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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
March 27, 2002
Vehicle Overview Audi leaped into the sports car field with a passion by turning away from its customary sedans and wagons toward a surprisingly shapely, low-slung TT series. The Audi TT was introduced for the 2000 model year as a four-place Coupe and then a year later as a two-passenger convertible Roadster. Audis low and stylish sports car carries on for 2002 with minor changes, including a new interior trunk release for the convertible. This years radio incorporates an in-dash CD changer, and a HomeLink universal garage door opener is optional. A blue fabric top can be installed on 2002 Roadsters that are painted certain colors. Audis optional navigation system has been upgraded to provide nationwide coverage.
Although the TT Coupe and Roadster ride a shortened version of the chassis used on the Audi A4 sedan and Volkswagens Golf, Jetta and New Beetle, their suspension tuning is different. The TT comes with either front-wheel drive or permanently engaged all-wheel drive in the quattro version. FWD models use a turbocharged, 180-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The TT quattro coupe comes with either the 180-hp engine or a high-performance, 225-hp offshoot of that engine, which teams with a six-speed-manual transmission. The TT quattro roadster is equipped with only the 225-hp engine. An automatic transmission is not yet available.
Demand was intense initially but has eased. Audi recalled the TT in late 1999 after complaints in Germany about high-speed instability. Dealers then installed stabilizer bars and a rear spoiler on previously sold models. According to Automotive News, Audi sold 12,523 TT Coupes and Roadsters during 2001, which represents a modest increase over sales in 2000.
Exterior With a design that evolved from a 1995 concept car, the TT features short front and rear overhangs and what Audi calls a low, fastback greenhouse above a high belt line. Despite its shared chassis and an overall profile that hints at Volkswagens New Beetle, the TT flaunts unique rounded styling that results in an integrated, attention-grabbing appearance. Straight lines occur only along the sides of its body, between the front and rear wheels. Roadsters include two aluminum rollover bars behind the seats.
All models are 159.1 inches long overall and 53 inches high. The wheelbase measures 95.4 inches for 180-hp models and 95.6 inches for the 225-hp editions. The 225-hp models get 17-inch P225/45R17 tires, and 180-hp front-drive models ride on 16-inch P205/55R16 rubber and may be equipped with optional 17-inchers. Ground clearance on all models is a mere 4.4 inches.
Quattro-equipped roadsters have a power top, while the FWD convertibles get a manually operated fabric roof; power operation is an option for FWD models. All convertibles have a power-retractable glass wind blocker mounted between the structural roof bars, which are located behind the headrests. The wind blocker goes up when the top is down to reduce turbulence within the open TTs interior. The Roadsters fabric top holds a glass back window with a defogger, which stows behind the seats.
Interior Front occupants sit low to the ground in both TT body styles, which makes it necessary to twist and turn when entering and exiting because of the sloping roof pillars. A backseat exists in the Coupe, but its essentially a token space and is not seriously intended for use by passengers, unless they happen to be children.
Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, automatic climate control with a sun sensor, central locking, power windows, variable-assist power steering, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, a theft-deterrent system, height-adjustable front bucket seats and a 50/50-split, folding rear seat. Options for the convertible include red amber leather with unique baseball-glove stitching along the seams. An optional Premium Package includes heated front seats and xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights. Audis navigation system, which differs from most in that it lacks a video screen, is optional.
Under the Hood All TT models come only with manual gearboxes. The base FWD models carry a turbocharged, 180-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that mates to a five-speed-manual transmission. Pick the higher-performance model with its 225-hp 1.8-liter engine and you get a six-speed manual instead. Audis quattro AWD system is standard with the 225-hp engine and optional in Coupes with the 180-hp engine. The lower-powered engine is also found in Audis A4 sedan and in some Volkswagen models. Audi claims that a quattro Coupe can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, vs. 6.7 seconds for the Roadster.
Safety In addition to dual front airbags, all TT models have seat-mounted head and chest side-impact airbags for the front seats. All-disc antilock brakes are standard. Traction control is included in FWD models, and Audis Electronic Stability Program is standard in all TTs.
Driving Impressions Not many cars on the road express more visual appeal than the TT. Even though the Coupe and Roadster have been on the market for some time, they continue to draw glances if not stares.
Handling is a top attraction when you sit behind the wheel of a TT, which reacts quickly and goes just where you want it to. Although the body leans a bit during curves, the TT delivers full sports car sensations in a variety of driving situations. Steering takes some effort but is appropriate for a car of this caliber. The ride can get stiff on rough surfaces, and some bouncing is likely even when rolling over smooth pavement. Even so, the TT turns in an enjoyable roadgoing experience.
Although the clutch can be a trifle grabby, the TT offers an appealing blend of gearing and clutch behavior. Masterful is the word for the five-speed gearbox that teams with the 180-hp engine, which zips easily between ratios. That engine has a linear feel, with little evidence of the turbochargers activity kicking in. Acceleration from the lower-powered engine is reasonably satisfying, but the extra 45 hp in the stronger 1.8-liter makes it even more alluring for enthusiasts.
Though the TT is more distinctive than most vehicles, its cockpit has a cramped feel thats accented by the low roofline. Circular shapes that blend contemporary design with something of an art-deco theme dominate the dashboard. That extra styling touch helps give the TT a unique personality, in addition to its sensuous body shape.