Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Road Test: Audi TT Coupe 2.0TFSI

Text by Dr Long
Pictures by Dr Long & Paul Tan

Click on all images to enlarge
This road test report was supposed to be up after the Audi Q7 SUV’s but somehow a close friend who happens to be a born again BMW fan said today he maybe considering the upcoming Audi TTS coupe – instead of the upcoming E92 M3 with DCT in 2009 – so here is the brought forward review of the two Audis tried and tested recently.

Over a period of three days of sampling the new TT Coupe 2.0TFSI I have been often asked: “Isn’t it better (and wiser) to get that Mk5 Golf GTI instead?” Truth be told, the new TT coupe is based on the MK5 Golf platform and in this turbocharged 4-pot guise, with the same powertrain as well.

But that’s pretty much where the similarities end. One’s a real looker of a Teutonic sport coupe with extensive aluminium use at front end while the other one is basically a mass-market hatchback with that iconic (and well deserved) GTI acronym. If you had been a follower of For Wheels blog, you would have read my first short-drive report of the TT Coupe 2.0 at the time of launch last year. Retrospectively, I was feeling the same as most of my friends and close associates - that the GTI was indeed a better choice – upon leaving Euromobil’s Glenmarie HQ then.

Fast forward to present day, a few days of borrowed/simulated “ownership” revealed an affable experience that’s quite moving. Awe-inspiring because those Alcantara-leather trimmed bucket seats cossets you a notch or two lower and more intimate than the GTI. And via the seat bottom, the chassis can tell your bum stories on road surface/gradient and cornering angle like no Vee-Dub with that GTI moniker can ever attempt to. While Audi-VW’s steering generally isn’t the last word on front-axle-to-driver communications and in the TT was still a tad feathery light, its sharpness and accuracy was much spot on for a sports coupe that wears a silhouette – roofline, rear screen and back three-quarter view - much like a Porsche Cayman.

Of course, being front-wheel driven, it demands more attention to its rack since front axle tramp (akin to missing a step or two) sometimes rear its ugly head should you get impatient with that ultra-responsive throttle during a quick lane-changing overtaking maneouvre. Yet the whole experience is intoxicating and fun should you learn how to work with its FWD dynamics and not wrestle it like you would a rear-wheel driven car. High speed stability was not a problem save for an occasion when the front end veered laterally having got caught in a crosswind. The boot lip spoiler without fail deploys at above 120km/h each time though I honestly couldn’t feel a difference in rear down force as I powered on. Brakes are as usual Audi-VW’s TFSI associated high performance grabby but it gets the job done, effectively.

Tracking around bends are much reassuring with the high levels of front end grip, possibly afforded by those sticky Potenzas RE050. Chassis balance is however a little edgier than the GTI – the Golf is more forgiving – so it takes a little more commitment and concentration to drive fast in this coupe. Do so and it rewards you with a silly grin each time you leave the rest behind in traffic. Admittedly, the new TT’s suspension can be caught a little busy on rough tarmacs, along with relatively “loose” body control if you’re used to the likes of Mercs and Beemers, but it’s not all pointing out like a sore thumb since road holding were still very much sure-footed. Ride comfort is also unbelievable compliant for a relatively short wheelbase sports coupe. The characteristic exhaust burble or bark on high-rev upshifts was unmistakable much like the GTI, perhaps just a little more refined, blending into the background of a more bassy (read: sportier) exhaust note.

Of course, the renamed 6-speed S-Tronic dual clutch gearbox (DSG) cannot be faulted in any way, as expected, now that even the benchmark-setting new Nissan R35 GT-R comes standard only with similar dual-clutch semi-auto tranny. Upshifts and downshifts via steering paddles are quick and of no fuss, with more urgency and higher revving noted in ‘S’ mode. And that flat bottomed steering wheel trimmed in soft leather and polished aluminium is both a joy to hold and to stare at! Ditto to the inner door handles, gear knob, gear console, meter cowlings, glovebox, parking brake handle et al. Truly Audi’s magic at work for the TT Coupe’s interior.

I have never been able to get comfortable with VW-Audi group’s climate control A/C right from the days of the (C5) Audi A6 up till the pre-facelift VW Toaureg 3.6 FSI, VW Jetta 2.0FSI and even the Audi Q7 4.2 FSI sampled recently. The old A/C controls with bilateral digital temp display in red with corresponding set of ‘+/-‘controls were fiddly to operate and more importantly, don’t work well in Malaysian tropics. Case in point…more often than not I have had to set it 16º Celsius or “LO” for constant, effective cabin cooling. In starking contrast, the simpler triple A/C dials in the new TT Coupe (similar items in Audi R8) for here works fine even when left in auto mode, with temp setting at say 20º or 22º Celsius. No suffocating sensation due to excessively low blower fan speed or incessantly off-cycle cooling just blowing humid air all of a sudden!

As expected of a sloping coupe like the new TT, its rear seats remain useless most of the time except for maybe carrying my 3 and 4 year old little princesses on short trips. Seatbelts are afterall being provided along with that little rear bucket seats, though legroom are strictly for little calves and feet. I must admit I have fallen head over heels all over again though this one is for something automotive that my wife would not get jealous or possessive over. Ah well (all dreamy-eyed and lusting)…the quad rectangle rear brake lamps lenses are oh-so- lovely at night, along with the flared rear flanks when viewed as the TT Coupe powers away into the horizon.

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