TT Roadster is what
the Americans like
to call a sure thing.
Read on to find out
why its all that and
DRIVEN BY the impressive addition of new models, the ever onwards march for record sales by Audi continues relent-lessly in the UK. In 1996, Audi had just six model ranges. By 2006 it had 23. And in another eight years it will have 40.
Last year was the seventh consecutive record year for UK sales with 87,000 vehicles sold and that total, says Audi, was restricted by supply. This year, Audi expect to sell 90,000 vehicles in the UK and 100,000 in 2008.
In January this year, pent-up demand left over from 2006 meant that Audi sold more new cars in the UK than BMW and Mercedes put together. Worldwide Audi sales currently stand at 900,000, but by 2015 this will have increased to 1.5 million driven mainly by the addition of new models in new sectors. Last year Audi introduced ten new models. This year it will be eight. The first three newcomers in 2007 are the TT Roadster, the R8 sports car and the A5 compact sports coupé.
In March, Audi dealerships will start taking delivery of the new two-seat Audi TT Roadster models ready for April supply to customers. The 2+2 seater TT Coupé was launched in the UK last year, and this year Audi expects to sell 8,000 TT models here of which around 2,500 will be for the new soft-top Roadster. The UK is, incidentally, the largest market in the world for the TT Roadster.
The all-new TT Roadster replaces the iconic model which first went
on sale in the UK in 2000. It is available in two forms: a 2.0-litre TFSI with front-wheel drive priced at £26,915, and a 3.2-litre quattro version costing £31,535. Six-speed manual and six-speed S-tronic transmissions are available for both models. Audi expects marginally more customers to opt for the manual transmission, with 60 per cent
of sales being for the 2.0-litre model. Audi also expects 60 per cent
of buyers to be males and 55 per cent under 40 years of age.
Like its Coupé counterpart, the new TT Roadster uses a hybrid Audi Space Frame (ASF) bodyshell blending 58 per cent aluminium and 42 per cent steel to minimise weight and maximise performance and hand-ling. Thanks to this highly-sophisticated new bodyshell, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder version weighs just 1,295kg unladen while body rigidity has increased by an impressive 120 per cent.
To avoid negating the weight saving made possible by the aluminium and steel combination body construction, the new TT Roadster retains a fabric hood that is electro-hydraulically powered in both versions. To streamline airflow through the cabin and minimise buffeting, a powered mesh wind deflector is fitted as standard to UK TT Roadster models.
Incorporating a heated glass rear window, the new soft top is both lighter than before (courtesy of its new steel-and-aluminium support framework) and, thanks to an additional layer of soundproofing, even more insulating. Operation is now completely 'hands-free', with no need to attach or detach the hood from the windscreen header rail. The complete opening or closing process takes place in a very speedy 12 seconds, and can be carried out at whilst moving at up to 19mph.
The soft top also stows even more neatly and space efficiently than before, thanks to a new Z-fold system which stacks the rigid front section of the roof on top of the cloth to form a cover that sits flush with the body, and in the process doing away with the need for a tonneau cover.
Power for the new generation TT Roadster is, as already mentioned,
by either the 2.0-litre Turbo FSI petrol engine with 197bhp and 206lb ft
of torque or the 3.2-litre V6 petrol unit with 247bhp and 236lb ft. The S-tronic twin-clutch automatic transmission (formerly known as DSG)
is available as a £1,400 option. S-tronic's innovative dual-clutch tech-nology allows it to combine the advantages of an automatic trans-mission with those of a manual gearbox. The six-speed transmission can effect a gear change in a breathtaking 0.2 of a second without interrupting the power flow, thereby enabling the driver to gain maxi-mum benefit from the engine's output at all times.
The latest Roadster has a new suspension configuration incorporating
a multi-link set-up at the rear for optimum composure at speed.
Helped by its wider track, new electro-mechanical speed-sensitive steering and a new high-performance braking system, the advanced chassis delivers dramatic improvements in the TT Roadster's handling and overall agility combined with noticeable gains in ride comfort.
A high-tech magnetic ride system continuously adapts the car's damp-ing characteristics to the profile of the road and the driver's gear-shifting habits within just a few milliseconds. Costing £1,150 it's an optional extra for both the 4-cylinder and V6 TT Roadster models. The system's sophisticated dampers are filled with a magneto-rheological fluid containing minute magnetic particles that can be influenced by an electromagnetic field. By applying a voltage to the system's electro-magnets, the viscosity of the fluid is altered by the affected magnetic particles, increasing resistance to damper movement to iron out pitch and roll when necessary and reducing resistance when ride comfort takes precedence.
Stability at speed is further enhanced by an electrically-powered rear spoiler that helps to increase downforce on the rear of the Roadster and which comes into play at speeds above 75mph. When not in use it retracts to sit flush with the body.
Both models have electronic climate control, a new generation MP3-compatible audio system with single CD player, an RS 4-style flat-bottomed leather-rimmed steering wheel and a Driver's Information System (DIS).
In addition to full leather upholstery, V6 versions add front seat heat-ing, an enhanced braking system, an exterior light styling pack and quattro four-wheel drive. Alloy wheels are 17-inch 'Trapez' design on the 2.0 TFSI or 18-inch 10-spoke design on the V6 variant.
The styling and build quality is impeccable and the TT Roadster's only drawback is that it's a two-seater, unlike the 2+2 TT Coupé. Actually, keen drivers will consider this a blessing in disguise. Although the Roadster has a 'cloth cap' for a roof, it is so well insulated you hardly notice it isn't metal. The benefit, of course, is that being a material roof it needs less boot space when stowed so you can within reason really carry ample luggage for two in the 250-litre boot.
The electrically-operated roof mechanism is quiet and extremely quick and can be operated 'on the run' if necessary. With the top down, windows up and the electrically-operated rear wind deflector in place, wind intrusion was very low. Being tall, I needed to sit as low as possible in the seat so as not to get my 'hair-free zone' polished even further!
At last week's UK media press launch, only the 3.2-litre quattro model was available. That was a shame because, as with the new TT Coupé, I firmly believe the lighter front-wheel drive model will be better.
That isn't to say that the 3.2-litre model isn't good it is excellent. Just that with the extra weight of the four-wheel drive system and
not appreciably more power or torque, the front-wheel drive version
is lighter, more nimble and costs less to buy and run.
With a hefty 236lb ft of torque at 2,500-3,000rpm, the 3.2-litre V6 engine feels strong and pulls easily from very low engine revs. The quattro AWD system gives excellent grip in wet or dry fast cornering conditions but it does, relatively speaking, 'dull' the performance if 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds (5.9 with S-tronic) can ever be called dull! Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph. Officially, the average fuel economy is 27.2mpg with CO2 emissions of 250g/km. During my test drive I did better recording a commendable 28.5mpg.
For the record, the 2.0-litre turbocharged FSI engine has a top speed of 147mph and 0-62mph is covered in a quick 6.7 seconds (6.5 with
S-tronic). And with 186g/km of CO2 and a 36.2mpg combined cycle thirst for petrol, it is more fuel efficient as well. Two more very good reasons, along with my earlier comments, in support of my view that the four-cylinder turbocharged model is the best overall.
So far as handling goes, the V6 test car was fitted with Audi's magnetic ride which I would definitely recommend because it sharpens up the handling no matter how many changes in road surfaces you come across and not at the expense of ride comfort. The bodyshell is immensely stiff and rigid with hood-up or hood-down not the slightest hint of shake.
It's difficult to criticise this second-generation TT Roadster. Okay, the rear quarter visibility is a tad limited with the hood up. And, of course, it's a strict two-seater. However, you may find this a very big plus point in the Roadster's favour! More major pros include style, iconic design, build quality, strength and bodyshell integrity, first rate hood operation, a sporty but comfortable drive and class-leading residual values. On that basis I can't see Audi having any problems whatsoever selling more than the predicted 2,500 Roadsters. David Miles
Audi TT Roadster 3.2 quattro | £31,535
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Overall test MPG: 28.5mpg | Power: 247bhp | Torque: 236lb ft
Visit Audi's website