There are two types of car people out there. The first is attracted to premium marques because of the luxury and status these cars afford; for this group, cars are nothing more than an ego boost and a display of wealth. The second looks beyond brand names and creature comforts. These aficionados can see the potential in a stripped E30 M3 and choose it over its plush modern-day counterpart. Those in group one can ruin cars for group two.
Case in point: My clueless car friend-definitely a group oner-was steadfast about buying an Audi and came to me for advice. Knowing whatever model he chose would be ruined for me forever, I tried to push him into a TT. I figured if I had to sacrifice an Audi, the TT was a good candidate. My aversion to the TT ran so deep that I had little interest in driving our long-term 3.2 DSG. Nonetheless, I brought it home one evening and took it for a spin. It definitely had a deep, throaty startup roar and good acceleration and handling, but it was still a little sore on my eyes and I had to perform some advanced yoga poses to slip behind the wheel.
I can remember the exact moment my scales began to tip in favor of the TT. I punched it through a right-hand turn and realized a second too late the intersection was filled with water. Instead of sliding, the quattro dug in and I accelerated smoothly through the turn. (And to the guy who was standing on the corner of Venice and Sepulveda on that fateful winter night: I'm sorry I splashed you, but this was kismet.)
I'm sure the OEM tires played a little into this equation. Since that night, though, we've had our first cost-incurring setback. The right rear tire picked up a nail, and by the time we realized we had a hitchhiker the tire was ruined. The tire shop couldn't, or wouldn't, fix it, so we replaced all four. Our replacement rubber of choice was a set of Vredestein Ultracs. Now I'm looking for some new puddles to test the new tread.
The longer the TT sat in my driveway, the more I appreciated its curved bodylines, sporty suspension and gutsy acceleration. It's just plain fast. I beat several BMWs, Mercedes and fellow Audis off the line. It wasn't until I'd see the traffic in my rearview that I'd realize how fast I'd rocketed up to cruising speed. It delivers this over-the-top power throughout the band. Even at high speeds-hypothetically speaking, of course-the car was rock steady. The sporty "S" mode helps, but the bulk of this gusto can be attributed to the 3.2-liter engine. It asks, no begs, to zip through traffic. And I had to answer that call. I'm pretty sure other drivers screamed obscenities at me as I smashed the throttle and swiftly maneuvered around them-and this was in automatic mode.
By far one of the most exciting features is the DSG's manual mode and accompanying paddle shifters. I was skeptical that any automatic car could master the responsiveness of a manual. I expected lag. In this regard, I wasn't disappointed, but only when I floored the throttle and waited until redline to switch gears. In these instances I was rewarded with massive lag and a jerky gear change. But when I held off just a tad and upshifted at a reasonable rpm, the car sang. It switched instantaneously and effortlessly. The downshifts came with little kickback and helped me navigate the daily grind-I suppose the leather seats and Bose stereo system helped in that regard, too.
Inside, the dash layout is functional and the approach is minimal. You won't be overburdened with gadgets and gismos. The TT gets down to the basics and cuts the clutter, staying true to the sports car mentality. Exterior noise is nil as the craftsmanship is top-notch. My only gripe was with the cup holders, which were clearly added as an afterthought before it was shipped overseas. Even though I often drank my morning coffee cold in the office instead of warm in the driver's seat, I can easily overlook this. I had all the caffeine I needed resting comfortably between ten and two. I also can't fault Audi for giving it a back seat. Sure only a contortionist can fit, and even then this requires some effort, but you can bill it as a four-seater. To augment the back seat would have destroyed the smooth exterior lines. While my first impressions of the outer shell were negative (I believe my exact words were that it was an ugly little bugger), I have grown quite attached to that curved rear. Once again Audi was ahead of the game and set the standard for future stylings.
So as I'm sure you've figured out, I've done a complete one-eighty. A year ago I would have been the first to list the TT's faults. Now, I'm hard-pressed to find them. I used to laugh at drivers bearing the TT emblem. Now I see them and long to be in our long-termer. I guess I'm a TT girl after all.
Oh, and that friend of mine? He discounted my advice and bought an S4. It was a good decision, because he left the TT unmolested in my mind.
Quick StatsTotal Mileage: 11,340This month's fuel economy: 21.2 mpgThis month's costs: $900 for new tiresThumbs Up: Paddle shifters,no-nonsense dashThumbs Down: Afterthought cupholders
Those of you following this series from its inception (ec 01/05) have surely noticed this long-termer is a staff favorite. But what do we know? We want to hear your thoughts, praise, likes, gripes and indifferences-especially if you're a proud (maybe not-so proud) TT owner. We'll include your feedback in our last installment. While none of us want to think about the day this TT leaves our stable, the end is near. Send your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org for your chance to see your opinions in print.