By on January 13, 2016

2016 Audi TT Roadster Exterior-002

2016 Audi TT

2.0-liter turbocharged, DOHC I-4, direct injection, CVVT, (220 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm; 258 lbs-ft @ 1,600 rpm)

Six-speed dual-clutch automated manual

23 city/30 highway/26 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

27.1 (Observed, MPG)

Base Price: $47,325*

As Tested: $55,350*

* Prices include $925 destination charge.

Most luxury roadsters are related to a practical, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan, but Audi prefers to march to a different drummer.

Since its inception in 1998, the Audi TT has been based not on the A4, but on the Volkswagen Golf. The original TT was the product of Audi’s best and brightest and it not only blew minds at its debut for its design, it was a hoot to drive as well.

The second generation of the TT on the other hand, failed to impress. It’s not that it was a bad car, it just didn’t excite me like the first generation did. The handling was good, but BMW’s Z4 and Mercedes’ SLK were more fun. The exterior was bolder and meaner than the original, but the interior was too “VW Golf” for the price tag. Every time I sat in one I would say to myself, “Something is missing.”

As luck would have it, Audi’s engineers were also searching for that “something.” And they found it.

Exterior
Audi has long preferred design evolution to revolution — for better or worse. Park the three generations of TT next to one another and the design resemblance is so strong that you may think they are related beneath their body work. You’d be half right.

The PQ35 platform used by the second-generation TT was a mild refresh on what underpinned the first. This new model, however, uses the new (and widely touted) MQB platform shared by Volkswagen and Audi. Despite the entirely new mechanicals, the TT is instantly recognizable as Audi’s iconic rag top with many of the same design cues carrying over from the first and second generation designs. Thanks to a new suit of aluminum panels, sharper creases and standard LED lamps, the 2016 TT looks leaner, meaner and more mature than before.

The MQB platform is more of a parts bin than a rigid framework. This allowed the engineers more freedom to tailor the body and wheelbase to the TT’s needs instead of assuming dimensions dictated by the higher volume Golf. The MQB parts bin is already designed with light curb weight in mind, but Audi took things to the next level with an aluminum body that further lowers weight and re-distributes it lower in the vehicle compared to the related Audi A3 and Volkswagen GTI. Despite the additional chassis strengthening to ensure the roadster wouldn’t flex like a wet noodle, our all-wheel-drive tester tipped the scales at a svelte 3,384 pounds, just 77 more than the lightest, two-wheel-drive BMW Z4.

2016 Audi TT Roadster Interior-003

Interior
The previous interior reminded me too much of the Golf. It wasn’t just that a few parts were shared, but the general style and location of controls were similar as well. The 2016 cockpit is a completely new design with an uncompromising focus on the driver. You’ll notice one big change in the photo above: there’s no infotainment screen. The TT doesn’t even sport a pop-up screen that comes out of a well-hidden trap door in the dash. It simply doesn’t have one — at least, not in the way you’d expect. Instead, Audi has merged navigation, entertainment, information services and the gauge cluster into one large LCD disco dash on the driver’s side.

Although more comfortable than the rear seats in last week’s BMW i8, the TT coupe’s rear thrones are best thought of as hand luggage storage. The TT roadster dispenses with the rear buckets entirely to make room to to store of the fabric soft top, which in turn frees up space for cargo in the trunk when the top is down. Cargo space checks in at 9.9 cubic feet whether the top is up or down, just a 2 cubic foot reduction vs the hard top. It also means that the trunk lid doesn’t have to open and close while the top is in motion and that contributes to the TT’s ability to go topless up to 30 mph. For those into winter sports, Audi adds a touch of practicality with a ski pass-through.

Unlike many other new luxury vehicles, Audi starts with real leather instead of imitation varieties in base models. The TT also gets a 12-way power driver’s seat as standard featuring four-way power lumbar support and moderate side bolstering. Our model had the optional “S sport” seats wrapped in nappa leather and equipped with forced-air neck warmers a la the Mercedes Air Scarf.

2016 Audi TT Roadster LCD Instrument Cluster-001

Infotainment
Audi’s Virtual Cockpit combines an LCD disco dash and an Audi MMI infotainment and navigation system into one 12.3-inch display right behind the steering wheel. While this design makes for a driver-focused cabin like no other, it does make it impractical for a passenger to enter destinations or fiddle with the media library.

Other infotainment and navigation systems place the screen farther from the driver and higher on the dashboard resulting in your eyes being a little closer to the road. Aside from the focal length issue, combining so much in one display proved distracting even for a gadget hound like me.

2016 Audi TT Roadster MMI Controlls

Controlling the system is done via a variant of the same MMI controller we see in other Audi products with a finger-writing touch sensitive disc on the top. Since the system is entirely contained on the driver’s side, you will also find a set of controls on the left side of the steering wheel. Via these controls, you can operate every aspect of the Virtual Cockpit, with the obvious exception of finger writing, of course.

Thanks to a new graphics processor, the wide display can almost be completely filled with a moving satellite image provided by Google via an embedded LTE cell modem. All of the usual features lurk within the interface, from USB/iPod integration with full album art to full text searches via Google and all of the car’s settings and preferences. The on-screen animations are snappy and smooth thanks to the new hardware and the interface should be familiar if you have used MMI before.

2016 Audi TT Roadster Engine-001

Drivetrain
While we wait for the five-cylinder TT RS to arrive, there is just one 2.0-liter engine offered available in two different tunes. The four-cylinder turbocharged engine is essentially the same as we find in the A3 and makes 220 horsepower and 258 lbs-ft of torque. Power is routed to all four wheels via a six-speed transversely mounted dual-clutch transaxle and a Haldex-based Quattro all-wheel-drive system.

If you need more shove, you have to give up the convertible top as there is no roadster version of the TTS at this time. The extra letter kicks the boost up, squeezing an additional 72 horsepower and 22 lbs-ft of twist out of the same two liters. The extra shove knocks 7/10ths off the 0-to-60 time, according to Audi.

IMG_8328

Drive
You could think of the TT as a topless Golf R with aluminum skin — a pleasing thought for sure — but the TT manages to be more. You see, the Golf R already handles insanely well for a vehicle based off a mass-market hatchback, but the TT coupe pulls .99 Gs on a skidpad and only a hair less when you cut the top off. That’s a better score than a rear-wheel-drive Z4 or SLK and a shockingly slim hair away from a Porsche Cayman or Corvette Stingray. With handling numbers like that, it shouldn’t surprise you that the same grippy rubber and excellent suspension tune allow the TT to come to a dead stop from 60 mph in just 108 feet, the same distance as the carbon-fiber Alfa Romeo 4C.

How’s that possible you ask? Although the TT’s drivetrain is substantially similar to the GTI and Golf R and the design of the suspension is related, everything gets is refined in the Audi. The aluminum body not only reduces weight, it shifts the center of gravity closer to the ground. The short hood, long rump profile of the TT shifts weight to the rear, allowing an estimated weight distribution of 54/46. That might not be BMW perfect, but the TT proves a 50/50 weight balance isn’t everything. The all-wheel-drive system has been programmed to be considerably more aggressive about sending power to the rear wheels than in the A3 Quattro and Audi jams 245/40R19 summer tires on all four corners. While tail happy, right-foot steering is out of the question, all-wheel-drive power slides are certainly possible.

2016 Audi TT Roadster Exterior-007

The winding mountain roads of coastal California are where the TT belongs. Top down or top up, the lack of chassis flex is impressive, especially considering the weight penalty for the soft top is just a bit over 200 pounds. Whether the pavement was smooth or rough, wet or dry, the TT simply dug into the tarmac, completely free of creaks or groans over uneven pavement. The suspension itself is tuned toward the daily driving side of things, something my back appreciated on my 120 mile round trip commute. I have noticed some reviewers thought it was too soft out on the open road, but I would actually err on the other side and prefer my springs a little softer.

Thanks to a brake-based torque vectoring system that acts on both axles and the aggressive all-wheel-drive system programming, the TT actually feels like a rear-wheel-drive car when exiting a corner with moderate throttle. Slam the go-pedal to the floor, however, and the electronics blend the power more evenly, giving the TT a decidedly traditional Quattro feel.

On the down side, when it comes to acceleration, the TT is only just a hair faster than the A3 cabrio. We clocked back to back 0-60 sprints at 5.4 seconds, just 2/10ths faster than the A3. The delta likely had more to do with temperature variations and transmission programming since the two Audis weigh almost the same and use nearly identical drivetrains. On the flip side, the TT is a hair faster than the Z4 sDrive28i or SLK300, and about the same as the SLK350. With handling this good, I had hoped it would have the shove to match, but the lack of a TTS roadster (and likely a TT RS roadster) means that Audi has nothing to directly compete with the faster Z4 sDrive35is or SLK55 — not to mention high output Boxsters.

While I’m complaining, I should mention the eternal trouble of a car that handles insanely well but isn’t overly fast: you end up leaning on the brakes way more than you should. (At least I seem to.) The TT feels confident and sure-footed on any surface. This isn’t like the Alfa Romeo 4C, where grip is high but feel isn’t overly confidence inspiring. The result is that I tended to keep the power on as long as possible, decelerate aggressively at the last moment, and then enter the turn. This kind of driving on a road of properly spaced corners reveals the chassis and tires write checks the brakes can’t cash. Stopping distances may start at an eye-popping 108 feet, but that distance can stretch to 130 feet and beyond after a few minutes of hard work.

2016 Audi TT Roadster Exterior-004

These are quibbles. A 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds is fun, 108 feet from 60 is nearly the definition of “stopping on a dime” and .99Gs will make you giggle like a tween at his first school dance. More impressive is that the roadster starts at $46,400, which is a steal compared to the $49,700 Z4, $55,300 Porsche Boxster (PDK) or $59,200 SLK530. By the time you add standard equipment you find on the Audi to the competition, the delta grows by $3,500 in favor of the Audi. Load your TT up and the value proposition grows. Because Audi would face a tongue-lashing from the press if they started the American-bound TT lineup in front-wheel-drive form (you can get a front drive TT in some markets), and because the virtual cockpit would look silly if navigation was optional, there aren’t many options to add to the TT. Our essentially full-loaded tester carried a $54,425 sticker, making it $6,000-$15,000 less expensive than the rest of the German competition despite besting most of them in just about every metric.

Then there’s the Nissan 370Z Roadster. No, it’s not a sports car wearing a luxury badge, but at the moment there’s no Infiniti version. Although the TT is well priced, the 370Z undercuts it by starting at $41,370 and topping out just over $50,000. This puts $4,000 to $5,000 between the Audi and Nissan across the line, (although, adjusting for the feature content, you’ll find the Audi drops the delta to $1,500). The Nissan is quite a different animal than the Audi. It handles as well, runs from 0-60 nearly 1/2 a second faster and, by all accounts, the braking is just as impressive. It’s a rear-wheel-drive bruiser with a 3.7-liter V6 that screams like a banshee at its 7,500 rpm redline and can be equipped with a manual transmission. That, of course, means it’s the more raw, more emotional choice while the TT is the calmer, smoother option that does everything just about as well with all-wheel-drive grip and a polished ride. This is prep school vs public high. Although I love me some manuals, I have to admit the all-wheel drive and automatic equipped TT, along with its comfy leather seats and flashy LCD dash, are worth the $1,500 for my daily commute.

If you’re thinking the TT is a top pick, think again. The trouble with the TT is that the very tasty A3 Cabrio exists. It handles almost as well, is just as fast, has two usable back seats and a bigger trunk. Buying the A3 over the TT would keep $4,400 in your pocket that you could then use on performance upgrades, such as wider tires and stickier rubber. The A3 is good value when compared to the 370Z Roadster and it’s easier on your wallet at the gas pump. I suspect Audi’s diabolical plan is to attract folks to the dealer with the TT and sell them an A3 instead. If that’s the case — well played Audi, well played.

Audi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 1.9 Seconds

0-60: 5.4 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.8 Seconds @ 100 MPH

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33 Comments on “2016 Audi TT Roadster Review – Not Just a Pretty Face...”


  • avatar
    Fordson

    Great comparison between the 2016 TT and the 2016 370Z…except the new TT is actually new…

    The 370Z cabrio has the amount of chassis flex that was thought acceptable ten years ago, and that’s just for starters.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The previous generation TT will likely be the wife’s next car. Currently she drives the rare and seriously unrated Volvo C30 which fits her perfectly. She wants nothing to do with my Z, its too loud and the suspension way too stiff, the ride in the Z is jarring to say the least. I should know as I daily drive mine, but I like feeling every pebble pass under the rear tires as they struggle for grip. In addition the Z sits too low and requires too much work to drive with a heavy clutch and steering that makes you work at it. The Z only feels natural when been pushed and the wife doesn’t drive like that.

    With an APR chip I’m sure TT could easily provide some extra punch if anyone finds it lacking, but 0-60 in anything under 6 is fine for a fun daily driver. Taking another 1/2 second off that doesn’t gain much when your stuck in traffic constantly. The wife (thankfully) wants nothing to do with the convertible as the hatch configuration of the standard TT is perfect for groceries and other daily shopping tasks. Since we don’t have kids and also own a truck (V8 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab) we don’t really need the extra room but its nice to have. Amazingly while getting into the rear of C30 is difficult the buckets back there are great (like all Volvo seats), as long as you not tall (and the wife isn’t) there is actually room for normal humans. Not sure about space in the TT but I know the Golf is fine in the back. My brother has owned 2 Golfs, including his current R, which is a beast on the track (puts my older Z to shame). However due to our previous VW Passat experience the wife wants nothing to do with a VeeDub Golf or otherwise. I keep telling her the TT is the same damn thing but the more upscale Audi fits with her style better (remember: current Volvo owner). If Audi offered the A3 in 2 door form that would be a perfect C30 replacement, but since that is not available here in the US the TT is the logical choice.

    A Mini Cooper is another possible option here, but the wife hates the interior (not upscale at all) and Mini’s tend to fail apart faster then VAG products. Replacing the Volvo C30 is not going to be an easy task… its like that particular car was tailor made for my wife, its perfect in almost every way.

    • 0 avatar
      SilverCoupe

      I had a first generation TT, and my only major quibble with it was that it was that it was too slow. 180 HP was a little low for the heavy Quattro coupe, giving a 0-60 time of 7.5 seconds. Other than that, it proved a competent daily driver, and I held on to it for ten years. Eventually, I traded up to an A5 S-line, which in my mind was prettier, and had the extra benefit of usable rear seats, though I only use them once a year or so. I am glad that Audi has the power to weight ratio figured out now.

      The A5 is my first non-hatchback since my first car, a 1964 Riviera, but it’s working out just fine. The new TT sounds like a winner, but it no longer is what I am in the market for. Plus my wife and I have only driven manuals since the ‘70’s, though they are getting harder and harder to find.

      I tried to sell my wife on a Golf GTI, but she did not want a mini-Audi. She went with the Mini Cooper S instead. At least she did not get the Fiat 500 Abarth, which is what she really wanted.

      • 0 avatar
        TTCat

        My first TT was a brand new 180hp Quattro coupe as well, but I went straight from the dealer lot for an ECU update, a cat-back exhaust and new Forge diverter (the exact same upgrades I have on my follow on 2005 CPO 225 QC by the way), and between the two cars they have been fabulous daily drivers for nearly 15 years, with well over 135K miles put on the 180 before I traded it in on the 225, which has 112K flawless miles on it to date…

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Mini is lame-o anyway, and not cool like the C30 or TT.

    • 0 avatar
      never_follow

      You’re bang on about the C30. My inlaws have one, and it’s FUN. It’s also refined, has excellent brakes (if a bit grabby at low speeds), wonderful seats, great visibility, a funky engine note I happen to love…

      My only quibbles are that theirs is an auto, and that it would be an absolute mountain goat if they fit it with AWD. Also, the floor mats always come unclipped.

      Otherwise, it’s a really, really good car that flies under the radar, and that deserves a second gen.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    “Mini’s tend to fail apart faster then VAG products.”

    Are you trying to convince us, yourself, or just stating a fact?. From where I sit it’s like having six in one hand and a half dozen in the other.

    The TT looks kinda good. Not really my thing but I can see why people like it. It’s cheaper than it’s German competition but a MSRP of 55K (and for that reason the base of 47K) is more than I’d be willing to spend on this car.

    • 0 avatar
      smartascii

      If you’re willing to accept JD Power’s 3-year dependability study as fact, MINI rates lower than everyone except Jeep, Land Rover and Fiat. VW rates slightly below average, and Audi rates slightly above average.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    I understand that I’m not a part of a market that’s worth serving, but here’s another car that I might well be out buying right now if it were offered with a manual transmission. As an aside, I am an actual grown-up with the financial wherewithal to purchase a car like this, and not just somebody who buys $5,000 used cars but knows better than everyone else what’s good for them. I’m glad Audi offers five different AWD convertibles, which is probably a small enough market in itself, but the only one with a manual is the R8, and I’m not in the tax bracket for one of those.

  • avatar
    John

    Here’s a tip: as people mature, they become less mean, not meaner. The desire for angry faced cars, skull tattoos, etc., is an example of an adolescent mind-set.

    • 0 avatar
      TTCat

      Well, as a current mk1 TT owner, I find this slightly “meaner” look on the mk3 to be preferable to the mind numbingly bland “A3 coupe” styling of the mk2 generation cars. To each their own of course…

    • 0 avatar
      manny_c44

      I kind of agree with this. The TT never caught my attention until this current robotic style revision, but then seeing the more staid Mk2 at a gas station I was struck by its looks. It is a friendly-looking car but it is still a great-looking car (especially with the European headlights that ditch the orange reflectors). All 3 TT generations are well designed in my opinion, but the Mk2 kind of got under my skin– I’ll be picking up a used one this Saturday.

      Also a quick reflash easily gets you an extra 40 HP & 70 lb/ft an any tfsi/tsi. So if its already off-warranty you can get the extra power for $500.

      Of the new VAG cars I would seriously look at a S3 or Golf R first, but for the older generation the Mk2 TT really appeals to me.

  • avatar
    carguy

    It looks good and delivers as much sports car as most people would want. However, I still find the BMW 2-series a more compelling proposition both in terms of driving dynamics and practicality.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    I would argue that the Golf VII based 8S TT and Golf V based 8J TT are more closely related than the Golf IV based 8N TT. How so? Looking at the materials used in construction there are some clues you might pick up on. Little things like aluminum body work and aluminum suspension components, in particular the entire independent rear suspension is vastly different from the 8N to the 8J but the 8S is an evolution of the 8J. The 5×100 wheel bolt pattern that came in with the Golf III VR6 also went away with the Golf IV based 8N TT. The 8J followed the Golf V and uses the standard Audi 5×112 now used on even the 4M Q7. The 8J also brought in aluminum control arms, knuckles and front subframe. The Golf V and the derived 3C Passat were a huge evolutionary step in A platform development it may be MQB now but it is all based on the quantum leap that was the Golf V in my opinion.

  • avatar
    Czilla9000

    I don’t get it…why buy this over a Miata?

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    The wife leased a first Gen TT w/3.2 V6 – fun car. The dark metallic blue on it was beautiful. The biggest annoyance was that the wheels were always black from brake dust no matter how you drove it. In the end I enjoyed it more than she did. The interior in that TT flat out smoked what’s in her 2014 A4.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “SLK530”

    I think that’s a typo! Also, the SLK is too expensive by a large margin.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I think the 370Z is too old and outclassed by the TT at this point. It’s pretty much at the end of its life, and lacks true refinement in many ways. The TT also looks -much- better.

    I wouldn’t recommend the A3 because though it has more seats (they’re tiny) and is thus more practical, it has a cheap and tiny look about it. It looks like a joke in traffic, whereas this TT looks quite good and slick. In white, the big grille almost works! The TT interior is considerably nicer than the A3 as well. I liked the gen 1 TT back in the day, and haven’t liked any TT since, until now.

    Besides, you’re buying this car for sports open top driving, not to be practical.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    $55k for a pretty Beetle.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Using that logic, if you want an even prettier Beetle you can stop by the Porsche store and pay $200k for it.

      • 0 avatar
        TTCat

        Beat me to it – though I will be the first to admit that the price point on TTs was pushing it even back in the mk1 days, now, they (TTs), have lots of interesting company to contend with…

        • 0 avatar
          seanx37

          A TT like this costs $55k. The same as a Corvette. Or a loaded V8 Mustang or Camaro convertible and a nice vacation.

          • 0 avatar
            TTCat

            However, none of those cars are a viable alternative depending on your needs – for instance, I live at nearly 8000′ West of Denver, and TTs have been my year round daily drivers for nearly 15 years, because with Dunlop Winter radials thrown on and AWD, TTs are basically unstoppable – and yes, while there are other cars/trucks that could provide this “year-round-ability”, they are lacking in other areas for me…

      • 0 avatar
        seanx37

        But the TT IS a Beetle. Same platform. Same engine and transmission. Probably most of the same parts.

  • avatar
    manu06

    Unless you need room for more than two, I have to agree Miata is the answer.
    For reliability, cost, and fun it’s really no contest unless you have money to burn.

  • avatar
    crocket

    The MK2 interior is awesome and partly what makes a TT a TT. The interiors are amazing, simple and high end. The MK2 interior didn’t look anything like a Golf interior, like the author claims, and it doesn’t share any interior parts. In fact, the Mk3 has an impressive interior but the analogue and simple interior of the MK2 is up there with 993 and 964 Porsches. Poorly written article. TT’s should be coupe’s anyway, they don’t suit convertibles.


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