Long-term tests

Audi TT

We've been going paddling in our stylish Audi TT, courtesy of its hi-tech steering wheel-mounted gearbox controls

  • Cabin: Superbly equipped and finished, and in my view far more stylish and chic than the previous TT’s minimalist interior. Style: This is what a coupé is all about, and the Audi has it in spades. Compared to the latest 3-Series Coupe? Do me a favour!Practicality: Not high on the buyer’s list in this class, but with the rear seats folded, the boot is quite useful. Road test editor Oliver Marriage has even squeezed his mountain bike in!
  • Extras: The optional Xenon Plus lights may be bright and able to see round corners, but £975 is too much to pay, especially since there is no other upgrade option.

I must admit, I've never been a great paddler. For starters, I'm embarrassed to admit that I can't swim - a result of falling into the deep end of a pool as a child. And my general distrust of water also stretches to unease in rowing boats and the like.

But I am pleased to report that my paddling has suddenly become much better -and it's all down to our new long-term Audi TT. And guess what? I don't even have to get wet. Instead it's all about adding a splash of excitement to day-to-day driving with the TT's paddleshift gearbox.

Now, some regular readers may remember that I cast doubt on just how good these 'trick' F1-style systems really are in my first piece about the TT (Issue 936). I was echoing the views of Auto Express columnist Tiff Needell, who had pleaded with car makers to stick with good old-fashioned manual boxes. But, sorry Tiff, I have to say that after four months with the TT, my opinion has changed.

The Audi's S tronic transmission can be used in fully automatic mode, or with clutchless shifting via the gearstick or the paddles mounted on the back of the multi-function steering wheel.

I've adapted my driving style to use both as there are times when the paddles - attached to the wheel rather than the column itself - can be difficult to locate when manoeuvring the car.

And what a difference to the TT's get up and go the system makes. In auto mode, it constantly wants to change up to sixth gear and that makes the supercoupé feel more like a super heavyweight - slow, plodding and unresponsive. Switch to manual mode, and the Audi comes alive, allowing you to make full use of the glorious 3.2-litre V6 powerplant. Acceleration is swift and progressive, although there is always a slight delay as the TT changes up. And that lag really is the main criticism of what is a beautiful styled, engineered and finished machine.

Outside the sleek lines continue to attract admiring looks - even though there are now more new TTs hitting the roads. Inside, the grey leather trim is wearing much better than I thought it would, and having already covered nearly 10,000 miles, the whole car feels as taut and sharp as it did on day one.

I know that my road test colleagues believe that BMW's 3-Series coupé still has the beating of the TT dynamically. But really it's a question of what you want from your coupé. For me, every time I drive the Audi is a special occasion - and you can't ask for more than that.

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