2011 Audi TTS Roadster HD Video Review

Coming up with a distinctly styled car is getting harder and harder to do these days. Government mandates, safety, aerodynamics, and pesky humans that want to fit inside dictate the shape. And after 100 years of making them, most of the obvious designs have been taken.

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Still, Audi managed to forge a true original with the TT, a design both classic chic and future forward. First released in the fall of 1998, generation two followed up in 2006. Some prefer the original groundbreaking sheetmetal, others give the new sleeker look the thumb’s up. In the end it only counts when people vote with their checkbooks.

I have been handed the keys to a two-seat TTS Roadster (it’s also available as a 2+2 hardtop coupe). The extra S on the grille means higher performance in Audi-speak. If you are cross shopping, Nissan 370Z, Porsche Boxster, and the BMW Z4 are the cars most likely to be on your list.

Seattle in winter may not the best time to test a convertible but hey, sometimes you take ‘em when you get ‘em. Really though, it has a roof, it’s not like it’s made of sugar and will melt in the rain. Besides, I see it as the perfect season for testing since any flaws in the top will be uncovered (though I can’t remember the time I’ve had a convertible leak).

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Why The S?

For one thing it’s faster (I’ll get to that in a minute). S models get more aggressive looks and the TT is no different. S badges front and rear plus embossed in the seats are the obvious cues that say you bought the hot version. So are aluminum painted side mirrors. There’s unique front and rear fascias plus new 19-inch wheels all wrapped up in summer performance tires.

Providing the power for the TTS is a direct-injected 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 265 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Standard TTs make 211 HP but the same amount of torque. With its 54 additional horses the S sprints from 0-60 in 4.9 seconds vs. 5.3 (these are Audi’s performance figures). The only transmission on any TT is a dual-clutch six-speed S tronic with blink-of-an-eye gear changes. Choose automatic mode or manually select your cogs with the console lever or steering wheel paddles.

Recent storms have left my favorite roads either underwater or littered with tree limbs and pine needles. I couldn’t have ordered better conditions to test quattro all-wheel drive, which like the S tronic is standard on all TTs. As expected the car is completely buttoned down. While quattro is terrific in wet and sloppy conditions, directing power to the wheels that need it is also good on dry pavement.

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Old Sol Peeks Out

The temperature is hovering around 40 degrees but the sun is shining so I’ve dropped the top. Heated seats and great acceleration provide a warm fuzzy feeling. TTS drinks premium fuel at a rate of 21 city, 29 highway. Of course it’s worse if you venture up near the 155 mile per hour top speed.

TT’s structure is a steel and aluminum space frame but it feels like it’s formed from a single iron girder. This is rare for a convertible, there’s normally a bit of chassis quiver when a bump is hit.

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Do I even have to say the TT handles well? Well, it does. It’s highly stabile and capable in the corners. I still find the Porsche Boxster the gold standard in this class when really pushed hard. This is less of a issue in the real world since few people bounce around from car to car like I do and even fewer drive performance vehicles near their limits. If you prefer the design of the TT over the competition, know that you’ll have a terrific time if you should buy one.

A “sport” button changes the power steering boost and gives the exhaust note extra snarl. The Audi magnetic ride suspension adjusts from comfortable-but-sporty to racetrack stiff. I left it in the comfort setting most of the time and still had a good time flinging the TTS around corners. It’s easy to tell if the firm setting is engaged.

Top This

The insulated canvas top does it’s work without drama in 12 seconds. It’s a powered one-button affair with no latches to fuss with. Audi says it can be closed while driving if the speed is under 30 miles an hour. I didn’t find that out until after I gave the car back, would have been fun to try. With the roof closed the car is on the quiet side for a soft top drop top.

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When retracted, wind management is very good at higher speeds. My hair rustles around just the right amount with the motorized windblocker raised. Check out the video and you’ll see my friend and production assistant Martin Campbell behind the wheel. He’s a great sport driving around with the top down on a very cold day but his close haircut is a bad visual aid. His barber shaves a lot closer than mine.

The new TT also gets a rear spoiler that automatically lifts at 75 MPH and retracts when you drop below 50. In case a clever law enforcement officer uses that knowledge to peg you for speeding, remind them that the spoiler can also be manually controlled by a switch on the dash.

Just Another Attractive Audi Interior

The TT has a high sill so there is a slight bit of an effort to get in. Once inside though it’s a nice space. White stitching on black leather draped throughout the interior provides a rich and dramatic atmosphere. All materials look and feel great. Deeply bolstered S seats hug like mom and the substantial steering wheel with flat bottom is a joy to grasp onto. There are plenty of small nooks for storage and even a ski pass through (interesting for a convertible). The Bose sound system sounds very good.

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Gripes? Keyless ignition is unavailable. Bluetooth is standard but iPod connectivity is a $70 option. Huh? Even Kia throws that in for free these days. The MMI user interface is a bit trickier to use here since it’s mounted on the instrument panel (normally Audi puts it down on the console). Everyone who used it believes it scrolls the wrong way when choosing a radio station.

Trunk Test

It’s never a good sign when I skip the flat bed and bring out a meager shopping cart of Kirkland Brand Bath Tissue (the measurement metric of professionals everywhere). Obviously, no one expects minivan space in a performance roadster so three bundles of TP is actually respectable in this class. A Porsche 911 only holds one. The beauty of using a soft top is that it doesn’t change the cargo space when the roof is down.

Just so you know TT does not mean “twin turbo” or “Tom Terrific”. According to many internet sources, it stands for Tourist Trophy a motorcycle race course in the British Isle of Man. Also, there’s a bit of history through a sporty rear-engine air-cooled car named the NSU Prinz 1200 TT. History buffs know NSU joined Audi in 1969.

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Prices start at 50 grand, nearly $9,000 more than a standard TT Roadster. At nearly 55 grand when loaded, the TTS doesn’t come cheap. Just remember, the standard TT coupe with its very original design starts at around $38,000. But those with cash to spare and a vitamin D deficiency will certainly appreciate the well-crafted interior when carving up curvy roads on a sunny day. Audi makes a driver feel very good about their decision. The TTS Roadster does more than put wind in your hair, it will put a grin on your face.

FULL GALLERY BELOW.  ALL STILL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY AUDI.  2010 MODEL SHOWN.

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