Don’t underestimate the difference an engine and gearbox can make. You don’t need to look any further than the Audi TT for that.
Slotting the 3.2-litre V6 in, allied to the brilliant DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox), means a thumbs-up verdict no longer rests solely on its looks and construction. It’s now nearly a cast-iron alternative to a Boxster, something the turbocharged manuals never had a hope of claiming.
Performance and punch have obviously been moved up a notch, but that clever dual-clutch gearbox is the most impressive single aspect of the whole package. It’s brilliant, pure and simple, providing well-judged changes however close to the floor your right foot is – or whether you’re flicking through cogs with the steering wheel paddles or keeping the lever stuck in ‘D’. The only downside is that it lacks a fully manual mode, changing gear even when you’ve selected one yourself.
The real issue, though, is whether the TT’s four-wheel-drive chassis is up to the job post-chop. In raw terms, yes. You’re still doing well to break traction, the ride is well controlled and it’s mostly wobble-free.
But it remains a blunt instrument; thoroughly competent but lacking the steering alacrity and feel that distinguishes the best open tops.