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IT’S an indication of just how well sorted Audi’s model strategy is these days that the only unpredictable thing about the launch of TT Roadster near Monaco was the torrential rain, fog, thunder and lightning.
The car was nowhere near as unexpected as the weather, which was nigh-on biblical. In fact, the Roadster is everything you might expect from the car. Which is great looks, wonderful-build quality and a reinvigorated drive.
While BMW challenges with its designs, which sometimes succeed and sometimes fail, and Mercedes-Benz seems addicted to launching anything and everything (R-class and B-class anyone?) Audi seems to have come up with a formula of solid, handsome design and sticking to what the market wants. And it has consequently had some pretty spectacular results.
So far this year in fleet, Audi is up 25% with all models showing year-on-year increases except the TT which has dropped 12% to 1,400. It seems even the TT isn’t impervious to fashion-conscious company car drivers with an eye on what’s round the corner.
The TT Roadster will soon be back on the ‘what’s hot’ list though, because the new model carries on the evolutionary direction of the new Coupe.
The Roadster is larger than the previous model, at nearly 14cm longer and 8 cm wider, although it doesn’t feel oversized or like it has got heftier.
That’s due to the taught design and lightweight part-aluminium construction. In terms of shape, the car owes much more to its predecessor than the coupe, because the hood keeps the bubble on top of a bubble profile of before, while the Coupe is much sleeker.
The boot is much less stubby than the old one though and, especially with the roof down, it gives the impression of being flatter and more elegant.
The TT, you might think, would be the ideal candidate for a metal roof like the SLK, but Audi has come over all traditional about using cloth. It reckons the lightness and the ease of stowage make cloth the better option, and that some of the metal-roofed convertibles on the market look clunky with the roof up.
The roof, which has a glass rear window, very simply folds down into a space behind the rollover hoops in a few seconds at the push of button (there is a partially automatic roof as standard on the entry-level model), and there is now an automatic wind deflector that rises out of the bodywork rather than the hand operated one of before.
There is no need for a tonneau cover because the front part of the roof tidily matches the hole into which it folds.
The roof has an ‘acoustic mat’ in the headlining which keeps the noise out and the heat in – very useful in the December wilds of the Cote d’Azur.
The Roadster has the same aluminium space frame technology as the Coupe, but Audi has massively strengthened the sills down each side of the car and the A pillars to counteract the loss of rigidity which occurs when you take the roof off.
The interior is much less cramped than before thanks to its extra dimensions and the quality and sense of style is unparalleled. The only real minus is the loss of the two rear seats which, as they are as good as useless in the coupe anyway, is hardly a great loss.
Engines and powertrains are exactly the same too, with the choice of front-wheel drive 2.0 TFSI and 3.2 V6 quattro mated to a six-speed manual or S tronic semi-automatic gearbox.
About a quarter of all TTs will be Roadsters, which works out at around 2-2,500 units in a full year. Prices start at £26,915 for the 2.0 TFSI, which is pretty much on the money in the market, but a hefty £2,290 more than the Coupe, while the 3.2 starts at £31,535.
Residuals haven’t been set, but as the outgoing car bought now is predicted by CAP to be worth more than 40% of its value in three years’/60,000 miles’ time, then the new one is likely to far outperform that, perhaps even touching on the 50% mark of the Coupe.
Leasing companies will be rubbing their hands with glee.
Behind the wheel
THE most complimentary thing you can say about the Roadster is that it drives exactly like the Coupe.
Which, at first, might not seem much of a feat, but in fact is a particularly impressive trick because it is so often the case that once the roof is lopped off, some cars can start behaving in all sorts of unpredictable ways.
It feels direct and makes a wonderfully rorty noise, with the 2.0 TFSI having the sharpest exhaust note. And the smaller-engined car is more sprightly, while obviously not as quick in a straight line.
In the wet, with the S tronic gearbox the front-wheel drive system struggles to dump all the power down and everything is very scrabbly. But it is still the one to go for, as the benefits of the V6 and quattro don’t outweigh the cost.
But most impressive of all is the lack of vibration or shudder. It feels almost as stiff as the Coupe, despite the lack of a roof. Perhaps only an excursion into the biggest rut or pothole might unsettle it.
In fact, such is the competence of the Roadster, you can see why it costs so much more than the Coupe. Without the large price premium, most buyers would no doubt opt for the chance of top down motoring with few of the compromises usually associated with that choice. What a nice position for Audi to be in.
THE Roadster looks fantastic, has good engines – especially the 207 FSI, handles well, is well-priced, feels solid as a rock and will no doubt have strong residual values and fleet running costs like all Audis. Was the it ever likely to be anything else?
|Model:||2.0 TFSI||3.2 V6 quattro|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||200/5,100||250/6,300|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||207/1,800||236/2,500|
|Max speed (mph):||147||155 (limited)|
|0-62mph (secs):||6.5 (6.7)||5.9 (6.1)|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||36.2||29.7 (26.9)|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||186||227 (250)|