Raises the Bar – Again!

2008, Audi, TT convertible

SAN FRANCISCO - It didn't take long for us to form our opinion of the Audi 2008 TT sports car. While driving down Skline Boulevard on our way to the hotel, we pushed the pedal towards the metal and thought "whoa."

We were driving the Audi TT Roadster 3.2 quattro. It was powered by a 3.2 liter 250 horsepower V6 that made 236 pounds- feet of torque. Mated to Audi's S tronic dual clutch transmission, we think it is the best automatic gearbox on the road. Reason? It shifts a gear in 0.2 seconds.

There's a bunch of 2008 TTs. In addition to the Roadster 3.2, there is a front- wheel- drive Roadster 2.0 that is powered by the 2.0 liter 200 horsepower four- cylinder that makes 207 pounds- feet of torque

Coupe versions exist of both cars and a six- speed manual transmission is standard, if you prefer shifting through the gears yourself. However, the S tronic can be manually shifted from the gear shifter or from steering wheel mounted paddles.

Audi didn't mess with the TT's overall design too much. The car was an outstanding looker when it first went on sale as a 2000 model in 1999. You'll still know an Audi TT when you see one.

Although the Audi TT's skin was subtly refined, Audi took the TT apart and rebuilt it from its space frame up. The 2008 Audi TT is longer, wider, more powerful and only slightly taller than model it replaces. But because the new TT has a space frame that is almost sixty- percent aluminum, no matter what model you get it weighs at least 150 lbs less than the old one.

Audi has refined the TT's interior, taking out a lot of the chrome hard edged finishes and rails and replacing them with soft leather and French stitching. We, along with our full- size driving partner, had plenty of elbow room as well as head and hip space.

We were particularly impressed by a couple of TT attributes and distressed by another. The Roadsters top will operate at up to 25 mph. The 12 seconds that it takes to deploy will undoubtedly come in handy during quick forming rain storms.

Audi has also created interior packages that are assertive and colorful. However, we found our black TT coupe with its beige leather interior quite striking enough.

We also found the TT's audio system impressive. The premium version had satellite radio, was MP3 stick of CD capable and we could dock our iPod which would be charged while it was playing.

However, once the iPod was plugged in we could not figure out how to turn it on. When we stopped for a break at Tamales Deli + Café in Jenner, someone explained to us how to play the iPod.

Now, we love Audi so this is said to help. No matter whether it's AM, FM, satellite, a CD, MP3, WP3, or iPod, it should never, never require instruction, even for someone who just climbed into the car, to play any facet of the radio. We strongly suggest that Audi put an auxiliary play button somewhere in plain site - quickly.

Now, let's see. More power, less weight and a lowered center of gravity means sock curling performance. The 2008 Audi TT creature comforts include a fully automatic top, a navigation system, Bluetooth hands free phone system, heated mirrors, adaptive headlights and 19- inch wheels

Starting prices range between $34,800 and $44,500 depending on the model. We think the 2008 Audi TT, on sale now, is a pretty good bang for the buck. And we can't wait to get one for a week- long test in our world.

By Frank S.  Washington

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Images of the 2008, Audi TT convertible

2008 Audi TT from the front
2008 Audi TT from the front
2008 Audi TT convertible interior with the top down
2008 Audi TT convertible interior with the top down
2008 Audi TT navigation center
2008 Audi TT navigation center
2008 Audi TT convertible from the back
2008 Audi TT convertible from the back