At the risk of copping an enormous amount of flak, the Audi TT is like Alanis Morissette’s second album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. Her first album was almost too easy to like. It was chock full of instantly catchy songs, and her fresh new voice. But when you’ve got to follow a record like that up, what do you do? You make something insidiously rewarding where you have to make more of an effort to like it. Now, I’m not for a minute suggesting the previous incarnation of the Audi TT was like Alanis Morissette’s first album — it wasn’t a jagged little pill — but what happened with the second album was that the first time I listened to it I didn’t really like it. The brilliance was hidden.
My first Audi TT experience was a medium-slow meander through Grey Lynn back to the office. It’s a journey that begins with the nothingness of Great North Road topped off with the mediocrity of Richmond Rd via the shops. No twisty bits; no last-minute braking into a tight left-hander; no tearing through the gears with the exhilaration of knowing you can do it again after the next corner.
I reported back to the troops: it’s “OK” I said, “nothing special.” But how wrong I was, because I wasn’t listening to the harmony and subtle counterpoint; I hadn’t scraped beneath the veneer and polish of the Audi’s mix.
On the third listening I realised it was a truly deep album and that more listening was required to unlock its secrets. Look past the annoying bits — like that gaspy thing she does with her voice far too often. The problem with the Audi is that it’s just far too much like a competent, comfortable car in town — easy to drive, easy to park, and it’s a head-turner — but release the Audi from its urban constraints and suddenly the melody rises from the background, the song enters your lungs and exits in unison with the car via your hands.
All 147 kilowatts of the two-litre four-cylinder turbo tug at the tarmac, reined in by the all-to-frequently engaged traction control, and it’ll get to 100kph in 6.5 seconds. I don’t ever remember turning a stereo off to specifically hear a gearchange before, but using the S-tronic dual-clutch six-speed sequential (optional on this model, but standard on the 3.2-litre version) you can control the changes with paddles on the steering wheel or by pushing the gearstick backwards and forwards, and it gives almost a sonic thud between the shifts that are in themselves so quick it’s like there’s no pause. Even if you employed Chuck Norris to move a conventional gearstick with one of his faster-than-lightning punches, it wouldn’t change as rapidly as the Audi.
Keep the Audi at less than full throttle and you’ll only experience the tyres massaging the tarmac; beyond there, 280Nm induces torque steer out of slow corners, despite the 255/35R19s on all four corners.
This soft-top version can lower or raise the hood in 14 seconds while you readjust your hair and put on your shades. Cruising around town is a breeze (no pun intended), but it really needs a better wind deflector for motorway driving because in a crosswind it’s like driving along being gently patted in your left ear.
Audi loaned us an S-Line version, which has the larger mags (19 inch with 255-width tyres), and an uprated stereo.
On the interior you get supportive and embracing leather seats. They’re height adjustable, but not electric. The waistline is high, giving you a real sense the car is enveloping you. A flat-bottomed fully adjustable steering wheel contains controls for audio, while cruise control is on a stalk.
Instrumentation is a standard Audi red on black screen. Behind the seats is a large area, but it can only be accessed using a small aperture between the seats. The boot area is generous for a car this size that has to accommodate a folding roof.
Exterior styling is graceful, while being slightly muscular. At the rear a small spoiler extends from the boot lid. It can be controlled from within the cabin.
The construction is an aluminium spaceframe which adds to body rigidity. Safety features include ABS with EBD, stability control (ESP), seatbelt pretensioners and front and side airbags for passenger and driver. An alarm and immobiliser come as standard.
It’s unfortunate that the best part of the car — the gearbox — will remain unappreciated by the majority. If you can stretch another twenty grand, you can have the 3.2-litre V6 with 184kW, 320Nm of torque, magnetic ride suspension (optional extra on the 2-litre model) and four-wheel-drive.
Price: from $84,500 (manual) (S-Line options $88,500); $88,500 (S-tronic), $92,500 (S-tronic + S-Line). 3.2-litre quattro from $105,900 — 113,900.
What we like
- Oh, and the amazing gearbox
- Very effective seat warmers
What we don’t like
- Front-wheel-drive means torque steer
- Lack of storage cubby holes
- Electric seats are optional, not standard
Words and photos Darren Cottingham