Sunday, March 13, 2011
And TT Roadster
And the new TT Roadster is a fine example. As with the coupé version, its famous shape has been carefully evolved for the second-generation model, with edgier lines giving it a more up-to-date look.
But if you're in the market for one, which engine should you go for? In the coupé, it's the entry-level 2.0T FSI, not the range-topping 3.2-litre V6, that's your best bet. So is the same true of the Roadster?
Pumping out 197bhp and 280Nm of torque, the four-cylinder turbocharged motor is the same unit as used by Volkswagen's Golf GTI and SEAT's hot Leon FR. And it's a cracking powerplant. Propelling the Roadster from 0-62mph in only 6.7 seconds and on to 147mph, it's hardly any slower than the 3.2-litre V6.
The positive shift of the six-speed manual transmission enhances in-gear throttle response, and overtaking ability is strong. What's more, the addition of twin balancer shafts means the engine is smooth right up to its 7,000rpm red line. It's economical as well, posting a combined fuel consumption figure of 36.2mpg - which compares well with the V6's 27.2mpg.
There are further benefits when it comes to handling. All TT Roadsters use lightweight Audi Space Frame technology, which means that 58 per cent of the body is made from aluminium and 42 per cent is steel. But by doing without the V6's quattro drivetrain, the front-wheel-drive 2.0T FSI is even lighter, tipping the scales at 1,295kg - that's 175kg less than its more powerful brother.
Factor in a chassis which is much stiffer than its predecessor's - with no scuttle shake or vibration through the interior mirror - and the result is a machine that is extremely agile and great fun to drive. Unlike the old TT Roadster, which could feel rather numb, the new model is much more involving, with direct steering, excellent body control and lots of grip.
There is even a fair degree of throttle adjustability, with a mid-corner lift of the accelerator tucking the nose in neatly. Compared to the quattro model, traction suffers a little in the wet, particularly when accelerating out of junctions, but that's the only real negative.
If you can afford it, the £1,150 Magnetic Ride option is worth specifying. This set-up features dampers filled with a magnetic fluid which reacts to an electrical charge, and their stiffness can be changed in milliseconds to adapt to different road surfaces and driving styles. In Normal mode, the model has an amazingly smooth ride, but select Sport from a button by the gearlever, and the car becomes instantly stiffer, with less body roll through corners.
While the clever dampers aren't standard, a whole host of equipment is, including the brilliant electrically-operated, fully automatic fabric roof, which folds away in only 12 seconds at speeds of up to 19mph.
Once in place, the hood offers excellent refinement when it's raised. However, it has to be said that the thick fabric does compromise visibility, especially at the rear.
The TT Roadster also comes with a pop-up wind deflector, which reduces buffeting when on the move, a sophisticated climate control system and a high-quality stereo.
Combined with a classy - if rather cramped - cabin that offers a sporty, low-slung driving position and first-class materials, and the TT is a great place in which to spend time. The 250-litre boot is also pretty handy for a two-seater drop-top.
There's no doubt that this 2.0T FSI model is the best of the bunch. Provided you don't start to tick too many options boxes - the model we tried came with satellite navigation, xenon headlights and 20-spoke alloy wheels, which bumped the price up to well over £30,000 - it represents excellent value for money. And the good news is that it promises to be a strong residual performer, too. Factor in the driving experience, and you've got a car that goes as well as it looks.