Audi has already established the TT performance envelope with its low ride height, low center of gravity, short wheelbase, narrow track, and turbocharged engines. This little lightweight is intended for those who like their drives, whether to work or to Wonderland, with a little Tabasco and a lot of style. If you're the type who enjoys driving at 11/10ths every once in a while to keep your edge, and can't afford a car from Audi's Lamborghini subsidiary, the TT is your kind of car.
The new top-of-the-line Audi TT 3.2 features an innovative narrow-angle V6, provided by Volkswagen. The angle between the cylinder banks, usually something between 60 and 90 degrees for a V6 engine, is only 15 degrees, so it's no wider than a four-cylinder turbo, but it's shorter so it will fit in the TT's small engine compartment. The V6 is rated at 250 horsepower at 6300 rpm, with 235 foot-pounds of peak torque available between 2800 and 3200 rpm, and in this chassis it feels like more, because you can use more of it more of the time.
The payoff here is the utterly smooth and effortless delivery of power and torque on demand when compared to either of the 1.8 T versions, which you have to rev higher and whip harder to get this kind of serious acceleration. With the new V6, you just pick a gear and mash the pedal, and the extra two cylinders and 1.4 liters of displacement go right to work. Audi says the 3.2 version will go from 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds, and we believe every inch of that.
With quattro all-wheel-drive and all of the other electronic driving and traction aids in place on such a small, short, narrow, and relatively light (3275 pounds) front-engine car, the faster you go, the more rewarding the driving experience gets. The steering is reasonably heavy to the touch, which we like and prefer to the flighty-lighty steering on most cars, and the car turns in with authority. The 3.2 V6 version is only about 125 pounds heavier than either of the four-cylinder models, and all of that extra weight is over the front tires, which tends to slow its reactions down some.
The ride is a bit choppy on rough pavement, but quite good on smooth roads. At high speeds in tight corners the V6 version feels like flying a P-51 Mustang fighter, with always enough power and agility to get out of a bad situation. The brakes both front and rear are the largest currently available on a street car, four 17-inch discs with ABS, so the little TT V6 stops like a race car. This is part of what you get you buy a premium-priced sports car such as this one.
The TT 3.2 also comes with an innovative new transmission called an automatic direct shift gearbox, which is a manual transmission with six forward speeds, two separate gear shafts, and two different clutches, one for first, third, fifth and reverse, and one for second, fourth and sixth gears. The DSG, as Audi calls it, straddles the technical aspects and performance of a full manual transmission with the clutchless convenience of an automatic. In the manual mode, you shift using either the shifter or buttons on the steering wheel. Move the lever and the electronics take over, declutching the clutch, shifting the gear up or down, and re-engaging the clutch with no drama, no noise, no lurching, no nothing, just a clean, crisp, quick shift, up or down. The internal computer won't let you do anything silly, like shift down from to sixth to second. If you want to treat it like an automatic, you just put the gear selector lever in Drive, and it will act like the six-speed Tiptronic automatic that other customers may find more familiar and less daunting. It's just more fun to use than the Tiptronic transmission that's available.
The high-performance 1.8 T offers a full 25 percent more power than the standard 1.8 T, bumping the output to 225 horsepower, and 207 foot-pounds of torque. It's the best balance of performance and fuel economy, giving the driver the option of keeping his right foot light and watching his fuel bills drop, or heavy on the throttle and light in the wallet. The 225-horsepower version can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 6.7 seconds, according to Audi.
Quattro is fully computer-controlled, no buttons, no switches, no low range, and its computers start managing torque and brakes when some outside force tries to make the balance stray from 50/50 front/rear drive. Quattro all-wheel drive is superb for driving in the rain and for winter driving, but it gives the car a more secure feeling even on dry pavement.
The standard 180-horsepower 1.8-liter engine revs quickly from lower rpm, accelerating steadily toward 6000 rpm. However, when you hammer it in the mid-3000 rpm range, there is some lag, and it makes you wait. The engine certainly sounds cool. Just tooling around, accelerating gently, you can hear a light whistle from the turbo. Over 4000 rpm, where you're inclined to keep it so it's ready for action, it's very smooth, and doesn't feel like the engine is revving. Audi says the TT 1.8 T coupe can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 7.9 seconds, which is reasonably quick. The ride quality in the standard model is quite comfortable, not at all stiff, no harshness anywhere.
The brakes are racing car quality; not since the BMW M5 have we felt anything so confidence-inspiring. That's in their stopping power; the problem is that the pedal position makes heel-and-toe braking and downshifting cumbersome. Which is not to say that it's impossible, and most drivers will eventually adjust. The ABS may be the smoothest we've ever seen under hard braking. We also drove into a corner too fast and the Electronic Stability Program, or ESP, corrected our imbalance, as we could feel the front wheels pulling us out of it.