I drove the Audi TT 2.0T Convertible prepared to hate it. Its wrong-wheel-drive, mandatory two-pedal transmission, extra-chunky-style curb weight and econobox-based platform violates all that I hold sacred in a two-seat drop top. Similar formulas have belched forth such embarrassments as Mercury’s legendary (for all the wrong reasons) Capri. But the topless TT is no Capri. And thank Gott for that.
T’is true though. The TT’s no sports car. The German two-door is very much in the mold of its predecessor. In other words, it’s a VW GTI that’s done South Beach, donned a slinky black dress, and become a rather more expensive date.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Looking back on my negative predisposition, the fact that the TT is now in its second generation accounted for much of my recalcitrance. It’s a tough gig being a second-gen model of an iconic nameplate. Change too little, and enthusiasts accuse you of resting on crumbling laurels. Change too much, and you’re shunned for losing the plot.
Audi’s stylists walked the tightrope well. While the new TT retains the original’s inverted-bathtub shape, but its fascias are squintier, angrier. Its body sides wear angular slashes that eliminate the old push-me pull-you symmetry, and advertise the model’s liposuction.
That’s an illusion, of course. The TT has actually packed on a few pounds, for a total of 2,965. It’s more than enough to make a Miata driver’s head hurt, but Audi is well-versed in masking fat with chic. To wit: the chromed roll hoops behind the TT occupants’ heads, which transform milk runs into Mille Miglia. Still, the new TT won’t sweep Pebble Beach in 2050, as its forebear may well do. But you’ll still crane your neck to spot yourself reflected in shop windows.
Swing open the TT’s long, heavy driver’s door, and the aesthetic seduction begins anew. Typical of Audis, the TT’s cabin reeks of expensive-looking design details, with dimpled aluminum jewelry adorning the squishy, creased instrument panel. Feel the Wilson 2000 baseball glove-soft leather of the fat steering wheel rim. Click the slick, curvilinear switches. Smile, and repeat as desired.
There’s also been some ergonomic progress. VAG neophytes may need a day or three to adjust to the sternly-padded, square-cornered seats, but the chairs offer firm road-trip support. The high, enveloping cowl and low roof lend a whiff of artillery emplacement to the view out, but that’s easy enough to fix: thumb a rocker switch on the console, and the cave-like gloom gives way to open sky in twelve seconds.
That covers looks. So… is that it, then? Do the TT’s Golf-sourced underpinnings deny the two-seater the driving pleasure of its lighter, tighter rear-drive rivals? In a word, yes. But it really depends on the kind of driving from which your pleasure derives. There’s a lot to be said for a car that delivers a cohesive driving experience, regardless of its flavor. And while the TT’s flavor sways more towards heavy, Grenadine syrup, it’s undeniably a tasty little four-wheeled libation.
Make no mistake: if you demand Xtreme adrenal thrills and freakin’-sideways compatibility from your roadsters, the TT is so not for you. It’s a car to be poured down a winding highway, driven from the fingertips with calm, measured inputs. The TT’s smooth, well-oiled steering offers just enough weight to inspire confidence, while its front-drive chassis tracks like a slot car. Response to turn-in is a linear function of speed: below 7/10ths, it’s all class; rush it, and it scrubs. Big time, if you insist.
The powertrain that hurries things along is lifted intact from the GTI: a 2.0-liter direct-injection turbo four mated to VAG’s vaunted S tronic, nee DSG. The 2.0T’s midrange fizz and punch more than make up for its hollow low-rpm drone and slightly dilatory throttle response. Want a fully manual transmission and/or all-wheel-drive? Tough schnitzel. They’re only offered on the step-up TT 3.2, priced some $7,700 north of my $36,800 2.0T tester.
I know, I know, the DSG is a manual, and it shifts in so-and-so many milliseconds, which allows you to do… what, exactly? Unless you’re on a racetrack, this is like boasting about reducing the elapsed time of sex. I’ll take the traditional lever and three-pedal layout and add a little toe-tapping, rev-matching pleasure to my daily commute, thanks.
Interesting car, the TT Convertible, and one that’s without truly direct competition. Its drive doesn’t compare with the engaging, physical Z4, S2000, or Boxster. But then, it doesn’t require nearly as much concentration when your other half craves a balmy evening’s cruise. At the same time, the TT avoids the “Florida Rental Special” stigma of four-seat ragtops like Volvo’s C70.