Our week with Audi's second-generation TT Coupe came soon after our earlier test of the Audi TT Roadster. We enjoyed the convertible version enough to give it an Editors' Choice award, mainly thanks to its unflappable performance and roster of available tech options.
The TT Coupe similarly impressed us, with its dynamic performance benefiting slightly from the inherently stiffer chassis that comes with a fixed roof versus a retractable one. Our test Coupe didn't include the navigation option, just as the Roadster hadn't, and worse, did without our droptop's magnetic ride suspension, but we did get to try out the dedicated iPod dock in the glovebox this time around.
Test the tech: iPod integration
Since iPod integration is finally coming of age as an in-car audio option, and we've recently seen some very well-executed OEM systems (and since Editors Cunningham and Massy beat us to the idea of simply flogging the car on-track and -off), we decided to take a close look at Audi's iPod implementation (a $250 option) to Test the Tech of the 2008 TT Coupe.
The installation itself is the cleanest we've seen to date, with a 30-pin dock connector on the rear glovebox wall for the iPod to slide into horizontally--no cables to deal with, no wondering where to lay the iPod when connected. A few extra plastic sleeves are provided to snugly hold various iPod models, but only those that connect directly to a 30-pin dock. The iPod Mini we normally use in test cars wasn't compatible.
But a standard-size old-school original iPod connected to the car easily. We found the appropriate plastic sleeve, slid the iPod in on its back, and we were good to go--sort of. We quickly realized that proper menu integration wasn't in the cards, making us wonder why a $20,000 Scion xB can offer such a better experience, and standard at that, than the near-$50,000 Audi, especially with the latter's dedicated hardware.
The TT Coupe reads the iPod's content through its CD changer's protocol, similar to how many aftermarket iPod adaptors work. Given the dock connector, we expected a much more fully developed and robust interface. What we saw instead was that the CD changer's disc 7 through 11 spots on the stereo's readout corresponded to the first five playlists on the iPod, and the disc 12 spot simply includes every song on the iPod.
Very surprisingly, no track info is displayed, so scrolling through the full song list is useless, as all that's displayed is "Track 87," etc. Of course, creating five manageable playlists for the car will be what owners do, but the integration still isn't great. We had a more favorable experience with iPod integration on the 2007 Audi A6, which included navigation.
In the cabin
Our iPod letdown might have been mitigated, had our test car been equipped with the navigation option; we're not sure if integration is better with Audi's MMI control and LCD display. Similarly, we wondered if the TT's Bluetooth phone setup would offer the searchable contacts feature we saw in the Audi A6 if nav were specified.
Without nav, the car still paired with our Sony Ericsson k790 very easily and automatically downloaded its address book. Contacts are then viewed in the driver information system screen between the main gauges and scrolled via one of the steering wheel's roller switches. This can be tedious, as all numbers for each contact are displayed one by one. Searching by letter as we had in the A6 would have been a vast improvement.
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.