Overview

Audi has redesigned the TT for the 2008 model year. Audi's goal in the redesign was to make a bigger sports car with better handling characteristics. We think they succeeded. The new car is wider and longer than last year's model for more comfort yet it feels light and tossable.

The 2008 Audi TT will appeal to true sports car enthusiasts and weekend cruisers alike. Handling is crisp and steering is direct. With the standard 17-inch tires, the ride is quite compliant for a sports car, but it can be busy and bumpy with the available 18s and 19s. The interior is top-notch Audi. Tight panel gaps and soft-touch materials abound. The new, bigger TT is more accommodating to larger drivers than most of the other sports cars in this class. Both engine choices offer brisk performance, and the 2.0T is easy on gas.

The new Audi TT comes in a range of body styles, with engine and transmission options, and available all-wheel drive. You can choose anything from an affordable, high-mileage hatchback with plenty of cargo capacity to a more-powerful, high-end two-seat roadster with unique interior appointments. Watch your options, though, because pricing can run high. No matter what TT you choose, you'll be sure to have fun behind the wheel.

The TT is once again offered as a two-seat roadster or 2+2 coupe. Each is available with front-wheel drive or quattro all-wheel drive. Both body styles are 5.4 inches longer and 3.1 inches wider than the previous TT, which was last offered in 2006. The wheelbase has grown as well, up 1.8 inches to 97.2, but the weight is down more than 150 pounds, thanks to the extensive use of aluminum. V6 and turbocharged four-cylinder engines return, but the four-cylinder is a 2.0-liter instead of a 1.8.

Both the coupe and roadster are offered as front-wheel-drive 2.0T and all-wheel-drive 3.2 quattro models. The 2.0T models have a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower between 5100 and 6000 rpm and 207 pound-feet of torque from 1800 rpm to 5000 rpm. The 3.2 quattros use a 3.2-liter V6 that produces 250 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 236 pound-feet of torque from 2500 to 3000 rpm.

The 2.0T has EPA fuel economy ratings of 22 mpg city and 29 highway for the roadster and 23/31 for the coupe. EPA ratings for the 3.2 quattros are 17/24 for roadsters and 18/24 for coupes. Audi recommends premium fuel for both engines.

Model Lineup

The Audi 2.0T is available only with Audi's S-tronic direct shift gearbox (DSG), which is a clutchless manual transmission that can be operated as an automatic or as a manual via the gearshift or steering wheel paddles. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on 3.2 quattros, and the S tronic is a $1400 option.

  1. 0T models come standard with 225/50R17 all-season run-flat or summer performance tires, alloy wheels, limited-slip differential, leather/alcantara upholstery, automatic climate control, tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, six-way manually adjustable front seats, center console, aluminum interior trim, heated power mirrors, power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD player, digital clock, trip computer, variable intermittent wipers, rear defogger, theft deterrent system, rear spoiler, and fog lights. Coupes add a split-folding rear seat and roadsters get a manual convertible top with a heated glass rear window.
  2. 2 quattros come with all-wheel drive, 245/45R17 all-season run-flat or summer performance tires, heated 10-way power adjustable front seats, AM/FM radio with six-disc CD changer, steering wheel audio controls, auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, HomeLink universal garage door opener, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic headlights. On 3.2 quattro roadsters, the convertible top is power operated.

A Premium package for 2.0T models ($2150 coupe, $3050 roadster) adds heated 10-way power adjustable front seats, steering wheel shift paddles, AM/FM radio with six-disc CD changer, auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, HomeLink Universal garage door opener, rain-sensing wipers, and for roadsters, a power top.

An additional Enhanced Interior package ($1100 coupe, $1250 convertible) delivers Nappa leather-covered seats, a leather-covered interior instrument pod, underseat cargo bins, and, in roadsters, a trunk passthrough with ski sack. Roadsters can also be ordered with Baseball-Optic leather upholstery for $1000.

Audi's Magnetic Ride Suspension, which has base and sport-oriented shock settings, is a $1400 option. An available S line package ($3000) includes 255/35R19 summer performance tires, special interior trim, and more aggressive front and rear styling.

Other stand-alone options include a power top ($900), a navigation system with iPod interface ($1950), 245/40R18 all-season run-flat or summer performance tires ($800), Bluetooth cell-phone connectivity ($450), heated seats ($450), Bose premium audio with Sirius satellite radio ($1000), and bi-xenon adaptive headlights ($800). The iPod interface is available separately for $250, and the satellite radio costs $350 by itself.

Safety equipment includes front airbags, seat-mounted front side airbags that protect the head and thorax, front knee airbags, ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, traction control, antiskid control, active head restraints, and a tire-pressure monitor. Roadsters have rollover bars mounted behind the seats, and coupes have LATCH-style rear seat child seat anchors. Rear obstacle detection is a $350 option.

The standard warranty is four years or 50,000 miles with no-charge first scheduled maintenance.

Walkaround

When Audi introduced the TT as a coupe for the 2000 model year and a roadster for 2001, the German luxury maker wasn't aiming at big sales numbers. Rather, Audi was looking to add some spice to its image. The TT was never a breakout seller, but Audi

 introduced, the TT's rounded look and geometric shapes were unlike anything on the road. It was well-received, and the design

 considered it successful in its own right, and the sporty image it gave the company was felt across all model lines. When it was first solidified the TT as a choice for those who wanted something different.

Audi has done a fine job of making the new TT an evolution of the old. The 2008 Audi TT is sharper than the previous model, with more angular lines and crisper edges.

Audi's single bar grille, the new corporate face, is black plastic on 2008 Audi TT 2.0T models and painted gloss black on 3.2 quattros. The side of the car features a character line that leads to prominent wheel flares. The coupe's graceful roofline resolves into a rounded rear end, giving the TT a hint of Porsche 911 styling. Rather than opting for a convertible hardtop, which is all the rage these days, Audi has chosen a traditional soft top for roadsters. Both body styles have a mechanical spoiler that pops up at 75 mph and retracts at 50 mph. An interior button allows you to deploy or retract the spoiler at any time.

At 164.5 inches long and 72.5 inches wide, the Audi TT fits right in the heart of the premium sports car segment. It is longer and wider than the BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK. It is more than six inches shorter than the Porsche Boxster and Cayman, but is still a more than an inch wider. These dimensions give the TT decent cargo and passenger volume and contribute to fine handling characteristics.

Below the surface, the TT is all new for 2008. It uses the fourth generation of the Audi Space Frame (ASF) architecture. Audi says the space frame is made of cast, extruded, and stamped steel and aluminum components, as opposed to a traditional unibody structure that has only steel stampings. The coupe's space frame is 69 percent aluminum and the roadster's is 58 percent aluminum. The roadster is reinforced behind the seats to make up for the rigidity lost due to the lack of a top. Audi claims the new coupe is 50 percent more rigid than the last model, and the roadster is 120 percent stronger. Audi says the new-generation roadster is more rigid than the last coupe, an impressive claim.

The base roadster's top is manually operated, but most TTs will come with the power top. The power top is extremely easy to use. There are no latches to work, and it opens in 12 seconds and closes in 14. For those sudden weather changes, the power top can be operated while the car is moving as fast as 25 mph, a handy feature.

Interior Features

Inside, the 2008 Audi TT is wonderful. Highlighted by standard leather seats and real aluminum trim, the interior is well put together, with tight tolerances and sturdy, soft-touch materials. The design is contemporary, simple, and attractive. The gauges are trimmed in silver with black faces, and trip computer information is displayed between them. The dash is black, and models with the Enhanced Interior package get black leather around the gauge cluster.

All of the controls are within arm's reach and they move with precision. Without the optional navigation system, the controls are easy to find and operate. With the navigation system, however, the TT gets a version of Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI). This system absorbs the audio controls, and adds several steps to simple tasks like changing the radio station. MMI might appeal to techies, but most of us would prefer something less complicated.

Sports cars are notoriously hard to enter and exit. While entering the 2008 TT requires a step down, it's not as much of a crouch as the last model and the flat-bottom steering wheel in most TTs provides a modicum of extra knee room. Once inside, the TT has more room for the driver than most sports cars. A 6-foot, 7-inch friend said he fit well in the TT, but found the Z4 to be cramped. The front seats are comfortable and have nice bolstering to help keep you in place in fast turns. Visibility is good to most angles, but there is a notable blind spot to the right rear in coupes and in roadsters with the top up.

The leather upholstery is attractive, and the Enhanced Interior package makes it even more so, with contrasting stitching and a leather-covered instrument pod. Audi offers numerous interior color options, as well as the Baseball-Optic leather package that features a Madras Brown color and thick stitching inspired by baseball gloves, a TT tradition.

The rear seat in coupes is inhospitable for humans and is best used for holding packages and purses. Small children may fit back there, but they will certainly complain.

The rear seats fold down, however, which creates a flat load floor and plenty of cargo space. Cargo space is even good with the seats up, but with them down it expands from 10.2 to 24.7 cubic feet. That's more than twice the space of a Z4 coupe and is plenty of room for groceries or luggage for two. The roadster is available with a ski pass-through that improves its 9.1 cubic feet of cargo room, and it's nice that the convertible top doesn't intrude on trunk space. Unfortunately, neither the coupe nor the roadster have enough interior storage for small items.

Driving Impressions

The first priority for most sports car buyers is a car that's fun to drive. The Audi TT has that in spades. All TTs have sharp handling. Despite a front weight bias (59 percent front in 2.0T, 57 percent in 3.2 quattro), the TT doesn't have a tendency toward nose plow. It feels stable at speed, and is perfectly willing to be tossed into a controlled slide in corners. Steering is quick and predictable, but it feels a little light for a sports car.

I drove a 2.0T roadster with 17-inch wheels and the 3.2 quattro roadster and coupe each with 18-inch wheels. The 2.0T exhibited a bit more body lean and tire squeal in turns, but still gripped the road well. The 3.2 quattros felt sharper, especially the coupe. Neither roadster exhibited much, if any, cowl shake. The Audi TT roadster is one solid convertible.

Handling becomes even sharper when the available Audi Magnetic Ride Suspension is chosen. It utilizes a fluid in all four shocks, that when subjected to an electric charge, changes the shock's damping characteristics from comfort oriented to firm and sporty.

The brakes did not fade in the face of aggressive driving and maintained a consistent feel thanks, in part, to electronic brake-force distribution. Audi's electronic stability control doesn't intrude too soon, allowing some slip without cutting the throttle to stop the fun. With the Audi Magnetic Ride Suspension, the electronic stability control is programmed to give the driver even more leeway.

Sports car buyers often expect poor ride quality, but the TT can be quite comfortable. Base model TTs with 17-inch wheels soak up small bumps well, but sharper ruts can jolt passengers. The ride becomes firmer and busier with the optional 18-inch tires, so try these before you buy, especially if you live in an area with rough roads. We have not yet driven the S line models, but expect their 19-inch wheels to make the ride busier and possibly harsher.

Sports car should be powerful, and neither of the TT's engines disappoint in this regard. The turbocharged four-cylinder has very little turbo lag, making it quick from a stop and responsive at speed. It runs out of steam above 6000 rpm, though, so it's best to shift before that point when passing or charging onto an on-ramp. Audi says the 2.0T can launch the 2008 TT coupe from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, and the roadster in 6.3 seconds. The 3.2-liter V6 has more power, but not that much more. It is more responsive than the 2.0T at all speeds, and is capable of a 0-60 mph run in 5.3 seconds with the S tronic transmission and 5.5 seconds with the manual.

With either engine, the six-speed manual transmission is easy to shift and has fairly short throws. The S tronic DSG automatic has normal Drive and Sport modes, both of which shift quickly and without a jolt. The Sport mode holds lower gears longer to keep more accessible power on tap. The driver can shift the DSG via the steering wheel paddles or shift lever at any time. This is a nice touch, because most transmissions with a manual shift gate require the transmission to be in Sport mode to allow driver-chosen shifts. We've found Audi's DSG to be problematic in the past due to a delay in power delivery at low speeds and are glad to say we didn't experience that frustration in the new TT.

Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system is front-drive biased. Under normal conditions, only about eight percent of the power goes to the rear wheels, but in extreme conditions up to 100 percent of the power can be sent to the rear. Quattro is a great choice for snow and rain.

In normal cruising, the cabin is quiet for a sports car. Tire noise can become pronounced on rough surfaces, but wind noise is well-checked. Both engines emit a sporty exhaust note. The 2.0T lets out a forceful hum, and the 3.2 has a lower, more gravelly, growl.

Summary

The Audi TT has been re-engineered for 2008 and Audi has done a fine job of updating it. The 2008 model is dynamically superior to it predecessor and its edgier looks are already making the last model seem old. Midwestern buyers can use the car all year thanks to available all-wheel drive. The hatchback coupe offers cargo versatility while the roadster offers top-down fun. If you're looking for a sporty weekend toy, or even a year round sports car, make sure the 2008 TT is on your shopping list. Be careful about how you outfit your TT, though, because prices rise quickly with options.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Kirk Bell filed this report from Chicago.

 

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New Car Test Drive

Copyright © 1994-2009 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

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