I am not a betting man, no Jimmy the Greek. Ask my friends. I am not a gambler; I participate in office pools only to avoid the peer pressure from fellow cubemates. But, I am going to swerve from my usual cash-conservative ways and bet major dollars that, in my lifetime, some high-powered museum is going to do a retrospective on the 2000 Audi TT.
Why the sudden change in character? Well, Doctor, it started about 500 miles ago when I hijacked our long-term 2000 TT from my boss. I haven't spent much time in an Audi since driving a well-worn '87 4000S that had been in the family since new and wanted to find out if the "New Audi" hype is justified. People are transforming New Beetles into TTs, for heaven's sake.
Like a fine sculpture or painting, the exterior of the TT is alluring, a celebration of automotive styling neatly wrapped in a cool metal package. Most of the people I saw at the gas station were concerned about how I would fit into it since I'm over 6 ft tall and more than 225 lb. This is where the TT's compound curves, arching roofline and high-cut doors conspire to conceal an automotive House of Mirrors. Contrary to its smallish exterior, the TT is really a grand tourer with room for two full-sized people.
Inside the cabin and behind the thick, leather-wrapped wheel is where all that style meets driving substance. The interior is simultaneously luxurious and businesslike, permeated with the aroma of rich leather and gleam of brilliant aluminum trim.
The seating is just about perfect, and the tilt/telescope wheel allows for an excellent driving position for every shape driver. Primary controls are well placed and intuitively operated. In the creature comfort department, the stock Bose stereo rocks hard, and your Jiffy Pop(TM) popcorn will be bustin' out of the foil in a few miles if you crank the cold-fusion-powered seat heaters to their max setting.
I'm not sure of the significance, but I noticed that every aluminum binnacle has eight divots equally spaced around its shiny radius. Small details like this abound in the TT and add to the total experience. My only diss is for the poorly placed cupholders, positioned to be constantly bumped by the right elbow. Bottom line, if more cup holders were strategically placed like these, there would be a lot less drinking and a lot more driving going on.
The real payoff comes with a twist of the key as the little 1.8t motor springs to life. The starter, flywheel, fuel and spark come together in a wonderful, growling symphony of sound. Blip the throttle, and the music changes from playful to something more serious. Snick the stubby shifter into first, and let it ride. You want four-wheel chirp? Wind it up to 4000 rpm, dump the clutch, and the turbo will hiss and whistle and the big Pirelli PZero Rossos pull in whatever direction you point them.
I particularly enjoy the weighting of the clutch relative to the gearshift. The effort level is rewarding running the canyon twisties yet light enough around town for stoplight fun without operator fatigue. Mastering the two just adds to the sense of precision built into the TT. Knowing that the quattro system is seamlessly splitting 180 bhp to all four wheels just reinforces my positive impression of this car. It's easy to understand why 90 percent of Audis sold in America are quattro equipped. The car handles great, and turn-in is crisp and predictable. Sure, it gets buzzy near the limit, but it's a small price to pay for a car that is so rewarding most of the time.
As I said earlier, I will stake my hard-earned cash on the Audi TT ending up in some museum for this simple reason: It looks great standing still or doing 100 mph. It's beautifully constructed of fine materials, and, like a great work of art, its appeal grows with time spent in admiration.
It's always interesting to put a newcomer to a particular car in one of our long-termers. The immediate response is usually strongly positive or negative: "Wow, this thing costs that much!" or "Wow, what a great car!" are two of the most commonly heard comments.
The many shades of color which make up a car's overall character are often lost in the neophyte's attempt to sum up quality and appeal, aspects which an experienced test driver can more quickly discern. Does Rob Mullner belong in that newcomer category? Not exactly. A longtime driver of various sports cars, Rob would not have warmed to the TT if the car didn't continue to impress him over the entire 10 days he drove it. He would not have succumb to the TT's seductive lines without there being a good deal of substance to back up the beauty. He also would not have wept so piteously when he gave back the keys. --Greg N. Brown