Giving cars back is never easy, but this one was particularly hard to let go. Over the past year we've grown pretty fond of our TT, possibly because it was the sportiest car in the current fleet, but also because it was just... so... damn fun to drive. As the top-level model in Audi's TT range, the 3.2 DSG unquestionably pushes the curvy coupe into true sports-car territory.
Although you won't necessarily confuse it with a Carrera, this coupe was built to perform. Its peak 236 lb-ft of torque (available as low in the range as 2800 rpm) and 250 peak ponies allow it to accelerate with impressive urgency, pushing from zero to 60 mph in under six seconds and up to a governed top speed of 130 mph. If you're careful, it allows you to maintain decent fuel economy, between 21 and 29 mpg with easy driving, though our lead-footed staff consistently uncovered economy figures between 15 and 20 mpg (we all deal with a lot of subconscious angst which tends to surface on the drives to and from work, apparently).
Its best feature is undoubtedly the DSG transmission, a half-automatic, half-manual piece of machinery that represents the most ingeniously crafted gearbox available today. Everything good you've read is true, and its adaptability is truly remarkable. Depending on the level of aggression instigated by your right foot, it will allow you wind the engine out to redline before each upshift, even in full automatic mode. The DSG's electronics will also anticipate rapid deceleration based on braking and other parameters and adjust accordingly, deftly blipping the throttle to match revs before each downshift. If you decide to keep throttle use judicious, the transmission remains as smooth and docile as that in any touring car.
In sport (manual) mode, DSG's proprietary twin-clutch configuration offers seamless gear changes and completely linear power delivery. It's at the same time far more responsive than, say, Porsche's Tiptronic and much smoother and more user-friendly than, say, BMW's SMG. In a manner of speaking, DSG lets you have your cake and eat it too. It is so good other manufacturers have reportedly expressed interest in licensing the technology, and there are those who have speculated that one day all transmissions, to a greater or lesser degree, will be engineered similarly.
Of course, the 3.2 DSG iteration of the Audi TT also comes loaded with top-tier equipment: standard quattro all-wheel drive, a stiffer suspension, augmented brake assemblies and an uprated steering rack. Ours was also equipped with massive optional 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 225/40-series performance rubber. With its abbreviated front and rear overhangs and rather short 95.5-inch wheelbase it looks almost comical sitting atop such large running gear, but few cars I've driven feel so balanced and inspire such confidence. With its disproportionately large footprint and the assurance afforded by all-wheel drive, the TT feels connected to the road in a way few other vehicles do.
After driving the TT for a few weeks and being thoroughly impressed with it, a twisted sort of paranoia descended on the office regarding the cutting-edge DSG technology. Considering how complex the system and related electronics must be, we began to wonder how it would hold up in the ensuing months. While a year or so isn't a particularly suitable amount of time to judge long-term reliability, I'm happy to report we had absolutely no problems with this car, not even so much as a hiccup. The only parts that required replacing were the tires, and considering the mileage the car accrued during its stay with us, doing so was simply par for the course.
I often tell people that if I were in the market for a new car, I'd most likely buy an Audi. It's not because I don't enjoy driving cars from other manufacturers or that I've got any particular personal investment in the company. It's just I feel there isn't a better product for your money available on the market today. Comparable, perhaps, but not better. Everything about Audi cars says "quality" to me, from the incredibly rich exterior paint to the extensively honed performance to the top-notch materials employed within. I still believe, and always have, that Audi interiors are the best on the market (all makes inclusive). And Audi styling has always appealed to me: conservative and sedate, yet balanced and attractive. The TT is by far the edgiest and most avant-garde vehicle in the lineup and as such a bit of a departure, but even so everything about its appearance seems right, from the swooping curves of the fenders and roof to the circular, brushed aluminum air vents set in the dash. All the controls, inputs and moving parts boast considerable heft and manipulating even the most basic functions gives a strong sense of satisfaction. One concern I suppose I might have is with the doors; they are so long and so heavy it seems inevitable that one day you'll put a great big ding in a neighboring lot-parked car's side panel. But that's someone else's problem, right?
Considering our experience with this car, we all look forward to the day when we get a chance to jump in another TT. But what this car has really prepped us for is testing DSG in another platform, hopefully another example from Audi's S Line. Driving a DSG-equipped S4 or RS4 would no doubt be a heady experience to be savored. Until then, we've got our memories to keep us warm.
Here's what a handful of actual TT owners have to say about their experiences. Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to our query in the August 2005 issue.
My story starts with the morning commute. The 45-minute drive to cover the 16 miles to work in my base model 350Z was a grueling dance on three pedals and every once in a while actually shifting into second gear, only to grind to a halt and be forced back into first. I was searching for a car with an (dare I say it) automatic. I had remembered that Audi had some new type of transmission so I searched the Internet and found DSG. Sport mode is everything you've read. It is said that sport mode is only for track day. I beg to differ, sport mode is for roads where the proper position for your hands is on the steering wheel, not trying to shift to keep it in the powerband. My 350Z rode rough, needed different tires and setup to handle properly, plus had a rear tie bar even though it had a double-A-arm rear suspension. I guess they didn't want you to pick up anyone at the airport with more than carry-on luggage. The TT by contrast can fit a suitcase in the trunk, apexes corners at the same speed I was able to achieve in the 350Z after modifications, and rides smooth without being mushy like a luxury car. My girlfriend, who is an exotic dancer, fits comfortably in the back seat, however no one else ever has. The downside has been the loss of 37 bhp compared with the 350Z, a 130-mph speed limiter, and at my 5,000 mile service, having the head gasket replaced due to an oil leak. But the commute seems shorter even though it takes me the same amount of time, the TT's looks have grown on me, and every once in a while I go to a road with a cool name and drop it into sport mode.
via the Internet
I wasn't a big fan of the TT when it first came out. It took a while for me to grow to like it. We ended up buying a 2001 S4 instead, a couple of years ago. I've since owned a Jaguar S-Type, W8 Passat, and Mercedes C320 Sport. We were just going to look at the Audi dealership to see what the new A6 looked like in person. On the way there a TT passed us and I said to my wife, jokingly, what about getting one of just those? She said we could look at one but she wasn't sure about putting our daughter in the back. Well, we were in luck-they had four different TTs in stock. What we really liked about the 3.2 DSG was the bodywork. The body kit and and spoilers made it look really mean. I like that they put the V6 in for more power, but the DSG transmission is what sold me. We live in the northwest where it does rain and having all-wheel drive makes it an even better buy. My wife can't drive a manual and this is the closest thing to a stick I've driven. It's better than the SMG transmission. We get compliments on the car all the time from all ages. It's even got "coolest car at work" accolades out of about 200 employees. I play golf and can easily put two sets of clubs in the car and haul quite a bit stuff with the back seats down. My daughter is five and she's able to sit in back, but it is pretty tight. Still, you can't do that in a Corvette, 350Z or any other hardcore sports car. This is my fifth Audi and I've tried other brands, but always come back to Audi. The Audi TT is a great car and I can see getting an RS4 to go with it in the garage someday.
via the Internet
Maybe I'm a bit bipolar-both with regard to my TT and the rest of my life-but mostly with the TT. I love it. And I hate it, often at the same time. I bought my TT slightly used in 2002. It was top-of-the-line at the time, a 2001 225 roadster. It had pretty much everything: six forward gears, a perky powerplant, quattro, xenon headlamps, beautiful lines, heated seats, a gorgeous interior, and it was-perhaps one of my favorite adjectives-topless. I swore I would keep the thing stock, that I would leave everything as what the factory deemed appropriate. But that didn't last long. Before, during and after my upgrades, the service department at the local Audi store became so familiar with my car that most of the techs there knew me on a first-name basis. MAF failures, cracking rear rotors, more instrument clusters than I'd care to think about, and a myriad other demons haunted my TT. Many of them still do. I don't see them being exorcised anytime soon, but I'm getting sort of used to them.
As a weekend driver, I love it. I feel like a proud parent when it's clean and shiny, and it's rewarding on the track and on the road. The few errands that it is enlisted to drive on consistently have me smiling when I'm walking back to the car. It gets positive feedback from kids who won't be able to drive for at least a decade and from people who are the grandparents or the great-grandparents of those kids. Years after the car hit the market, people still ask me what kind of car it is, and it still turns heads wherever it goes.
As a daily driver, I hate it. Every rattle, every squeak or squeal, every little annoying crotchet conspire to drive me mad. If it were still under warranty, you can bet that I'd be reunited with my buddies in the service department. As it is now, I don't have much spare time to work on it. And besides, it's still a new car-new-ish anyway. I shouldn't have to do so much work. So there it is. I love it. I hate it. But I wouldn't trade it in or sell it. I might be bipolar, but I'm not fickle.
via the Internet