Driving in the mountains of the French Cote d'Azur is an unexpected December treat - especially when the sun shines warmly and the top of your suave roadster is down.
Audi lucked out with the world introduction of its Audi TT Roadster, in getting Europe's warmest winter in years. And while Audi can't control the weather, they can control the elements that go into a great convertible - and the new topless TT proves they can do it well.
Coming to America
The second generation of Audi's new sports car arrived earlier this year, and impressed us with its matured looks and with the excellent handling of both models - the front-wheel-driven 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder and the 3.2-liter V-6 with quattro all-wheel drive.
Both engines will be available in the 2008 TT Roadster that is expected to hit the North American market in September.
Both engines are a delight. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four delivers 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, and is teamed to a six-speed manual gearbox, while the sequential automatic six-speed S-Tronic transmission will be available. It's a muscular four-cylinder with one of the most linear power deliveries of any turbo powerplant we know.
The 3.2-liter six-cylinder has 250 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque and has the S-tronic transmission (formerly DSG) standard. Its growl is considerably throatier than the turbo four, and it does deliver some additional power, along with a hefty increase in price.
Bigger and bigger
Just like the coupe, the new two-seater has grown considerably in length to 164.5 inches, a rise of 5.4 inches compared to its predecessor. Width and height have only increased 0.3 inches, to 72.5 and 53.5 inches, respectively, while the wheelbase now is up 0.2, to 97.2 inches.
The extra effort put into the TT's aluminum construction shows. The only updates Audi says needed to be done to the Coupe's structure include an extra crossbrace underneath the rear, reinforced construction of the aluminium side sills, and steel tubes to beef up the A-pillars. Audi claims a torsional rigidity is 120 percent better than the current TT Roadster.
Passive safety is assured by aluminum beams and cushioning in the doors, and head and thorax side airbags integrated into the seat backs. Two-stage full-size airbags and the Audi backguard system limit the impact of a collision from the front and rear.
New way of folding
The most important part of a roadster is the top. Audi says it opted for a soft top and not for a retractable hard top for two reasons: The soft top keeps weight lower, and it uses very little space when folded and stowed. The top folds into a Z-shape, which enables the hard, cloth-covered front section of the roof to act as a tonneau cover.
With or without the roof folded into the luggage compartment, the capacity of the trunk is the same, 8.8 cubic feet, or large enough to swallow two hard suitcases or two golf bags plus a small weekend bag.
The 2.0 TT Roadster comes standard with a manual soft top, while the 3.2 gets a powered soft top (power is available on the 2.0's soft top).
The top is a quick and smooth operator, too. At the push of a button in the center console, it opens in 12 seconds. It can be done while driving up to 31 mph. The power top has an integral additional mat for better acoustic and thermal insulation.
Audi is the first in the segment to offer an electrically extendable mesh wind deflector. It is not only very convenient not to have to get out of the car to install it, but it does not use any luggage space, as it sits behind the seats when retracted.
We know from our experiences with the TT Coupe that driving the TT offers sheer pleasure - and with the Roadster, the added bonus of the open air and the sound of the engine. The turbo engine produces a more pronounced sound, while the six-cylinder growl sounds less boyish. That also marks exactly the difference in character of both models: the 2.0 TFSI begs to show off its ability to perform. And it performs really well: it accelerates from 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds and reaches a top speed of 147 mph, Audi says.
When you drive the four-cylinder, you may really wonder why you would want the six-cylinder version. But the TT Roadster 3.2 is exceptionally smooth, brings with it 50 hp more, and of course, it has all-wheel drive. The quattro accelerates to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and has a limited top speed of 155 mph.
When cruising at 80 mph, the soft top isolates noises very well. When lowered and with the wind deflector raised it is surprisingly quiet in the cockpit. We also did not notice any vibrations and were especially impressed by the quality feel of the entire car.
In Europe, the TT Roadster comes with extensive standard equipment - leather heated seats, automatic climate control, trip computer, and an audio system with CD player. Among the options are two different navigation systems and a Bose Surround system. The 2.0 rides on 16-inch alloy wheels, while the 3.2 quattro is equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels that can be supplied with run-flat tires.
Audi has not yet decided on the standard specifications for the North American market, but it may announce them at the 2007 Detroit auto show. For the same reason, our prices are estimates.
2008 Audi TT Roadster
Base price: $37,000 (est.); 3.2 quattro $45,000 (est.)
Engines: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 200 hp/207 lb-ft; 3.2-liter V-6, 250 hp/236 lb-ft
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed sequential automatic S-tronic, front- or all-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 164.5 x 72.5 x 53.5 in
Wheelbase: 97.2 in
Curb weight: 2659-3285 lb
Fuel economy: N/A
Safety equipment: Dual front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control
Major standard equipment : A/C, power windows/locks/mirrors, AM/FM/CD player
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles
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