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Driven: Audi TTS Roadster. Image by Audi.

Driven: Audi TTS Roadster
The hot but not hottest Audi TT, tested in maximum-posing Roadster specification.

 



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Audi TTS Roadster

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: could be all the TT you'll ever need, despite the presence of the RS version.

Not so good: still pricey for a two-seat roadster based (loosely) on a Volkswagen Golf.

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi TTS Roadster
Price: Roadster from 29,215; TTS Roadster from 40,450; car as tested 48,815
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door roadster
CO2 emissions: 174g/km (Band H, 300 VED first 12 months, 210 annually thereafter, if registered before April 1, 2017; on optional 20in wheels, 800 first 12 months, 450 per annum next five years, then 140 per annum after that, if registered after April 1, 2017)
Combined economy: 37.7mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Power: 310hp at 5,800- to 6,200rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1,800- to 5,700rpm

Our view:

We'll start with a quick summation of the Audi TTS Roadster to save you a bit of time if you're in a rush: it's easily, comfortably, the best, most rewarding TT we've ever driven, across all three generations of the car. That might be all you need to know about this new-yet-familiar two-seat open-top, because a lot of the TT proposition is obviously preserved by this near-range-topping version.

It still looks superb, the exterior an exercise in neatly judged S addenda (subtle lower body kit, quad exhausts, big alloys and air intakes, silver detailing and discreet S badging), and it still has one of the best interiors in the business. The TT is one of the few Audis that comes with the magnificent Virtual Cockpit as standard, so what you have is a technologically cutting-edge cabin that's finished to the highest possible levels of quality for this sort of cash. A flat-bottomed steering wheel, TTS logos, supportive and comfortable bucket seats, first-class tactility and some flashy bits of trim make this feel a cut above the standard TT's cabin - and that's hardly a shoddy place in which to sit in the first place.

What makes the third-gen TT's powerful S model such a great car, though, is not its showroom appeal; all TTs have always had that in spades. No, what makes this TTS great is that, even as an open-top, it's a bloody great car to drive. None of that infuriating inertness that seems to mar fast Audis (and particularly TTs in the past) has made its way here, as this is a car blessed with lovely steering, a communicative chassis and an absolutely blinding powerplant. It's the EA888 four-pot turbo, naturally, here rated at 310hp and 380Nm, and it bestows stonking performance on the 1,525kg roadster; even better, Audi sent us a test car with the full complement of pedals courtesy of a six-speed manual gearbox, which made the TTS Roadster even more beguiling to drive compared to its S tronic twin.

The engine and exhaust make a terrific racket, really sporty and hard-edged, although it also functions with a touch of decorum when you're not 'on it' in the TTS. Perhaps its finest attribute is the balance of ride and body control, the Audi exhibiting fluid suspension that makes the car supremely comfortable at all times yet which never lets the mass of the TTS get out of hand on a bumpy road. With an excellent application of quattro four-wheel drive that resists understeer at all sane road speeds, and a set of epic brakes too, the various facets of the Audi's character come together to make the TTS genuinely fun to throw about on your favourite country road.

It's not often we say that about any TT, a fine case in point being the recently launched TT RS that has usurped the TTS as the fastest model of Audi's highly desirable automotive bauble. It's a roughly 12,000 hike to go from a TTS Roadster to a TT RS Roadster and while you get a sonorous 400hp/480Nm five-cylinder engine in the RS, you don't get a lot extra in terms of chassis finesse. Plus, there's more understeer in the 400hp TT due to the physically bigger 2.5-litre engine over the nose, so that should put the superb road-holding performance of the TTS into perspective.

Don't expect the S to be cheap, though. Just a few options on our car - metallic paint (550), gorgeous 20-inch alloys (850), the upgraded infotainment provided by Technology Package featuring Audi Connect (1,490), the Open-Top Driving Package (1,000, incorporating head-level heating in the seat backs, an electrically operated wind deflector and heated Super Sport seats), Matrix LED headlights (945), electric front seats (995), electric folding and heated door mirrors (215) and front and rear parking sensors (840) - all shoved the ticket up from a whisker in excess of 40 grand to the guts of 50,000. And we really do think charging 495 for climate control, with the integrated digital displays in the rotary control dials, is a bleedin' liberty on a prestige vehicle like the TTS.

Also, watch out for that alloys upgrade. Bigger wheels will not affect the VED negatively before April 1, 2017, but after that date opting for them does push the TTS up a category for road tax, meaning an extra 300 in year one compared to a TTS on 19s. It's not a deal-breaker, perhaps, but it's another consideration to make before dropping 850 on slightly more bling rims.

Nevertheless, despite these very few minor niggles, the TTS proved to be the most enchanting TT we've tried yet. It came only a few months after we also drove a 2.0 TFSI 230hp Roadster, with only front-wheel drive and the S tronic gearbox. Costing 35,600 as standard and 41,725 with a few extras, it felt like a fabulous car... but once we'd tried the TTS, it was clear to see why the 310hp model commands a significant premium, as the FWD TT was a notably less capable performer in the corners.

So, if you really buy into the exterior design and cabin finishing of the TT - and we certainly wouldn't blame you if you do - then the TTS has a huge amount going for it. For once, the Audi comfortably destroys BMW's comparable offering, the Z4, due to head off to the knacker's yard any day now, while it's also clearly ahead of Mercedes' refreshed SLC. Job largely done for the TTS, you'd think, but despite it abandoning the inline-six engines for a range of turbocharged boxer four units, the Porsche 718 Boxster is still the two-seat German roadster to have if you're a really keen driver. Don't dismiss the TTS, though, because it runs the Weissach machine dynamically very close indeed; we can't think of any higher praise for this classy, charming Audi than that.

Alternatives:

BMW Z4 sDrive35is: so old, it has to be aged by carbon-dating. Second-gen Z4 has never been a sharp driver's car; one of BMW's rare dynamic aberrations. TTS is miles better.

Mercedes-Benz SLC 300: TTS falls between two SLC stools, this 245hp 300 and the Mercedes-AMG SLC 43. Price-wise, it matches up to the 'lesser' Merc and thus the Audi comfortably has it covered.

Porsche 718 Boxster: a little bit dearer than the TTS, but there's the potential to load both with costly options. Despite the move to four cylinders, the Boxster is still the more involving driver's car.


Matt Robinson - 18 Dec 2016









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