Preview Drive: 2008 Audi TT

Redesigned coupe gets even sportier aura, coupled with true sports-car road performance

by James M. Flammang

2008 Audi TT

First launched as a 2000 model, Audi’s sporty TT coupe drew enviously covetous glances toward its curvaceous lines and hard-to-ignore profile. Styling was actually meant to remind observers of the Bauhaus school of art from the 1920s. Audi considers the original TT to be “a milestone in automotive design, an icon.”

That description isn’t far off the mark. Adding a roadster body style intensified the TT’s appeal further yet.

Now, for 2008, the German automaker has given its TT a major overhaul in both appearance and performance. Audi suggests that its convex and concave curves “lend it the character of an athletic sculpture straining forward.” A single-frame grille is complemented by large air inlets and sloping headlights. Rear wheel arches are wide, and a rear foglamp is mounted at the center.

The TT’s powered rear spoiler forms a modest lip when down. At 75 mph, the spoiler moves upward to improve downforce on the rear end. When car speed falls below 50 mph, the spoiler retracts automatically.

Inside, a large digital speedometer goes within the driver information system, complementing the big analog speedometer and tachometer. Sport seats are lower than in the first generation. The leather-trimmed sport steering wheel is flattened at the bottom.

Several dimensions of the 2+2 coupe have grown. The 2008 TT is 5.4 inches longer overall and 3.1 inches wider, but only 0.2 inch taller. Front shoulder width has increased by 1.1 inches, and rear shoulder space by just under an inch.

Either a 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine or a 250-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 may be installed. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but Audio’s S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox is optional. Audi claims the dual-clutch setup can change gears in 0.2 seconds, with “no discernible interruption to the power flow.”

Only a TT coupe is available initially. A roadster body will be added later.

Elegant excitement is one way to describe the latest TT coupe. Visually, it's a stunner - even more so than the alluring original. Getting inside isn't the easiest of tasks for older or non-limber drivers and riders, and backseat space is meager at best. But on the road, the TT is a dream to drive.

Audi's original TT came close to true sports-car status. The 2008 version completes that goal, turning into a marvelous road machine - with only a few quibbles.

Masterful manual-gearbox action is complemented by a neatly-matched clutch, forming one of the best combinations around these days. Few, if any, gearboxes shift smoother or easier than the TT's.

Acceleration in lower gears can literally shove occupants back in the seat. Only the most ardent power buffs are likely to complain about any shortfall in powertrain prowess.

Considering what you get, ride comfort isn't bad in town, though quite a bit of near-constant body motion occurs on the highway. That could get tiresome on longer drives. Though clearly taut, the suspension falls short of stiff, so the penalty for precise control isn't too great. While the TT is easy to drive and maneuver, parking isn't quite so pleasant as it's not an easy car to judge.

Snugly bolstered, the super-supportive driver's seat is comfortable enough, though the bottom could perhaps use a bit more cushioning. Fuel and temperature gauges are tiny, though others are easy to read. Over-the-shoulder views are not as limited as the TT's curvaceous shape might suggest, and the rear view is great through a huge back window. Cargo space is modest but passable beneath the shapely hatch. On the negative side, the "dead pedal" footrest at the driver's left foot is too bright, sometimes yielding terrible reflections from the sun.

Most important, the TT goes precisely where it's pointed. Quick curves produce nearly no body lean. Positive steering response is enhanced a bit by the shape of the steering wheel, too. Rather than perfectly round, it has a handy flat spot at the bottom.

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© All contents copyright 2007 by Tirekicking Today
Text and photos by James M. Flammang
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