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Valentine One Radar Detector

Eric
11-24-2007, 10:36 AM
In one key way at least, the Audi TT is similar to its corporate cousin, the VW New Beetle. Both cars were huge trend setters (and big hits) when they first appeared. They looked like nothing else on the road - and quickly attracted not just buyers but also imitators looking to cash in on their retro-cool mojo

Both cars are also alike today in another very important way: The market's caught up with them - and their once head-turning profiles hardly garner a second glance nowadays. The retro-streamlined look has been co-opted by other brands from Tokyo to the Motor City.

For cars who appeal was at least in part based on their snazzy unusualness, the transition to nothing-specialness hasn't been happy. Sales of the New Beetle are slack - and Audi actually pulled the TT from its lineup entirely last year in order to beaver away at a major update for 2008.

And so we have an all-new TT - similar to the original but also different in several respects. The question is, are the updates enough to jump-start buyers' interest and get them to buy a TT over, say, an Infiniti G37 or BMW Z4?

I dunno.

Most of the changes and updates are pretty subtle, so the differences between the old car and the new one aren't dramatic either viscerally, in terms of how the car feels - or aesthetically, in terms of how the car looks.

The '08 is substantially longer and wider (and the wheelbase has been extended by about two inches) which provides more interior room and improves the ride and handling - but the overall shape's still the familiar inverted bathtub with "chopped" roofline that defined the original. Although the panels themselves are all-new and no pieces interchange, the profile doesn't have the "wow, check that out!" quotient of the first-year TT.

Too many other cars are too similar.

For example, Nissan's 350Z - which from 20 yards away can easily be mistaken for a new TT.

The design theme that was head-turning nearly eight years ago, when the TT first appeared, has become pretty common today. If I'd been Audi, I would have gone for a more radical, less evolutionary re-do. There are just too many similar cars on the market - and the market for sporty coupes is an inherently limited one to begin with. To make headway or maintain momentum, you've got to really stand out - either looks-wise or performance or price-wise.

Which brings us to point number two - power.

The '08 TT does get a larger (2.0 liter) and more powerful (200 horsepower) standard engine that features technical improvements such as direct injection - which boosts performance as well as economy. The new engine provides a solid 20 horsepower uptick over the previous TT's 1.8 liter, 180 hp engine - and does it while offering significantly better fuel economy. The '08 TT with the 2.0 liter engine is EPA rated at 23 city/31 highway - vs. 20 city/28 highway for the old version with the 1.8 liter engine. That's pretty cool.

But the TT's optional engine is a carryover - the same basic 3.2 liter V-7 used in the previous generation TT - and still making the same 250 horsepower as it was in the '06 TT.

Now, 250 horsepower isn't weak. But it's also nothing to write home about, either.

Not in 2008 anyhow.

Acceleration/performance with either engine is good - the six can reach 60 mph in 5.8-6.1 seconds while the four will do the deed in the mid-high sixes. But as with the looks, this isn't especially jaw-dropping circa '08. Mid-5s for the six and six flat or less for the four would have done a lot to make the new TT stand out relative to other sport coupes on the market.

Also, some drivers (including me) may not be enthused to discover that you can't get a clutch pedal with the 2.0 liter engine. The only transmission available (at least initially) is Audi's S-Tronic - the "S" perhaps being short for "sort-of manual" - which allows driver-controlled up and downshifts via paddle shifters on the steering wheel but which otherwise operates pretty much like an automatic transmission.

These transmissions offer fast, consistent gear changes and are a nice compromise for the driver who has to slog it out in stop and go traffic - where handling a clutch can get tedious - but for many enthusiast drivers, being able to control everything (not just shifting) is a essential to the experience. Take away the third pedal and you've taken away a great deal of the fun.

Also: You can't get the Quattro AWD system with the four. Two-point-Oh models are all FWD.

Order the V-6 and you'll have your choice of either the S-Tronic or a conventional six-speed manual gearbox. And all V-6 models come with the Quattro AWD system, which can route full power to either set of drive wheels, as conditions warrant. (Normally, the system operates in a heavily front-biased split - with 85 percent of engine power being out to the pavement by the front wheels.)

Audi has made some important changes to the rest of the driveline - including the adoption of electrically assisted steering (both versions) and an available magnetically-damped suspension that's similar in concept to the system GM pioneered on the XLR and Corvette. It uses electromagnetically charged particles to alter ride firmness automatically and in milliseconds, adjusting to both changing road conditions as well as how your driving.

Like most any current-year sports car, the TT has very high levels of lateral grip and is capable of taking corners at high speeds before either the tires or the chassis even begin to approach their thresholds of comfort. The electric-assist steering's pretty good, too - neither over-boosted nor anesthetic. You can hustle the TT through the chutes about as well as anything else in its price/class. But the absence of a stickshift in the four and the heaviness of the V-6 over the front wheels in six-speed models make it less of a wild child than, say, a BMW Z4 or even a 350Z. The TT's Quattro offers wonderful control - but for the enthusiast driver, being able to hang the tail out is another big part of what it's all about.

Finally, there's price - which isn't cheap, chief.

The '08 TT 2.0 coupe FWD starts at $34,800; the V-6 Quattro coupe clears the $40k barrier at $41,500 to start. A convertible V-6 climbs the scale to $45,900. It's easy to spend $50k on an '08 TT if you option one out with the magnetic suspension and S-line appearance package, which adds 19-inch rims, some interior bits and a short-throw shifter for six-speed equipped models.

It's a nice car, but that is a lot of coin.

The price puts the V-6 TT in the same ballpark as the exotic-class Porsche Cayman ($49,400) and balloons past the MSRP of the super-impressive Infiniti G37 sport coupe - a car that starts at only $34,250 but which comes standard with a 330 horsepower 3.7 liter V-6. That is 130 horsepower more than the base TT's 2.0 liter four (for the same money, just about) and 80 horsepower more than the TT's optional V-6 (for considerably less money).

The rear-drive G's also a banzai blast to drive - though the absence of AWD can be a plus or a minus depending on your personal wants.

The nuts and bolts of it all come to this: The '08 TT's a good-looking, good-performing luxury sport coupe/convertible. But it's an open question whether "good" will be good enough to make it anywhere near as successful as the original was.

END

Disco Man
11-25-2007, 04:19 AM
For pictures of the new 2008 Audi TT - visit the main article down below:

http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/images/stories/automotive/audi/tt/08tt-s.jpg


http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=295&Itemid=10808