Cabin design, slick roof mechanism, build quality, Neckscarf
Driving position, joyless engine, plain handling
What is it?
You spotted the new grille right? Or maybe just the slightly more hooded, scowling headlights and the grey inserts in the lower airdam? Textbook facelift stuff.
It’s the new-for-2019 Audi TT Roadster. Still the same car underneath, but with new wheels, a bit more power and some new colour choices. Enough to keep the two-seat drop-top fresh and ready for the challenge of BMW’s all-new Z4, the moderately-new Porsche 718 Boxster and Merc’s much-less-new SLC.
The 1.8-litre turbo has been dropped, so all currently available TTs use a 2.0-litre four cylinder single turbo motor. Base trim yields 197bhp (40TFSI in Audi’s daft nomenclature), next one up is 245bhp (45TFSI) and there’s the 306bhp TT S (no daft designation) which gets a lighter cylinder head, modified pistons and con rods, a reinforced crank, new valve springs, and 1.4 bar of boost instead of 0.8. That’s actually 4bhp down on previously (blame emissions regs), while the lesser two are up around 15bhp. In due course there’ll be a TT RS.
Despite doing away with the hatch and rear seats, the Roadster is 90kg heavier than the coupe. The fabric roof accounts for 39kg of that, extra body stiffening the rest. All electric, it takes just 10secs to raise or lower, at up to 31mph. When lowered an electric mesh screen rises to combat turbulence.
Prices start at £33,280 for a 197bhp front-driver in Sport trim. The S Tronic twin clutch gearbox is standard. Want a six-speed manual? Then you’ll need to upgrade to the more potent 45TFSI. Same if you want quattro, too. But you can only mate that with S Tronic. For £38,205.
Upgrade from Sport to S Line or Black Edition (price increases of £1,150 and then another £1,600 respectively) and you’ll not only get more kit (LED lights, 19s and super-sports seats for S Line; 20s, black pack, privacy glass and a deletable fixed rear spoiler for Black Edition), but also a more ‘sporty’ grille, badging and optional 10mm lower suspension. Oh, and since it’s now 20 years since the TT first appeared in the UK, there’s a ‘20 years’ edition, limited to just 20 cars in the UK (plus 130 coupes). That’s £45,105 and only available in Arrow Grey.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Audi rarely takes a risk. It certainly hasn’t here. The TT Roadster follows the familiar template set down by its predecessors. It’s a very nice object, with a stunning cabin, slick roof and some neat, thoughtful features. It’s a sensible size, a sensible price; it is, on paper, both swift and efficient.
But does it have to be so joyless? Having to shift 90kg more than the coupe, the 2.0-litre turbo lacks energy and zip, the chassis, although grippy and secure, is pure vanilla. It does the same thing at every corner – goes in nose-heavy, comes out nose-heavy. The TT Roadster is a sports car for those who want it to look like one, but not act like one. It asks little of you and delivers little in return.
Does any of this matter? Probably not, because the people it’s aimed at aren’t interested in driving. And provided you ignore that aspect, the TT is fundamentally a very decent roadster – well priced, affordable to run, attractive inside and out. A great upgrade for a couple who want a bit of excitement after three years in a Q3.
But for us this is Audi going through the motions, not putting in any more effort than it needs to, content for the car to drive anonymously, to trade on its image rather than ability. And that’s a pity.