Driving Impressions

2001 Audi TT Roadster
David Cipolloni
June 1, 2000

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Is the TT really front wheel drive? What an outstanding job of making front wheel drive work in a performance car. We drove the Audi through mountain roads with switchback turns and rises that left some passengers heading for the Dramamine. We drove the Audi at redline more than we care to admit and stomped hard on the 4 wheel discs until the rotors were hot enough to fry an egg. We cranked the steering on tight maneuvers with the throttle wide open to monitor the ASR (anti-slip regulation) in operation. And when we gathered around the campfire to compare notes it was a resounding "IT"S OK". We were more impressed with how refined this car is than how quick the 180hp model was we tested. 

Every time we drove the car the conversation would unintentionally center around how this car did compared to the Honda S2000 we tested 6 months ago. If you plan to drive like Juan Montoya then buy the Honda, if you want a refined sports car that provides a stable, smooth platform then consider the TT. Well, that said lets move on to the meat and potatoes. 

The Lake Silver Metallic 2001 Audi TT Roadster we tested had a base price of $32,850. To that we added the Audio Package for $1,200, the Premium Package for $1,450 and the power top for $800. With the destination charge of $525 the MSRP totaled out at $36,825. If we were to purchase this car we would omit the power top and save the $800. 

This price is a tad higher than the Honda but the Audi has some nice standard features such as front and side airbags, anti-theft, headlight washers, glass rear window with defogger, heated outside mirrors, climate control with dust and pollen filters, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, galvanized body w/aluminum hood, 120 watt 7 speaker stereo and wiring for the ever essential telephone. The 4 year 50,000 mile warranty also covers all scheduled maintenance and 4 year roadside assistance. 

The basic layout of the vehicle is the typical unitized body with front wheel drive, struts up front with 3 point lower control arms and a torsion beam trailing arm rear axle. Sound like a VW golf, New Beetle or Audi A4? If you want the fully independent rear suspension you'll need to buy the new 225HP Quattro car. 

It's difficult to find fault with the interior when Audi really went the extra mile to spoil the occupants. The seats in our tester were leather clad and provided excellent bolstering and lumbar support. They also provided excellent lateral support without sacrificing comfort on those long road trips. Pedal position was excellent and the clutch had good feel without excessive travel. The dead pedal is the size of Wisconsin so you won't have to hunt around for it with your left foot. The adjustable steering column does it's job for most size drivers so there should be no complaint there. Instrumentation is first rate and in direct view of the driver. Below the hamburger warming light (it really does look like a heat lamp) on the center console there are 3 switches, one of which disables the motion sensors in the top to prevent the alarm from being activated if you leave your pet locked in the car (those baseball glove stitched seats may look like a big rawhide chewie). 

The controls for the heated seats pop out and rotate with good feel and function. The climate control dials push/pull and jog left and right also with the feel of quality. Our car had the optional concert sound stereo and provided everything you could want from a stereo. The aluminum cover nicely hides the stereo when your away from the vehicle. The use of aluminum trim throughout the interior provides a feel of quality and enhances the overall appearance. We hate to say anything bad about the interior because it really is of the highest standard but the cupholders are not placed very conveniently. We know some folks don't think a car like this should have cup holders but that cappuccino has to go somewhere. Once again we end up making a comparison between the S2000 and the TT with the Audi winning this round hands down. Driving the Honda is a great experience and we recommend it to everyone but where the Audi lacks the power of the Honda it makes up for it by coddling the driver. If your in for a long trip you'll be thankful you chose the TT.

Baseball Glove interior (L).  Standard interior (R)

Top view (L).  Drivers view (R)

Engine and Gearbox
Power comes from the 5 valve turbocharged 1.8 liter 4 Cylinder making 180 bhp @ 5500 Rpm's. Doesn't look all that impressive huh? Well maybe the fact that the 173 lb-ft of torque comes in at 1950 Rpm's and runs out to 4700 will brighten your day. This is the same basic powerplant as the Audi A4 and the new VW Turbo Beetle except those cars only pump out 150 bhp. To grab the extra 30 horses Audi had to change the turbocharger, intake manifold, exhaust manifold and pistons. The biggest gain was in the redesign of the intake manifold that creates a tumbling effect on the turbocharged air as it enters the combustion chamber. This in essence increases the combustion process by improving the mixing of air and fuel. The result is increased engine efficiency and lower exhaust emissions. 

The Bosch Motronic ME 7.5 engine management system keeps the little 1.8 running smoothly and employs drive-by-wire throttle operation. This system also handles the electronically locking front differential (EDL) and the standard traction control called ASR (anti-slip regulation). Audi uses the KKK Type K03 turbocharger that produces a maximum of 9.6 psi of boost. Turbo lag is reduced to such a low rpm range that the average driver will not take notice. This in part is accomplished by the engines 9.5:1 compression ratio which is rather high for a production turbo motor. Shifting the 5spd gearbox (6sp on 225hp version) is accomplished through the use of a rigid wire cable setup instead of steel rods. Don't worry though because the TT shifts better than most cars we have driven. 

Driving Impression
Every car has it's own peculiarities that make it feel and drive a certain way and the TT is no exception. Even though the production TT looks a great deal like the pre-production prototype we suspect the Audi engineers were burning the midnight oil when it came to the suspension. Did they get it right? You bet they did, this is not your typical front wheel drive econobox and a day driving around some mountain passes will clear that up in a big hurry. Expecting the traditional front wheel drive understeer? The kind that would push you right out of that apex and into your insurance agents office? Nope, this car tracks through the turns with authority whether you are on or off the gas. Sometimes you just have to shell out the bucks if you want the suspension to be right and in this case you won't be disappointed. 

We haven't tested the Quattro version yet so we can't give you our impression but if we had to guess we would say it's going to be good. Did we say you won't need your kidney belt when you ride in this car? The ride is very compliant and left us feeling relaxed after long periods of time in the car. We mentioned before that we could not help compare this car to the Honda S2000 because it pretty much targets the same audience but after spending time in both vehicles we can tell you they are very different machines. Even though the Honda is faster and more fun to drive at speed it does lack the small refinements in the suspension and interior that make the Audi more pleasant for general outings. 

To be more specific we found the seats to be more comfortable, the interior controls more user friendly (even though there is no red starter button) and the ride more catering to the passengers. Every time we drove the Honda we felt the need to run the car hard and appreciate it's performance attributes. The Audi was just the opposite. Every time we drove the TT we felt like we just wanted to cruise along at a good clip and enjoy all the twisties we could find. When we pushed the TT to it's limits it remained perfectly controlled but never left us feeling satisfied. The 225hp Quattro may take care of the speed concerns and add all weather traction to boot. 

On one of our photo shoots we ended up parked next to a new C5 Corvette and couldn't help notice the contrast. The Corvette dwarfed the Audi and really is such a different car that we shouldn't really compare the two. On the other hand for a little more money the Corvette can open up a whole can of whoop ass on the TT. When it comes down to writing the check, folks should consider what it is they want. If it's pure power and speed they may do better with the S2000 or the Corvette but if it's a refined open roadster that never leaves you fatigued than the TT is a sure bet. We would take the TT back anytime as a long term tester but there might be a fight in the office over who gets it first.

So what the heck does TT stand for anyway?
That would be "Tourist Trophy" as in Great Britain's historic racing series of the Isle of Man. 

Stuff We Liked:

  • Good low speed response from the engine.

  • Cool looking roll bars that are an integral part of the chassis.

  • Killer stereo (concert sound).

  • Hamburger warming light under dash (just kidding, it's just a dash light but it does look like a heat lamp).

  • Rigid body structure (very little cowl shake).

  • Very high grade interior materials 

  • Shifter

  • Excellent handling

  • Excellent ride

  • 22mpg city 30mpg hwy

  • Standard ABS and ASR

  • 100bhp per liter

  • Car held true to the original concept.

Stuff We Didn't Like:

  • Power top is not necessary because it's slower than the manual top and you will need to get out to install the boot anyhow.

  • For how well the car handles it could use more power.

    • 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds

    • 0-80 mph in 13.3 seconds

    • 0-100 mph in 21.8 seconds

  • Power wind blocker behind the seats doesn't block that much wind.

  • 17" wheels should be standard

  Technical Specs  

Engine/Engine Design
Model: 180 fwd 225 Quattro
Type: Four cylinder inline, turbocharged, charged air intercooling
Bore: 3.18 in. (81 mm)
Stroke: 3.40 in. (86.4 mm)
Displacement: 107 cu. in. (1781 cc)
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1 9.0:1
Horsepower (SAE Net): 180 @ 5500 RPM 225 @ 5900 RPM
Torque: 173 ft. lbs.@ 1950-4700 RPM 207 ft. lbs. @ 2200-5500 RPM
Cylinder block: Cast Iron
Crankshaft: Forged Steel, 5 main bearings
Cylinder head: Aluminum alloy
Valve Train: DOHC, belt driven, hydraulic lifters
Firing Order: 1-3-4-2
Cooling System: Water-cooled, thermostatically controlled radiator fan
Fuel/Ignition System: ME 7.5 Motronic with electronic multi-point sequential fuel injection, hot film air mass sensor, solid state direct ignition with multiple coils, dual knock sensors w/cylinder selective knock control and fully adaptive controls, electronic throttle control
Emission System: Dual 3-way catalytic converters w/ dual oxygen sensors
Type: Front wheel drive Quattro all-wheel drive
Transmission: 5-speed manual transmission 6-speed manual transmission
Gear Ratios:
Final Drive
Type: Rack & pinion, servotronic - vehicle speed variable power assist
Ratio: 15.6:1
Turns (lock-to-lock): 2.8
Turning circle (curb-to-curb): 34.2 ft. (10.45 m)
Front: MacPherson strut (gas charged) with 3-point lower control arm, directly coupled stabilizer, negative roll radius
Rear: Torsion-beam axle with trailing arms, stabilizer bar, separate coil spring and shock absorbers (gas charged), toe correcting axle bushings Parallelogram multi-link independent, stabilizer bar, coil spring/chock absorber (gas charged)
Service brake: Anti-lock brake system (ABS), vacuum power assist, with asbestos-free linings, dual diagonal circuits and electronic rear brake pressure proportioning
Front, size and type: 12.3 in. (312) - Disc 12.3 in. (312) - Ventilated disc
Rear, size and type: 9.1 in. (242 mm) - Solid disc 10.0 in. (256 mm) - Ventilated disc
Wheels & Tires
Wheel size: 7j x 16, cast aluminum, five spoke design 7j x 17 inch cast aluminum, size spoke design
Tire size: 205/55 16 summer performance radial 225/45 17 summer performance radial
Material: Fully galvanized (both sides) steel, aluminum hood
Corrosion protection: Multi-step anti-corrosion process
Engine Oil: 4.8 U.S. quarts (4.5 liter)
Fuel Tank: 14.5 U.S. gallons (55 liter) 16.3 U.S. gallons (62 liter)
Cooling System: 7.4 U.S. quarts (7 liter)
Exterior Dimensions
Wheelbase: 95.4 in. (2422 mm) 95.6 in. (2429 mm)
Front Track: 60 in. (1525 mm) 60 in. (1525 mm)
Rear Track: 59.6 in. (1513 mm) 59.3 in. (1507 mm)
Overall length: 159.1 in. (4041 mm)
Overall Width: 73.1 in. (1856 mm)
Height (unloaded): 53 in. (1346 mm)
Ground Clearance: 4.4 in. (113 mm)
Curb Weight: 3054 lbs. (1385 kg.) 3362 lbs. (1525 kg)
Weight Distribution (front/rear %): 60/40
Interior Dimensions
Seating Capacity: 2
Front Leg room: n/a
Interior Volume front: n/a
Luggage capacity: 7.8 cu. ft (220 liter) 6.4 cu. ft (180 liter)
0-50 mph (0-80 kmh): 5.5 sec 4.8 sec.
0-60 mph (0-100 kmh): 7.4 sec 6.7 sec
1/4 Mile: 15.9 seconds @ 87.5 mph (like we said) n/a
Top estimated speed: 130 mph (203 kmh) - Electronically limited for North America
Fuel Economy
City: 22 mpg n/a
Highway: 30 mpg  n/a
Combined: n/a n/a

Standard Features
Technical: • 1.8 liter turbocharged DOHC 180 hp 4-cylinder engine with direct ignition, intercooler, electronic turbo boost regulation, 5-valves per cylinder (180 fwd only)
• 1.8 liter turbocharged DOHC 225 hp 4-cylinder engine with direct ignition, two in-line intercooler, electronic turbo boost regulation, 5-valves per cylinder (225 Quattro only)
• 5-speed manual transmission with synchronized reverse gear, dual mass flywheel (180 fwd only)
• 6-speed manual transmission with synchronized reverse gear, dual mass flywheel (225 Quattro only)
• Front wheel drive (180 fwd only)
• "Quattro IV" - permanent all-wheel drive system, includes Haldex coupling (225 Quattro only)
• Antilock brake system (ABS) with electronic differential lock (EDL) and electronic rear brake pressure regulation
• ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation) full time traction control (180 fwd only)
• 2-sided fully galvanized body assembly with aluminum hood
Wheels / Tires / Suspension / Steering: • 7j x 16 5-spoke cast alloy wheels with 205/55 16 summer performance radial tires (180 fwd only)
• 7j x 17 6-spoke cast alloy wheels with 225/45 17 summer performance radial tires (225 Quattro only; optional on 180 fwd)
• 7j x17 5-spoke forged alloy wheels with 225/45 17 summer performance radial tires (optional on 225 Quattro only)
• MacPherson struts (gas charged) front suspension with 3-point forged lower control arm, negative roll radium, directly coupled stabilizer bar
• Torsion beam rear axle with trailing arms, stabilizer bar, separate coil spring and shock absorbers (gas charged), and toe correcting axle bushings (180 fwd only)
• Parallelogram multi-link independent rear suspension (225 Quattro only)
• Rack and pinion power steering with quick ration
• Tilt and telescopic (manual) adjustable steering column
Exterior: • 2.5 mph (US federal standard) integrated bumpers in body color
• Retractable high pressure headlight washers integrated in front bumper
• Body color outside mirrors
• Heated windshield washer nozzles
• Aluminum door sill trim with TT logo
• Power glass rear windscreen
• Two fixed roll bars with polished aluminum finish
• Aluminum fuel filler door
• Manually retractable cloth top with heated glass rear window
• Power folding top (optional on 180 fwd, standard on 225 Quattro)
Exterior lighting: • Body contoured 3-way headlight assembly with ellipsoid low beam and fog lights, polycarbonate headlight lenses
• Daytime running lights for Canada using front fog lights
• Back-up lights integrated in both taillights
• White side turn indicator lights in front fenders with amber shine-through bulbs
Interior lighting: • Interior light console in headliner with fade-in & fade-out feature, time delay and automatic switch-on when key removed from ignition switch
• Front reading lights
• Vanity mirrors in sun visors
• Rear cargo area light built in the trunk lid
Comfort and Convenience: • Automatic climate control with sun sensor, dust and pollen filter
• Power windows with: Power retention when ignition shut-off (until door opened); One-touch up and one-touch down feature for both windows; Pinch protection (reverses window at force . 100 nm); Comfort close and open with key in driver door; Windows automatically open and close slightly when door opened and closed to assist door operation and window seal
• Power rear deck lid release button in center console
• Fuel filler door release button in center console
• Electronic cruise control with coast, resume and shut-off feature
• Electric rear window defogger with automatic shut-off feature
• Electrically adjustable outside mirrors with defog feature
• Power central locking system (doors, deck lid and fuel door, with selective unlocking (enables unlocking of a single door or all doors), plus: convenient open & close feature for windows; master switch located in center console
• Center storage compartment above middle speaker
• Storage compartment behind driver's seat including First Aid kit and CD changer when ordered
• Storage compartment behind passenger seat (navigation system CD ROM when ordered)
Seating: • Two sport seats with individual manual height adjustment
• Fine Nappa leather seat upholstery
Interior: • Fine Nappa leather seat upholstery, including door panel inserts
• Leather shift knob and aluminum surrounding
• Aluminum trim on center dashboard vents, shift lever knob and base, knee bolsters on center console, door release handles, radio cover, glove box cover
• Four tie-down eyelets in rear cargo area
• Two floor mats
• 3-spoke leather sport steering wheel with aluminum center trim ring
• Two aluminum cup holders in center console
• Storage shelf under glove box
Instrumentation and Electrical Equipment: • Backlit instrument cluster with automatic brightness control; including: Tachometer, electric speedometer, fuel gauge; temperature gauge, digital clock with date; coolant temperature gauge, oil temperature gauge, ambient temperature gauge
• Digital odometer with trip odometer and service interval indicator
• Anti-theft vehicle alarm system with blinking theft deterrent lights on front doors and vehicle monitoring sensors, defeat switch for interior sensor located in center console
• Windshield wipers with 4-position intermittent control
• Concert AM/FM stereo cassette radio with: RBDS (Radio Broadcast Display System) displays radio station call letters and other information; GALA (Graduated Audio Level Adjustment) varies volume based on vehicle speed; CD Changer operation capability
• 120-Watt system with four speakers in doors, two 2-way rear speakers, middle speaker between seats and CD changer pre wiring
• Driver information display with outside temperature display plus 5-function trim computer, vehicle auto check system, radio display, and pictogram for open door and deck lid
• Pre-wiring for Motorola hands-free cellular telephone (includes microphone, antenna and transceiver bracket
• Radio antenna on left rear fender (also used for telephone)
Safety: • Driver and front passenger next generation airbags supplemental restraints
• Thorax (chest) side and head airbag supplemental restraints located in front seats
• Front 3-point safety belts with automatic pre-tensioners, height-adjustment and belt force limiters
• Central locking with safety unlock (automatically unlocks doors and switches off fuel pump upon airbag deployment)
• Reflectors in rear of doors
• Head restraints for front seats
• First Aid kit located in storage compartment behind driver's seat
• Emergency warning triangle located in rear cargo area


Note: All Photos courtesy Audi AG, except eight which are copyright AutoRacing1.com and Dave Cipolloni

Comments can be sent to the author at contacts@autoracing1.com.

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