at $63,000 instead.....
Fast forward to 2018/19, and I was surprised by how many different engine variants there were for such a niche car. Diesel (no!), 2.0-litre petrol (147kW - that seems low), 3.2-litre V6 (184kW - ok, not too bad), 2.0-litre petrol (200kW - that sounds more like it) and the 2.5-litre 5-cylinder (250kW, manual - prefer not). My first experience was testing a one-owner, immaculately serviced and maintained black V6 model in late 2018, which sounded nice but had a full red leather interior, which I wasn’t sure about.
So what did I do? I was undecided so I made a lowball offer, which was accepted swiftly. As I love “chasing” a deal and researching my purchases, this acceptance came too easily, so after thinking about it for a day or two, I declined. Hidden behind this decision was probably the fact that I had not told my wife I was actually looking for a new car!
Then it happened. A few weeks after that experience, a new ad for a TT S appeared, which looked promising. The price seemed fair but being right before Xmas, I had other priorities in mind. A few weeks into early 2019, that same ad was updated and it was now reduced by a few thousand dollars. It was now time to make that call.
Based in the Eastern Suburbs, this car immediately grabbed my attention by its gorgeous 19-inch wheels, shiny and faultless black exterior, very clean interior, immaculate engine bay and by-the-book dealer service records. Clearly it had been looked after properly. Registration had just been paid for another 12 months and it had just got a service the day before. It had done an average of 9000kms a year. The owner even added a new media unit to incorporate Apple CarPlay and a reversing car camera, which cost him over $2000. Bonus!
So after a test drive and a few days of negotiations, a deal was done and I was now the proud owner of my mid-life crisis car. By the way, did I mention my wife didn’t know any of this had happened until she saw some money “disappearing” from our account??!! Let’s just say some “interesting” conversations were had!
So what’s the TT S like to drive and live with everyday? Great! I love how it has ample power to blow away other cars at the lights (yes, I still do that occasionally, but only to the legal limit). It is comfortable driving around the city or on freeways or twisty roads. It has an understated exhaust note that sounds the business when shifting up. Accelerate hard and it has a nice rumble/roar sound that can be heard inside the cabin.
The S-tronic automated gearbox is quick, smooth and is spot on with the ratios. It has magnetic sports suspension and Audi’s Quattro system, which makes the car handle smoothly and sure-footed. Sydney’s notorious potholes, no matter how small, are still to be avoided, as you will feel it and wonder if you have damaged the wide, low-profile Continental tyres. While the TT is relatively light, it feels solidly built and rather nimble. In stop-start traffic, it is a very liveable car with very little turbo-lag.
Averaging around 23-25km/h, the fuel economy on 98 is slightly more than the Mazda 3 at around 12.5 litres per 100 kilometres, but who cares? Out of a 60-litre tank, I get around 450kms before I start getting nervous. It does require a top up of Castrol’s finest oil every 1500kms or so, but that has been noted in the manual, so it’s not a surprise.
The TT S has one surprise that you wouldn’t expect in a sports car. The boot space, even with the rear seats up, allows for a very useful amount of shopping and luggage. Split fold seats extends this capability even more - try fitting a mountain bike (with the front wheel off) or 2 sets of golf clubs in any other sports car! The subtle cosmetic enhancement over the base model such as the silver touches on the grill, mirror and body kit is tastefully applied.
I love the look of the circular quad-exhaust (no straight, rectangular pipes here) - every time I see another car with quad-exhaust, I know it means business and I know the owner loves to drive. Even though it’s now 10 years old, I’m still surprised how many people of both sexes comment or nod approvingly of the car. That doesn’t happen in a Mazda 3 or Volvo! I feel 20 again!
Obviously there are some downsides with a German sports car of this vintage. Even with a consistent dealer service record, I had expected a few minor things to pop up at random times. I knew the timing belt/water pump etc. had to be replaced ($1000 - $2200 were the quotes I got) and that was factored in with my negotiations. However, I didn’t expect the entire right rear lights to have an issue that resulted in a complete replacement of wiring and various parts. That’s $700 right there.
Even though the car had just been serviced before I picked it up, I wasn’t convinced the dealer did a competent job, so I had a major service done. All up $3300 (ouch!) but at least I know it’s now in great nick, and my local Audi independent has given it an “excellent health” in his rating for the car. He even said if I ever want to sell it, let him know as he would be keen to buy it. Settle down, matey, were my thoughts - give me a chance to enjoy it first!
Moving forward, my mechanic has suggested a regular 6 months/7500kms servicing on a car like this rather than the 12 months/15000kms recommended by Audi. The cost of a service is fairly reasonable at around $300-$700 per service including all fluid replacements. Comprehensive insurance quotes varied from $850-$2000. I went for a well-known insurer in the end with an agreed value that cost around $1200.
For a car that would have cost around $105,000 from the dealer, I was surprised that Audi did not have the following features, even as options.
* There are no automatic folding door mirrors to protect those awesome silver mirrors,
* Even though the electric front seats have plenty of adjustments, there’s no memory function, so as to make it easier when you have to move the seats forward or back to let the rear passengers (i.e. kids) out,
* The air conditioning is superb but surprisingly lacks individual climate control. Not a big deal but my similar vintage VW Eos had it and aren’t they all somehow related?
* There’s no space-saver tyre; just a can of goo. Fingers crossed that this is never used.
So to summarise, my 2009 Audi TT S is like my third child that I never had (or will have). I love my TT S for the things it does well, and the shortcomings it has are not major concerns. I have no plans on getting rid of it anytime soon.
It might get eventually replaced when the kids become too tall to sit in the back, but until then it will continue to put a smile on my face as I make the daily drive. Sure, I could have gone a “safe” route with something like a VW GTI/R, WRX, BMW or similar, but you only get one opportunity in life to surprise your wife with a 2-door sports car to fit a family of 4!
I have no regrets and I hope the TT S provides many more years of enjoyment. Who knows, one day my wife might suggest we upgrade to the next-generation TT S? I can only dream.....