Roadsters are all about grabbing some attention, and the new Audi TT should draw its fair share of admiring glances, whether the fabric roof is up or down. The design is fairly evolutionary – so there are plenty of nods towards the original TT – but also enough styling gloss to keep things looking fresh. There are two main trim levels: Sport and S line, but both pack a decent visual punch, with 18-inch wheels, Xenon headlights with integrated LEDs, and a retractable spoiler all standard fit. Upgrading to the S line model brings beefier side skirts and bumpers, enlarges the alloys to 19-inches in diameter, and adds a gloss black finish to the grille. Top-of-the-range TTS models are set apart with a unique grille, red brake callipers, quad exhausts and a wider range of exterior colours.
No other roadster at this price offers the same high level of interior finish
The interior is an ergonomic masterclass – spacious, and well thought out, with a clean, modern dash that manages to be both beautiful but also brilliantly functional. The driving position is spot-on, although you sit higher than you would in say, a Porsche 718 Boxster. The TT Roadster has great visibility for a car of this type as a result, though. One thing that sets it apart from other roadsters inside is the ‘Virtual Cockpit’ – all the main menus are displayed in a massive 12.3-inch screen mounted in place of any conventional dials. Cabin quality is peerless, though – no other roadster at this price offers the same high level of finish, with stylish, expensive-looking materials throughout. Standard models come with standard air-conditioning, but if you opt for climate control you also get a set of digital screens inside the air-vents, which not only look cool, but are really intuitive to use.
Audi has chosen to stick with a fabric roof for the TT Roadster – while most of its rivals (like the Mercedes SLK and BMW Z4) still have folding metal roofs. This is good news for practicality, because the entire roof can stow neatly into the narrow space where the rear seats usually sit in the TT Coupe. That means you get a respectable 280 litres of boot space, whether the roof is up or down. That’s enough for a few medium-sized suitcases, but the opening itself is quite small and narrow. Another advantage of the fabric hood is that it can be lowered in just ten seconds, and at speeds of up to 31mph, so you’ll never get caught out in the rain. The cabin has quite a few decent cubbies for storing loose items, too. In other words, you’ll fit more in the TT than you will in most cabriolets – so there’s no need to pack light.
Ride and handling
Audi says the latest TT Roadster is sportier than ever before, and luckily, it has the dynamic ability to back that up. There’s lots of grip, taut body control and fast, predictable reactions from the steering, gearshift and throttle. The car feels excitingly nimble and eager to change direction. On wet roads, the front wheels will start to push straight on if you are over-ambitious with your entry speeds into corners, though. Some versions are available with four-wheel drive (and a twin-clutch gearbox), giving you even more traction out of bends, but to be honest, they’re no more enjoyable to drive. There’s no noticeable loss of body control or stability compared with the TT Coupe, although the body does flex and shimmy over very big bumps, which is only to be expected. Sport-trimmed cars have a standard suspension setup, while S line cars sit on a lowered setup. Both ride impressively comfortably, soaking up bumps and crests without a fuss, but the Sport version is just that little bit more cosseting while losing nothing on the handling front. The adaptive dampers in the TT S (they’re optional on all other TT models) make it even smoother than the standard car. That said, the TTS is neither as fun, nor as comfortable, as a Porsche Boxster.
The entry-level TT Roadster is powered by a sweet-revving 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, and its eager, fizzy nature and fluid performance feels exceptionally well suited to the character of a two-seater soft-top. Generating 178bhp, which helps produce a 0-62mph sprint time of 7.2 seconds, it delivers spirited, real-world performance, so you can enjoy the thrill of driving your TT enthusiastically without constantly checking your rear view mirror for flashing blue lights. Every other Roadster is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, running on either petrol or diesel. The 227bhp petrol gives all the performance most buyers could ever want, accelerating from 0-62mph in just 6.2 seconds, and delivering really flexible in-gear performance across the rev range. If you opt for the Quattro four-wheel drive version, then that figure drops to just 5.6 seconds, thanks to the extra grip and the slick six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The 181bhp diesel is no slouch, either, with an acceleration figure of 7.3 seconds, and it feels nearly as flexible as the petrol. What’s more, it delivers incredible economy and emissions for a car of this type. The manual gearbox has quite a long throw for a sports car, but the action is precise, and the diesel is pretty refined. The TT S version, with 306bhp, is properly fast. However, when the less exotic versions are so quick, spending extra on the TT S seems a bit excessive – despite its excellent top-end performance, and decent fuel economy.
A CO2 figure of just 114g/km makes the TT Roadster comfortably the cleanest drop-top
Choosing a TT Roadster may seem like a premium indulgence, as it certainly feels luxurious, but in reality it’s cheaper than rivals such as the BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLK. It also comes better equipped as standard, and as a result, it’ll have stronger resale values if you do fancy swapping into something new. In fact, the Porsche Boxster is the only rival that’ll be worth more after three years. Other running costs are deeply impressive, with fuel economy pegged at 65.7mpg for the diesel, and a CO2 figure of just 114g/km making this TT Roadster just about the cleanest drop-top in its class. The petrol cars are pretty frugal, too – the 1.8-litre returns official figures of 46.3 mpg and 142g/km – making it a more affordable company car than you might imagine.
According to Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, Audi’s reputation for reliability isn’t an enviable one. The brand languishes near the bottom of the manufacturer standings, and the previous TT wasn’t one of the company’s better performers. However, other reliability surveys place the brand, and the TT, rather higher, and most of the engines and parts are tried and tested in countless other Volkswagen-Group models, so should prove durable. The one area of concern has been with the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit display, with early models experiences occasional glitches – and with no back up screen or dials, dealing with this problem is a fairly urgent matter. Service intervals are once a year, and the warranty for mechanical parts is three years or 60,000 miles, but you can pay a bit extra to extend that to four or even five years, to give you added peace of mind.
The TT Roadster has the same standard safety fare as most of its rivals – with four airbags on board, an anti-theft alarm, tyre pressure sensors to let you know when you have a puncture, and traction and stability controls. Trawl the options list carefully and you can add traffic sign recognition, which lets the car tell you what the speed limits are on any given road, or active systems like lane departure warning, blind spot monitors and parking aids. Oh and, of course, cruise control, which surprisingly is not included as standard. This makes the TT Roadster marginally safer than the average drop-top, but it’s not quite class-leading.
One option you’ll want to invest in is the Open Top Driving pack
Sport trim is the starting point of the TT Roadster range, and these versions come with decent kit as standard. Bluetooth, air-conditioning, part-leather upholstery, keyless go, Audi Drive Select (which varies things like steering weight and throttle response according to the driving mode you select) and the all-singing multimedia interface are all included. S line cars come with cosmetic upgrades inside and out, but not much in the way of other extra kit; automatic lights and wipers, but that’s about it. Options you’ll want to invest in are the Open Top Driving pack, which gets you the supportive Super Sport front seats, which are heated, come with lumbar support and head-height air vents to keep your neck warm, and a wind deflector. Selecting the Technology pack adds sat-nav and some clever connected online features, but it’s also prohibitively expensive, and – in our opinion – not worth it.
Owning a cabriolet normally means having to compromise – but not in the TT’s case. This is a car that would be brilliant to own every single day. It looks great inside and out, is quick and fun to drive, but also comfortable and refined, with a decent boot. The roof is beautifully engineered, and in diesel form it’s even affordable to run, too.