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: Audi TT 3.2 Roadster: The perfect sports car

03-26-2007, 08:41 PM
As tested in SA

Audi TT 3.2 Roadster: The perfect sports car

By John Simister


Price: £31 535 (R448 000), 2.0T £26 915 (R382 000). SA prices R440 000 and R352 000 respectively).
Engine: 3189cc, V6, 24 valves, 187kW at 6300rpm, 320Nm from 2500-3000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, all-wheel drive.
Performance: 250km/h, 0-100km/h in 6.1sec, 10.4 litres/100km.

"What is a sports car?" I asked in a recent column. Not the Peugeot 207 CC I was testing, I concluded, although it came closer than you might have imagined. What about this test car, then?

It's the Audi TT Roadster, with two seats and all-
Too many past Audis looked great but failed to engage drivers

wheel drive
Too many past Audis looked great but failed to engage drivers
. Audi is well on the way to reinvention
with Le Mans victories, the excellent RS4 and now the R8 supercar adding to the promise of driving pleasure. So the sports car credentials look promising.

Will the promise be kept? Too many past Audis looked great but failed to engage drivers. The first TT, all Bauhaus and neo-retro, felt wooden to drive. This was a car bought for looks and perceived quality.

Now there's a new TT generation. Again it's based on the contemporary Golf family but the link is looser. The new TT's style is an evolution of the old while its structure contains a lot of aluminium.

The centre of gravity is lower than that of the Golf and the suspension geometry has been altered to give a radically different driving experience.

I liked the new TT Coupé a lot on its launch in 2006, especially in its lighter, front-wheel drive form, powered by the two-litre, 150kW, turbo
Audi is finally understanding how a car-lover's car should feel

Audi is finally understanding how a car-lover's car should feel
. The 3.2, with quattro all-wheel drive,
proved faster but less agile and less satisfying. Yet even this V6 is a proper driving machine.

Audi is finally understanding how a car-lover's car should feel.

With its fastback styling and fine driving qualities, then, the TT Coupé is a credible compact GT. And if past fastback GTs - Jaguar E-type, MGB - can be convincing sports cars in roofless guise, then it's looking good for the new TT Roadster.

It looks as a modern sports car should, apart from a short bonnet and that's thanks to its transverse engine. It has two seats, neat rollover bars and a taut fascia design. Audi has resisted the temptation to make it a hard-roofed coupé-cabriolet, as the TT range contains a coupé.

So the powered roof - 12 seconds for the complete movement - is fabric, more compact than metal. So there's a a decent boot when travelling roof-down.

Better again

A fabric roof is lighter, too. The open TT weighs 65kg more than the coupé, a small penalty by open-car standards.

The TT's structure was designed to suit an open car from the start so the Roadster needs less of the extra bracing needed to compensate for the lack of rafters. This new TT Roadster is 2.2 times stiffer than the old one.

And 2.2 times better? No, it's better again. There were no two-litre versions at the UK introduction so it was a chance to reacquaint myself with the V6 drivetrain that I was lukewarm about. First off, a manual-transmission car with standard suspension dampers and 18" wheels.

It's a lot easier to drive smoothly than that V6 coupé, because clutch, gearshifter and accelerator flow better together. I think there's been some recalibration work on the accelerator and it makes the TT a lot more satisfying to drive.

The TT Roadster is another of the new breed of open cars that feel solid, all of a piece. This is a vital sports-car attribute: the stiffer the structure, the crisper the responses, while allowing the suspension to be supple enough. Drive over a broken surface and you don't see the windscreen frame shaking. It's tight, taut, truthful.

Specify 18" rims

Quattro drive sends 85 percent of the energy to the front wheels but all the effort can head to the front or rear as needed. The result is a car able to corner fast with little tendency for either end to drift, one that gives agile responses to the driver's inputs. It's far more interactive than before.

The Roadster rides tidily over bumps, too, "breathing" with the road. It is essential that you specify the standard 18" wheels. Go for the 19" and the Roadster turns fidgety.

And that's still true even if you opt for the "magnetic ride" shock absorbers that alter the damping stiffness as required.

Another option is the S-tronic auto transmission (formerly DSG). It's a double-clutch system with instant, jerk-free manual shifts (by steering-wheel paddle) or a smooth automatic mode.

An S-tronic TT accelerates more quickly than a manual thanks to faster gearshifts and will use less petrol. It's a piece of technological brilliance though a keen driver might get bored.

Whatever the weather

One of the best things about the TT V6 Roadster, though, is the engine's smooth, deep, resonant song that the open roof lets you hear in full voice.

Wind flowing past your head (a powered draught screen stems the back-buffeting), engine pulling hard, hands gripping the compact steering wheel with its curious, flat-bottomed rim, it's a fine way to spend a sunny day.

And if the weather turns hostile, up with the roof.

Yes, it's a sports car. But if you exceed 150km/h its rear spoiler pops up and you could be caught. Keep it to yourself... - The Independent, London

The rivals

Alfa Romeo Spider V6 Q4: £31 250 / R443 750 (SA R485 000)
Brera-based soft-top is more cabriolet than sports. Slower, thirstier than Audi, floppier structure despite weight, bloated facia from 159 saloon. Disappointing.

BMW Z4 3.0i SE Roadster: £33 170 / R471 (SA R511 000)
Facelifted, the Z4 brought "flame surfacing" to the design lexicon and feels like a proper sports car to drive. Smooth 200kW, straight-six; rear-wheel drive.

Nissan 350Z Convertible: £27 995 / R397 500 (SA R405 990)
The best car for the real enthusiast. Best value, too, with a lusty 225kW V6, great looks, terrific rear-drive handling and almost no body shudder.