The Audi TT arrived on the sports-car scene with a flurry eight years ago. The diminutive coupe, and later convertible, had the kind of dramatic styling usually reserved for concept cars.
The low, sleek top with tiny side windows was reminiscent of the Porsche Speedster from the late 1950s, and the interior was one of the first to utilize the now-ubiquitous brushed aluminum trim. After eight years, however, the TT began to show its age, and that was particularly so inside the vehicle. The cutting-edge styling of 1999 looked plain, and the cockpit felt noticeably small.
Now a second-generation TT has even sharper styling, more room, greater sophistication and a contemporary interior. It is available in coupe or convertible, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder or a 3.2-liter V-6. The four-cylinder is front-wheel drive, while the V-6 uses Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system. The test car was a V-6-powered convertible.
The base coupe begins at $34,800 and the base convertible starts at $36,800. The all-wheel-drive V-6 convertible has a base price of $45,900.
The redesigned TT is instantly recognizable because it retains many of the genes from the first car. The nose has slightly hooded headlights and the tail is smooth and round. Unlike the first TT, which had a trunk spoiler grafted on after the start of production to cure some high-speed instability, the new model's tail spoiler rises from the trunk automatically if the car exceeds 75 miles per hour. The spoiler can also be activated at any speed with a button on the console.
The wheelbase is 97.2 inches, and the body is 5.4 inches longer and 3.1 inches wider than the previous model. The added size shows up inside. The cabin is snug but not crowded, and there is 1.1 inches of additional shoulder room. When the coupe's tiny rear seat is folded down, the luggage compartment is big enough to hold two golf bags with the tiny rear seat folded down. The convertible doesn't have a back seat, but its trunk is adequate for two people on a weekend trip. The convertible does not have a rear seat.
Weight is the enemy of performance, and the TT has an aluminum space frame under its mostly aluminum body. Steel is used for the doors and trunk, as well as a section of the floor pan. The body weighs 454 pounds, which is almost half as much as it would be if it were all steel. Curb weight of the 2.0-liter is 2,965 pounds while the V-6 quattro is 3,218 pounds.
The 2.0-liter engine produces 200 horsepower while the V-6 cranks out 250. The V-6 is docile, yet it howls with excitement when you need a good burst of power. Fuel economy is rated at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway. I averaged 25 mpg on a short road trip.
Audi's dual-clutch six-speed gearbox, called S Tronic, is a delight. The S Tronic is essentially a manual transmission with two clutches. It functions like an automatic, but it can also be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel. This transmission is appealing because the driver can grab a quick downshift or two at any time by tapping the shift paddle.
The TT's cabin is not as elaborately styled as in some other Audis, yet it retains an upscale look and feel. The one-piece dash covering is similar to the original TT's. The center stack has traditional controls for climate and audio. The steering wheel also has buttons for audio.
The TT's seats are well bolstered for good lateral and under-thigh support.
The TT handles corners and twisty roads with great confidence due in part to a wider track and larger wheels. The rack-and-pinion steering feels sharp and direct. The rear suspension is a four-link design that separates the coil springs and shock absorbers. The ride is firm without being harsh. Disc brakes are strong, and electronic stability control is standard.
Price The base price of the test car was $45,900. Options included heated leather seats, satellite radio, Bose audio, 18-inch wheels, iPod interface, Bluetooth phone connection and bi-xenon headlights. The sticker price was $51,225.
Warranty Four years or 50,000 miles.