2008 Audi TT Coupe – TT? No, Tee-Hee

First displayed as a concept at the 1995 Frankfurt Auto Show, the original Audi TT traded heavily on its looks. Self-obsessed as an ouroboros, the TT attracted graphic designers, architects, and Bret Easton Ellis fans like stylish iron filings to a magnet. Unfortunately, reviewers coveted the outgoing car’s driving experience as much as syphilis. For 2008 Audi has wisely chosen the extreme makeover path for the new TT, and while the Macbook Air set may be disappointed, the rest of us will be rejoicing.

For 2008 the TT’s cutesy ‘beetle under pressure’ look has popped, revealing a butcher, traditional coupe look. It’s 5.4 inches longer and 3.1 inches wider, the swooping roofline is lower, the track wider, and the looks more aggressive by a mile thanks to Audi’s new signature trapezoidal grill.

The result is near universal pull of a proper sports car. Twenty-something’s in parking lots stop to ogle. Elderly ladies chime, “Oh, my what a nice car.

Show them the interior and the adulation starts anew.

Covered with soft-touch materials and textured rubber the interior offers a feeling of quality to the senses. The leather seats are continent crossing comfortable and sewed insets keep you from sliding about in a hint of things to come. Everything you click, swivel, or tweak in the case of the metal nipple like radio controls responds with precision and accuracy.

The cockpit is tight, snug and secure, and therein lies the rub – literally. Taller drivers will find their knee rubbing against the wide central console and dangerously close to the massive key fob hanging out of the ignition – just waiting for that exuberant day when you snap it off at the neck. This is a car where a start/stop button has its place.

Then there’s the rear seats… why bother really? You have to move the passenger seat forwards to put a 13.5” MacBook behind it. The TT is still a designer’s car then, it should come packaged with the MacBook Air and a manila envelop labeled “cargo”.

As expected given the premium price, there are only a few foibles. The cup holders, completely fail to hold a Venti, a sacrilege given the TT’s market segment. You’d also expect more from the base stereo, boom for the buck this handful of muddy sounding speakers isn’t.

Despite these shortfalls, the 2008 TT is anodized and hot pressed in cool and sophistication – and this is the base model tester weighing in at $47,000 (including 800.00 destination fee) resplendent in “Brilliant Red” we speak of.

Speeding ticket red is more like.

The steering is laser like, quick and precise, input having the immediacy of thought itself. It’s short on feedback by a hair, but only just. So holding pace in the turns is laughably easy.

The handling proves the updates aren’t just looks. The TT’s body, by mass, is 69% aluminum, lightening the TT significantly. The remaining bit towards the rear is steel. The result is excellent weight distribution and body rigidity.

The tracks are wider and the centre of gravity lower; this is no rolling dome through the corners. Through your local twists, all the tech talk means you can put your passenger against the glass or elsewhere.

This highlights the TT’s most egregious oversight, the lack of a passenger grab. I like my passengers but they shouldn’t be in my lap, at least not when I’m driving.

While you’re at it, issue your fare a ball-gag. This is not an issue of kink; you’ll simply want to enjoy the engine note without all your partner’s gibbering as you tear off from the stops.

Tromp the throttle and the 1984cc turbocharged inline-four unfurls a maximum 207 lb-ft of torque spread like silk from 1800 through to 5000RPM. Giving ample acceleration throughout the rev range.

From 5100-6000RPM a maximum 200 hp swings into play. That is 50hp less than the 3.2 quattro V6, but the 2-litre TT weighs 150kg less making this front drive TT skinny-panted “emo boy” light in comparison to its bigger brother.

With a majority of that additional weight carried up front, one could argue that the 2.0T TT should be the nimbler of the two siblings. Given the weight difference, you’d never miss the extra 50 horses of the bigger displacement TT – the surefootedness of the Quattro drive is another matter.

My dream configuration for the TT is this 2.0L turbo gem with Quattro all wheel drive, but that would steal away sales from the 3.6L V6 version. Let’s be sure to tick the S-Tronic (or whatever Audi is re-badging VW’s DSG as this year) gearbox on the options wish list.

This transmission is brilliance itself. Tap a paddle on either side of the steering wheel, and the shifts are smooth, effortless, and immediate. Driving aggressively, there’s a wonderful basso grumble of anticipation from the exhaust on every upshift and lift off the throttle.

A full on sport experience, that diminishing note suggests something much more exotic and vengeful.

There’s a couple niggles, if you select the S-tronic’s sport mode in the city, the TT becomes pathologically twitchy… Think tweaking meth-addict deprived of cigs and lines. Then again, why would you do that? Other than to tear off the line in a screech of tires, and that would be irresponsible. Or is the TT simply just irrepressible?

Such antics give you a chance to sample the linear and predictable deceleration of the brakes. The feel and power of these binders is simply excellent, you can slow gently to a stop or give your passenger seatbelt CPR and with utter control.

Despite the major cornering, braking and handling game, the TT pushed hard in tight turns will exhibit understeer – that frontwheel drive foible of a vague unwillingness to go in the direction you command. A predictable and limited affair this requiring some serious provocation to instigate, this isn’t likely to crop up during normal usage. Ah, the giggling, laughing, and adrenaline filled things we do in the name of science.

What the TT 2.0T lacks is the Quattro surefootedness that graces huge swaths of the Audi line.

On wet roads it takes nothing to set the front tires spinning. On dry you can simply light them up off the line, becoming a near spectator as the torque steer and ESP traction control systems duke it out and the TT launches you forwards in a straight line. The front wheel drive gives the TT a feeling of menace at times, but like most e-ticket rides it’s amazingly addictive.

The spoiler deploys automatically at speeds over 120kph, flagging your criminal intent as the TT flows effortlessly through the sweepers and past posted limits. Officers reading can take note of this feature, but shouldn’t rely on the admissibility of such observations in court – there’s a manual override switch.

“I was just pushing buttons officer, honest.”

Beautifully executed as it is designed, the 2008 Audi TT 2.0T Coupe, even in base configuration, has transitioned from an exercise in styling to a driver’s car. Occasionally, being a powerful front wheel drive car spoils some of the TT’s coupe mix, and leaves one wanting for rear-wheel or Quattro all-wheel drive. In truth though, the Audi TT isn’t suffering the roads. It’s attacking them. Driving the TT now slaps as big a grin on your face as looking at one.

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