- Max Speed
What's this, then?
The new Audi TT Roadster, the perfect car for a sunny spring day. Unfortunately our Majorcan test drive takes place in biblical rain and even a bit of snow at the top of the hills for good measure. Not a top-down day then, unless you're some sort of ice-shower masochist.
In the shelter of a lengthy tunnel, we discover that, yes, the TT roof does indeed retract and return effortlessly at speeds of up to 31mph. When up it's all beautifully quiet; you really could convince yourself you're in a coupe. The pop-up wind deflector works too, as do the trick heated seats, with neck level heating. In fact, they're so effective they'll super-heat you to the point of nausea if you let them.
Still, if it gets too hot you can always drop that roof. Assuming it's not absolutely pouring with rain.
Which it always is in Britain...
True, but us Brits are suckers for open-topped cars, and the TT is a favourite. Apparently it was always conceived as a roadster too, the original show-stopping concept coupe only seconded in at the last minute thanks to some power politics among the top brass. So if you're a TT Roadster buyer, you're the real deal, driving the authentic Audi sports car.
Sports car? Really?
Even one of the fathers of the TT, Audi's Dr Ulrich Hakenburg, admits that the original was 80 per cent style and not much about driving. But now in its third generation, the focus has shifted. The press material even mentions ‘controlled drifting'.
Certainly, the MkIII TT coupe has demonstrated that it's more of a driver's car than ever before, and lopping off the roof to create the Roadster does very little to change that.
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We wouldn't go that far, but the TT Roadster's not without talent. The range follows that of the coupe, so there's a 181bhp 2.0-litre TDI model with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox, a 2.0-litre TFSI version with 227bhp in either manual or S tronic dual-clutch auto guises (available with front- or four-wheel drive) and a range-topping TTS that turns up the boost to 306bhp and comes with all the tech you'd expect in a flagship.
The diesel's 65mpg and 114g/km figures are certain to see it topping the wish list of many a thrusting junior executive in a last hurrah before they succumb to the inevitable family-enforced sensible choice from the fleet manager's list.
How's the diesel?
That Ultra might be the most head-over-heart model in the line-up, but bung an S line trim on it and it still looks superb - as all TTs do. We'd tick the check box for the standard suspension, even if it means you'll be riding 10mm higher - you'll be a lot more comfortable.
Given it's so parsimonious, the 2.0-litre TDI's a bit of a surprise, its torque output matching that of the TTS, though with only the front wheels dealing with all that it can be a bit of a handful, at least in the roads resembling rivers we drove it on. It sounds pretty good though, with a sort of offbeat burble that's very faintly reminiscent of Audi's five-cylinder petrol engine in the original ur-Quattro.
There's no quattro four-wheel drive option for now with the diesel, which is a shame, as it'd really help in such conditions.
How about the petrols?
There's quattro as standard in the TTS, and optionally in the 227bhp 2.0 TFSI TT, though the majority of petrol sales will do without drive being pushed to all four wheels. The front-wheel drive chassis is a sweet enough thing, but you'll not be doing any drifting - controlled or otherwise.
No, for that you need the quattro system, which actually does push a lot of drive to the rear. It really is possible to have the TT's posterior pushing out under power, at least in the extremely slippery conditions we drove it in. The steering is nicely weighted and faithful in its accuracy, if not exactly brimming with info.
Oddly, given its sizeable leap in power from 227bhp to 306bhp, the TTS is a bit trickier to mess about in, as it's prone to gripping and going, so mighty is the traction. The lesser output model ends up having the more playful chassis.
A TT? Playful?
Yes, with the proviso that even the locals were skidding about in their knackered old hatchbacks in conditions that'd have Noah breaking out his woodworking tools.
There's the option to tweak your TT via Audi's drive select switch if you've chosen a Sport model, but there's not really a big enough distinction between the settings so it's best to just leave it in auto mode and let it decide if you're being Dynamic or Comfortable in your driving style.
In the TTS we might meddle with that a bit. Speed up the shifts of the smooth, seamless auto, turn up the noise and responsiveness of the throttle, but dial back the tautness of the standard magnetically damped suspension to Comfort via the customisable Individual mode. You'll have no more fun than in the less powerful car though.
Once you've done all your adjusting you can leave well alone, not least because the clever virtual cockpit shrinks all your dials while you're fiddling.
Ah yes, that lovely display instrument binnacle...
It's cool in concept and really works with familiarity. It's wise, though, to take the time to learn how it all operates before setting off, as otherwise you might find yourself driving into the back of something while you thumb the numerous wheel-mounted controls that navigate the plentiful menus.
The rest of the TT's cabin, meanwhile, has been indulgently designed, the materials, fit and finish all pretty fabulous. As they should be in a TT.
Should I buy one?
For pure driving we'd still have a boggo Boxster, slower or not. But then the TT Roadster's a very fine thing indeed so completely understand why you'd want one.
It's closer to its toughest foe than ever before, too, and beautiful to boot. But then it always has been, hasn't it?