Turbocharging boosts power and efficienc
By Nina Russin
The TT is Audi's two-passenger sports coupe and convertible. In addition to the base models, driving enthusiasts can choose from two performance variants: the TTS, which has a more powerful version of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and the race-inspired TT RS, powered by a turbocharged five-cylinder engine.
The TTS roadster is notable for its all-season capability, thanks to quattro all-wheel drive, and a three-layer soft top which insulates the driver and passenger against temperature extremes. Optional heated front seats make it possible to drive with the top down on crisp, fall days.
The rear window is glass, making it more durable than plastic which tends to yellow with age. The glass is also better insulated and larger, for enhanced rear visibility.
While it is relatively easy to engineer a coupe for high torsional rigidity, a cabriolet is a much tougher challenger. Cowl shake can be the bane of open-air cars. To Audi's credit, the TTS roadster is as responsive to driver input as the coupe.
By using a combination of high strength steel and aluminum, engineers have created a chassis which is both rigid and lightweight. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is slightly slower than for the coupe, but 5.1 seconds is nothing to sneeze at.
Under the hood, the two-liter turbocharged engine develops peak torque, 258 foot-pounds, at speeds as low as 2500 rpm: a mild tip of the throttle. A dual clutch transmission offers the performance of a manual gearbox with the convenience of automatic shifting. The driver can also choose gears manually using formula-style shift paddles on the steering wheel or the gearshift lever.
Base price for the Audi TTS roadster is $50,000, excluding the $875 destination charge. Pearl black paint on the test car adds $475. The test car has two additional options: a navigation system ($2070) and heated front seats ($450). Price as tested is $53,870.
Audis have a way of turning heads in any crowd. Strings of LEDs below the headlamps serve as daytime running lamps, and give the headlamps "eyelashes," which are as much a signature of the brand as its four-ring emblem. The new grille and air intake make the TT a more serious looking car than earlier models, which might have been branded as sweet. The pearl black paint and black soft top are utterly and unabashedly sexy.
The interior is equally sumptuous, with leather sport seats which envelop the driver and passenger, a flat-bottomed steering wheel designed for ultimate control, short-throw shift lever and aluminum pedals. Anyone with a pulse would find it hard to resist the magic of Audi's sports car.
Test drive in Phoenix
My hundred-mile test drive consisted of freeways and surface streets throughout the Phoenix and Scottsdale metropolitan areas, as well as some stretches of rural road in the Gila River Indian Community to the south.
A single control on the center console deploys the soft top in twelve seconds. The top will deploy if the car is travelling at speeds below 30 miles-per-hour, in case the driver decides the open up the car in the middle of a trip.
With the soft top in place, visibility around the perimeter is reasonably good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway, or seeing out the back glass when driving in reverse. Pulling out of vertical parking slots with larger cars on either side was relatively easy.
At night, xenon headlamps throw beams of light which are longer and closer to daylight than halogen, making it easier to navigate through dark rural and suburban areas. Exterior lighting also makes the TTS more visible to high-profile vehicles: an important safety feature at night.
Performance from the two-liter turbocharged engine is exhilarating. The modified engine in the S grade adds 50 horsepower over the block in the base model. Because peak torque is available at low engine speeds, acceleration in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging onto the highway is lightning fast. An automatic deploying rear spoiler provides additional down-force over the back end to balance the chassis at high speeds.
Speed-sensitive steering offers more assist at low speeds for maneuvering through traffic, while maintaining a heavier feel and positive on-center response on the highway. During one of my drives I had to make an evasive maneuver to avoid a large piece of truck tire in the middle of my lane, and was able to do so with complete control.
The suspension consists of a MacPherson strut setup in front and multi-links in the rear. Gas charged shocks provide a firmer ride for aggressive performance. Anti-roll bars in both front and back keep the chassis pancake flat in the corners.
Magnetic ride control automatically adjusts suspension damping according to driving conditions. As familiar as I am with Audi performance, I never cease to be amazed by how the cars handle in deceasing radius turns.
Large discs on all four wheels stop the car on a dime.
The downside to any two-person roadster is interior and storage space. There is no question that the Audi TT coupe is more spacious, and because of its larger cargo bay, more practical. Having said that, designers made the most of the TTS roadster's small interior, by including storage areas wherever possible.
In addition to the center console and locking glovebox, there is a small locking compartment between the two seats. When the top is deployed, it takes up a good deal of trunk space. However with the top in place, the trunk has enough room for groceries, a rollerboard suitcase and other moderate-sized items.
Designers paid special attention to all of the driver's touch points, including the flat-bottomed steering wheel with redundant audio controls, formula-style shift paddles, leather shift knob, etc. Controls on the center stack are easy to reach from either seating position. While the audio and navigation system is quite sophisticated, simple functions such as changing audio channels are easy to figure out.
The Audi TTS comes with front side and knee airbags for the driver and passenger, roll bars, antilock brakes, traction and stability control. A hill hold feature prevents the car from sliding backwards when the driver accelerates from a stop up a steep grade. Audi's factory warranty includes twelve months of complimentary scheduled maintenance.
Audi builds the TTS at its assembly plant in Gyor, Hungary.
Likes: A beautiful roadster with timeless styling and exhilarating performance. Quattro all-wheel drive enhances handling on wet roads.
Dislike: Lack of storage space.
Model: TTS 2.0 TFSI S-Tronic Roadster
Base price: $50,000
As tested: $53,870
Horsepower: 265 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 258 lbs.-ft. @ 2500 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.1 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: N/A
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 23/31 mpg city/highway
Comment: The manufacturer requires the use of premium unleaded gasoline.