The stirring performance, especially with the
225 horsepower turbocharged engine, brings you back to automotive reality, however. Audi
sells a range of handsome and finely crafted performance sedans and wagons, but the small
TT is the one you can strap on and ride. Just 159.1 inches from nose to tail, it coddles
you in Premium Nappa leather, with gleaming aluminum dash trim on the elegantly restrained
dash and doors.
You would never think that this little car is actually a hatchback!
Tiny back seats will hold a child, for a while, but if you want a carpool vehicle, Audi's
A4, A6, or A8 would be a better choice.
The original TT came only with a 180 horsepower four-cylinder
engine, and though you never got bogged down leaving a stoplight, the TT was not quite a
rocket ship either. Now, with the 225 horsepower turbocharged model, the little car takes
off in a big hurry.
Changes are minimal for 2003, with a revised grille and trim, new
color combinations, and a couple of revised features. One big change, however, is the way
you can and can't order your car. The turbocharged 180-horsepower base model now comes
only with front wheel drive and a new six-speed automatic transmission, and 225-horsepower
model has Audi's famous Quattro all-wheel-drive system standard and a six-speed manual
Before, a five-speed manual transmission was standard in the
180-horsepower model, and although Quattro was standard on the more powerful car, you
could order it as an option on the 180-horsepower car.
This new marketing program more strongly differentiates the two
levels of TT, perhaps aiming them at different buyers. For a vehicle that sells in
relatively small quantities, it makes it easier for dealers to stock their inventories,
and gives the factory gain efficiency by producing fewer build combinations.
Certainly, an automatic brings Audi some new drivers who had missed
out on the TT experience before because they couldn't shift their own gears.
This new automatic transmission is not your standard slushbox. You
select the gears sequentially from buttons on the steering wheel, just like a racecar
driver does. The six gear ratios are carefully matched to the car's capabilities, so a
0-60 mph run takes 7.9 seconds in the 180-horsepower coupe.
Moving up to the 225-horsepower model, the torque grows as well,
from 173 lb.-ft to 207, and the zero to sixty time drops to a mere 6.3 seconds. The
Quattro all-wheel-drive system keeps the TT stuck to the ground. While the 180-horsepower
model gets standard 16-inch wheels and tires, with 17-inchers optional, the 225 starts
with 17s and offers mammoth 18-inchers as an option. Regardless of the wheel/tire combo,
all of the alloys are new this year.
Mileage figures are quite good, considering the strong performance
the TT generates. My 225-horsepower model with manual six-speed was rated at 20 city, 28
highway. I recorded 22.8 mpg during my test week according to the driver information
display in the instrument panel.
My test car was actually a late built 2002 model, but the 2003s are
virtually unchanged, except for a few minor but worthwhile items. My tester was one of the
limited edition American Le Mans Series Champions, with a special Misano Red Pearl Effect
paint on the outside and a stunning silver leather interior.
Audi TTs can be had with a convertible top for extra fun. The body
structure of the TT is rigid enough that eliminating the top doesn't create any cowl shake
at all. The coupe, with its slit windows, may feel a little claustrophobic for some, but
the drop top opens up a whole other world. The engine, transmission, and drivetrain
choices remain the same whether your car has the steel top or the cloth one.
Every TT comes with a batch of computer-assisted gadgetry to keep
the car stable on the road. The Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) studies sensor
readings and then modulates the throttle or applies the brakes to individual wheels
separately, as needed. The anti-lock brake system works with electronic rear brake
pressure regulation to stop the car quickly and evenly.
The 2003 TTs get an upgraded New Generation stereo system with an
in-dash CD with AudioPilot, a noise-dampening system that adjusts the audio system
depending on the amount of ambient noise in the cabin.
Every TT is well equipped, with the power and comfort features you
would expect in an upscale car. You can gild the lily with the Premium Package if you wish
adding individually adjustable heated front seats, Xenon high-intensity headlamps, and the
Homelink remote access system. My tester had a Convenience Package ($600) that pretty much
did that. The Audio Package ($1,200) added the upgraded Bose sound system and a 6-disk CD
changer. The bottom line for my tester was $42,045, including destination charge. The
price range starts with the 180-horsepower coupe at $32,500 and goes up to $39,000 for the