Aesthetically, the TT Coupe's interior is very pleasing, in keeping with Audi's recent success in this department. The signature round air vents are carried over from the original TT, and our car's black plastics and optional Nappa tan leather ($1,100) worked well together. Less convincing was the "Storage Package" as part of this option: Even for a small two-door coupe, there is an utter lack of places to put stuff in the TT. Cargo nets are part of the option, as are cubbies below the front seats, but a bigger glovebox or any center console at all would have been better. In a similar vein, the rear seats are useless and would be replaced by a lockable bin if we had our druthers.
On the upside, the steering wheel is pleasantly meaty and features a squared-off lower section for more thigh space and that prototype-racer look. Also appreciated are steering-wheel buttons and rollers to handle audio and phone control. The readout for even the non-navigation display is very large, as noted in our earlier test, and displays full track info for MP3 discs as well as Sirius satellite radio (again, making its iPod shortcomings the more baffling). Sound from the optional Bose premium system ($1,000 including Sirius prep, which is also available a la carte) is quite good thanks to 255 watts of power and 12 speakers in the tiny cabin.
Other nice touches include the rigid cargo cover that snaps into the fastback, concealing items in the rear cargo area when the hatch is shut. A big dead pedal is polished metal with rubber grips to match the working pedals. A programmable HomeLink garage opener is standard.
Under the hood
As much as we like the TT Coupe's exterior styling and welcoming cabin, the car's performance is its ace in the hole. With just the right combination of light(ish) weight, well-matched power, and all-wheel drive, this is a car that is made for weekend blasts on twisty roads.
As noted above, our Coupe didn't have the optional magnetic ride suspension, but we can't imagine enjoying a road car's handling much more than we did this one's. Choosing gears with the steering wheel paddles allows full concentration on the precise if slightly light steering feel. Upshifts and downshifts are instant and smooth thanks to the dual-clutch, dual-output shaft, dual-concentric drive shaft transmission, called S-Tronic here and a no-brainer no-cost option over the six-speed manual. The combination of effortless power modulation and Audi's famed Quattro AWD system, which normally biases power 85 percent to the front wheels but can go 100 percent to either axle, is intoxicating. Our test car was upgraded with 18-inch alloy wheels ($800) whose thin rubber gave us pause on first seeing the car, but never felt punishing around town.
Our exploration of the TT's handling wasn't nearly as deep as that of our colleagues' at Laguna Seca, but especially during a signature San Francisco Saturday with fog to the point of damp roads, the TT inspired confidence and encouraged hard driving. With Audi's latest Space Frame chassis concept combining aluminum and steel in a front/rear distribution optimized for overall balance, the car feels midengined during cornering. The Coupe's body shell weighs about 100 pounds less than that of the Roadster's, which uses 42 percent steel, compared with the Coupe's 32 percent. But a V-6 Roadster is actually about 40 pounds lighter overall than a V6 Coupe, presumably because of all the glass for the Coupe's hatchback.
Power numbers for the 3.2-liter V-6 aren't eye-popping at 250 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, but the torque is available relatively early (2,500-3,000rpm) and the car's overall agility outshines any perceived lack of thrust (at least for road use). A special launch mode that allows what amount to 3,500rpm brake torques is fun but probably isn't the S-Tronic's favorite trick. Electronic stability control is standard and can be switched off. EPA fuel economy is neither small-car great nor sports car grim, at 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway (with S-Tronic).
The 2008 Audi 3.2-liter TT Coupe retails for $42,900 and our car's configuration added up to a $48,020 bottom line, including a $720 destination charge. At this price, it's an expensive toy to be sure, but an attractive one from outside or in.
With just the right amount of power aligned with handling to match any front-engined car around, the 2008 Audi TT Coupe is a sparkling performer guaranteed to generate smiles from behind the wheel. Technically a 2+2 (with two doors and rear seats), in reality it is a two-seater, and a small one, at that. But practicality is not its goal, and for pure driving entertainment, it hits the mark.