What the hell is it?"
"It's gorgeous. Where can I get one?"
"It looks like a spaceship. Who designed it, George Lucas?"
Those are just a few samples of the wide-ranging comments received when- and wherever I pull up in our long-term Audi TT. Its futuristic design brooks many an argument regarding form and function. Me? I like the TT's abrupt roundness and sweeping curves, although when I approach it from directly head on all that roundness is nearly overwhelming. Fortunately, I am rarely in that position as I spend most of my time encapsulated within the TT, and I like the view from the driver's seat.
Encapsulated is exactly what one feels when in the TT. At 5 ft 7 in., I fit perfectly; the driver's seat is snug and there is ample leg room for pedal play. The gauges are easily read (and visually appealing), and the center console's radio and climate control dials are close at hand.
Visibility, however, is one drawback. The rounded hood makes determining where the car ends difficult; the low roofline creates a cave-like effect; and the exceedingly fat C-pillar blocks a good portion of side lane traffic. It is a wise driver who double (and triple) checks before executing a lane change in the coupe.
Once you're sure it's clear, lateral movement is a snap with our quattro-enhanced TT. Even though "it never rains" in California, having the all-wheel-drive option makes driving the 3,100-lb coupe on our sun-drenched roads akin to running the bases in cleats: traction is remarkable and you stick at every turn, no matter what your speed.
Speaking of speed, the Audi's K03 turbocharger enables the four-banger to reach peak velocity with respectable ease--our TT has the 180-bhp 1.8t engine. The powerband is a bit peaky; it doesn't do much until around 2000 rpm, flattens suddenly around 4200 rpm, then takes off again until it maxes out at 5500. You can also feel the torque crest at 1950 rpm (especially in first gear), but it holds steady until 4700 rpm, allowing you to outgrunt most other rides. (And for those you can't outgrunt, you can at least make them think twice with the coupe's deep exhaust note.)
It will truly be a miracle if I don't end up with a speeding ticket before the long-termer's year is out. The TT seems most comfortable cruising well above the posted limits. It's a bit of a shock to glance at the speedometer and realize you're travelling at a license-revoking rate. The ride is that effortless.
Slowing down, therefore, is of vital importance, and the Audi's big brakes (12.3 fr, 9.4 r) do the job admirably--almost too admirably, as it takes some getting used to the immediacy of the brake pedal's effect. However, once you adapt to the feel, late braking becomes de rigueur, making cornering that much more fun.
So far, we've only had two signicant problems surface with our TT in 7,700 miles. A few weeks after we got the car the instrument panel went insane: Digital readouts came and went and came back again without any reason. A quick visit to Audi's engineers, however, set things back to normal.
The second problem, which occurred after the instrument panel was fixed, was an intermittent but very loud rattle in the quarter panel surrounding the rear hatch lid--one of the "one-use" fasteners had mysteriously disappeared. The mildest of rough roads or the slightest bump set the rattle off, forcing the driver to turn the stereo (a well-balanced sound system from Bose with a six CD changer placed inside the cabin, no less!) up very loudly in an attempt to drown it out. After a trip to Commonwealth Audi, the fastener was replaced and the annoyance silenced.
Even though all of our long-term cars are fantastic to drive, the TT has become one of my favorites. Its comfortable interior, superb handling and decent powerplant add up to an enjoyable driving experience. Throw in the fact that it looks totally cool whether at a standstill or moving in a blur and you've got yourself one hell of a ride.