Summer's coming and so is Audi's TT Roadster. It shares the coupé's chiselled good looks, but is it as sharp to drive?

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Routine can be a devilish curse, the bane of the laissez-faire and carefree. But it’s not all bad. Routine brings British Summer Time, which extends our evenings and, let’s keep believing, ushers in some fabulous weather each year. Routine also brings to an end one car’s life in order to make way for a fresh new version, as with the new Audi Audi TT. And right on cue for a balmy blue-sky blast, a convertible Audi TT is now set to join the range in May.

As with the coupé, on the outside this third-generation Audi TT Roadster is a more chiselled and sharper-looking take on the familiar Audi TT design concept. Inside there’s a minimalistic but high-tech cabin, complete with TFT displays where once there were mere dials.

This third-generation TT Roadster is a more chiselled and sharper-looking take on the TT design concept

So what’s all this modernity like when mixed with Audi’s latest range of petrol and diesel engines? Let’s find out.




Audi TT Roadster is 90kg heavier

The new TT roadster has a folding fabric roof that will raise or lower at up to 31mph in just 10 seconds. Measures have been taken to ensure that removing the roof doesn’t also remove the fun - moulded aluminium struts have been added around the base of the A-pillars and beneath the body.

Audi's Audi TT coupé was already fairly lightweight and rigid, thanks to heavy use of aluminium and hot-formed steel. The modifications involved in turning it into a convertible have added a respectably low 90kg. Audi also quotes a best-in-class drag coefficient of 0.30 for the Roadster.

The TT Roadster is now 2.1cm shorter and 1cm narrower than its predecessor.

At 4.17m long and 1.83m wide, the third-generation two-seater is now 2.1cm shorter and 1cm narrower than its predecessor. However, the Roadster's wheelbase has been extended by 3.7cm to 2.50m to give it 'an even more purposeful stance', according to Audi.   

The 2.0-litre TFSI turbo petrol is expected to be the biggest-selling engine, and it's available in front-wheel drive and quattro all-wheel drive form, with either a six-speed manual or dual-clutch S tronic gearbox and produces 227bhp. There is also an entry-level 1.8 TFSI, introduced in time for summer 2016, which is only available with a manual 'box and produces a spritely 177bhp.

Other Roadster models include the diesel 2.0-litre TDI Ultra and the full-fat Audi TTS, which, if you get your kicks from rorty acceleration and lots of fresh air, but still want a civilised daily driver in less thrill-seeking moments, the Audi TTS Roadster could well be for you.  

Other than tweaked settings for the standard adaptive dampers, the TTS Roadster is mechanically identical to the TTS coupé we tested last year. That means adaptive dampers and active four-wheel drive that can send 100 percent of available torque to either axle. A manual gearbox is standard, but there's also the option of the S tronic dual-clutch automatic.

Topping the range is the recently introduced TT RS Roadster, which like the TTS duo, is mechanical similar to the coupé version, which means it produces a titanic 394bhp from its turbocharged 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine.


Audi TT Roadster's interior

The fabric roof is heavily insulated and keeps wind noise to a subdued flutter over the windscreen when the hood is up, even at a fast cruise. Top-down, you get a fair bit of wind coming over the back deck, so it’s a shame the retractable wind deflector is a £425 option. Even so, you’re protected enough to be able to do a steady cruise without it getting uncomfortably blustery.

In short, with the help of the adaptive elements (steering weight, exhaust and throttle response as standard), the Audi TT will be at home on a tedious daily commute, just as it will deliver a back-road strop with no small amount of driver satisfaction.

The Roadster may have lost the coupé's small back seats, but the two that remain are supportive in all the right places

The dashboard is a wondrously high-tech affair that is unchanged from the coupé, so you get the huge Audi Virtual Cockpit digital readout (as standard on all models) that fills the driver’s binnacle.

There are the essential dials as well as all your critical info, from nav (if you’ve added it), through to audio functions and the car’s systems. It takes a fair bit of getting used to, but it does become easier with familiarity.

Rear visibility is predictably hampered by the roof when it's up, too, so you'll be conscious of the fairly huge blind-spot to your rear three-quarters - something that's pretty par for the course with any soft-top.

The Roadster loses the comically tiny, uncomfortable back seats of the coupe, making way for an enclosed area into which the roof neatly tucks itself. While this means you’ve got less storage space, it also allows for a useful 280 litres of boot space (down from 305 litres in the tin-top), which will be more than enough for normal daily use.

And if you've ever wondered what ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ means in the real world, here’s an example: the TT Roadster has microphones woven into its seatbelts, positioned close to your mouth, so that even your alfresco phone calls should be easily heard.

It’s an example of the attention to detail that makes the TT Roadster such a pleasant place to sit. It may have lost the coupé’s small back seats, but the two that remain are supportive in all the right places and, along with the steering wheel, have plenty of adjustment to accommodate most sizes.

It takes a moment to acquaint yourself with some of the buttons cleverly designed into air vents and the like, but rather than frustrate, this attention to detail only generates admiration, as do the top-notch materials used throughout.

On the standard equipment front, there are three core trims, two for the Audi TTS and one for the TT RS. The entry-level Sport models get 18in alloys, xenon headlights, retractable rear spoiler, an acoustic hood, cruise control, and keyless entry and go as standard on the outside, while inside there is front sports seats, a leather and Alcantara upholstery, air conditioning, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and Audi's Virtual Cockpit 12.3in display complete with Bluetooth, USB connectivity and DAB radio.

Upgrade to S Line and you'll find your TT adorned with 19in alloy wheels, LED head and rear lights plus Audi's rear dynamic indicators, automatic wipers and lights, and a sporty bodykit, while those pining for a bit more exclusivity can opt for the Black Edition, which adds glossy black details, privacy glass, wind deflector and a Bang & Olufsen audio system to the package.

Want the air to pass through your hair a bit more quickly then maybe the TTS is for you, adding adaptive sports suspension, 19in alloys, an aggressive bodykit, a quad-exhaust system, a Nappa leather upholstery, heated sports seats and Audi's lane assist system, while the TTS Black Edition adds more glossy black trim and a Bang & Olufsen stereo system.

Topping the range is the 394bhp TT RS Roadster, which includes a seriously aggressive bodykit, as well as an Audi Sport tweaked braking system, suspension and steering, and twin oval exhaust system on the outside. Inside there is sat nav, dual-zone climate control, super sports seats, an Alcantara-covered steering wheel and gearlever, parking sensors and ambient interior LED lighting.



The 227bhp Audi TT Roadster

Audi's TT Roadster is available in five states of tune. The range kicks off with the 177bhp 1.8-litre TFSI engine, followed by the diesel powered 2.0-litre TDI Ultra, which develops 182bhp at 3500-4000rpm and 280lb ft at 1750-3250rpm.

Traditionalists might still wince at the prospect of diesel power in a two-seat roadster, but those who keep an open mind to such things will discover that this new, more powerful TDI variant is a pretty decent substitute for petrol power.

The 2.0 TFSI is a wondrously flexible engine and delivers vigorous thrust from low revs

Okay, there’s some diesel clatter at times, particularly at lower speeds, and the car’s sporting credentials are hampered slightly by the engine’s typically low rev limit. However, it spins up to that limiter freely, and in doing so will deliver 0-62mph in a respectable 7.3sec.

Alternatively, relax and use the motor’s effortless torque – which is available from just above idle - and it’ll still manage a decent pace, with the sweetener of (potentially) averaging 65.7mpg.

Next up in the range is the 2.0 TFSI petrol, which is expected to be the biggest seller in the drop-top TT line-up. The blown four-pot motor produces 227bhp at 4500-6200rpm, accompanied by 273lb ft of torque from 1600-4300rpm.

This wondrously flexible engine delivers vigorous thrust from low revs, accompanied by a reverberant, hollow thrum from the exhaust that entices you to stretch through the rasping tones of the upper revs. The 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in 6.1sec and in this guise, the TT Roadster won't let up until it tops out at 155mph.

If you're inclined to go for the Audi TTS version, then you'll be treated to a 306bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot motor. In essence, it's scorchingly rapid. Offering up the same 280lb ft torque as the TDI but with 124bhp extra from 5800-6200rpm, the TTS shoots from 0-62mph in 4.9sec and has its top speed limited to 155mph. While those wanting more can opt for the 394bhp TT RS Roadster, which can blast to 62mph in a mere 3.9 secs before powering on to its electronic limit of 155mph.

Like their Volkswagen Golf R cousin, they can also temptingly send up to 100 percent of torque to either axle. Coupled with an angrier exhaust notes, in these state of tune they're bonafide sports cars.




Audi TT Roadster can come with Quattro

There’s no Quattro all-wheel drive option with the TDI and it comes with a manual gearbox only, but neither feels like much of a loss. There’s enough traction for all but the most greasy situations and the six-speed ‘box is slick enough to remind us of the pleasures we’re missing when opting for modern paddle-shift dual-clutch automatics.

To counter the roof chop the Roadster naturally has extra strengthening - in the A-pillars and across the floorpan to be precise. However, thanks to a composite aluminium and steel chassis it’s still a relative featherweight, and it feels it to drive. Agile and happy to change direction, the body always stays well controlled, even as we pressed on through the challenging B-roads of our Cotswolds test route.

The Sport model on standard suspension and 18in rims offers the best comfort. Neither set-up felt hugely bettered with the optional adaptive dampers added.

As the miles pile on one word keeps cropping up: effortless. Whether you’re contemplating the engine, gearbox or chassis, everything about the TT Roadster is simply effortless and undemanding, right down to the light but direct variable-rack steering and well assisted, progressive brakes.

Is there a catch; a sting in the tail? No, not really. Push on too much and you’ll find some understeer, but that’s about it. Perhaps sometimes you might wish it had some edge to it, to make things more exciting, but we suspect the majority of buyers will be happy with it as it is.

The extra bracing keeps the body free from shimmy, even in S line trim with 10mm taken out of the ride height and on 19in wheels. In this guise you get the odd thump over large potholes, but otherwise it’s firm but compliant. The Sport model on standard suspension and 18in rims offers the best comfort. Neither set-up felt hugely bettered with the optional adaptive dampers added.

In Audi TTS guise, it feels monstrously grippy and neutral with the added safety net of Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive. It’s perhaps a bit of a shame that there isn’t a touch more sparkle to the handling near the limit.

The TTS is still inclined to understeer first, and there’s not quite the willingness to be steered on the throttle that you’ll enjoy in the Golf R, which shares many of this car’s oily bits. Still, you can turn the car in with a bit of lift-off oversteer fairly easily, and body control is well-sorted enough that weight-transfer doesn’t get in the way.

Even better, this spirited handling hasn’t come at the cost of jarringly uncomfortable ride. Granted, even with the suspension set to 'maximum-cosset' the TTS Roadster shivers over patched-up roads and thumps over expansion joints and the like, but it's supple enough to keep you happy most of the time.


Audi TT Roadster

Starting at £31,955 for the 2.0 TDI Ultra in Sport trim, the TT Roadster is almost £4k more expensive than the entry-level BMW Z4. It also commands a £2k premium over BMW's four-seater 220d Sport convertible.

However, it remains a marginally cheaper purchase than the diesel powered Mercedes-Benz SLC 250 d and considerably less than Porsche's entry-level 718 Boxster.

Combined fuel economy for the TT Ultra TDI is a claimed 65.7mpg, while Audi quotes 42.8mpg for the TFSI blown four-pot petrol.

Audi only charge a fraction more for the front-wheel drive 2.0 TFSI petrol variant.

The Sport's standard suspension set-up accompanied by its 18in wheels are more suited to UK roads and make the no-cost option S line suspension, its 10mm lowered ride and 19in alloys unnecessary additions.

Running costs shouldn't be too steep, either. Combined fuel economy for the TT Ultra TDI is a claimed 65.7mpg, while Audi quotes 42.8mpg for the 2.0 TFSI blown four-pot petrol. The diesel variant also has low CO2 emissions at 114g/km, so could be a tempting option for company car buyers.

Audi TTs have generally been rock solid with residual values and our experts predict the Roadster will be no different. Put simply, it's got all the practical and financial boxes ticked.



4 star Audi TT Roadster

If you’re in the market for a TT Roadster, then you’re probably considering it against lower-end versions of the Mercedes-Benz SLC or BMW 2 Series, and on this evidence we’d say the TT’s the better package.

Given the choice we would still take the 2.0 TFSI petrol over the TDI because it’s ultimately smoother, quicker and remains the more pertinent choice for a soft-top package.

The Audi's fluid handling and zesty petrol TFSI motor make it good fun when you want it to be and easy-going the rest of the time

But if you hanker after something different that'll make you smile, but need a diesel because you cover lots of miles or you’re enslaved by company car tax regulations, then the 2.0 TDI Roadster retains nearly all that's good about the Audi TT.

Purists might find the Roadster a little too easy and unchallenging to drive, but short of chucking in another £10k for a Porsche 718 Boxster, it’s hard to think of where else you’d go to better it.

On the subject of the range-topping Audi TTS, a four-wheel-drive 2.0 TFSI TT Roadster is cheaper and yet is still enticingly rapid, offers the same all-weather peace of mind and in anything but track use (hardly the natural playground of the soft-top TT) will be just as much fun. While the TT RS is simply ludicrous and not as compelling as you may think.

It’s not the last word in dynamic zing, but then neither are its rivals, and the Audi’s fluid handling and zesty petrol TFSI motor make it good fun when you want it to be and easy-going the rest of the time.

No need to make a head versus heart decision then. Put simply, this is a 'want-one' kind of car. You want it? You’ll love it.


Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Audi TT Roadster First drives