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ICON O' CLASS

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Aug 11, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

ICON O' CLASS By Brian Kennedy My first reaction on seeing this car - totally unfair - is, "Gee, that's kind of cheap." The problem is, the week before, I'd been driving around in an Audi S6 worth about 79 grand. The TT ($34,800, but $38,470 as equipped) by comparison, lacks goodies like full leather seats and navigation. Its only options are 18" wheels and "Premium Package" Electronic goodies mostly, plus the six-disk changer. In fact, on the maiden journey, the conversation with my co-pilot goes something like this: "Why not just save 10 grand and get the GTI? It's got the same mechanical bits." This may not be entirely accurate. I'm reporting what is said - so just play along for now. And her response, "Why not just spend 10k more and get a Cayman?" That will be the strippo Cayman, you can imagine. (Editor: That's $49,400 for the strippo Cayman) All the while, we are pushing buttons and pulling knobs, checking out the contours of the interior and fiddling with the seat adjustments. We certainly don't have any arguments with the design. The seats take a little more work to get used to. In fact, a couple of days' worth.

However, our first-night's voyage is not just about the TT, and we quickly shift our conversation to our mission, which is to retrieve a hubcap thrown off by my 1966 Mustang twelve days prior on a local freeway. At the time, we had given it up for lost, but just two days before the TT arrives, I spot the hubcap, still sitting by the side of the road. Not that I'm cheap or anything, but that thing cost me about $8 on eBay, and seeing it hasn't been snatched up by either a treasure hunter or CalTrans makes me determined that it will once again be mine. Okay, so I'm cheap. But I've put the kids of the guy who runs Hubcap Annie through dental school, and it's gotta stop somewhere. That's the price of driving '60s cars everyday. We go to the end of the freeway, our plan set. We wait at the shoulder about a mile from the hubcap until all cars in sight pass (not as impossible as it sounds, since this is the beginning point of the freeway, and this is the middle of the night), then zoom ahead at 65 mph to put space between us and anyone who might turn onto the freeway after we do. Once in sight of the hubcap, we make sure that there are no cars in the rearview, and throw on the flashers, then slow down. At the hubcap, I move to the shoulder, throw her into park, jump out and make the grab, carefully hand it in to my waiting accomplice, and then get back in and zoom off. It all happens right according to plan. I even use the parking brake. As we take off again, we congratulate ourselves. We take the next off-ramp to head home. I turn left, and stop dead, waiting for the light to the onramp to turn green, and I floor it. (They expect me to do this, right? Or at least, you do). "Gotta check the 0-to-60" I comment.

We shoot up that ramp like a bat out of the hot place. There is an S-twist in it, and as we half float, the engine at a roar and my foot to the floor, I feel the car suck tight to the ground, the speed just at 65, but the feeling is like we are going 100. "Holy crap! This thing is a rocket!" I look down. In my haste to take off after grabbing the hubcap, I had put the automatic shift lever all the way down into "S" mode, rather than in "D." And let me tell you, no matter what the owner's manual of this thing says, "S" is not for "Sport." Try "Supersonic." I dutifully back off at 65, and we cruise home, still marveling that the hubcap is ours again. As the days go on, I figure out why the 2008 TT seems so darn fast. There's barely a noticeable drop in RPMs when moving through the gears. You're just always on torque, and rather than giving the car a moment to settle down during shifts, the engine is able to pick the front end up once, and then keep it elevated with weight transfer throughout the acceleration cycle. The torque, mixed with the lightness of the car, makes that trip up the onramp one of those moments of car glory that I will never forget. Imagine being able to have that every day? Tempting. Subsequent impressions confirm my first feelings. Though the "D" mode is a tad sluggish, especially with its takeoffs, the engine-tranny can be worked however you like it - easy mode, sport mode, or you-shift-it mode. All work well in the right situation.

What's fun about this car is that there's enough power to make you giddy, but not enough so that the car's no fun to drive on the street. Don't misunderstand me - I like horsepower. My cars are all V8s. But there's a point that a car is just too fast to have any fun with, because you're constantly backing out of the pedal. The TT is quick enough to scare you, faster than most other cars you'll drive alongside of, but not unmanageable. Aside from that, the TT excels in other areas, most notably styling. While the prior TT was a beauty in round, this one has angles which suggest complexity, subtlety - curves rather than circles. It's sumptuous. But it's also nasty, especially from the front end. A road-chewer. Maybe even overly aggressive. But it's working, at least judging by the looks I get driving it. Of course, there are some things that aren't perfect. For one, the sideview mirrors are ridiculously huge, so big in fact that you can't look out the side of the car when you're making a left turn. And then in a kind of perverse complement to that, the rearview is way too small, the view reminding me of what it looks like to be coming out of a tunnel and taking a glance behind. Why? The stereo is not intuitive to operate, especially in preset mode, but delivers adequate, though not concert-level, sound. It does have a six-disk changer, and an iPod link is available as a $250 option. Further on the nitpick list, the doors kind of thunk close. There's not the feeling of luxury sports car that one might hope for at this price point. That BMW door-shut - absent. These complaints don't matter, though, when the styling and engine are taken into account. And in any event, gussying up the car with more leather and stuff might make some of its minor shortcomings seem to go away, because every time you get in, you'd be reminded that you're driving a premium-level car. To sum it up: If I am in the market for a modern sports car (my logic always asks whether I'd rather not just spend the same money and get a cheap modern driver plus a 1960s car), the TT will top my shopping list. I think I'd still check out the GTI, and I'd drive the Cayman. But ultimately, I'd likely decide that the TT is worth ten thousand bucks more than the Wabbit, and satisfying enough to keep me from having to buy the Porsche.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT Call the base model TT something other than a strippo version. Call it money well-saved. SIDEBAR COMMENT The original Freeman Thomas designed TT was a stunner - hands down the most copied sports car of the last ten years. Its exterior design influenced future designs from Japanese, North American, and other European makers. The interior of the original TT, with its heavy use of brushed aluminum, was equally influential. The popularity of bright metalwork in today's interiors can be directly traced back to the TT. For 2008, Audi has come up with an all-new TT - and it's a better car in almost every way: Sportier, quicker, sexier. The new TT's aluminum and steel Audi Space Frame construction makes for a studier body, manifesting itself in greater directional stability, handling, and safety. The new 2.0T turbocharged power plant is considered one of the 10 best engines in the world. And the test vehicle's S-tronic (DSG) automatic transmission yields shifts in 0.2 seconds - quicker than any manual transmission. With all the improvements, the new design loses a bit of the original TT's distinctiveness. The car looks just a bit too much like all the other Audis. There's also more plastic in the interior (albeit nicely executed - and unlike Brian, I find the standard leather and Alcantara seats just fine). Gone are the exquisitely detailed and brushed TT badges with the red painted outlines - replaced with normal chrome ones. Alas, such is the price of the never-ending goal of offer more car for less money. Still, this is the best TT ever - and a helluva lot more fun to drive than the original. - Roy Nakano

TT Coupe and Roadster For more information about Audi products, go to audiusa.com. Brian Kennedy's book Growing Up Hockey comes out this summer. Check out growinguphockey.com for information. SPECIFICATIONS Name of Vehicle: 2008 Audi TT Coupe 2.0 TFSI S tronic Price of vehicle: $34,800 (plus destination charges) $38,470 (as tested, includes 18-inch alloy wheels, high performance summer tires, Homelink, multifunction leather sport steering wheel, power driver and front passenger seats, heated front seats, auto-dimmer interior mirror, rain and light sensor, and Symphiny radio with in-dash 6-disk CD changer) Engine type: 2.0-liter in-line, direct-injection four-cylinder turbocharged/intercooled, with a cast iron block and aluminum heads Horsepower: 200 bhp at 5,500 rpm Torque: 207 pound-feet at 1,800-4,700 rpm EPA mileage specs: 23 mpg/city, 31 mpg/highway Drive configuration: Front-wheel-drive (all-wheel drive Quattro system optional) Transmission type: Six-speed manual or S-tronic (DSG) six-speed sequential-shift automatic Front suspension: MacPherson struts with lower wishbones, aluminum subframe, tubular anti-roll bar, track stabilizing steering roll radius Rear suspension: Four-link with separate springs/shock absorber arrangement, subframe, and a tubular anti-roll bar Wheels/tires: 7.5x18 aluminum alloy wheels with 225/40R18 summer performance tires Brakes: Front: 11.9 inch vented discs with dual-piston calipers Rear: 11.6 inch solid discs with single-piston calipers Power assisted, ABS, EBD, BA and electronic differential lock Overall length: 164.5 inches Overall width: 72.5 inches Overall height: 53.2 inches Curb weight: 2965 pounds

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