Car reviews - Audi - TT - S Coupe and Roadster range
Strong engine, great gearboxes, excellent handling, fantastic engine note
Room for improvement
Price is quite high, ride a bit on the firm side, auto changes up in manual mode, stability control can't be switched off
4 Aug 2008
THE standard 147kW TT is a lovely car, but you can't help but wonder what it could do with more power.
Of course, Audi sells a 184kW naturally-aspirated V6 TT, but that car is more of an easy-going model which misses out on the rorty exhaust and turbo thrills.
Now Audi has come up with a much feistier turbo four-cylinder TT that gives the car a chance to live up to its potential.
The new engine and quattro AWD system transform the TT from a nice, sporty car into a mean sportscar.
The pace it can maintain along a twisting road, even in slippery wet conditions, is simply remarkable.
It also seemed very fast at a track session at Phillip Island, a place that can make some pretty impressive machines seem a little under-done.
The base TT has always been a fun little car to throw around and its 147kW engine is a delight to rev out.
It's the same with the TTS, except that everything is more extreme - the acceleration, the noises, the pace at which you arrive into corners.
There is of course a slight delay for the turbo, but it comes in quite early and pulls hard all the way through to around 6500rpm.
This is a very, very strong engine and, thanks to the turbo, it has quite a lot of torque available. You don't have to wring its neck to get the most power out of it, but it is a sweet engine that will happily rev to the redline.
In the hands of novice drivers it was able to hit 220km/h at Phillip Island, which is pretty impressive for something that is so useable and returns such good fuel economy (when not being flogged around a racetrack).
There is a wonderful mix of induction rush and exhaust note as the car surges forward. Audi has got the exhaust noise level spot-on. You can hear it when you have the roof down in the roadster and to a lesser extent in the coupe, but it is not intrusive.
Just like the 147kW TT equipped with an auto, the TTS S tronic model makes a lovely exhaust popping sound as you change gears. The dual-clutch automatic gearbox is a treat and changes gears quickly and smoothly.
There are only two downsides. Firstly it can be a bit slow to take off. You put it in drive and press the throttle and often the automatic's clutch seems reluctant to release. This happens especially if you are on a bit of a gradient and it requires more throttle.
Soon your foot is pressing down harder and harder until it lets go. Then you have to react quickly and lift your foot or you will shoot forward far faster than you were expecting.
The other issue is that even in manual mode the S Tronic will change up whether you have asked it to or not. This can be annoying when you are trying to hold a gear as you approach a corner and it goes and changes up just when you don't want it to.
Generally, however, it is such a good gearbox and changes so quickly that it is worth looking at if you can afford the extra cash.
The manual is a very nice, crisp gearbox. The clutch is light and you will never pick the wrong gear.
Hot laps around Phillip Island revealed the TTS is a very sure and stable car when cornering at higher speeds. It is also very forgiving, even with the electronic stability control turned 'off'.
Flicking the ESC button once turns off the traction control and holding it longer puts the ESC into a mode that allows for some slip, but still intervenes.
So, if you are pushing through a corner, it will allow for some four-wheel drift, but won't let you hold a big slide and simply can't hang the tail out no matter how hard you try.
This might annoy some people who want to have some fun on the odd track day, but is unlikely to be an issue for many TT owners, for whom the fact that it is so forgiving is more relevant.
The brakes might not be high-end four-pot Brembos or such, but they work well enough on the road and held up reasonably well on the track.
The TTS steering is much like the regular car - sharp and direct, although a little bit more feel would be nice.
That said, this is such a handy weapon on twisty stuff that it is hard to criticise. The magnetic ride suspension firms up the dampers and there really is very little bodyroll in the corners.
The good thing is that you can switch it off, because the firmness, which translates into harshness on non-perfect roads, could get to be too much.
To test the TTS models, we drove from Melbourne, through the Yarra Valley to East Gippsland and arrived at Phillip Island.
The TTS did very well on almost all these roads, although one or two sections with bumpier surfaces revealed the TTS (even with the magnetic control turned off) could be a bit firmer than some people might like.
The most comfortable TT is the base model on 17-inch alloy wheels which is still lots of fun, but is more compliant and comfortable for the bumpy roads you experience when you head off for a drive in the country.
Stepping back into the TT reminds you that it is beautiful car and with the new S treatment it looks even better.
The interior design is also brilliant, although the rear seats in the coupe are almost useless and only the smallest people will fit. It's most likely to be used for the odd bag.
There is no questioning the appeal of the TTS models. The only question relates to the price. Are they too expensive? The coupe is expensive at $92,900, especially when you look at what else is around.
You can get a BMW 135i Coupe for $62,506, a loaded Mazda RX-8 for $57,625 or a Nissan 350Z from $62,990.
All of these cars are great fun. Of course, they don't have AWD, but are likely to be quicker unless the roads are wet.
What the TT Coupe has on these cars is the mix of classic coupe styling and a prestige badge.
The BMW is an absolute cracker, but it is a sleeper car and looks more like a sedan with two doors than a sexy, sleek coupe.
The 350Z and the RX-8 look great (if a little dated), but they are still Japanese and their interior quality doesn't come close to the Audi's.
When it comes to the TTS Roadster, there is not all that much direct competition. It is less than $3000 shy of the $100,000 mark, which is a lot of money.
In some ways it is worth it, but a Porsche Boxter is only $12,000 more, is a superb machine, looks great and has a Porsche badge.
That said, the TTS is a great hero model for the TT range. It shows that the TT chassis can handle a lot more power and is a great alternative for those who want a bit more excitement to go with the stunning looks.
The TTS is well worth checking out if you can afford the price of admission.
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