January 23, 2009
When the original TT first shook up the automotive world a decade ago it not only redefined the Audi brand but car design in general. Gearheads and fashionistas alike were all hot for the small coupe’s Bauhaus redux looks that survived virtually unchanged from concept to production.
Those edgy contours also promised an awesome driving experience. And like so many young enthusiasts it got my attention big time, so I went for a test drive.
Unfortunately I found an odd disconnect between how the car looked and how it drove. Sure it handled nicely enough and with decent power, but it was nowhere near as groundbreaking as its exterior design advertised. So I decided on the better balanced and more precise A4 – a relationship that lasted over 8 years and 3 model generations.
The MK2 Promise
Flash forward to 2007 and the debut of a completely redesigned MK2 TT. Again the car grabbed my attention with its meaner looks and wider stance. As expected it inherited many of the iconic cues from the original, but I was fascinated with how much the design also echoed elements of the R8 supercar. Once again new TT’s grown-up look held a lot of promise as a driving machine.
A quick spin around the dealer’s block confirmed that this time it drove as well as it looked. The only problem was that my desired drivetrain combination, a 4 cylinder turbo with quattro, wasn’t available in the MK2′s first year. The single choice was a wheel-squealing FrontTrak for the 2.0T. If I wanted AWD I would have to get the more powerful yet less sophisticated VR6, a carryover from the outgoing TT. Although a great engine in its own right, its heft and lack of tunability just wasn’t right for me.
Again biding my time I got a short lease on an A4 and waited for the inevitable 2.0T quattro combo to hit market.
Finally a 2.0T quattro
2008 marked the announcement that all-wheel-drive would finally be paired with the 2.0T. I placed my order for an ’09 and loaded it to the brim with navigation, the trick Magnetic Ride, red leather, and of course quattro. It was just a matter of time for the Hungarians to assemble my special request car and for the journey across the Pacific to California.
Less Than a Dearth of Reviews
During the grueling 3 month wait for delivery I checked the internet and car magazines for what I thought would be at least some coverage of the new TT variant. Nothing. The perplexing lack of a 2.0T quattro drivetrain was pointed out in more than a few 2007 reviews, so it struck me as odd that the eventual availability of AWD for the killer 4 banger didn’t merit a single test drive. Then it dawned on me. The announcement of the hot TTS, which shared the same engine (with a bigger turbo of course) and drivetrain, stole the limelight away from the base 2.0T quattro’s significance.
So to set things right in the universe I decided to write a couple of comprehensive reviews of the 2.0T quattro TT. First up: Break-In.
“Your TT’s Here, Come and Pick it Up”
My fleet manager called on a Friday night to let me know my new ride made the trip intact to Santa Monica – some of the sweetest words I’ve ever heard.
I was a bit worried about not choosing the more aggressive S Line package in favor of the colored interior (you can’t get both in the US), but my fears evaporated immediately. The car was drop dead gorgeous. I found it to still be plenty aggressive, and as much as I love S Line, it looked cleaner without the body kit fuss. The Meteor Gray with the red interior work beautifully together. Meteor is just a great color, not as dark as Lava Gray or neutral as Dolphin due to its subtle blue ting.
First thing I did was pop on a pair of OEM chrome exhaust tips. My first mod. Although listed as standard in the brochure the non-S Line 2.0T’s don’t get exhaust bling. The procedure took all of 20 seconds since no tools were required. I can’t stress enough how much of an improvement the chrome brings to the back. This is a highly recommended modification and well worth it at about 100 bucks.
Inside the leather’s red leans slightly towards the muted orange so as to not get too obnoxious. Most agree it is striking, yet tasteful. With the TT being more of a performance coupe than a luxury cruiser, I was surprised at the very high level of quality materials lavishing the cockpit. The seat leather is extremely high quality, as are details like the textured headliner and felt-lined door pockets. This is without a doubt the best interior in its class.
The new TT’s interior design also takes a huge ergonomic step forward from the previous generation by offering a considerably more driver-oriented environment. The beautifully sculpted sport seats sit low with pedals and shifter easily reachable regardless of driver position. At over 6 feet tall I still have plenty of head and shoulder room. All steering wheel mounted controls, including the paddle shifters, are intuitively positioned and the flat-bottomed shape doesn’t interfere with quick turns. On the contrary the irregular shape helps the driver stay mentally oriented during mid-turn.
’09 upgrades include a sharper, brighter color Driver Information Display and a more attractive shifter design taken from the TTS. Both look great and directly benefit the driving experience.
The single interior annoyance comes from the tiny rear view mirror which offers a limited oval-shaped peak into the large hatchback rear window. Shifting in the seat just a bit requires mirror adjustment, something that can grow old quickly.
As far as tech is concerned the TT is no slouch with goodies like MMI-derived navigation, rear parking sensors and a dozen ways to get music piped through the Bose surround system. However it does lack some of the more up-to-the-minute gadgetry found in models like the new A4: items such as the superior B&O stereo, pushbutton start and backup camera. No matter; what the TT may lack in assorted cockpit gimmicks is more than made up by a suite of more meaningful drive technology.
Oh wait, I almost forgot. One of the biggest automotive Debbie Downers is the break-in period. You get a fancy new sports car, and what’s the first thing you should do? Make sure to not push the car past 4000 RPM for the first 1000 miles. Damn.
So note that the following features were reviewed during the first 1000 miles of break in. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t cheat now and then…
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