As the weather turns warmer, enjoy the freedom and pleasures of top-down driving at the wheel of this stylish, fun-to-drive convertible, writes Tiff Needell
After an inauspicious start – when its high-speed lane-changing manners were questioned – the Audi TT has got better and better. The third-generation coupé has been much praised for its sharper looks and more engaging handling, and now – just in time for summer – the soft-top roadster version has arrived.
The original TT concept was always going to be a roadster but somehow it was the coupé that appeared first, in 1998, and Audi has kept that order ever since. It did, however, mean that the TT suffered less than most when the roof was removed.
Cutting a great big hole in your chassis reduces torsional rigidity and can spoil handling sharpness and create ‘scuttle shake’. But by blocking off the rear seats with a solid bulkhead, and beefing up the base of the windscreen frame, Audi has avoided those pitfalls and added only 90kgs to the weight of the car – and nearly half of that is due to motors that open the roof.
Mind you, you don’t complain about motors that power the roof down in just 10 seconds. You have, of course lost the two child seats in the back – to store the roof without losing boot space – but that’s all part of a true roadster’s style.
The three-layer ‘acoustic’ cover keeps the cabin just as quiet as in the coupé. And, when you do have the roof down, Audi has thoughtfully put a microphone in the driver’s seatbelt to keep your bluetooth communication audible at all times.
Prices start at £31,955 for the 184hp, two-litre diesel but you really don’t want obnoxious fumes wafting into your open car at the traffic lights and the most popular choice looks like being the 230hp, two-litre petrol for just £90 more.
My pick? The 310hp quattro, of course. When it comes to sporty handling, the front-wheel-drive TTs always lose out when compared to the rear-wheel-drive BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster, which is why, if you want to get the best you can, it has to be the quattro.
Audi’s electric-powered ‘progressive’ steering still doesn’t provide quite the same sharpness as the opposition but the front end turns in nicely and a bootful of power allows the rear to briefly step out of line before firing you back on the straight and narrow. And the new ‘virtual cockpit’, with its 12.3in-high LCD display, exudes quality.
You can spend an extra £1,370 to switch from the sweet-changing, six-speed manual to a flappy paddle, twin-clutch, six-speed auto which, with the help of launch control, will get you to 62mph 0.3 seconds faster, but when will you ever bother?
The upgrade also promises another 2.2 miles for each of your gallons, but I’d spend your money on the neat option of an electronically deployed wind deflector, drop down the roof and enjoy doing all the driving. That’s what roadsters are for!
Audi TT Roadster
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Acceleration 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds
Engine 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol, generating 310hp
Gearbox six-speed manual
To watch the Audi TT Roadster in action, visit youtube.com/audiuk