We’re just going to get this out there. We hate the “hairdresser’s car” stereotype often applied to the Audi TT. Yes, the car is stylish and maybe even whimsical with its two-seater configuration, but judging it solely on those qualities is your loss. The TT Roadster has always been a very cool car, and with the latest third generation Audi has amped it even further with trick design and the trickiest of tech gadgetry.
Recently we had a chance to take a quick spin in the latest TT Roadster in U.S. market specification and arriving in dealerships about the same time you read this. Launched as a MY2016, this latest generation “Mk 3” TT drop-top comes in just one drivetrain configuration – a 2.0 TFSI quattro with 6-speed S tronic DSG transmission.
This time around, the TTS Roadster has been dropped from the U.S. model offering thanks to extremely niche positioning, but don’t get too disappointed. The new TT Roadster’s 220 hp 2.0 TFSI engine may come in at 45 hp shy of the outgoing TTS, but it matches the elder S-car’s 258 lb-ft of torque.
So-equipped, the TT is rated at 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway (26 mpg combined). Acceleration is brisk, with 0-60 mph being knocked out in 5.6 seconds. That’s just .6 seconds behind the outgoing TTS drop-top.
In as much, the TTS Roadster won’t be terribly missed in the USA, while we’re guessing anyone bent enough to seriously want a TTS can get the Coupé when it hits dealers later this fall.
As mentioned, all new TT Roadsters will come equipped with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive standard. In this case, that means the latest version of the Haldex V computer controlled hydraulic clutch differential used in models with transverse engine orientation. Quite similar to what you’ll find in the A3 and S3, the TT gets a slightly more aggressive set of programming code that allows the system to perform more like the torque vectoring Sport Differential found in high performance Audi models with longitudinally oriented engines.
Audi Drive Select is now standard, and when paired with a computer-controlled differential like Haldex, a surprising new level of handling optimization ensues. This results in more neutral handling and less push than the outgoing TT Mk2.
From first glance, the appearance of the TT Roadster’s exterior seems relatively conservative in its evolution. Up front you’ll note a more obvious family resemblance to the all-new R8, with similar grille shaping and four-ring Audi logo moved to the surface of the hood. At the sides, more pronounced arch flares and aggressive styling are more of a nod to the original TT. Internally, Audi Design Team members have told us that the first car was more TT, while the second car was more Audi. This third car seems to be finding a happy medium in between.
Though similar to its predecessor, the new TT Roadster has notable dimensional differences. For one, the center of gravity drops some 9mm. At the same time, it picks up 37mm within the wheelbase despite a nearly identical overall size. This means more room on the inside and a more aggressive appearance with wheels pushed further to the corners and subsequent shorter overhangs.
While we find the car ultimately more handsome than the TT Roadster it replaces, it is also a complex design that photographs well from some angles and awkwardly from others. Like most modern Audis, the subtleties and details of the design are best digested while looking at the car in person.
Inside the TT is where the revolutionary changes really takes shape. Open the door and you’ll find handsome new optional S sport seats ($1600) with silver aluminum-look accents and diamond stitching. Alas, baseball glove stitching isn’t offered this time around, but that’s a small price to pay for the major improvements virtually everywhere else inside.
Take for instance the design of the new dashboard, with airplane wing inspired array where the jet engines of that wing are substituted for trademark TT round vents. And, while the shape of the vents is familiar, the trick air vent slats and controls including electronic climate controls housed within them strikes any occupant as extremely intuitive.
At your fingertips just behind the S tronic shifter is a slightly evolved MMI configuration. It is a lot like the A3/S3, with touch pad housed in the large central rotating knob, although the number of buttons has been streamlined in order to keep things simple.
Unlike the A3/S3, the TT lacks a motorized screen that pops up out of the dashboard. Whereas the A3/S3 may be more of a communal experience, the TT and TT Roadster is more about the driver. That central screen from its sedan siblings now moves to encompass what would otherwise be an entire instrument cluster. Maybe now though, the word cluster is incorrect since one infinitely variable screen replaces any grouping of analogue era instruments.
Audi engineers tell us that one of the most important qualities of the instrument display was its impressive performance in both temperature and lighting extremes. Drop the top of the new TT Roadster on an eye-searingly bright afternoon as we did outside of Portland, Oregon and you’ll appreciate the perfect intensity and contrast of the screen. 60 frames per second of animation assures seamless fluidity of animation of the needles within the simulated analogue gauges.
Of course simulated analogue gauges aren’t the only option when viewing the screen. Pop between functions like infotainment or satellite overlay Google maps navigation and the gauges minimize. Even better, all of the controls available to you and your passenger in the MMI cluster on the center console are also duplicitously available on the trick new flat bottom sport steering wheel. Familiarizing yourself with these new controls will see you rarely see you needing to remove your hands from the steering wheel.
As with all four-ringer drop tops, Audi has foregone the trend of offering complex folding hard tops in favor of well-built traditional soft-tops. Ingolstadt’s strategy of sticking with fabric tops as compared with their Bavarian competitors seems to have paid off. A framework of aluminum, magnesium, steel and even composite parts helps keep weight down, and yet top-up refinement and noise insulation remains as good or better than folding hardtop offerings. Even better, the TT Roadster’s top can raise or lower in a scant 10 seconds and at speeds up to 31 mph.
Base price on the new TT Roadster for the USA is $46,400. Every TT Roadster model will net you a fair degree of kit that includes 18-inch alloys, TPMS, full LED headlights, Audi Virtual Cockpit (mentioned above), MMI touch, LED taillights, heated mirrors, advance key, AM/FM/CD/Sirius Satellite sound system with SD card reader, 3-spoke multi-function steering wheel, auto climate control, HomeLink, power top with folding wind blocker, auto dimming mirrors, acoustic parking system (rear), plus rain and light sensors. There’s more, but we’d be here all day and figured we’d focus on the highlights.
Our Scuba Blue Metallic tester with black interior and black roof also had a few options. This included a Technology Package with MMI Navigation plus, Audi connect with online services (including Google maps and search), Audi side assist lane monitoring, auto-dimming and power folding exterior mirrors ($3250), S Sport seat package in Fine Nappa leather with diamond stitching and new neck level heating system ($1000), 19-inch wheel upgrade with 245 35 series summer tires ($1000) and Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade ($950). Combine these with a $925 destination charge and the car we tested stickered at $54,700.
Naturally, the TT Roadster competes most directly with the Porsche Boxster, BMW Z4 Roadster and Mercedes-Benz SLK. Amongst this peer group, the TT Roadster remains the only car with all-wheel drive. This means the TT has considerably more foul weather flexibility than its rear-wheel drive competitors. Track rats may argue that rear-wheel drive is preferable, but even in those cases the new and improved quattro system is a surprising improvement in overall handling. Also, performance in the real world with unmatched stability in wet or snowy weather helps the TT Roadster keep its lead in everyday practicality.
So, is the new TT a car fit for a hairdresser? Maybe a stylist like ours. He’s the guy who runs his own salon and still cuts. When he’s not cruising around town on his Harley, he’s rolling to NYC in his new murdered out Q7 sport edition or popping in to cars and coffee with his manual transmission equipped R8 4.2 coupe. In as much, we think our buddy Kevin at DownStreet Design in PA does for the term “hairdresser” what the TT Roadster does for the “hairdresser car” stigma. Pre-judge at your own risk.