Audi gets the TT right – goes good and looks great

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We enjoy driving vehicles that force people to take a second look. It’s good for our ego. “Gee, maybe they’re looking at me?” Nah!

We like vehicles that entice people into parking lot conversations. It’s fun and it becomes our mini unscientific survey. Most people that like cars are usually pretty interesting and well informed; except those that say “wow – what is it?” We especially like vehicles that are admired for their unique style, unlike many, even if capable and well done, that become invisible in a sea of ordinary sheetmetal.

But when something like the 2008 Audi TT 3.2 Quattro comes along it lifts the spirits, and the public acknowledgment that comes with the car is like a mood elevator.

The second generation TT sports car is not only wonderful eye candy, it’s a wonderful driver with practical space for such important things as two sets of golf clubs or enough luggage for a four-week road trip across the country.

If you are looking for a sports car that’s got it all — strong performance, razor-sharp handling, slot-car cornering, a spacious cockpit, a well-appointed and stylish interior, the storage space of a sub-compact sedan — at a rather affordable price, then welcome to the wonderful world of Audi.

The TT entered the world in 1998 with a bold overturned bathtub look. No more!
The second-generation TT — introduced earlier in 2007 as a 2008 model — continues with that theme, but with sharper edges and more muscular lines. A character line that runs the length of the car over the TT’s pronounced wheel arches gives it a slimmer, less bulbous appearance. Besides the sheetmetal tweaking, the biggest change is the addition of the new big-mouth grille treatment all Audi vehicles receive these days.

The TT, which has grown by five inches in length, a change that makes it bolder and confident, comes in both coupe and roadster versions and with two engine choices, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 200 horsepower and a 3.2-liter V-6 generating 250 horsepower. We have driven both coupe and ragtop and both engines – and our consensus is that we’ll take it in any configuration any time. We’re smitten!
No matter your choice — hard top or soft top, turbo four or V-6 with base prices ranging from $35,000 to $46,000 — you will be rewarded with automotive entertainment in high style.

Our most recent experience was with a 3.2 coupe with all-wheel drive. What a great choice for our sporting nature such as it is. We think that it is our more mature being that makes the TT even better. And the consensus around the water cooler seems to highest among the 40-plus set. A group of people that really express themselves by what they drive.

OK. Let’s get straight. The TT 3.2 is not the fastest sports car out there. And although it takes the back-road twists and turns with considerable dexterity, it’s not the greatest cornering machine in the known universe. And while its very useful cargo space under the hatch — it will nicely hold two sets of golf clubs — is very practical, the Chevrolet Corvette has even more space.

But the combination of sports car attributes, together with the TT coupe’s unique sheetmetal and relatively affordable price, make it an all-around winner.

Opt for the 2.0 and you’ll find front-wheel drive and the amazing paddle-shift automated transmission called “S-tronic” are standard.

The 3.2 comes with Quattro (all-wheel drive) as standard equipment and buyers have the choice of S-tronic or a slick-shifting six-speed manual. With all-wheel drive, torque is split 85-15 front-to-rear with 100 percent of torque available to either set of wheels if needed.

We drove both the S-tronic and the six-speed and found them to our liking, but our favorite was the six-speed with short accurate throws and good clutch feel. Although driving in the big city in globs of traffic that automatic was terrific and nearly as quick a responder as the manual. Launch the V-6 and be prepared to quickly shift as the engine rockets to the 6,500 rpm redline. By the time you get to third gear, 60 mph has arrived in under six seconds. Keep going and a quarter mile can be completed in under 14 seconds at about 99 miles an hour.

This quickness comes in part thanks to the TT’s aluminum space frame chassis technology that keeps the curb weight to a very svelte 3,150 pounds.

Our test car was endowed with the $1,400 optional Magnetic Ride Suspension with two adjustments. We found the ride, even in sport mode, on the soft side of firm which is really good for older bodies trying to be youthful. Audi has found a very suitable compromise between cruising comfort and road-holding ability.

We deem the 3.2 TT at the cutting edge of sports car safe with all-wheel drive, antilock disc brakes, stability control, front chest-and-head protecting side airbags, front knee airbags and tire-pressure monitoring.

In recent years we’ve found a few sports cars too tight for an ever-growing body including the Mazda MX-5 and the Honda S2000. But the TT has generous room up front with more shoulder and knee room than before, and we were never uncomfortable or claustrophobic. One thing that makes the TT so accommodating is great 10-way power sports seats. And a unique flat-bottom steering wheel makes getting into and exiting the car easier. And it looks cool too.

The rear seats are not for anyone older than 10, but they fold down to create an ample 23 cubic feet of cargo space under the hatch. In addition to the two sets of golf clubs, we could have crammed in a couple of overnight bags and other assorted odds and ends. 
Anyone interested in a road trip to Pebble Beach?

A newly styled interior is clean and functional. Leather is standard and the plastic and faux metal surfaces are well done with impeccable fit and finish.

Switchgear is mostly intuitive, but we have a problem with the audio setup. We actually had to retrieve the owner’s manual to pre-set radio stations. After a few minutes of book learning, we had the problem solved. But should a radio be that hard to operate? It’s another case of German technology overkill. Or are we just old and grumpy?

All TT models come with a load of standard equipment including run-flat 17-inch tires, leather seating, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories and the safety package as noted above. The 2.0 can be outfitted with a $2,150 premium package that includes powered and heated front seats, multifunction steering wheel and six-disc CD changer. The package is standard on the 3.2.

Optional equipment on our most recent test car included the Magnetic Ride suspension, enhanced interior package that includes Nappa leather seats, premium Bose audio system, 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights and Bluetooth connectivity. That raised the base price of $42,220 to $48,020.

For those who desire navigation, it’s available as a $1,950 stand alone option.

The 2008 Audi TT’s combination of things that make a sports car stylish, practical, and entertaining, has elevated it to the top of our “must have” list.


Base price, $42,220; as driven, $48,020
Engine: 3.2-liter V-6
Horsepower: 250 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque: 236 foot-pounds @ 2,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 97.2 inches
Length: 164.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,218 pounds
Turning circle: 36 feet
Luggage capacity: 13.1 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 23 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons (premium)
EPA mileage: 24 highway, 17 city
0-60: 6 seconds (MotorWeek)
Also consider: BMW Z4, Porsche Cayman, Infiniti G35

The Good
• Distinctive sports car design
• Hatchback utility
• Upscale interior

The Bad
• How the heck to you tune this radio?

The Ugly
• All-wheel drive and manual transmission not available on the less pricey, but entertaining 2.0 turbo four models