Audi, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2008 Audi TT 3.2 Quattro Roadster – Road Test

If you’ve already read my review on the 2008 TT coupe, you’ll know how much I LOVE that car -it’s unbelievable. I strongly advise you to read that review before proceeding any further, because the Roadster is not as spectacular as the coupe. Naturally, you’d think that a convertible would be more desirable than a coupe any day, and in most cases, I’d agree – but I’d be remiss if I didn’t explain the one major fault with the Roadster at this point. It’s down to one thing -the 3.2 litre V-6 engine. It’s a dog. Let me elaborate.

Having fallen in love with the coupe, I was excited about driving the Roadster the very next week. If the 4-cylinder engine was spectacular, then logic dictates that a larger and more powerful V-6 would be icing on the cake. Pulling into the parking lot, I spot the Roadster right away -it’s a silver/gold colour with a hint of beige or green -depending on the sunlight, quite unique looking. As with the coupe, the Roadster is a great looking car. Pictures certainly don’t do it justice.

First Impressions
After eye-balling the Roaster from a distance my wife walks up to it and opens the door. “Eeew!” we exclaimed in unison. The interior is a colour that can only be described as doggy diarrhea brown – I’m not kidding! It’s horrendous but not as bad as the Pumpkin-coloured” interior Mazda MX5 we drove last year. Audi’s leg-up in this department has lot to do with the much better quality of the materials instead of the acres of cheesy cheap-looking plastic that Mazda utilized. Getting back to the dreadful interior of the Roadster, Audi has a name for it “Madras Brown Baseball-optic leather seats” – uh…OK. The baseball stitching on the seats give it a classy look, regardless of the color and it’s a nice touch, it’s just the colour choice I have a problem with.

Getting behind the wheel, it looks very familiar – it’s virtually identical to the coupe. The big difference is the absence of a rear seat, otherwise the comfort and headroom has been transferred from the coupe into the Roadster. The superb seats are multi-way (10-way) adjustable and very comfortable for short or long journeys.

The other difference in the Roadster is that it has the Audi Satellite navigation system installed. Oh dear -it’s the A3 all over again. Having gotten used to the coupes in-dash 6 CD unit that I liked, the overly complicated SatNav is confusing. I had gotten out of the coupe with 2 CD’s in my hand – why bother to put them into their cases – I’ll just pop them into the changer. Trouble was, I couldn’t figure out where they went. There are no buttons for the radio stations or the usual slot for the CD’s. Hmm I’ll just let my wife load up the changer once we’re on the road. As with a lot of SatNav systems, the DVD drive sits behind the screen. However behind this particular one is a single disc unit, so you have to make a decision: do you listen to your CD or do you want to use the Navigation system -you can’t have both!

The only logical reason I can think of is that Audi wants you to purchase the dealer-installed multi-disc changer that fits into the glove box. So you fork over $2,500 for the SatNav system, and then you have to shell out additional money for a CD Changer. That’s ridiculous considering you’ve already dropped 65 large on the car in the first place!!! Think about this: if you want to use the SatNav on a road trip, you’re stuck using the radio for the entire trip. The system doesn’t even have an auxiliary jack to attach your MP3 player/iPod -unacceptable in this technological age! On the other hand if you have a couple of spare SD cards lying around you can load MP3 songs onto them and put them in the two slots behind the screen. Again -I see no logic here. Why have two SD slots and no CF slots or at the least one of each? After much confusion over this situation, I started digging and discovered you can use the SatNav and the CD. The system uses what Audi calls a ”corridor function” – simultaneous use of the CD drive for playing audio/MP3 CDs and using the navigation system, the route is saved in the navigation system before removing the navigation CD.

Rant over – now on to the car itself. Starting the engine there’s a nice rumble from the 3.2 litre V-6. Shifting into reverse, I ease off the brake. Nothing happens. I give the gas pedal a squeeze -still nothing. I check the parking brake -it’s not on. I give it more gas. It feels like 2 -3 inches of travel on the accelerator pedal before the car moves -or should I say, lurches. After backing out of the spot, I drop it into D and give it some gas -nothing. After spending a week with the 2.0 litre turbo TT that had an instant response whenever you barely touched the pedal -this is very weird. Giving the pedal a good prod finally gets the Roadster moving, just a little. After circumventing the parking lot I head out to the open road. Giving the gas pedal a lot of welly, nothing happens -then suddenly we lurch off like a heard of turtles. I check the rearview mirror to see if maybe I’m towing a boat or someone’s tied an anchor to my bumper – Nope. In less than 30 seconds behind the wheel, I hate this car – gimme the 2.0 version back – PLEASE!!!!

Heading out onto the freeway, noise levels are quite good for a soft-top vehicle. Even while traveling at speeds in excess of 80 mph it was reasonably quiet. The steering is very sharp and responsive; communicating everything the driver needs to know, while at the same time soaking up expansion joints and potholes with aplomb. Even racing over badly rutted railroad tracks didn’t upset the TT Roadster, in fact there wasn’t any cowl shake to speak of -very impressive. Going up the steep hills in our area was less than exhilarating because it felt like it was very easy to lose momentum if you hesitated. By contrast, the 2.0 litre Coupe just flew up the same hills with abandon!

Heading home, my wife decided we were going to go to Wal-Mart for a bit of shopping. There was a shelving unit she wanted to buy -and some other stuff. I reminded her it was a convertible, not an SUV but that made no difference, she bought it anyway. After taking it out of the box, we actually made it fit into the somewhat small trunk (8.8 cu-ft)! The shelving unit was able to be split in two -measuring 3 ft x 18” x 14” high each. Not only did we get that in but we also squeezed some boxes of cereal in as well. However, once we’d removed the shelving unit, I put the cereal in standing upright and crushed the boxes (see picture) -oops. I can only guess she was expecting the Roadster to be as flexible and utilitarian as the coupe!

There’s a storage compartment behind the seats that is both large and small…let me explain. I put a notepad and a couple of packs of gum in there. After a couple of short but exhilarating trips, I went into the compartment to retrieve my items -and they were gone! I thought I’d lost my mind and misplaced them somewhere. I hunted high and low throughout the cabin (found a covered compartment under the seats as well as a couple of bucks behind the seat) -but no gum and no notepad. Weird. I opened the trunk and there they were! I’d left the ski pass-through open (you can’t see it from inside the cabin) and everything had gone flying through to the trunk. After closing the little pass-through door I discovered that the storage area is actually T – shaped with storage running behind each of the seats. It’s lockable so it is somewhat useful for storing small items. There are two other small and quite useless storage compartments behind the seats. I put the SatNav DVD box into one of them and couldn’t get it back out.

The glove box is basically useless, so this should be considered the main storage compartment of the car. As for the tiny storage compartments under the seats, I’d be hard-pressed to use them for anything other than gum storage (see picture) – there’s room for one pack per seat. Under the floor of the trunk is a ski sack for those brave enough to use the TT Roadster as their ski vacation transport in the winter. It could only be a day trip because once you’ve put a pair of skis into the trunk there’s not much room left for luggage -especially if one of you is a woman!

Interior space is more than adequate and not as claustrophobic as some convertible cars. Legroom was very good as my next-door neighbor noted on our spin around the local side roads. He’s over 6 ft and still had room to stretch out in the passenger seat.

As much as I complained about the sound system/SatNav earlier, the sound quality from the audio system is terrific in the TT Roadster – far superior to that found in the coupe version. With 9 speakers and 140-watts it leaves very little to be unhappy with. I did have one beef with it though and that’s that you can’t listen to the audio system with the key in accessory mode – because there isn’t one! You have to turn the key all the way forward with all the lights and gauges operating. I find this very odd in a modern car.

Dropping the top is quick and painless -just 12 seconds with the lift of a button -with the engine on or off. Once you pull the button up, everything is done automatically from that point onward. Once the top is down it fits nice and low without the need for a tonneau cover. Once stowed, the top doesn’t infringe or take any valuable space away from the trunk so there’s no fear of crushing anything placed in it. Returning the top to its closed position is just a matter of pushing down on the same button. The return journey takes a quick 15 seconds. The TT Roadster comes with an electric wind deflector just behind the seats. In theory, it’s supposed to cut down on the air that swirls around the cabin when driving with the top and windows down. It worked well at speeds below 50 mph. but I found it pretty much ineffective at speeds higher than that. You can get the same effect by driving with the windows up.

Like the coupe version, the Roadster has a small rear spoiler that deploys automatically at 75 mph and returns when your speed drops below 50 mph. Alternatively, you can leave it up all the time with the press of a button on the console.

The Roadster had Audi’s Magnetic Ride suspension which is an electronically controlled dampening system. It provides either a comfort setting or a sportier suspension which basically gives the driver a firmer ride while braking or rounding corners. The downside is that it only works for a brief period -it’s not a constant setting.

The transmission is a 6-speed dual-clutch DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) with electro-hydraulic control and works quite well in combination with the V-6 engine. It comes with paddle shifters to make it more convenient to shift instantly and it works well, but I found that when I left the transmission alone to do its own thing it did a better job than me. Shifts were seamless and it stayed in the power band until the redline when I had the throttle buried.

The Conclusion
Other than the lethargic engine and the less than ideal SatNav set up, I loved the TT Roadster. Both issues can very easily be resolved by stepping down to the 2.0 litre turbo motor and skipping the SatNav. The bonus being, you also save a considerable amount of money, the downside is you lose the Quattro option. As much as I LOVED the coupe, the Roaster just didn’t quite do it for me. I can only put it down to the horrible colour of the interior and the 3.2 litre V-6 as being the turning point because the new TT is definitely one of the best cars available today.

For more information go to: Audi-USA or Audi Canada

Warranty: 
All Audi’s come with a comprehensive 4 year /50,000 miles [80,000 kms] Bumper to Bumper warranty – including no-charge scheduled maintenance and 4 years/ unlimited distance Roadside Assistance.

Pricing for the 2008 Audi TT 3.2 Quattro Roadster:
As tested – $51,375 [$65,850 Cdn]
TT Roadster prices start at: $36,800 [$53,600 Cdn] for the FWD 2.0 litre version. The 3.2 Quattro has a starting price of $44,500 [$65,550 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: USA – $775 / Canada – $1,500 (guesstimate)

Fuel Consumption: [Premium Fuel – 91 Octane]
The 3.2 Litre V-6 is rated at 17 mpg City [13.8 L/100 kms] and 24 mpg Highway [9.8 L/100 kms]. I averaged 24 mpg [9.8 L/100 kms] combined driving.

+ PLUSES: 
It’s available with the much better 2.0 turbo engine (but without Quattro)
Just as good looking as the coupe
Very comfortable
Solid as a rock

– MINUSES:
Lousy engine = not much fun
Rubbish SatNav
Pukey-coloured seats

Immediate Competition:
BMW Z4, Honda S2000

By The Numbers:
Powertrain: 3.2 Litre V-6 engine with direct gasoline injection, 6-speed dual-clutch; DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) with
electro-hydraulic control, Quattro AWD.
Horsepower: 250 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque: 236 @ 2,500 – 3,000 rpm
0 – 60 mph 6.7 seconds
Top Speed Electronically Limited To 130 mph/209 km/h

Interior
10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
10 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
10 – Special Features (Heated Seats/ Sunroof etc)

Ergonomics
9 – Ease of Entry/Exit
9 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess (no rear seat)
10 – Driving Position/Controls

Exterior
10 – Drool Factor
9 – Fit & Finish

Performance
7 – Engine
9 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
7 – Bang for the $$
9 – Fuel Economy

Total: 139 / 150


Copyright © 2008 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Gail & Iain Shankland
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Also Published on PaddockTalk.com