2012 Audi TT

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Review: 2008 Audi TT

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2015.
By Perry Stern of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

The new version of this iconic coupe transforms into a true sports car.
Pros:
  • Sleek new styling
  • Excellent handling
  • Larger interior
Cons:
  • Small rear seats
  • Pricey
  • Stiff ride

Back in 1999 when dot-com fever was at its pitch and the promise of a new millennium was practically palpable, a transformation was occurring within a German automaker. Following a two-year wait since the company had teased the auto world with its stunning concept, the production version of the Audi TT arrived in showrooms. With its head-turning, Bauhaus-inspired styling and extreme attention to design details, the TT looked like no other vehicle on the road. And it changed the face of Audi.

That was eight years ago, and while the TT did age gracefully, there have been many advances in technology and materials since that original coupe. Audi has taken advantage of these advances and incorporated them into the all-new 2008 TT.

Although still recognizable as a TT, the 2008 model has been completely redesigned from the ground up. Sleeker, stiffer, roomier, more powerful—Audi has taken everything that the TT was and made it even better.

Bauhaus—And Beyond
One of the biggest challenges facing an automotive designer would have to be redesigning an icon. When a successful vehicle's very shape is its hallmark, radical change is completely out of the picture. Iconic cars such as the Porsche 911 or MINI Cooper have been completely redesigned, but unless one is "in the know" or happens to park the two generations side by side, a passing glance might not instantly telegraph that the car is all new.

Audi designers changed the TT just enough so the new generation is obviously different than its predecessor—but instantly recognizable.

If one had the rare opportunity of comparing the two generations next to each other, as journalists did at a recent press event, the new TT would appear to be "stretched" from each end and side. With the new signature large Audi grille, prominent four-ring logo and headlights longer and narrower than before, the car evokes a perception of being swept back by aerodynamic forces. At the same time taillights are also narrower, wrapping around the rear corners.

Headlights give way to a beltline that runs from their corners to the rear taillights, bumping up slightly around the front wheels. Another defining set of lines runs from the bottom of that large grille, up alongside it, then up the hood. These lines give the effect of a bulging hood, emphasizing the power beneath, and echo the lines found on Audi's new flagship sports car, the R8.

In fact, everything about this new TT is sleeker looking, especially the new roofline, which curves smoothly from the top of the windshield to the tail of the car. The round shapes of the original have been elongated, emphasizing that this is a performance coupe.

The TT Roadster obviously does not share the same roofline; however, it still keeps that sporty styling with the top up or down.

One of the customer complaints about the first-generation TT, which surfaced shortly after the car's introduction, was an instability at high speeds during certain driving conditions, so a rear spoiler had to be retrofitted. Unfortunately, the spoiler hadn't been part of the original design so it didn't really fit with the rest of the styling.

Audi has taken care of that problem with the new TT—the rear spoiler stays hidden during normal driving and automatically deploys when the car's speed reaches 75 mph, retracting again at 50 mph. Of course, for those who want to drive around with the spoiler on constant display (the same folks who were most likely to yell "Watch THIS!" at a frat party), the spoiler can be deployed via a button in the center console.

The interior of the new TT is much roomier and more comfortable. Rear seats in the coupe are of little value besides seating very small children or as additional storage, and the rear seats in the Roadster are of even less value since they don't exist. However, the roadster does have additional storage cubbies where the seats would have been.

Gauges are clear and easy to read, and we didn't find any reflection issues when driving the roadster. Controls are clear and obvious, and there are preset buttons for the radio, which is not something that can be taken for granted anymore. The steering wheel adds a level of sportiness with its flat-bottom style similar to the R8.

Cargo space has increased in both body styles. The coupe features a large cargo area under its rear hatch, and with the rear seats folded flat it is possible to fit two requisite golf bags.

The roadster's trunk is surprisingly spacious, and the space remains the same whether the top is up or down. We were able to fit our luggage in the trunk with room to spare.

High-Tech All Around
Many of the advancements in the 2008 Audi TT have been made under its sleek, new skin. But that's not to say that these changes aren't noticeable.

For example, the TT is built using the Audi Space Frame (ASF) technology that was first developed for the A8 luxury sedan. The ASF combines aluminum and steel to create a very light but very strong chassis. Aluminum accounts for 69 percent of the TT's weight. In fact, according to Audi press materials, the TT would be 48 percent heavier if it were built completely from steel.

Torsional rigidity has increased by 50 percent in the coupe with ASF, more than doubled in the roadster where it was especially noticeable. Driving twisty, bumpy roads produced no cowl shake, and the rearview mirror—often the telltale in a convertible—stayed completely still. This is greatly due to the enhancements specific to the roadster—side sills on the roadster consist of extruded aluminum sections containing numerous reinforcing ribs. In addition, the A-pillars have been strengthened, and a high-strength steel tube has been integrated into the frame of the windscreen.

The other advantage ASF brings: Even though the TT has grown in size with larger engines, it's actually lighter than its predecessor. More power and less weight with a stronger chassis—this is the path to becoming a true sports car.

Speaking of power, Audi offers the TT with a choice of two engines and two transmissions.

The TT 2.0T gets the award-winning 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection gasoline engine with an output of 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, which is available from 1800 to 5000 rpm for excellent responsiveness. The 2.0T is only available with front-wheel drive and is teamed exclusively with Audi's excellent 6-speed S-Tronic (formerly known as DSG) transmission.

The TT 3.2 boasts a 250-horsepower 3.2-liter V6 engine with 236 lb-ft of torque. Those 250 horses are directed to all four wheels via Audi's legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system. The 3.2 is available with either a 6-speed manual transmission or the S-Tronic automatic.

The S-Tronic is so good that it shifts gears in about 200 milliseconds—quicker than most drivers can shift a manual transmission. Given this stat, it's not all that surprising that the TT 3.2 accelerates to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds with the S-Tronic—two tenths faster than with the manual.

We had a chance to drive both transmission options, and our choice would be the S-Tronic. Upshifts and downshifts are incredibly smooth and quick, whether letting the transmission choose the shift points or using the paddle shifters on the steering column. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the manual, but as automatic transmissions like the S-Tronic continue to improve, the manual is no longer the best choice for squeezing the most performance out of an engine.

And that's not all—the S-Tronic is good for 1 mpg improvement of the 6-speed manual in the city. The TT 3.2 is estimated to get 18 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway with the S-Tronic. The TT 2.0T is considerably more efficient, rated at an estimated 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy. The TT 2.0T roadster gets slightly fewer miles to the gallon.

Ride and Handling
One of the most noticeable changes in the new TT is the way it handles. We had the chance to drive the new TT on some very twist roads north of San Francisco and were most impressed. Steering is excellent, and sport seats kept us firmly planted, even during aggressive cornering. On a related note, grip was quite good, especially with the quattro-equipped TT.

With the new stiffer body and a very tight suspension, there is virtually no body roll in tight turns, and wheels stay planted on the pavement even on rough roads. However, while the standard suspension worked great for spirited driving, we found the ride to be quite rough even over the smallest bumps. On very rough roads, the ride was quite uncomfortable.

There is a solution though. An available option on the TT is Audi Magnetic Ride. With this system, the shock absorber pistons use a magneto-rheological fluid which contains microscopically small magnetic particles. When electricity is applied, the consistency of the fluid changes, altering the damping characteristics within milliseconds. The driver can choose between "Standard" and "Sport" with a switch on the center console.

The difference between this system and the standard suspension is instantly noticeable. Standard mode provides a much smoother ride, making for a more pleasant drive. Even with sport mode engaged there is noticeable stiffening of the suspension, but the ride remains comfortable.

Pricing, Features, Availability
The Audi TT 2.0T coupe has a base price of $34,800, the roadster is $2,000 more. For that price, the TT is well-equipped with such features as dual front and side airbags, ABS, stability control, traction control, fog lights, brushed aluminum interior trim, auto climate control, on-board computer and 17-inch alloy wheels.

An available Premium Package adds power front seats, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers and an upgraded audio system.

The TT 3.2 coupe with a 6-speed manual starts at $41,500—$3,000 more gets you the roadster. Both are available with the S-Tronic automatic transmission for an additional $1,400. In addition to the larger engine, the price of the car includes all the features of the 2.0T plus quattro all-wheel drive, heated front seats, an upgraded audio system and unique 17-inch alloy wheels.

The fully automatic top (standard on TT 3.2, optional on TT 2.0T) retracts or rises in about 12 seconds and can be operated at speeds up to 25 mph.

The 2008 Audi TT is on sale now, and not only is it recognizable as an Audi TT—it will also be recognized for taking the right steps to becoming a true sports car.

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BB06 - 9/21/2014 7:34:05 AM