Cars separate drivers from the road. Its a fact. Suspension is getting softer while exhausts are getting quieter, and the result is something Im not too happy about: people are using cars purely for transportation. The raw sensation of the untamed sports car is nearly dead, and in its place are flocks of vehicles offering little to no driving exhilaration.
Fortunately, however, there is the aftermarket tuning industry to right this horrid wrong. Used correctly, the right combination of parts can bring back the sense of wonder that accompanied each turn of the keyand with a little luck, the level of comfort weve grown to love will remain just about the same.
Stepping into a front-wheel-drive, 180hp Audi TT, you may think the car is far from its sports-car rootsas I did. Weighing in at a hefty 2,910 pounds, with only 38 percent of that weight residing at the cars stern, the TT shouldnt be able to wow its driver. So, knowing all that, why did Stan Chen of DTM Autohaus purchase one? Simple. The TT is one of the most exotic German cars on the road today that nearly anyone can purchase. The TTs price tag isnt exorbitant, and for the pittance paid, the car is amazing. The stock 1.8T powerplant that produces a measly 180 horses is only waiting for someone to uncork the ECU for immense power gains, while the relatively soft suspension woes can be solved in the blink of an eye thanks to the aftermarket.
And thats exactly what Stan and DTM Autohaus did. With the aid of an SGI Stage 3 ECU, an APEXi Super AVC Type-R digital boost controller, an APEXi turbo timer and air/fuel meter, and a handful of APEXi gauges, Stan was able to unleash the performance of the 1.8T by pumping over 20 psi into the cylinders for a total of 250 hp and 275 lb-ft. of torque.
Putting a firm control on the newfound power, race-derived Bilstein PSS9 coilovers were used to drop the TTs center of gravity, while Brembo cross-drilled rotors and Pagid brake pads were used to firm up the brake pedal.
However, none of that impressed me as much as the SGI exhaust system. The exhaust gives the car personality, making the TT fun to drive. The SGI exhaust creates a mild growl beneath the driver and passenger at low rpms. This rumble almost seems like it belongs to a Porsche Speedster from 40 years ago. The exhaust brings that extra bit of excitement back into sports cars that hasnt been seen, or felt, for years. The exhaust system allows the car to be driven off of feeling, rather than continuously watching the tach. Quite possibly the most welcome sounds the exhaust created, however, came at highway speeds where the system was nearly undetectable.
But, as much as I love getting back to basics with the raw feel of past sports cars, I equally enjoy comfort and attention, both areas where this TT excels. Affixed to the already eye-catching silhouette, the TT wears a complete SGI body kit. I dont know if it was the swooping side fins, the hawk-like eyebrows, or the gigantic Porsche-style rear spoiler, but everyone stared at the car. With the Clarion sound system thumping, it was hard not to be noticed. Once the car was stopped, most passers-by seemed dazzled by the custom Alcantara red stitching on the doors and the fully adjustable Sparco Milano seats on both the drivers and passengers sides.
Parking, however, is not what this TT was designed to dothis TT was designed to eat up its Toyos as quickly as possible. The Audi takes turns like a champ. The chassis, with its stiffer setup, speaks directly to the driver, and the B&M shifter never misses a gear. Although I didnt have the opportunity to flog this TT on the tracksomething I sorely regretI quickly came to the realization that this car is tuned for the track. The stereo, although adding to the cars already chunky curb weight, isnt excessive, and, if anything, does a good job balancing out the front weight bias that usually leaves the TTs nose hopping through high-speed sweepers. The exhaust not only allows the driver to hear the subdued engine but also to feel the power, while the suspension takes all the power and manages to keep the bulky car in line. So its not quite a 1,600-pound Porsche from the 1960s vibrating its way to its top speedit is a modern version of that, with air-conditioning, cruise control, and an interior nice enough to enjoy the drive.