2008 Audi TT Roadster, the other roadster...

This case notwithstanding, a roadster is normally defined as a two-seat convertible sports car with rear-wheel drive. However, since the start of the new millennium, Audi is boldly offering a roadster with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. In the past, of course, other manufacturers have tried different drive systems, only to fail every time. Does the Lotus Elan 1991 ring a bell? How about the Mercury Capri based on the Mazda 323? In this game, only Audi has come out a winner.

The TT used to borrow the structural features of the Golf back in the day, but now it takes a more serious approach. It has a unique platform and more convincing mechanical features. The only complaint we can make about the 2008 car is that the manual transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive cannot be combined with the 2.0 turbo engine option. But fear not, this problem will be solved for 2009.

Our test drive

Last year, I had done a Montreal-Toronto-Montreal trip in 48 hours with a BMW Z4 3.0si. Two years ago, I made the same trip with a Porsche Boxster, so it was a given that this sinfully beautiful new TT would do the same.

Five and a half hours on the 401 isn’t exactly my idea of a fun drive to the Queen City from Montreal, so I set out, as I had before, on an undoubtedly longer route, but one that was sprinkled with secondary roads that were in a far better position to demonstrate the car’s dynamism. And believe me, it was a memorable day...
I must admit however, that I was very offended by the absence of an auxiliary iPod input jack, which is offered on option for $300.  Umm…I’m sure you Audi strategists must know that the least expensive car in your large family of vehicles (the Golf City), comes standard with not only an iPod input jack, but even a USB port.  Maybe it’s time to revise your options catalogue...

But hey, this is a mere detail when compared to the pleasure that this car brought us. Firstly, the 3.2-litre V6 engine is extremely smooth and very responsive. Its power is impressive and its captivating sound pushes you to break the speed limit repeatedly.  The six-speed manual transmission is also a pure delight. It handles exceptionally well, allows fast and precise passing and features reasonable fuel economy thanks to a good gear ratio.  Thus, my 1,325 km ride came out to an average of 11.8 litres per 100 kilometres, and about 450 kilometres of the total distance were covered using the cruise control at a speed of 118km/h.

A true sports car

Unlike the old model, this TT will not be described as a “New Beetle Deluxe”.  From here on in, this car has true sports car aspirations. Its structural rigidity alone (made from the Audi Space Frame aluminium chassis) could have been enough to rank it among the greats, but its many other features lead to the same conclusion. For example, there is a very well-adapted magnetic suspension, fast and ultra-precise steering, as well as efficient all-wheel drive.

On the road, this translates to a firm, rather incisive, extremely dynamic ride.  The car sinks its teeth into the asphalt and never lets go.  The high-speed cornering and outstanding acceleration add to the pleasure, and because the car was put together by a master hand, there is a conspicuous absence of noise. In fact, only when the side windows were up, the top was down, and the road was uneven did I notice any creaking at all. Then of course, there were a few squeaks.

Behind the wheel, the driving position was exceptional and contributes greatly to the overall pleasure that you derive from the car.  The firm and enveloping seats can be adjusted in multiple ways to optimize your position, the dash is exceedingly ergonomic, and the smooth leather-covered wheel with its horizontal base is an interesting touch.  Just like all of the brand’s products, the quality of assembly and finish is irreproachable.

On long drives however, I would say that the seats turn out to be a little too firm.  A six- or seven-hour ride will seem long, especially if you compare it to the BMW Z4.  Furthermore, the top takes some time to get back in to place, which I learned the hard way when a short thunderstorm caught me by surprise and left its calling card all over the passenger compartment.  But don’t worry, Audi, we cleaned it all up. When the top is up, the roof also affects the already imperfect visibility.  The width of the uprights between the side and back windows are largely to blame, but fortunately, the car is equipped with imposing rear-view mirrors that slightly diminish the problem.

How much?

The base price of the TT Roadster 3.2 is $59,800, not including transport and preparation. Our test model, which came with a few options, cost $8,800 more, for a total of $68,600.  And watch out, this car did not have Exclusive leather interior, GPS, or the S-Tronic automatic transmission.  In other words, if you want the works, the price could easily hit $75,000!  Expensive you say?  You got that right, but remember that they don’t exactly give away the Boxster either, and that only the TT can be properly used year round.

Three years, three rides and three cars, and after all that, I still haven’t come to a decision.  Sure, I was wooed by the Z4 with its smooth mechanics and comfort, but the Boxster’s balance and handling was just as seductive.  As for the TT, its best features are its unique mechanical configuration, its stunning lines and its pleasant light feeling.  So you’re thinking of purchasing this type of luxury toy?  My first thought would be how lucky you are to be able to spoil yourself like that.  Secondly, my advice would be to follow your heart.  Owning a sports car like one of these is all about love and having fun.

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