Giving cars back is never easy, but this one was particularly hard to let go. Over the past year we've grown pretty fond of our TT, possibly because it was the sportiest car in the current fleet, but also because it was just... so... damn fun to drive. As the top-level model in Audi's TT range, the 3.2 DSG unquestionably pushes the curvy coupe into true sports-car territory.

Although you won't necessarily confuse it with a Carrera, this coupe was built to perform. Its peak 236 lb-ft of torque (available as low in the range as 2800 rpm) and 250 peak ponies allow it to accelerate with impressive urgency, pushing from zero to 60 mph in under six seconds and up to a governed top speed of 130 mph. If you're careful, it allows you to maintain decent fuel economy, between 21 and 29 mpg with easy driving, though our lead-footed staff consistently uncovered economy figures between 15 and 20 mpg (we all deal with a lot of subconscious angst which tends to surface on the drives to and from work, apparently).

Its best feature is undoubtedly the DSG transmission, a half-automatic, half-manual piece of machinery that represents the most ingeniously crafted gearbox available today. Everything good you've read is true, and its adaptability is truly remarkable. Depending on the level of aggression instigated by your right foot, it will allow you wind the engine out to redline before each upshift, even in full automatic mode. The DSG's electronics will also anticipate rapid deceleration based on braking and other parameters and adjust accordingly, deftly blipping the throttle to match revs before each downshift. If you decide to keep throttle use judicious, the transmission remains as smooth and docile as that in any touring car.

In sport (manual) mode, DSG's proprietary twin-clutch configuration offers seamless gear changes and completely linear power delivery. It's at the same time far more responsive than, say, Porsche's Tiptronic and much smoother and more user-friendly than, say, BMW's SMG. In a manner of speaking, DSG lets you have your cake and eat it too. It is so good other manufacturers have reportedly expressed interest in licensing the technology, and there are those who have speculated that one day all transmissions, to a greater or lesser degree, will be engineered similarly.

Of course, the 3.2 DSG iteration of the Audi TT also comes loaded with top-tier equipment: standard quattro all-wheel drive, a stiffer suspension, augmented brake assemblies and an uprated steering rack. Ours was also equipped with massive optional 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 225/40-series performance rubber. With its abbreviated front and rear overhangs and rather short 95.5-inch wheelbase it looks almost comical sitting atop such large running gear, but few cars I've driven feel so balanced and inspire such confidence. With its disproportionately large footprint and the assurance afforded by all-wheel drive, the TT feels connected to the road in a way few other vehicles do.

After driving the TT for a few weeks and being thoroughly impressed with it, a twisted sort of paranoia descended on the office regarding the cutting-edge DSG technology. Considering how complex the system and related electronics must be, we began to wonder how it would hold up in the ensuing months. While a year or so isn't a particularly suitable amount of time to judge long-term reliability, I'm happy to report we had absolutely no problems with this car, not even so much as a hiccup. The only parts that required replacing were the tires, and considering the mileage the car accrued during its stay with us, doing so was simply par for the course.

I often tell people that if I were in the market for a new car, I'd most likely buy an Audi. It's not because I don't enjoy driving cars from other manufacturers or that I've got any particular personal investment in the company. It's just I feel there isn't a better product for your money available on the market today. Comparable, perhaps, but not better. Everything about Audi cars says "quality" to me, from the incredibly rich exterior paint to the extensively honed performance to the top-notch materials employed within. I still believe, and always have, that Audi interiors are the best on the market (all makes inclusive). And Audi styling has always appealed to me: conservative and sedate, yet balanced and attractive. The TT is by far the edgiest and most avant-garde vehicle in the lineup and as such a bit of a departure, but even so everything about its appearance seems right, from the swooping curves of the fenders and roof to the circular, brushed aluminum air vents set in the dash. All the controls, inputs and moving parts boast considerable heft and manipulating even the most basic functions gives a strong sense of satisfaction. One concern I suppose I might have is with the doors; they are so long and so heavy it seems inevitable that one day you'll put a great big ding in a neighboring lot-parked car's side panel. But that's someone else's problem, right?

Considering our experience with this car, we all look forward to the day when we get a chance to jump in another TT. But what this car has really prepped us for is testing DSG in another platform, hopefully another example from Audi's S Line. Driving a DSG-equipped S4 or RS4 would no doubt be a heady experience to be savored. Until then, we've got our memories to keep us warm.

Testify
Here's what a handful of actual TT owners have to say about their experiences. Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to our query in the August 2005 issue.

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