FIRST DRIVE – AUDI TT ROADSTER & TTS COUPE
Technology has certainly moved on since those old days of peeling back a convertible hood and stretching the tonneau cover onto press-studs – that usually popped back off.
Soft-tops, roadsters, cabrios, convertibles, whatever you want to call them, are now so sophisticated they can even combat a wind-in-the-hair driver’s greatest enemy, the weather.
And none do it better than the new third generation version of the Audi TT Roadster.
When it hits the streets in May this latest variant of the popular sports car will not only feature a fabric roof that can open or close in a mere 10 seconds, but also an open-top driving package configured for the British climate.
It includes an electrically retractable wind deflector to stop your hair turning dreadlock, head level heating to keep your neck and ears warm and heated super sports seats.
Need to talk on the phone? Well there’s no problem being heard because small microphones woven in the seatbelts ensure every word is delivered clearly.
The techno treats don’t stop there though, because every version of the new roadster also gets a virtual cockpit which turns the TT into a digital dream for its owners.
It is based around a 12.3-inch, high resolution LCD display that completely fills the driver’s instrument binnacle and replaces the traditional analogue dials.
Drivers can choose between two display modes – a classic view with the speedo and rev counter in the foreground or in “infotainment” mode whereby the virtual instruments are smaller.
The freed up space provides room for functions like the navigation map while the lower edge displays outside temperature, time, mileage and warning or info symbols.
Cool stuff and surefire vote-catchers for a car that keeps raising the bar for sophistication and style, let alone performance and economy.
Kicking off the new line-up is the TT Roadster Sport 2.0 TDI ultra 184PS six-speed manual diesel model at £31,955.
It may be the least powerful model in the range with its 0-62mph acceleration time of 7.3 seconds, but it’s nonetheless a terrific car to drive, doesn’t sound like a diesel, can return a potential 65.7 miles per gallon and produces low emissions of 114g/km.
Two spec levels – Sport and S line – are available and both include the Audi virtual cockpit, Multi Media Interface with touchpad, xenon or LED headlights, Audi drive select and Alcantara / leather sports seats.
They also have the fabric roof, which can be operated at speeds up to 31mph and because the top forms a Z shape as it folds flat into an aluminium tray it doesn’t encroach on the 280-litre luggage compartment.
While the diesel-powered models come exclusively with front-wheel drive, the more lively 2.0-litre TFSI petrol units offer the option of the German brand’s quattro all-wheel drive system as well as S tronic automatic transmission.
With 230PS on tap the TFSI Sport versions are good for 0-62 in 6.2 seconds (6.1 auto and 5.6 with quattro) and can return a Combined 47.1mpg (43.5 auto, 42.1 quattro). Prices are from £32,045 with a £1,530 premium for S tronic and another £1,430 for quattro.
In every case the TT Roadster is a treat to drive, something underlined by the launch exercise through the Cotswolds where the variety of rural lanes, sweeping bends and motorways highlighted the Audi’s roadholding and new progressive steering system.
The feedback from the steering, which requires minimal movement of the wheel, is among the best around.
Also joining the party in May is the fiery new, in its case second generation, TTS Coupe to be followed a month later by a Roadster stablemate.
We are talking serious performance from the TTS, its 2.0 TFSI producing 310PS and whether you go manual or S tronic it is still quicker than rivals like the Porsche Cayman, BMW Z4 sDrive 35i M Sport and Mercedes SLK 350 AMG Sport.
Its roadholding is rock solid, steering precise, it comes packed to the hilt with kit and can blast from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds. Top speed is 155mph.
According to the official test cycle it can also return up to 41.5mpg – and that’s partly down to another special feature of the six-speed S tronic.
It is a freewheeling function which is activated when the Audi drive select system is set to efficiency mode and the driver eases off the accelerator.
Feed the power back in though and two sound flaps in the exhaust system open at higher loads and rpm, making for a throaty performance soundtrack.
TTS Coupe prices are £38,790 for the manual and £40,270 for auto while the TTS Roadster will start at £41,085.