Car reviews - Audi - TT - 3.2 quattro coupe
Performance, driveability, grip, transmission, gearshift paddles, safety features, styling, equipment levels, value
Room for improvement
No manual option, snatchy low-speed clutch action, throttle cut-out function, tight rear seating
17 Dec 2004
THERE’S no question Audi’s lusty 3.2 V6 brings a new level of performance to Audi’s timeless TT coupe.
Finally, the promise of performance presented by TT’s classic shape is fulfilled, and Audi’s five-year-old coupe has a worthy king.
Though the 165kW turbo four found in the quattro-equipped TT coupe and convertible returns reasonably spirited performance, the 3.2 is better again, improving both driveability and performance as much as the 165kW unit does over the garden variety 132kW 1.8T.
Okay, so the 3.2 offers 19kW more peak power (400rpm higher in the rev range) than the previous TT benchmark – along with 40Nm more torque (600rpm higher), making it just that bit more willing to coax the heavy and grippy quattro drivetrain into action.
But where the TT V6 really shines is its ability to shift like no other automatic-transmission vehicle before it, thanks to the revolutionary new Direct Shift Gearbox.
Currently only available in Australia in Audi’s new A3 (with both 2.0 TDI and 3.2 variants), DSG will be the transmission Porsche chooses to supersede its conventional Tiptronic S auto with in its next generation of models. And can there be no better proof of the system’s merits than that.
Of course, performance purists will rue the lack of a conventional manual option for TT 3.2, but when only a small percentage of well-heeled sports coupe buyers opt for a manual tranny anyway, DSG makes perfect sense as the TT 3.2’s sole transmission option.
Think of DSG as an automated manual gearbox without a clutch pedal – just like a sequential manual transmission offered by the likes of some BMW, Alfa and Ferrari models. However, the difference is DSG’s ability to pre-select the next gear ratio, via a clever system of internal gearbox actuators, allows it to shift gears almost seamlessly both up and down.
Combined with a gearshift paddles on the steering wheel, which operate Porsche-style in their ability to override the default automatic function for a period of time when pressed, and DGS proves a highly efficient, refined and effective alternative to both conventional manual and auto gearboxes.
There’s also a highly adaptive sport mode, in which TT V6 will hold a gear at surprisingly high revs when the accelerator pedal is employed enthusiastically.
However, all that quattro grip still seems to bog down the engine when using the SMG-style launch control function (which is activated by selecting sport mode, deselecting stability control and holding the pedal to the metal), despite standing-start take-offs from 3500rpm.
Ultra-slow carpark manoeuvres and the like may also take a little time to carry out confidently as one gets used to the feeling of the auto clutch dis/engaging – and it’s a shame Audi’s throttle cut-out feature still intervenes when accelerator and brake pedals are pushed at the same time.
Otherwise, it’s hard to fault the DSG system, which mates extremely well to the 3.2 Audi V6 and will undoubtedly revolutionise transmission systems in future.
Of course, on top of Electronic Stability Program (including Anti-Slip Regulation and Electronic Differential Lock), there’s the full compliment of active safety systems including ABS, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, plus passive safety features like twin front and front side airbags.
Yeah, the rear seats remain tight – not as tight as the 911’s though – but are still aided by a practical split-folding rear seat. And the little-changed, leather-clad TT interior is as cosseting as ever.
For all its cleverness and extra urge, however, the hottest new TT remains a stylish and effective sports coupe rather than a hairy-chested performance car in the FPV or HSV style – or even Audi’s own new V8-powered S4.
But for those in the market for a sub-$100,000 AWD performance coupe with understated luxury, unrivalled standard equipment and benchmark safety, look no further.
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