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  • 2008 Audi TT Coupe

    Posted on July 22nd, 2007 ninarussin

    The second-generation Audi TT is a stylish two-plus-two with standout performance.
    By Nina Russin

    2008 Audi TT Coupe

    2008 Audi TT Coupe

    The Audi TT packs a mighty punch. Not only is it beautiful, sexy and fast; it’s also surprisingly versatile. With available Quattro all-wheel drive, the TT coupe is a year-round car with the ability to go off-road. The seats are comfortable, and the cargo area remarkably spacious.

    The second-generation model is slightly longer and wider than the car it replaces, making for a roomier interior. But its low center of gravity connects the driver to the road, maintaining the sporty feel that made the original TT a hit among driving enthusiasts.

    The 2008 Audi TT comes with either a turbocharged four-cylinder or naturally-aspirated V6 engine. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard. The test car is the front-wheel drive model with the two-liter engine and S-tronic transmission. The automatic transmission is a no-cost option: the driver can manually select gears by tapping the shift lever or by pulling shift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.

    A premium option package adds a leather steering wheel, heated power front seats, rain-sensing wipers and an upgraded stereo. Optional eighteen-inch wheels and high performance tires give the car a larger, stickier footprint.

    Like most two-plus-twos, the rear seat is marginal. It will hold pets or small children, but not adults. It’s biggest asset, aside from reducing insurance costs, is that it adds some extra storage space.¬†

    Outstanding design, inside and out

    The first thing I noticed about the TT was its steering wheel: on a scale of one to ten, it’s an eleven. The square bottom design comes from a LeMans sports car concept. The wheel is just the right size, with redundant volume and cruise control dials in front, and shift levers in the rear.

    Why is the steering wheel so important? It’s the first touch point the driver encounters: a good first encounter goes a long way towards promoting a great relationship. It’s also the primary way the driver receives feedback from the car’s steering system and suspension.

    The TT’s lightweight aluminum frame and fully independent suspension produce an exceptionally nimble ride with a strong on-center feel. The TT uses an electronic steering mechanism rather than a mechanical pump. Its primary advantage is weight reduction. From the driver’s standpoint, it’s invisible technology, as it should be.

    The asymmetrical steering wheel allows the driver to see the relationship between the steering wheel angle and the positions of the wheels. It’s a distinct advantage when driving the car for sport, because it helps the driver to learn difficult maneuvers faster.

    The coupe’s bullet-shaped exterior hearkens back to pre-War industrial design: particularly Bauhaus style. Simple geometric forms define each aspect of the car: round wheel arches, an angular rear section, and trapezoidal front grille.

    A speed-sensitive rear spoiler is invisible when the car is parked. It deploys at speeds over seventy-five miles-per-hour to improve down force on the rear axle. It’s especially important on the front-wheel drive model, since most of the car’s weight is in front. The spoiler reduces the tendency for the rear end to break loose, causing the car to understeer or “push.”

    Small engine, big performance

    The two-liter turbocharged engine is remarkably powerful. It develops peak torque at speeds as low as 1,800 revs, and maintains it almost to red line. The 207-horsepower engine accelerates from zero-to-sixty-two in 6.4 seconds. Merging into high-speed traffic is a non-issue.

    Turbocharging not only boosts power; it also reduces emissions by increasing the amount of air passing through the engine. Since internal combustion engines are inherently inefficient, there is always unspent gas that goes out the exhaust pipe. More air passing through the engine translates to less unspent gas and fewer exhaust fumes.

    The TT is an exceptionally light car. Because most of the car is aluminum, curb weight is 2772 pounds. Not only does this enhance the power-to-weight ratio, it also makes the car perform better in the turns. The coupe prances through corkscrews on two-lane rural roads: ditto for cloverleaf formations on the freeway.

    The six-speed automatic transmission enhances fuel economy by maintaining the ideal gear for the given speed. The car averages 27 miles-per-gallon with the more stringent 2008 EPA standards.

    Visibility is excellent all the way around the car. The seats on the new TT are lower than the first model to give the car a sportier feel. But with the power option, smaller drivers can raise the seats for a better forward view. Redundant turn signals on the side mirrors allow drivers to either side to car know when the driver is turning.

    Four-wheel disc brakes are standard. Engineers are using a new brake pad material that fades less in the heat for better performance on long drives. Standard antilock brakes help the driver maintain directional control on wet or snow-covered roads.

    Driver-oriented cockpit

    Everything the driver needs is within easy reach. The knobs and dials are intuitive enough that the driver can make adjustments without taking his eyes off the road. For example, the volume control on the steering wheel is a dial that spins up or down, while the gear paddles on the back of the wheel operate with the touch of a finger. The temperature and audio controls on the center stack are simple and uncluttered. There is a driver information display between the gauges that lists time, temperature, and audio settings.

    Map pockets in the doors hold paperwork. There is a 12-volt power point on the center console behind the cupholders, and a small shelf behind that for a cell phone or PDA.

    The cupholders are way too small to be practical. I consider them the only weak link in the car. I realize that Germans hate cupholders, but they have to accept the fact that Americans drink in their cars, and in warm climates, they consume fluids more than two ounces at a time.

    Leather and suede seating surfaces are attractive and practical. Unlike leather, the suede stays relatively cool, even in hot climates. The test car is black inside and out. I was amazed at how comfortable the seats were, even when I entered the car mid-day, with ambient temperatures of about 110 degrees.

    Versatile cargo area

    The sharply raked rear end of the coupe makes it difficult to load tall items in back. But with the seats folded flat, the cargo area holds a remarkable amount of luggage. I was able to load thirty boxes of running shoes into the hatch. Folding the seats is simply a matter of releasing levers to the outside of the seatbacks. It is not necessary to remove the headrests or seat cushions.

    There are four tie-down hooks to help secure items so they don’t slide forward. The undersized spare and jack are stowed under the cargo floor, making them easy to reach without impinging on the luggage space.

    While the standard tonneau cover doesn’t hide all of the cargo, it shields enough to most items concealed. A button on the key fob releases the rear hatch. Shorter drivers may have a hard time closing the hatch because there is no handle on the bottom lip. In my case, attempting to close a scalding piece of black sheet metal wasn’t particularly pleasant. A small grip on the edge or inside of the door would be an easy way to fix the problem.

    Lots of car for the money

    Base price for the TT coupe is $34,800. It isn’t a cheap car, but compared with other cars offering comparable performance, I think it’s a great value. The TT feels and drives like a high-luxury car.

    The new Audi TT coupe is currently on display at Audi dealerships nationwide.

    Likes: Elegant design and outstanding performance. Audi’s racing heritage shines through in the new TT. It is a light, nimble car with excellent acceleration, a strong on-center feel and linear braking.

    Dislikes: Ridiculously small cupholders.

    Quick facts:

    Base price: $34,800
    Price as tested: $38,470*
    Horsepower: 200 Hp @ 5100 r.p.m.
    Torque: 207 lbs.-ft. @ 1800 r.p.m.
    0 to 60: 6.4 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: N/A
    First aid kit: No
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Fuel economy: 23/31 m.p.g. city/highway 
    Comments: Base price does not include a $720 destination charge.

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