Audi TT Roadster 3.2 DSG Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
audi tt roadster 3 2 dsg review

The Audi TT isn't so much a sports car as a handbag on wheels. I'm not saying TT drivers are girly men. The difference between a dignified brief case and an adorable handbag is style, not utility. But let's face it: the TT is a fashion statement first, a car second. Admirers are less likely to ask "What'll she do?" than "Do I detect a hint of Bauhaus in the design?"

You do. Eighty five years ago, artists trained at The Bauhaus School created some of the world's first "modern" art. Their work still looks avant-garde– which is a fancy way of saying it's cold, stark and a bit spooky. Audi's bulbous sports car fits this description to a TT. Its push-me, pull-you symmetry and lack of ornamentation are about as emotionally engaging as a leather and chrome church pew.

The fact that the test car was a roadster in retina-searing yellow didn't ease my back-to-the-future shock. Luckily, the TT's all-black interior provided the usual Audi Zen, upholding the company's reputation for ergonomic excellence, quality materials and faultless build. Grabbing the perfectly formed steering wheel, nestling into the sports seat (complete with baseball glove-style stitching), I could just about forget that I had "style victim" tattooed on my forehead.

The demo TT came equipped with four-wheel-drive and the manufacturer's latest engine and drivetrain combo: a 3.2-liter six-cylinder powerplant married to a hi-tech DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox). Until the heavily revamped, all-aluminum TT arrives in '06, this iteration is as good, well, as fast, as it gets. When taking the 3.2 DSG TT out for a romp, there are three ways to engage the engine. Stick the autobox in Drive, pull the lever down a notch for Sport, or shove it sideways and play with the wheel-mounted paddles. It's a mission critical decision.

'D' is the least satisfying option. Whether you're asserting your masculinity at a traffic light or establishing your accelerative dominance with a little in-gear passing action, the TT in "Drive" is not exactly what I'd call responsive. Give the go-pedal a proper pasting and you're confronted by what the Germans describe as a gedenkminute ("thinking pause"). The engine hunts for horses and the front tires scrabble for purchase. Once the four-wheel-drive system kicks in and the revs ascend, you're off and away. Thank God.

"S" cures the problem– and how. In Sport mode, the autobox held my gear so long I begin to wonder about the TT's mechanical warranty. It's Audi's way to get enthusiastic drivers to max power (250hp arrives just a toe flex away from redline, at 6300rpms). You pay for your on-demand thrust with constant engine scream and head-snapping throttle response. Only the most committed speed merchant would use the Sport setting on anything other than a wide-open country road.

Last, but by no means least, you can swap cogs by employing the mechanical meisterwerk that is Audi's DSG. Here, finally, is a paddle shift system you can use without the slightest regard to speed, rpms or common sense. To change up a gear, pull the right flipper. To change down a cog, pull the left. No matter when you do the deed, no matter how many times you tap the downshift paddle, the gearbox sorts it all out for you. There's no possibility of over-revving the engine or getting bogged down as the electronics try to execute your commands. No other sports car offers such a fast and effective paddle shift system. If the TT's V6 had more bottom end torque, if the engine could pick-up speed from lower revs, the DSG system would be nothing short of a revelation. But it doesn't, so we're talking about a car that drives like a motorcycle with a button shifter.

Oh well. Never mind. The TT's handling just about makes up for it. It's hard to believe the TT was once slated as a death car (which accounts for the late addition of a Bauhaus-perverting, downforce-inducing rear wing). Short of closing your eyes and putting your hands on your head, there's virtually no way to lose control of a four-wheel-drive TT. Go around a bend too fast and the tires squeal, the chassis does a superbly coordinated four-wheel-drift, you lose speed and… that's it.

Audi claims the 3.2 TT sprints to sixty in 5.7 seconds. But it's the TT's ability to carry its speed through the corners that makes it such a nippy little beast. The operative word here being "little"; the 3.2 TT lacks the grown-up, unstressed feel of its natural rival: the Porsche Boxster. Still, if you're an urban aesthete who owns (but never uses) a designer chair, the TT is your perfect set of wheels. Just order it with the 225hp four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual gearbox. Anything more is needless affectation.

Join the conversation
  • Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.
  • Cardave5150 I've had 2 different 300's - an '08 300SRT and an '18 300C. Loved them both a LOT, although, by the time I had the second one, I wasn't altogether thrilled with the image of 300's out on the street, as projected by the 3rd or 4th buyers of the cars.I always thought that the car looked a little stubby behind the rear wheels - something that an extra 3-4" in the trunk area would have greatly helped.When the 300 was first launched, there were invitation-only meet-and-greets at the dealerships, reminding me of the old days when new model-year launches were HUGE. At my local dealer, they were all in formalwear (tuxes and elegant dresses) with a nice spread of food. They gave out crystal medallions of the 300 in a sweet little velvet box (I've got mine around the house somewhere). I talked to a sales guy for about 5 minutes before I asked if we could take one of the cars out (a 300C with the 5.7 Hemi). He acted like he'd been waiting all evening for someone to ask that - we jumped in the car and went out - that thing, for the time, seemed to fly.Corey - when it comes time for it, don't forget to mention the slightly-stretched wheelbase 300 (I think it was the 300L??). I've never found one for sale (not that I've looked THAT hard), as they only built them for a couple of years.
  • Jkross22 "I’m doing more for the planet by continuing to drive my vehicle than buying a new one for strictly frivolous reasons."It's not possible to repeat this too much.
  • Jeff S Got to give credit to Chrysler for putting the 300 as a rear wheel drive back on the market. This will be a future classic.