The TT has always seemed to have a bit of an identity crisis: Am I a real sports car? Or do I just merely look sporty?
Granted, it was fun enough to drive equipped with Quattro all-wheel drive and the DSG (now called S tronic) twin-clutch tranny, but there was always something lacking in the engine department. The standard 2.0T is too underpowered to be considered sports car material. And the rumbly, raspy V6 just isn't rocking.
Enter the TTS, the most sporting TT yet. You might even refer to it as a sports car without having to glance around nervously as you say it. Thanks to a re-engineered 2.0 TFSI power unit, with a revised forced induction system and internals, the TTS makes 265 hp from the same two liters of displacement. The power is balanced with a generous helping of torque, the max 258 lb-ft stretching from 2500 to 5000 rpm. Audi signature Quattro AWD and that brilliant S tronic gearbox complete the equation.
Beyond the exterior, which to us has gone from groundbreakingly quirky in the first generation to, comparatively speaking, overly slick and smooth with the new design, this is possibly the most enjoyable and involving new Audi we've driven outside of the R8. The engine, transmission and drive system all mesh together in an absolutely inspired symphony of forward propulsion. Stomp on the gas, flip up and down the gears with lightning speed, wind and unwind the steering wheel with knife-like precision-gone are the days of nebulous steering input and feedback. The TTS is simply pure entertainment. Get comfortable and you can even start flicking it around like a hooligan, letting the rear wheels skip out ever so briefly before the AWD digs back in and pulls you straight.
And of course there's the interior goodness we've come to expect from the brand. Solid slugs of brushed aluminum, top-tier synthetics and composites, smooth leather, contrasting stitching, and one of the most ergonomically perfect steering wheels we've had the honor to wrap our grimy meathooks around. The whole cabin looks and feels more custom coach-built than mass-produced.
Drive a TTS. You're guaranteed to laugh your ass off. In a good way. -Karl Funke
From The Hip
+ Seamless marriage of engine, gearbox and drive system
- Visually, a little too cutesy for its own good
2009 Audi TTS Roadster S tronic
Transverse front engine, all-wheel drive
2.0-liter I4, dohc, 16-valve, turbocharged and intercooled
Six-speed S tronic twin-clutch manual
Peak Power: 265 hp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
0-62 mph: 5.6 sec.
Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)
Economy: 21 city/29 hwy
Price as Tested: $56,600
Visions of grandeur
* I've owned various VW transporters over the last 30 years. It would be accurate to say I am intimate with the subject. Like a family member you love one moment and want to strangle the next, VW vans have become an inextricable part of my life. There will always be some sort of VW van parked in the Bidrawn driveway. Count on it.
But not the Routan. Perhaps it was the smell, that cheap plasticky aroma you get when you inflate the kids "made in China" pool toys. I've got a drawer full of patch kits for these things. But why even bother with a patch kit? This stuff lasts a few days at best.
The Routan is something of a patch kit for Volkswagen. Designed to quickly seal the breach between the outgoing T4-based Eurovan and the breathtakingly expensive Euro-spec T5 models, the Routan is a thinly disguised Dodge Caravan, warts and all.
I've driven the new VW vans in Europe and they are absolutely stunning. Try to imagine morphing a Phaeton or the new CC into a van shape. That's the current series. The 2009 Volkswagen Caravelle is used extensively as an executive transport, festooned in Italian leather, burlwood and ultra-high-quality synthetics. Moreover, they are powered by VW's vaunted TDI engines and six-speed manual transmissions, and cruise at 100 mph with ease. Drive a Caravelle Executive and the minivan bar is set impossibly high. I guess you get what you pay for; said Caravelle would easily push 50 grand. That probably won't fly in North America.
The Routan is more good Chrysler than bad Volkswagen. It doesn't matter how much content VW adds, it still feels like a rather cheap car with a plastic interior. It handles OK and has a clever seating arrangement, but the Chrysler V6 feels like it's working way too hard. And the whole thing smells funny.
VW claims to be "testing the waters" with the Routan. Hopefully, this car will float away, or sink even. I don't think it does justice to the Volkswagen name. -Les Bidrawn
From The Hip
+ Dual sliding doors, ample cupholders, clever seating arrangement
- Cheap interior, crap engine, poor gauge visibility, ambiguous profile
2009 VW Routan S
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive
3.8-liter V6, dohc, 24-valve
Peak Power: 197 hp @ 5200 rpm
Peak Torque: 230 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
0-62 mph: 8.9 sec.
Top Speed: 112 mph
Economy: 16 city/23 hwy
Price as Tested: $25,390