No beating around the bush… I love this car. So how do I write a fair evaluation without prejudice? Allow me to outline the facts that influenced my decision. I live in Canada and as such, I also live with a number of pros and cons. As Canadians, we are blessed with some of the most diverse and unique geographies in the world. Starting in the West with the Pacific Ocean and the Rain Forest, crossing the spectacular Rockies, through the vast Prairies and into beautiful Ontario. We are then greeted by the heritage-rich Quebec and some of the most picturesque Atlantic Provinces. All this variety provides the opportunity for some awesome driving… provided the weather cooperates. After all, this is Canada, and in Canada we’ve got snow. And this year there were plenty of snow days. So what do you do if you happen to be a sports car enthusiast? You’ve got your pimped out and slammed hot rod, but it can only perform at the peak of its abilities during the summer months. Enter snow and it becomes nothing more than a cumbersome commuter car. An expensive commuter! Some of these tricked out Imports/Domestics run deep into the $50,000’s when all the appearance and performance options are added.
Enter the Audi TT. This contemporary in design sport coupe/roadster is a beautiful interpretation of what defines a modern sports car for all seasons. Although the TT is not a Porsche, its design heritage dates back to the original VW Beetle and the legendary 911. The exteriors shape just screams performance and with the help of a spirited engine and four-wheel drive, this car delivers. This is the definitive sport car for any country that has four seasons. No need for a winter beater. Just slap on a set of winter tires and you’ve got yourself confidence inspiring winter rocket. This car only begins to loosen up and become really fun when the snow starts to fall or when you encounter an occasional gravel side road. Add a couple of corners and you’ve got yourself a rally inspired performer. Ever watch World Rally Championships? The TT puts you behind the wheel of a car capable of similar performance. Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive setup originated on just such tough rally courses. Just be careful, this one is street legal and the legal authorities tend frown on full 4-wheel drifts.
Engine & Transmission
Audi TT is available in two engine configurations. The standard engine option consists of a 1.8 L turbocharger DOHC in-line 4-cylinder with direct ignition, intercooler, electronic turbo boost regulation and 5 valves per cylinder. All this is good for 180 Hp and 173 lb/ft of torque at just under 2,000 rpm. It’s a capable engine that delivers spirited performance. Not bad, but not enough to catch up with the TT’s no-nonsense heritage. For the adrenaline junkie, you’ll need to move to option 2… 1.8 L with two in-line charged air intercoolers capable of 225 Hp and 207 lb/ft of torque at 2,200 rpm. In this arrangement, you are piloting a car capable of 0-100 km in 6.3 seconds and a top speed of 230 km/h (electronically limited to 209 km/h in Canada). Putting consistent times however largely depends on the transmission. And although the TT’s transmission performed very well, it lacked the positive feel one would expect out of a car in this performance category. We all feel that the transmission is a little rubbery. On the flip side, for around town commuting the forgiving nature is actually appreciated.
Let’s talk Quattro. No Audi should be sold without this option. At least not in the Great White North. On dry pavement, it’s just downright silly. Enter the corner too fast and the car will let you know by a little hint of understeer. Let off the throttle; steer into the corner and just as you start to crest the apex hammer on the throttle as hard as your nerves will let you. You will be rewarded with a turn that increases in lateral G’s, yet remains predictable and stable. Rarely do you need to worry about the back end coming loose. On gravel the experience is somewhat the same except the volume is now up a few notches. The short wheelbase provides for some entertaining full four-wheel drifts in complete control. Add snow and you are now in possession of ultimate control. Wherever your travels may bring you… in the winter (spring, summer or fall) you’ll get there with confidence. The only transformation required is a set of winter tires. Helping achieve this fantastic performance are the state of the art suspension components. Up front, the TT comes with MacPherson struts (gas-charged) with 3-point lower control arms, directly coupled stabilizer and a negative steering roll radius. Rear suspension components on the Quattro consist of parallelogram multi-link independent, coil spring and shock absorbers (gas-charged), stabilizer bar and toe-correcting axle bushings. The result of this suspension set-up is a ride that is wonderfully balanced and compliant to steering input. Completing the package is a set of beautiful 17-inch 6-spoke design cast alloy wheels with 225/45 performance tires.
Come in out of the cold. The TT is fully equipped and it even includes heated seats. The first thing you’ll notice is just how spacious the interior is once you get inside. There is plenty of head clearance for both the driver and the passenger. Outward visibility takes a little getting used to, but for a purpose-built sports car, the driver has a good rear view and a somewhat unobstructed blind spot. The interior look is retro modern. Audi calls the design part art, part science. Love it or hate it, it is original, functional and in my eyes – cool. Seats are supportive and fit my 5’11” stature comfortably. Fit, finish, and quality are typical Audi great. Key features to focus on are the thick baseball-like stitching on the seats and the extensive use of aluminum throughout. Especially clever is the flip-up radio cover that serves both an aesthetic and functional purpose. Behind the aluminum cover resides an 80-watt Audi Concert AM/FM stereo with CD. I especially liked the Graduated Audio Level Adjustment (GALA). Set the volume where it’s comfortable and forget about changing the level as the speed/noise increases or decreases. All controls are just where they should be and as such are within easy reach from the driver’s seat. This car truly fits like a glove!
So, why do I like this car so much? I think it’s a combination of looks, comfort, power, and utility. Although not a star in any one category, the TT wins the most versatile award. I can’t imagine a better sports car for year-round motoring. I’ve had the pleasure of driving this car both in the winter and in the summer. On both occasions, the little TT left me pleasantly surprised. My only wish is for more power and if the rumor mill is correct my wish may come true.
From the Rumor Mill
It is believed that for 2004, Audi TT will add a V-6 engine. It is very likely that the six will come from the Volkswagen parts bin in a form of a narrow-angle V-6 as recently seen in the VW Golf R32. In the Golf, it makes 237 Hp. Expect the TT version to pump upwards of 250 Hp or about 25 Hp more than the current high-pressure turbo. Estimates put the performance of 0-100 km/h in the mid 5-second mark. Will this power configuration find it’s way to Canada? We’ll just have to wait and see.