Click the TT for a high res gallery

In conjunction with the Audi Mileage Marathon, the company also brought along some extra vehicles that are being used by the staff that are supporting the event. Among those are a pair of TT TDIs that were sent over but will unfortunately probably never be sold here. For those just getting caught up, the TT is Audi's junior sports car. The TT derives its architecture from the compact Volkswagen group vehicles that include the A3 and the Golf/Rabbit and Jetta. The TT originally debuted in 1998 and is now in its second generation. Since its launch, the current TT has been offered with a 2.0L 200 hp TFSI four cylinder or a 3.2L 250 hp FSI V6, with a 2.0L 272 hp TTS version also added this year.

Last spring at the Geneva Motor Show, Audi announced the TT would be available with a diesel engine for the first time. Given Audi's success with the R10 at Le Mans and in the American Le Mans Series, it's fitting and logical that the company would slide a diesel into one of its sports cars. Following our arrival at the halfway point of the marathon in Denver, we had an opportunity to jump into one of the TTs for an all too brief ride around Denver. Read on after the jump for first impressions.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

The Volkswagen group offers its latest 2.0L diesel in both 140 hp and 170 hp variants, with the former being used in most of the Volkswagen lineup including the recently introduced Jetta TDI here in the U.S. The TT gets the more powerful 170 hp engine with 258 lb-ft of torque. Audi in particular has been emphasizing the performance capabilities of its diesel engines, largely based on the huge torque the compression ignition engines produce.

Having driven a variety of Audi and Volkswagen diesel vehicles and watched the R10s running on the race track I can affirm that, unlike in the bad old days of diesel, acceleration is generally no longer an issue with diesels.

The TT is a small car, measuring only 13.7 feet long overall and in coupe form offers what appear to be a pair of rear seats. In reality they are best simply folded down and forgotten. The cockpit is snug and well laid out in typical Audi fashion and the materials are high quality. The seats are well bolstered and the bottom of the steering wheel is squared off in the manner of race cars. This helps ease getting in and out of the diminutive TT.

When the diesel engine is installed under-hood, the drivetrain options are more limited than in gas engined TTs. The petrol fueled TT is available in either front or all wheel drive (Quattro) form. Buyers can choose either manual or dual clutch S-Tronic (DSG in VW parlance) transmissions each with six speeds. TDI buyers can only get the manual gearbox sending torque to all four wheels. In a way this a shame because the quick shifting dual clutch gearbox is particularly well suited to the narrow power band characteristics of the diesel engine. Fortunately, the shift throws are short and precise just as they should be in a sports car.

All wheel drive systems always seem to make cars feel slightly sluggish off the line because of the inability to spin up all four wheels. The TT is no exception. Those interesting in drag racing for pink slips should look elsewhere. The run to 62 mph from a standing start takes 7.5 seconds according to Audi. That's a number that may seem tame by modern sports car standards but it's by no means slow.

Where the TT TDI shines is mid-range acceleration. Underway a quick stab of the accelerator sends the TT surging forward. Combined with the excellent grip and stability of the Quattro drive, the TDI torque makes accelerating away from corners a breeze. Sebastian and I didn't get a chance to try the TT on anything that would be considered a sports car road. However accelerating through a few freeway on-ramps and out of some tight city streets indicates that this car would be even more fun running through a canyon than the Jetta I drove last month.

Combine this fun-to-drive behavior with the efficiency of a diesel and stylish looks and you have a seriously appealing combination. The Audi TT TDI is rated at 44.4 mpg (U.S.) for the coupe and 42.8 mpg (U.S.) for the roadster. On the first wave of the marathon, the A3 TDI which shares the same platform with the TT and uses the 140 hp diesel, topped 50 mpg. The Jettas ranged from 31-44 mpg running in the Malibu canyons. Realistic real world mileage for the TT should be in the high 30s or more if you drive gently. Driven hard, 30 mpg is perfectly reasonable. Too bad this one likely ranks low on Audi's priority list for the U.S. market behind the A3 and A4. Maybe if the other diesels really take off, Audi will re-consider. Let's hope.

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