Nearly ten years ago the TT sent shockwaves through the automotive industry, instantly becoming an icon. The ground-breaking styling, geometric shape of the roof, front, and rear made the car instantly recognizable. The geometric theme followed through to the interior with circular styling of most interior components, and a multitude of aluminum trim pieces that made many other competitor interiors look cheap in comparison. Today’s second-generation TT is true to its roots, but it is also a significantly more mature automobile. Gone are the cute looks, replaced by a powerful looking single frame front grille, large air inlets, sharply curved head lights, convex and concave body surfaces, wide wheel arches, an integrated electronic spoiler, and a wide rear diffuser with a center mounted rear fog light. The new TT looks the part of a true sports car, but does it deliver? That’s just what we aimed to find out when the brief opportunity to sample a 2.0T FrontTrak version with the S tronic transmission, the only gearbox choice on this engine for the USA, was made available.
The new 2008 TT offers Audi’s 2.0T FSI 4-cylinder engine rated at 200 hp @ 5,100- 6,000 RPM and 207 lb-ft of torque available between 1,800 – 5,000 RPM. Also available is the 3.2l V6, a carryover from the previous generation and rated at 250 hp @ 6,300 RPM and 236 lb-ft of torque available between 2,500 – 3,000 RPM. For now, the 6-speed manual transmission will only be available on the 3.2 V6 model. The 2.0T gets the quick-shifting S tronic dual-clutch gearbox formerly known as DSG – a combo Audi claims is good for a 0-62 MPH run in 6.1 seconds. The 3.2l V6, mated to the 6-speed manual transmission, clocks its 0-62 MPH run in a scant 5.5 seconds.
Our particular test car was the 2.0T with premium package in Brilliant Black, paired with Audi’s new sport seats skinned in black leather with black Alcantara inserts – a setup that’ll set you back $36,950. Add another $800 for our car’s 18-inch wheels and the tally comes to a mere $37,750.
Some may lament the lack of manual transmission for the 2.0T TT, though S tronic, previously called DSG, is quick to please – far from a mere automatic or even manumatic. There is no inefficient torque converter of a regular automatic transmission; the heart of the S tronic is two hydraulically regulated clutches. One clutch operates the even numbered gears and the other operates the odd numbered gears. While the first clutch is engaged, the second is waiting to be engaged, and thus shift times take a fraction of a second.
As a relative newbie to DSG, I found myself constantly flipping through the gears with perfectly rev-matched super quick shifts, and a grin planted on my face. For auto-crossing and other motor sport events, the quick shifting of the S tronic will be displaced by its inability to hold a gear at redline – the transmission automatically shifts once the redline is passed, not allowing the driver to bounce off of the rev limiter. Still, given the likelihood of use for a car like this, we can live with the foibles.
While the 1.8T in the previous generation TT was a very potent and capable engine, it still had its shortcomings. Rather, the 2.0T takes everything that was good about the 1.8T and improves upon it. The newer engine has virtually no turbo lag, sharp throttle response, and power all the way to redline; it never seems to run out of breath. Though we did no formal testing, Audi’s claimed 6.1 seconds 0-62 MPH run seems exceedingly conservative.
The aluminum space frame structure of the TT creates a significant weight savings; the 2.0T TT weighs roughly 2,965 lbs. In addition to the weight savings, the torsional rigidity has been increased by nearly 50% over its predecessor. The light weight and increased rigidity is evident at the first turn of the flat-bottomed steering wheel. Said steering is extremely precise and there is virtually no body roll. The ride is firm but not intrusive, and the 245/40/18 all season tires proved capable, although there is a summer tire option available.
Many people will question purchasing an Audi without quattro all-wheel drive, but not once during our test drive did the extra two driven wheels feel necessary. Amazingly enough, even with the high torque 2.0T, there was no torque steer, which usually plagues high torque front-wheel drive applications. Further, the lack of added weight of the Haldex system fitted to transversely oriented Audis such as the new TT and the A3 assures the mostly aluminum TT augments its light and nimble feel. It also netted an indicated 30.7 MPG average on our mostly stop-and-go test route.
Compared to the previous TT, the new generation grew slightly in length and width, and that’s most evident in the interior. Previously, both driver and passenger were sometimes too close for comfort, but that’s not the case this time round. The center console is wider, the door panels have actual arm rests, there are two usable cup holders, and a much needed third center vent was added to increase ventilation. The extra vent will also be quite helpful for those enthusiasts that will inevitably add a boost gauge in one of the vents.
The flat bottomed steering wheel creates an increase in legroom, and aesthetically looks good. Borrowing some styling cues from the A4 Cabriolet, the instrument cluster has two deep circular rings around the tachometer and speedometer, and a driver information display placed between them that doubles as a digital speedometer – a nod to the last of the ur-Quattros perhaps?
Audi Navigation Plus will be available in the TT, which is borrowed from the A4, although the trim around the unit has been restyled for TT fitment. The standard Symphony head unit is no slouch, as it provides a super crisp, high resolution monochrome liquid crystal display – a significant upgrade from previous units. Gone is the nicely styled, but completely, useless brushed aluminum flip down cover over the head unit. Unfortunately, there is still no auxiliary input on the head unit, and if you want to connect an iPod, you’ll have to do so with the optional $250 iPod interface adapter.
While rear seat headroom hasn’t increased, the legroom has. Granted, an adult won’t be able to fit in the back seat (at least not comfortably!), though a child will fit more easily than before. The new front seat design provides excellent side and hip bolstering, though the seats are slightly narrower than before. At 6’2 and 215lbs, it was a snug fit in the seats, but the car had less than 600 miles on it, so the seats have not had a chance to break in yet. Be forewarned, the seats are not Big Mac conducive.
While the rear spoiler on the previous-generation TT was a bolt-on production change, designed as an effort to keep less technically astute drivers from wrecking their technically astute spoiler-less TTs, the new mechanical spoiler looks clean at rest and remains functional at speed. Similar to the active aerodynamics on Audi’s R8 supercar, the TT’s rear spoiler rises at 75 MPH and remains raised at speeds above 50 MPH. Control freaks fear not, the spoiler can be raised or lowered at any time by the push of a button, located below the gear shift lever. The nicely sculpted rear also incorporates rear tail lights that that produce a three-dimensional overlapping square effect, due to the depth of the units and rectangular reflectors.
Now in its second approach to a small sports car, Audi has produced a coupe that certainly looks the part. Even better, it definitely delivers. At a suitably low $37,750 nearly fully loaded, the TT provides the same amount of driving excitement as its competitors from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Porsche, but for a substantially lower price. It has the looks, the power, the price, and is bound to be an instant success, just like its predecessor, though if they want the 2.0T, purists will have to get beyond the atypical front-wheel drive setup and lack of manual transmission. For those who are willing to do so, we believe they’ll be decidedly pleased.
|Driver Change: George Achorn|
So I got a first (short) stab at driving a TT while in Sebring for the 12 Hour race. At about 200 lbs. lighter than a VW GTI and the same power and drivetrain, the car is quick. The suspension is pleasingly well sorted out – aggressive but not too harsh. The trunk is also much larger than old car, as appears to be the rear seat room. In many ways, Audi’s icon has grown up gracefully. There’ll be no “glory days” feeling of lament for the good ole’ days with this car.
Driving to Sebring early on race day, I had my most memorable encounter with the car. Rather than driving the TT, I was in our 4 Season S4 and headed in to the race at some ridiculous hour for a photographer’s meeting. I ran into one of the test TTs at a redlight driven by the guys from Audiworld. Windows down, we chatted a bit on the red, but on green they went for it.
This isn’t really a race story as we only went to 60 mph, but I noticed that the TT only gave up to the S4 above say 4500-5000 rpm, then I’d shift the S-car and the TT’s DSG had closed the gap I’d gained. That’s impressive acceleration as the TT was a 2.0T FWD and carrying two people as opposed to me alone in the S4. It’s a testament to what a significant drop in weight will do for acceleration.
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