With the roof tucked away, wind in your hair and 306bhp under your right foot, you ought to feel special. When the car looks as good as the third-generation TT roadster, and you are driving on scenic roads such as the one I am on in Mallorca, Spain, things can’t really get much better.
The Audi TT was always a car about style and presence, and the new car has just added to the oomph factor. Instantly recognisable from the very first glance, the car has short overhangs and a taut-looking nose. It has unmistakable TT styling cues, with the familiar rounded wheelarches, curved windscreen pillars, bold shoulder line and sloping tailgate.The TT roadster loses the virtually unusable rear seats of the coupé, instead using the space for the folded fabric top, which opens and closes in a scant 10 seconds. The familiar four rings have been shifted onto the bonnet lip like in the R8, and the grille looks even more pronounced than on the old car. Other elements like the sharp headlights with daytime-running lamps and dynamic turn indicators just add to the overall appeal.
Based on the popular MQB platform, as other VW group cars like the Skoda Octavia and the VW Jetta, the Audi TT roadster is mostly made up of aluminium. This helps keep the weight down to 1,470kg, which is just 35kg more than the coupé variant. Even with the top lowered, the trunk retains a capacity of 280litres. The interior is protected from excessive buffeting by the wind deflector, which means you will find yourself lowering the top a lot, even in harsh weather.
Like the exteriors, the driving experience impresses too. As we had limited time with the car, I chose to concentrate on the sportier S version. This TT is powered by a 1984cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol motor. Making a healthy 306bhp, this engine has a specific output of 153bhp per litre! The motor pulls cleanly and very linearly to its redline. This gives it great flexibility, and its claimed time of 4.9sec to 100kph is completely believable. The hard-working six-speed twin clutch auto is brilliant and in sport mode, it keeps the motor in the meat of the powerband and progress is rapid. What makes this engine very usable in everyday driving is the really strong mid range. So, driving through buzzing towns on the island or belting down an open road is just a touch of the throttle pedal away. But what really surprises is the way this small capacity motor sounds. The powertrain is tuned to bark delightfully when shifting at full throttle. In normal operation, the TT’s soundtrack is pleasantly silky but at same time, sporty.
But being a sports car, it should not only sound good but thrill you around corners too. Audi has put in lots of technology in the TT. The quattro all-wheel-drive system now gets an electrohydraulic multi-plate clutch which ensures optimum power is distributed between the front and rear axles, depending on the road conditions. On slightly slippery and winding roads in Mallorca, the quattro system made sure that there is loads of grip and, combined with
the torque vectoring system, it kept understeer to a minimum. The AWD also means it can put down all the angry 300 plus horses in a very clean manner.
The weak point of the TT’s dynamic abilities though is its steering. The issue is not with its accuracy but more with the absence of feel. With some time behind the wheel, you do get used to it, and overall, the TT Roadster is good fun.
But for all its corner-carving abilities, it doesn’t ride too badly either, and Audi’s drive select must get credit here. In Comfort mode, the suspension’s ability to absorb bumps and maintain composure over some rough sections we encountered in Mallorca was quite impressive. Obviously, in Dynamic, you can feel jolts more prominently and body movements are sharper, and its recommended to stay away from this mode on the road.
Yet, for all the talents it possesses, it’s the cabin that’s the real highlight. Stunningly designed and beautifully executed, it’s focussed around Audi’s superb Virtual Cockpit system. The 12.3-inch high-resolution LCD display replaces the conventional dials, and does away with the need for a centre stack screen, allowing for a sleek minimalist dashboard design that’s sporty and upmarket.
The screen is crystal clear and places all the information in front of the driver. You can switch the display between Classic View — with prominent speedo and rev counter — and Infotainment View, which brings functions like the navigation map or audio screen to the fore. The clarity of the screen combines with the dual functionality of the controls to make Audi’s Virtual Cockpit a breeze to use.
Details such as the jet-like circular air vents with the control function and display for the air-con integrated into them, just looks unique and are very intuitive to use. There is decent space in this two-seater, and the thin A-pillars allow for a fantastic view out the front. The nicely crafted seats are snug and well bolstered, and keep you in place even when you drive hard.
The third-generation Audi TT Roadster looks and feels special, has a beautifully appointed cabin, and now it drives very well too. Even though it doesn’t have the mid-engined handling characteristics of a Boxster, which is ultimately the better driving machine, the TT makes a pretty strong case for itself. Expected to be priced around Rs 72 lakh when it’s launched in India, the TT roadster is going to be very expensive. But, for this price, there’s little else that can match its blend of style, quality, performance and all-weather usability. Unlike its predecessor, the new Audi TT roadster is not a car which only has loads of style, but now it also has the substance to go with it.