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Long-term tests

Audi TT Roadster Final Edition long-term test: it’s the end of the road for this upmarket sports car

Final report: we say farewell, not just to a much-loved car, but to an era

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

The TT has become that rarest of cars: one that’s become a legend within its own lifetime, so hats off to Audi for sticking with it. And now it’s gone, but never, you suspect, forgotten. Auf wiedersehen, pet.

  • Mileage: 4,758
  • Economy: 33.9mpg

Saying goodbye to our Audi TT Roadster Final Edition does genuinely feel like the end of an era. For the TT has been on sale for over a quarter of a century, gaining – and mostly maintaining – many fans. Deservedly so as far as we’re concerned.

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The TT isn’t just a sports car, it’s an icon. Or at least it was. Its time is officially over, not just with us in the case of this 40 TFSI Final Edition Roadster we’ve very much enjoyed, but also for the brand, the era, the car itself. Because once the TT is gone, there will be no turning back. Audi has no plans for a hybrid or electric TT in the future.

So why did we enjoy this car so much, and what was it about the Audi TT generally that clicked so well with its target audience?

On the surface it’s just a great open-top sports car. It wasn’t the fastest TT (it only had 194bhp from its turbocharged engine) nor was it the most luxuriously specified. But that didn’t seem to matter much overall. 

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TTs have never been about rule-bending performance anyway. In fact, the less power they have, the sweeter they seem to be, probably because the lesser versions have never tried to be something they are not.

Whatever the truth of it, our Roadster seemed to strike a great balance dynamically. It wasn’t quick, but it was fast enough. Its chassis was crisp but not to the point where the ride was too stiff, even if its traction on some surfaces wasn’t great. Its steering and brakes were also unusually well judged for an Audi. Overall it drove every inch as good as it looked. And riding on a set of Audi’s optional 20-inch diamond cut black wheels, it looked pretty damn good, too.

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But what I liked most about the TT was its cabin – the way it made me feel every time I climbed aboard. The slightly old fashioned way its climate control system worked so well. The simplicity of its instrument display. All of these characteristics seem predictable enough to expect in isolation, but together they really did blow me away. Plus the fundamental quality – at the press of every button or the rotation of any dial – always made this car feel special. As if it was punching well above weight

It looked and felt like a class act inside, as it always has, to be fair. And if anything, it’s got better with age in this respect, mainly because cars aren’t made or designed like this anymore. From this point of view, our TT really did feel like a car we should still be learning things from, despite (or perhaps because of) its age. Beside the soulless, screen-
infested, over-digitised, underwhelming car cabins of today – and tomorrow you suspect – the TT’s interior remains an icon of successful design simplicity.

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And it could be enhanced in less than 10 seconds if I thumbed the little button in the centre console and dropped the roof, which transformed the TT into a completely different car. Arguably one I had even more affection for when the weather was good. I know you look like a numpty when driving around in a red TT with the roof down, but from inside, the world just feels like a better place when there’s no roof between your hair (what’s left of it) and the sky.

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A survey last year claimed that drivers of open-top cars are less stressed about life in general but, crucially, more alert to their surroundings, and therefore less likely to have accidents than other drivers. Having done as many miles as I could in the TT with its hood down – and its excellent electric wind deflector up – I’m inclined to agree. You do tend to feel less wound up driving with the hood down, even if other people think you look like a you-know-what, and you tend to be more aware of what’s going on around you. You just engage with your immediate surroundings that bit more.

Or maybe it’s the Audi TT itself that simply makes life feel that little bit more enjoyable. It’s that kind of car, after all. 

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I will miss its cabin, its steering, its excellent instruments, its surprisingly good economy and its other individual qualities
a great deal. But most of all I will miss the uplift it gave me each time I climbed aboard and merely went for a drive in it, even when that drive was down to the shops and back.

There aren’t many cars that have that effect on you, but the TT is one of them. 

Audi TT Roadster Final Edition: third report

The cold doesn’t stop us enjoying our open-top Audi

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  • Mileage: 4,085
  • Economy: 34.4mpg

Not sure about you, but I naturally tend to associate all Audis – including the TT – with four-wheel drive. Audi’s marketing has been so strong over the years that there’s now a subliminal expectation somehow that all four wheels of any Audi are driven. 

Yet ours is one of the few TTs that is front wheel-drive. As a result its traction is, shall we say, nowhere near as good as you might expect, certainly not given the big alloy wheels and fat 20-inch tyres it wears, and the various bits of aerodynamic-looking body addenda it comes with in Final Edition guise.

But the truth is, the front-wheel-drive TT has a bit of a traction issue, even though its lightly turbocharged 2.0-litre engine doesn’t exactly boast an enormous amount of power with ‘just’ 194bhp. It’s not a major deal breaker, but in the consistently grotty weather we have in the UK at this time of year, our TT does struggle to put its power down – at least more than you’d expect from a car that looks like this and otherwise wears the brand’s Vorsprung Durch Technik badge with such conviction.

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That means I’m not sure it’s a car you’d ever have wanted to enter into the old Brighton Speed trials. But if you did, the Brighton and Hove Motor Club is where you’d have had to go to apply – and outside its clubhouse on Madeira Drive our car looks a fair bit meaner than it actually is. Thanks in no small part to those shiny new black 20-inch wheels, which to my eyes look so much better on the car that the original silver alloys it came with.

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No matter, because overall I still think the 40 TFSI TT Final Edition is a seriously nice car to live with every day. It’s one that might not be as rapid as it appears, but it still surprises and delights each time I get inside and drive it. The tactile appeal of its interior continues to blow me away relative to other models at this price level. It’s a beautifully built thing inside and out, is the TT, with an old-school charm to its cabin that I find increasingly appealing compared with most of the other touchscreen-infested cars of today. Even just the way its air vents work so well, I find unusually pleasing.

It’s the same with the simple, easy-to-read, instantly clear-to-decipher instrument display, in which all the information you
need is on offer, but no more. Plus I love just touching and using the part-suede steering wheel of our TT, and the way the sports seats seem to fit my frame just-so. Every time I climb aboard this car, it feels like a special occasion, even though the visibility with the hood up on a rainy night isn’t great thanks to the size and angle of the rear screen.

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So I drive the TT with the hood down as often as possible. And the hood itself works a treat, opening or closing at the press of a button — in around 10 seconds — at any speed in town. With the windows up and the electric anti-buffeting screen in place, you can easily hold a conversation at 50-60mph. Even in winter the TT works well as an open-top car, thanks in part to the optional head-level heaters, but mainly because the wind is managed so effectively inside the cabin.

Having said that, I can’t wait for the sun to come back, and for the temperatures to rise again. Because however good the TT is to drive in the depths of winter — and for a convertible, it’s unusually capable — spring and summer are by far the best times to drive this car. So roll on warmer weather I say, when even the worst things never seem so bad, and the roads get better too, because they’re not covered in so much grime.

Audi TT Roadster Final Edition: second report

Kerbed alloy fails to dampen joy of TT ownership

  • Mileage: 1,145
  • Economy: 34.9mpg

The Audi TT’s 2.0-litre turbo engine is now nicely run in, and I was enjoying the car’s all-round loveliness until a terrible thing happened to it at Gatwick airport. 

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I handed the keys of our still-shiny new TT over to a pleasant enough chap from Maple Parking, with whom I left the car
for a couple of days while away on a launch event. On my return, with the TT’s odometer still showing fewer than 600 miles, I noticed there were two whopping scrapes around the rim of its 20-inch ‘Diamond Cut’ front right alloy wheel. So
I pointed this out to folks at Maple, they apologised profusely and handed me details for their customer service department. I drove home feeling oddly violated. 

Back home, I sent the E-mail, expecting to get little back. A couple of days later, however, I was amazed to get a genuinely apologetic response from Maple’s customer service people, who had reviewed the chest-cam footage of the driver who’d brought the car back to the terminal, and agreed to repair or even replace the wheel if necessary. Not sure why, but I was thoroughly impressed by this; they made a mistake, yes, but agreed to rectify it with zero argument, and quickly. Which is what should happen, but rarely does nowadays.

Anyway, since then I’ve continued to really enjoy driving and living with the TT, for all sorts of reasons. I read a paper recently that had been written by a professor of behavioural studies at Cranfield University, explaining why drivers of convertible cars are 15 per cent more alert than drivers of cars with roofs, 20 per cent more courteous towards other road users and end up being 20 percent happier when behind the wheel. Even if you add a fair pinch of salt to these findings, I’m sure there’s some truth in the study. 

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I do feel better about things generally when driving the TT with the hood down. Not around town – I’m too self-conscious for that – but when there are fewer cars around, out on quieter, more open roads. 

This is partly because the TT’s electric hood is an excellent one in the first place, with cabin buffeting being reduced to a bare minimum when the hood is down and the wind deflector – also electric – is raised. But there’s also something more relaxing about driving around with no roof. In tangible terms you can simply see and appreciate – or sometimes avoid – more of what’s going around you. Hood-down motoring seems to allow the brain to also feel more liberated and less stressed about what’s going on elsewhere in the world. There is genuinely a feelgood factor to it.

Another aspect of the TT I can’t get enough of is its old-school navigation and comms pack, which puts all the information you need to be aware of right in front of you – within the main instrument binnacle – with not a hint of a central touchscreen in sight. Its ventilation and air-con system is also a joy to use once you’ve sussed out how it works, as is how precisely you can tailor and aim the heat and air that emanate from the big round vents wherever you want them to go within the TT’s high-quality cabin.

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To supplement this, our Final Edition model also has £495 worth of optional three-stage head-level heating on both
seats. This works a treat with the hood down on a cold day – up to a point – although my better half claims the warm air down the back of the neck gives her a headache after a while. So the system remains resolutely switched off whenever the two of us are in the car. Inevitably…

Elsewhere, the engine is now fully run in and delivers decent, rather than rule-bending, performance. The DSG gearbox works a treat and does its best to make the car feel quicker than it actually is in Dynamic mode. And I continue to be surprised by how sharp and agile the TT feels on twisty roads – or anywhere else really. I’d forgotten just how crisp this car’s steering and chassis are – to the point where I do wish it had a bit more go with which to unlock its excellent chassis. That said, the upside of having just 194bhp is 35mpg in everyday driving.

I simply can’t get enough of this car overall. It’s even better than I thought it was going to be, and for reasons I wasn’t necessarily expecting. 

Audi TT Roadster Final Edition: first report

The handsome Audi TT Roadster is winning hearts with everyone

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  • Mileage: 358
  • Economy: 32.9mpg

The first thing that strikes you about the Final Edition Audi TT Roadster is surely the same thing that defined the TT when it arrived in 1998: the way it looks. Despite numerous updates during the past quarter of a century, some of which have been more successful than others, it’s still a stunning car to look at. One that remains defined by its styling, and the design really does make everything that little bit better.

People who see it don’t ask what it’s like to drive. Instead they give you an opinion on its styling, its paint job, or its 20-inch wheels. And most folks I’ve met in the first couple of weeks of ‘ownership’ tend very much to like the way our TT Roadster looks.

Including me, despite the addition of a rear spoiler without which this Final Edition version would, I’m fairly certain, look even better still. No matter, because the rest of this Audi has so much going for it that I can forgive it the addition of one smallish chunk of unnecessary bodywork.

The version we’ve gone for is the 40 TFSI, which is the closest model to the original TT. It’s propelled by the same turbocharged 2.0-litre engine you’ll find in many Audis and VWs, but to be clear, it’s 48bhp down on a Golf GTi, with ‘just’ 194bhp and 320Nm of torque. Quick, therefore, our TT Roadster is not, although I’d still hope it has enough poke to ignite its excellent front wheel-drive chassis, something I’ll find out more about in due course: the engine still has fewer than 400 miles showing, so I’m not giving it too much pain yet. Hence the decent-but-not-brilliant 32.4mpg average – not bad for a petrol car with a claimed 0-62mph time of 6.9 seconds, I suppose.

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We haven’t gone mad with the options list, either, because you don’t need to and, frankly, can’t with a Final Edition TT. Being a run-out model, the car has tons of kit as standard, so the only options specified are Tango red paint (which is a no-cost choice anyway), £1,495 Comfort and Sound Pack (which brings a top-quality B&O sound system), front and rear parking sensors (another no-cost option) plus head-level heating for the seats, at £495.

The total price, including all the extras fitted, is £47,640. On one hand, that sounds like rather a lot, considering the relative shortage of tech in the TT; there’s no big central touchscreen to play with, no distance-sensing cruise control, and not a whiff of a lane-departure system. But on the other hand, few cars at this kind of money attract anywhere like this much attention, or approval, and in terms of build quality, the TT remains a rare gem. It feels like a piece of mechanical jewellery in the way its doors close so cleanly, and so expensively. Indeed, the entire cabin has a distinctly high-end feel to it for a car at this price.

The seats are also great, with a part-Alcantara, part-leather finish that looks good and offers a really good balance between comfort and support. Plus I actually like the fact there’s no central touchscreen. Instead, all the information is presented to the driver, and the driver alone, via a nice big switchable TFT screen that also serves as the main instrument cluster, as well as the infotainment screen. This means that everything – phone, sat-nav, comms, car settings and stereo – is right in front of you.

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So although there’s no head-up display in the TT Final Edition, I don’t miss it one bit. Having all the info in line of sight, within the instruments, allows you to concentrate far more on what’s ahead of you, rather than on a touchscreen to your left. This design works so much better than a central touchscreen on so many levels, for the driver, and makes me wonder why we crave the central panel so universally nowadays.

Anyway, once the engine has a few more miles on its crank, I’m sure I’ll enjoy driving the TT with a bit more vim. Having said that, I’m pretty happy just bumbling about in it, running in the motor, enjoying its looks, relishing its cabin quality, brilliant electric hood, fine steering, strong brakes, decent ride quality, even its boot space. Pretty much everything about it so far, in other words, except for that rear spoiler.

Model:Audi TT Roadster Final Edition 40 TFSI S Tronic
On fleet since:August 2023
Price new:£45,650 (£47,640)
Engine:2.0-litre 4cyl, turbocharged, 194bhp
CO2/tax:164g/km/£570
Options:Tango red metallic paint (£0), Comfort and sound pack (£1,495), Front and rear parking sensors (£0), Head-level heating on both seats (£495)
Insurance*:Group: 43 Quote: £649
Mileage:4,758 miles
Economy:33.9mpg
Any problems?One button fell off, kerbed wheel

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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