So who wants to be a race car driver? Or a professional ballplayer? You conceivably could fulfill both those fantasies in a single set of wheels - Audi's 2001 TT Roadster with the optional "baseball optic" seats. We tested the tamer version of the soft top TT earlier this summer and couldn't find much to complain about. This time around, we've sampled the more aggressive 225-horsepower variant with all the bells and whistles. The penalty for all this performance is a stiff $42,725. But, oh, the places you'll go ...

She: Wow, those seats are the coolest in the industry, bar none. They're amber red leather with so-called "baseball glove" stitching. The seats are a great conversation piece, of course, but they're also an excellent example of the trend toward more personalization in cars. I don't think they're gimmicky at all, they're wonderful. With those seats and all that power, the Audi TT Roadster has to be one of the top 10 vehicles of 2001.

He: Good thing you're not prone to hyperbole. You were beginning to gush like Roger Ebert.

She: Hey, we've seen the cult of the TT springing up since the coupe was first introduced in mid-1999. Owners are almost rabid about these cars. I talked to a woman in Colorado who owns a black TT coupe that she named Merlin. She said it's better than any boyfriend she's ever had.

He: This test drive is taking an ugly turn. For the record, dear, I just want to say that you're definitely better than any car I've ever had. Of course, I've owned some clunkers. But I'm really starting to warm up to the TT, even though I still have trouble fitting into the darn thing. Features like all-wheel drive, a six-speed gearbox and a slick turbocharged twin-cam engine are starting to make a believer out of me. You just can't help but have fun in this car, with the top up or down.

She: That's what I'm trying to say. Audi has really cemented that emotional involvement that people have with the TT. It's the type of relationship you tend to have only once in a lifetime with a man or an automobile.

He: How existential. Let's talk some more about esthetics. Compared to some of the pricier convertibles in this segment, like the Honda S2000 and the BMW Z3, the TT is just plain sensuous. That gorgeous nimbus gray pearl exterior paint scheme just accentuates the car's curves. In fact, it's hard to believe that the TT started life on the same basic platform as the Volkswagen Beetle. It's truly amazing how Audi has created this beautiful shape, then pumped it full of steroids.

She: You're paying the price, however. For about the same money, you can get a Porsche Boxster, if that particular brand name turns you on. And the TT does have its downside. During the week that we drove it, there were at least two times I left the car sitting in the driveway while I drove something else. When I did some major grocery shopping for the first time in two weeks, I wasn't sure I could fit everything into that tiny trunk. And when I went to the airport to pick you up, I didn't think I could squeeze you and all your luggage into the TT.

He: Squeeze is the operative word. You don't feel the pinch so badly when the top is down, and the whole driving experience feels like pure magic. But snap that top back into place, and you begin to get a tad claustrophobic. Visibility really suffers then, although headroom wasn't as much of a problem as I thought it would be.

She: With the top up, I had trouble backing out of a tight parking space, where I was hemmed in by a pickup truck and a big SUV. That's an issue that you're going to have to deal with. From a practical point of view, you probably are going to need a second car, just to run all your weekly errands.

He: I suspect someone who can afford the TT Roadster probably is considering this as a second, third or fourth car. Just make sure you have enough room in your garage next to the Suburban the F-150.

Anita's rating: World class

Paul's rating: Above average

Likes: Visually stunning. Intense performance. Fashionably fun to drive. One of the safest sports cars on the road. Wonderful $1,000 "baseball optic" seats.

Dislikes: Cramped for six-footers. Visibility is a problem with the top up. As with most ragtops, not much storage space. Not very practical as an everyday car. Rarified $40,000-plus price tag.

Type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, two-passenger convertible.

Price: Base, $38,550; as tested, $42,725 (incl. $525 destination charge)

Engine: 1.8-liter I-4; 225-hp; 207 lb-ft torque

EPA fuel economy: 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway

12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan: $1,516 (Estimate. Rates may vary, depending on coverage and driving record.)

Where built: Gyor, Hungary