|Grand Prix - Audi TT 3.2
This little sports coupe has been around so
long in its present form that a new one is just over the
horizon. However, don't think that the 2004 edition is
merely a freshened car. With a new engine and gearbox,
the TT 3.2 DSG feels like a different car...but that's
not always a good thing.
Can a car builder become known as
"the transmission company"? If anyone will, it's Audi,
which has impressed us twice now in recent years with
amazing new takes on gearchanging. First it was
multitronic, a CVT-type transmission which was operated
by stick shift or buttons on the steering wheel. Fitted
to an A4 we drove for a year, it proved as useful in
aggressive driving as it was brilliant at smoothing out
the daily grind. Now comes a technology clearly aimed at
the driver who wants to more closely synchronize his
commands with the car's actions, DSG.
Editor Collins returned from a 2,700-mile
trip in a TT 3.2 DSG, and her raves about the
transmission became almost tiresome in their fervent
frequency. Well, now that we've all had a shot at DSG,
Collins' solo has become a chorus of cheers for Audi's
version of the manual automatic transmission.
Frankly, we'd almost written off the TT as
an oldtimer, its once ground-breaking shape now so
familiar a sight that it no longer tweaks our eyes or
makes our hearts race. Plus, so many delectable new cars
are being issued from Audi--S4, A6, A8, the upcoming A3
and Pikes Peak--that the little old TT was being
It's now back in the limelight, though,
with as exciting an engine/transmission match as we can
remember experiencing. The 3.2-liter six produces a
claimed 250 bhp, but it feels like a lot more. Even
though it weighs just over 3,300 lb, the TT feels as
light on its feet as a cheetah on the hunt, swiftly
darting from corner to corner and sweeping through the
apexes with the animal grip of quattro all-wheel drive.
In an age when the driver is becoming more passenger
than pilot, the TT completely connects you to the road
in an intimate dance of power and handling.
The TT competes in a tough league--Z4,
Boxster, SLK, SC420--but it offers a driving experience
quite distinctive from its rivals. It's more nimble and,
with the newly offered 3.2-liter engine, offers the most
direct connection between your right foot and the power
curve. Simply stated, the TT 3.2 DSG is a hoot to drive,
never hinting that it wants the fun to stop. The shift
paddles, which turn along with the steering wheel, are
placed so that your hands want to stay in the best areas
for quick twists and corrections, or you can one-hand it
and use the stick in the tunnel console. The steering
rack's close ratios only add to the car's precision
dynamics, which are keen-edged as a finely stropped
Not much has changed inside the car since
its debut, but there was little wrong with it anyway. In
the 3.2, buttery leather upholstery is among a long list
of standard amenities, which earn the car bargain status
despite its $39,900 base price. Ours stickered for
$42,565 thanks to a Bose sound system and 18-in.
wheel/tire package, but that's a more than reasonable
price for one of the most exciting "driver's" cars
available in America. Congratulations to Audi for
winning our 2004 Grand Prix.
"This car should
win based on the gearbox and engine combo alone."
"More luxury suspension than
sporty, though without being mushy."
"I never much cared for the TT
coupe, but the marriage of the 3.2 and DSG comes closer
to the F1 experience than anything else."
"Interior ergonomics hampered by
space limitations. Poor armrest location on door, and
right leg continuously bashes center console."
"Despite its low-slung look, you
can adjust the seats right down to the floor for plenty
"A bit of a choppy ride over less
than perfect tarmac but still compliant overall.
Forgivable because it's so much fun."
"Whether you use the shift
paddles, keep it in automatic or pop it into Sport mode,
DSG makes the TT a blast to drive."