2009 Audi TTS Expert Review:Autoblog
The Audi TT is a highly entertaining package -- good looks, great personality, terrific cabin feel, solid handling and a good price. Yet with the TTS here and the TT-RS on the way (well, not for us Americans, but...), the TT becomes something like The Girl Next Door who you just found out has two hotter siblings. That doesn't mean you have to stop loving The Girl Next Door... but you're eyes may have a tendency to wander. Autoblog spent a week with the middle sister who was out to steal our hearts with an upgraded turbocharged engine, brilliant all-wheel drive and a flamboyant paint job. Follow the jump to find out if she kept our attention.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Jonathon R. Ramsey / Weblogs, Inc.
But the performance – and color – issues aren't the only hurdles for the TTS to overcome. The initials "TT" don't merely serve as a model name, they are a way of life. TT, which stands for Tourist Trophy, is a holophrastic moniker that describes a car as well as its buyers, much the same way as "M3" and "Lexus". Just like the chicken and the egg conundrum, we're still not sure which came first: the Metrosexual or the TT. That means that anything wearing a TT badge needs to stand for something, and stand for it well.
Choosing the S version of any Audi is like ordering a large combo meal – it avails you of more of everything. Your grand hunger for speed, handling and details is meant to be sated by more horses, a better suspension and sharpened bodywork. The TTS addresses this under the hood by adding dollop of forced-induction goodness to the already turbocharged 2.0T FSI engine, juicing its numbers by 65 hp and 51 lb-ft of torque over the base TT for a total of 265 hp @ 6,000 RPM and 258 lb-ft @ 2,500 RPM. The 3.2-liter V6 TT is also down, by 15 hp and 22 lb-ft. Outside, the TT S lords its burliness over both its staid siblings with an angrier front fascia, rear skirts and rocker panels, chrome mirror accents and 18-inch split-spoke wheels.
If all of that proves insufficient, you can dress the car in Solar Orange, or, as we preferred to call it, Orange Julius. And there's nothing wrong with that... if that's what you like.
Starting from the outside, one of the endearing qualities of the TT family is the perfect mix of spatial contradictions. We think of it as a small car, which lends itself to the idea of being a sports car. Yet it isn't that small – it's two feet longer than a MINI and 18 inches shorter than a G37 Coupe. Open the door and the cabin appears half buried in the ground, and small to boot. In truth, the car is no hassle to get into, and the cabin feel is just the right kind of enveloping: well and truly roomy yet still cozy, even intimate. The seats carry you far in comfort. The controls are merely a thought and a modest reach away.
The ergonomics, knobs and switches in the current TT don't make the same impact as those that sprang on scene in The Cabin, but they too are mindlessly simple to employ – save the MMI's handling of iPod tracks. When you flip through a folder, it lists the track's number, not the name, and although we're intimately familiar with the contents of our iPod, we have no idea which song is #86 and which one is #8624. That shortcoming has been addressed in the latest version of MMI and earlier versions can be upgraded, but still...
Cargo space is also laudable, especially when we fall back into that small car feeling. On a run to the airport, the hatch area had room for a large carry on bag, a larger suitcase, a backpack and a laundry bag, and there was still room. And we hadn't got to the back "seats" yet. The surrounding quotes are necessary because the TT S doesn't have thrones for rear passengers – it has a leather-trimmed parcel shelf that resemble seats. Forget about putting people back there. No, really, just fuggetaboutit.
We admit it's taken us a while to adore the styling of the new TT over its predecessor. The original Bauhaus version was a stylistic knockout, but we've come to appreciate this new version as it's just too easy, too simple, too inviting and too relaxing to run at high speeds. For some reason, every TT we've piloted finds its sweet spot at 80 mph. In our hands, that's the car's groove, and when it's there it sings. Do anything less and it feels like driving though treacle.
It was the stretches we spent getting to 80 that made us go "Hmph." The TTS, like any middle sister, faces a difficult life: it can't outdo its more expensive supermodel TT-RS sibling, but it has to be sufficiently more impressive than its younger, less experienced sister. And as we said, those other "lower" versions are terrific little cars.
The accelerating experience quickly demonstrated the difficulty of the challenge. The single, more powerful turbo on this car's 2.0-liter four-cylinder comes equipped with gobs of lag. Be anything less than bad-cop-coercive with the accelerator, and you feel like the engine and turbo are deciding among themselves when they're going to hand over the power. Stoplight dashes are dispatched with ease as the turbo quickly kicks in when you floor it from a standstill. But when on the roll, if you goose the throttle, the TTS doesn't try downshifting or laying on the turbo first; it tries to pull itself up with torque. Frankly, there just isn't enough of it. If you're on the roll at 40 and know you're going to want to get to 80 with quickness, you might want to call ahead and make a reservation for some boost.
The palliative for this condition is Sport mode. Contrary to all the cars with utterly useless Sport modes, we'd go so far as to say that to really enjoy the TTS you need to flick the proverbial switch. The fact-acting DSG drops down a gear or two and instead of having boost delivered like a pizza, in thirty minutes or less, you get what you want with microwaved quickness. Get things above 2,000 rpm and it gets good; get up above 3,000 and it's as sweet as you like. Blast offs at any speed are not only fun, they're fun to listen to. First gear is left behind after a couple of feet, and you get right into the thrill of the engine revs, turbo and DSG acting in triple-time sequence: rev - chuff - shift, rev - chuff - shift, repeat.
Nevertheless, as with nearly all remedies, there is a side effect: in Sport the TTS is noisome, a tad frenzied. You won't notice when you're flogging the sucker, but on the urban cycle there isn't much to distract you from the din. When the car downshifts in Sport and revs are given a workout, the car tends to buck when raising the stakes from fourth to third. The only way to dispense all that is to put the car back in Drive, and that means a return to leisurely going – or a brutally firm right foot.
Traverse that hurdle – say, by punishing the car in the canyons – and the dynamic experience is demonstrably more polished than the base TT. The regular TT needs to get settled into a turning stance before you tackle a corner; you pick your speed, dial in some steering, let the car settle, then really turn in and get to work on the accelerator. Not so with the TTS, which, with its lighter, firmer aluminum suspension is always in its turning stance. Pick your speed and your turn-in point and attack the apex. Nothing more to do. Even chicanes and quick changes of direction won't unsettle it.
What can unsettle it, just a by a tiny fraction, is not being mindful with braking. The brakes are superb and easy to modulate, but when the going gets thick they have a tendency to unceremoniously clamp down, upsetting stability. The TTS is 3,252 pounds, but that welcome svelteness for flickability and on the top speed run – the car gets to 60 in 4.9 – turns into a little dancing number when hard on the anchors over uneven roads. On nasty roads, the car can be downright skittish, but isn't always. It would rather not deal with bumps through turns, but it doesn't mind them. Even with all that, the TTS is still a sight better than the non S versions. These were things we simply learned to adjust to and deal with, not things that kept us from refilling the tank to go on another run to the Hall of the Mountain Kings.
It was at this point we realized this hotter sister still hadn't convinced us to leave The Girl Next Door, the regular old TT we fell in love with first. Then we found out what the TTS costs: Our kitted-out Orange Julius will come home with you for $52,075. The base price is $45,500, with things like navigation, the Premium Plus package and the Silk nappa leather package making the difference.
Audi has filled the TTS with the details it's known for: terrifically cross-stitched leather interior, a hood latch that's the wonderfully easy to find and use, knobs on the steering wheel that save us from having to figure out buttons, MMI, fantastic sound, a tactile bounty, that cabin, the new skirts and the chrome tips, and just the look of the damned thing. But... most of those features are on the regular TT. A TT 2.0T FSI starts at $35,200. Try as we might – and we don't feel we have a reason to try that hard – we can't find it in our hearts or in the seats of our pants to show up with $10,300 to add an S to that name. And if the TTS is $45,500 to start, we shudder at the coming MSRP of the TT-RS, which sounds sure to force a supermodel budget upon you for its supermodel looks.
On the other side, compare the TTS to a Cayman and it's hard to go the way of the Porsche. The Cayman starts at $50,300, and by the time Porsche and its relentless options list have beat you down you're going to be well and truly over that number. What's more, the Cayman is slower than the TTS to 60 mph by over half a second. To match the Audi, you'll need to throw your checkbook on top of the Cayman S, with its 4.9-second sprint to 60, and then you can keep that "60" theme going with the Cayman S gut-punch purchase price of $60,200. Sure, dynamically you're going to give up some tenths to the Cayman S if you're in the TTS, but even if you left the Porsche dealership in that mid-engined hotrod for MSRP, there are a lot of things you could to a TTS with the $8,000 you saved by going for the Tourist Trophy.
As for us, well, we'd still go with the regular old TT – maybe splurge on the 3.2-liter if it had been a good bonus year. The middle sister is hot and all, but The Girl Next Door, so wonderful in her own honest way, remains just too good to walk away from.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Jonathon R. Ramsey / Weblogs, Inc.
Second Look - Audi TTS Roadster
Herr Ramsey filled you in on the particulars regarding his experience with the hard-hatted TTS, but Autoblog also scored some quality time with its canvas-lidded variant, the TTS Roadster.
While Jonathon's TTS was slathered in showy 24 carrot paint, this author's roadster arrived resplendent in white with a stunning baseball glove leather interior. The TT has long endured the shopworn barbs of being a 'handbag car,' and our roadster seemed to play this up, outfitted as it was to be a showy runway star. Despite the fact that we Autobloggers are hardly fashionistas, it's hard to ignore that Audi makes some of the best interiors in the business – easily the best among their fellow German competitors.
Similarly, it's hard to overstate how viceless and forgiving this car's performance is. Ramsey talked a lot about turbo lag, but this author found it to be markedly less intrusive. Audi says that all 258 lb-feet of torque are available from 2,500-5,000 rpm, and thanks to the DSG's seamless gear-to-gear nature and the engine's willingness to rev, thrust is never far away. Better yet, the tractability of the dual-clutch transmission seems to have been improved since last we sampled it, with no odd parking-lot-speed judderings to harsh our mellows.
Historically speaking, chopping the roof off of a coupe has resulted in a bowl-of-Jello structure, but thanks in part to Audi's metallurgical marvels, rigidity isn't really at issue. While the coupe's structure is made up of 69% aluminum and 31% steel, the roadster is 58% aluminum and 42% steel (much of that change is the lack of a tin roof) and the arrangement just plain works – there's almost zero cowl shake, mirror flutter or other knock-kneed behavior.
Dropping the power top is a simple operation, and once down, it's easier to take in the 2.0-liter's bizarre yet endearing electric zizz soundtrack, periodically punctuated as it is by flatulent little exhaust blips during manual gearchanges. That may sound unbecoming, but it isn't – although it is a bit video-game-ish, not at all like the sonorous mechanical whir offered by, say, a Porsche Boxster.
In any case, credit to the Roadster's robust, unfussed ride must also be given to the Delphi magnetic ride suspension, which does a great job of firming up when you want it to, but not crashing our tester's optional 19-inch alloys over potholes.
All-in, we greatly enjoyed our time with our $57,125 Prestige package'd TTS Roadster. It still doesn't manage to be as engaging a driver's car as, say, a Boxster S, but it's a far better all-seasons car with a world-beating interior and a driving style all its own.
- Chris Paukert
[Image: Steven Ewing]
New Car Test Drive
Great performance, beautiful interior, stunning looks.
The Audi TT appeals to sports car enthusiasts and weekend cruisers alike. The powertrains are responsive and quick. The steering is sharp and the handling is crisp.
Quattro all-wheel drive gives the TT enhanced handling tenacity and remarkable bad-weather capabilities. The interior is stunning, with a brilliant design and layout, beautiful detailing, tight panel gaps and first-class materials. But what really sets the TT apart, and has since the introduction of the first-generation version some years ago, has been and still is its wonderful exterior design, giving it a style and a look that is unlike anything else on the road.
The TT is available as a coupe or roadster. The coupe is claimed as having 2+2 seating, meaning two adults in front and maybe two other, non-complaining and hopefully smaller person in back, but it's really a two-seater. The roadster has no pretensions of being meant for anything other than two people. The coupe also offers a certain degree of luggage space under its rear hatchback.
The Audi TT offers a choice of a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine or 3.2-liter V6, and with front-wheel drive or quattro all-wheel drive. There are a variety of trim levels and a wide range of options, including some really neat leathers and interior options, and we think it's well worth taking time to carefully consider them all.
Audi TT 2.0T models have a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque; they are available in front-drive or quattro versions, but the only transmission choice is the six-speed S tronic, a dual-clutch transmission that can be operated either as a manual or an automatic. The 3.2 models have a 3.2-liter V6 that produces 250 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 236 pound-feet of torque from 2500 to 3000 rpm; all 3.2 models have quattro, but there is a choice of a six-speed manual or the six-speed S tronic.
The Audi TTS is powered by a version of the 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder that's been up-rated to 265 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque from 2500 to 5000 rpm. It's available only with quattro and the S tronic dual-clutch transmission.
Fuel efficiency for the TT line is remarkable given the levels of performance. The 2.0T is EPA-rated at 23/31 mpg City/Highway, the 3.2 with the manual is rated at 17/25 mpg, and the TTS is rated, somewhat astoundingly, at 21/29 mpg.
The 2009 Audi TT 2.0T coupe ($35,200) and 2.0T roadster ($37,200) come with leather/alcantara upholstery, automatic climate control, tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, six-way manually adjustable front seats, center console, aluminum interior trim, heated power mirrors, power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD player, digital clock, trip computer, variable intermittent wipers, rear defogger, theft deterrent system, rear spoiler, and fog lights. Coupes come with a split-folding rear seat. Roadsters get a manual convertible top with a heated glass rear window; a power top is optional ($900). The 2.0T models come with front-wheel drive, 225/50R17 all-season run-flat or summer performance tires, alloy wheels, limited-slip differential. The 2.0T comes with the S-tronic direct shift gearbox (DSG), which is a clutchless manual transmission that can be operated as an automatic or as a manual via the gearshift or steering wheel paddles.
Audi TT 3.2 quattro coupe ($42,070) and 3.2 quattro roadster ($45,140) come with AM/FM radio with six-disc CD changer, steering wheel audio controls, auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, HomeLink universal garage door opener, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic headlights. On 3.2 quattro roadsters, the convertible top is power operated. Audi TT 3.2 models all come with Quattro all-wheel drive, 245/45R17 all-season run-flat or summer performance tires. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, the six-speed S tronic is optional.
Audi TTS coupe ($45,500) and TTS roadster ($47,500) are equipped similarly. All come with Quattro all-wheel drive.
Options include a navigation system ($1,950); Bluetooth ($450); Alcantara inserts and other interior trim upgrades; wheel and tire packages; heated seats; sound system upgrades.
Safety equipment includes front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, front knee airbags, ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, traction control, stability control, active head restraints, and a tire-pressure monitor. Roadsters have rollover bars mounted behind the seats, and coupes have LATCH-style rear seat child-seat anchors.
When it was first introduced, the TT's rounded look and geometric shapes were unlike anything on the road. It was well-received, and the design solidified the TT as a choice for those who wanted something different. Audi has done a fine job of making the new TT an evolution of the old, and the current TT is sharper than the previous model, with more angular lines and crisper edges.
Audi's single bar grille, the corporate face, is black plastic on 2.0T models and painted gloss black on 3.2 quattros. The side of the car features a character line that leads to prominent wheel flares. The coupe's graceful roofline resolves into a rounded rear end. Rather than opting for a convertible hardtop, Audi has chosen a traditional soft top for the roadster. Both body styles have a spoiler that pops up at 75 mph and retracts at 50 mph. A button allows you to deploy or retract the spoiler at any time.
At 164.5 inches long and 72.5 inches wide, the Audi TT fits right in the heart of the premium sports car segment. It is longer and wider than the BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK. It is more than six inches shorter than the Porsche Boxster and Cayman, but is still more than an inch wider.
Below the surface, the TT is built on the Audi Space Frame (ASF) architecture. Audi says the space frame is made of cast, extruded, and stamped steel and aluminum components, as opposed to a traditional unibody structure that has only steel stampings. The coupe's space frame is 69 percent aluminum and the roadster's is 58 percent aluminum. The roadster is reinforced behind the seats to make up for the rigidity lost due to the lack of a top. Audi claims the new coupe is 50 percent more rigid than the last model, and the roadster is 120 percent stronger. Audi says the new-generation roadster is more rigid than the last coupe, an impressive claim.
The base roadster's top is manually operated, but most TTs will come with the power top, which is extremely easy to use. There are no latches, and it opens in 12 seconds and closes in 14. For those sudden weather changes, the power top can be operated while the car is moving as fast as 25 mph, a handy feature.
The TTS features an uprated version of the 2.0-liter engine. Modifications made to the engine to bring it to the TTS level include revisions to the block, cylinder head, connecting rods, pistons, turbocharger, fuel injection system, engine management, intercooler, air path and the exhaust system.
Inside, the Audi TT is wonderful. Highlighted with real aluminum trim, the interior is well put together, with tight tolerances and sturdy, soft-touch materials. The design is contemporary, simple, and attractive. The gauges are trimmed in silver with black faces, and trip computer information is displayed between them.
All of the controls are within arm's reach and they move with precision. Without the optional navigation system, the controls are easy to find and operate. With the navigation system, however, the TT gets a version of Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI). This system absorbs the audio controls, and adds several steps to simple tasks like changing the radio station. MMI might appeal to techies, but most of us would prefer something less complicated.
Sports cars are often difficult to enter and exit. While getting into the TT requires a step down, it's not extreme and, once inside, the TT has ample room for most drivers. A 6-foot, 7-inch friend said he fit well in the TT, but found the Z4 to be cramped. The front seats are comfortable and have nice bolstering to help keep you in place in fast turns. Visibility is good to most angles, but there is a notable blind spot to the right rear in coupes and in roadsters with the top up.
The leather upholstery is attractive, and the Enhanced Interior package makes it even more so, with contrasting stitching and a leather-covered instrument pod. Audi offers numerous interior color options, as well as the Baseball-Optic leather package that features a Madras Brown color and thick stitching inspired by baseball gloves, a TT tradition. It's pretty swell.
The rear seat in the coupe is too small for all but small children, and even they may complain. It's really best used for packages and briefcases.
Cargo space in the coupe is decent even with the seats up, but with them down it expands from 10.2 to 24.7 cubic feet. Folding down the rear seats creates a flat load floor and plenty of cargo space. The TT coupe has more than twice the cargo space of a Z4 coupe. There's plenty of room for a serious grocery run or luggage for two. Cargo space in the roadster is tighter overall, with 9.1 cubic feet. The convertible top doesn't intrude on trunk space, however, and a pass-through for skis is available that improves the roadster's versatility. Cubby storage is limited in the TT, however. Neither the coupe nor the roadster has enough interior storage for small items.
The Audi TT is fun to drive. All TTs have sharp handling. Despite a front weight bias, the TT doesn't have a tendency toward plowing the nose, but instead feels responsive and nimble. It feels stable at speed, and is perfectly willing to be tossed into tight corners. Steering is quick, predictable, and direct.
In driving a 2.0T roadster with 17-inch wheels and a 3.2 quattro roadster and coupe, each with 18-inch wheels, the 2.0T exhibited a bit more body lean and tire squeal in turns, but still gripped the road well. The 3.2 quattros felt sharper, especially the coupe. Neither roadster exhibited much, if any, cowl shake. The Audi TT roadster is one solid convertible.
Handling becomes even sharper when the available Audi Magnetic Ride Suspension is chosen. It utilizes a fluid in all four shocks that, when subjected to an electric charge, changes the shock's damping characteristics from comfort oriented to firm and sporty.
The brakes did not fade in the face of aggressive driving and maintained a consistent feel. Audi's electronic stability control doesn't intrude too soon, allowing some slip without prematurely cutting the throttle. With the Audi Magnetic Ride Suspension, the electronic stability control is programmed to give the driver even more leeway.
Ride quality is quite comfortable. Audi TT models with 17-inch wheels soak up small bumps well, but sharper irregularities can jolt passengers. The ride becomes firmer and busier with the optional 18-inch tires, so try these before you buy, especially if you live in an area with rough roads. We're not sure it's worth it.
Acceleration performance is quick and responsive. The turbocharged four-cylinder of the 2.0T has little turbo lag, making it quick from a stop and responsive at speed. It runs out of steam above 6000 rpm, though, so it's best to shift before that point. Audi says the 2.0T can launch the TT coupe from 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds, and the roadster in 6.3 seconds. The 3.2-liter V6 has more punch, is more responsive than the 2.0T at all speeds, and is capable of 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds with the S tronic transmission and 5.5 seconds with the manual gearbox.
The TTS, with its 265 horsepower, is a whole 'nother matter, and is billed as the fastest TT ever. Audi says the TTS coupe will accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 4.9 seconds, and the TTS roadster will make it in 5.1. The TTS has its top speed electronically limited to 155 mph.
The six-speed manual transmission is easy to shift and has fairly short throws. The S tronic DSG has Drive and Sport modes, both of which shift quickly and without a jolt. The Sport mode holds lower gears longer to keep more accessible power on tap. The driver can shift the DSG via the steering wheel paddles or shift lever.
Quattro all-wheel drive is front-biased, but can alter the bias from front to rear as conditions require. Quattro is a great choice for those who live where the weather often turns harsh. Audi is a leader in all-wheel-drive technology.
In normal cruising, the cabin is quiet for a sports car. Tire noise can become pronounced on rough surfaces, but wind noise is well-checked. There is some sporty exhaust note but, after all, this is a performance car.
The Audi TT offers quick performance, crisp handling, remarkable efficiency, and a beautiful interior, all wrapped in a stunning, highly distinctive body that will not be mistaken for anything else on the road. Quattro all-wheel drive gives the TT 3.2 all-weather capability. The hatchback coupe offers cargo versatility while the roadster offers top-down fun. If you're looking for a sporty weekend toy, or even a year-round sports car, make sure the Audi TT is on your shopping list. As with most German cars, options can drive the price up quickly.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Kirk Bell filed this report from Chicago.
Audi TT 2.0T coupe ($35,200); 2.0T roadster ($37,200); 3.2 quattro coupe ($42,070); 3.2 quattro roadster ($45,140); TTS coupe ($45,500); TTS roadster ($47,500).
Options As Tested
Audi TT 2.0T roadster ($37,200).
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