by Karl Furlong
Unlike the Audi TT Coupe, the drop-top Audi TT Roadster isn't available with more powerful engine choices beyond the 228-horsepower turbo-four. This is a hint that Audi understands what a convertible is all about; it's a niche where style and glamor rise above outright performance in importance. The sporty, compact TT Roadster certainly fits that bill, but this doesn't mean that it's dull to drive, either. There's just enough poke from the 2.0-liter engine and the rigid MQB platform contributes towards tidy, competent handling. As with virtually every other Audi, you get a fantastically finished cabin with more than enough tech. Although the TT's ability to haul cargo is severely limited and newer rivals like the BMW Z4 are more exciting to drive and offer six-cylinder power, the TT Roadster is a wonderful open-top sports car.
A few extra features have been added to the 2021 Audi TT Roadster, with S sport seats in Fine Nappa leather now being standard. Other default inclusions are the Audi smartphone interface, Audi Connect, MMI Navigation, Audi side assist, and a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system. Adding to the heightened sense of luxury is extended leather in the cabin, while neck-level heating is now standard. All-season tires replace the summer tires, although the latter is available with bigger 19-inch rims.
See trim levels and configurations:
|45 TFSI quattro||
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
It's been around for a couple of years, but the current TT Roadster has aged very little, if at all. Much of this can be attributed to the drop-top's clean, uncomplicated exterior lines. It looks great, even in less versatile colors like yellow. Some elements, such as the distinctive but not overdone Singleframe grille, link the TT Roadster to the rest of the Audi family, while other aspects such as the flared wheel arches hark back to the original TT. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlights and DRLs, an electric rear spoiler, LED taillights with dynamic indicators, and dual exhaust outlets with chrome tips. The soft-top acoustic roof is power-operated and can be folded down or up as long as the driver keeps speeds below 31 mph.
Audi has successfully managed to retain the TT's tight dimensions through the years, and despite the lack of cargo space, we're happy that this is the case. The TT Roadster is over five inches shorter and more than an inch narrower than the BMW Z4. Key dimensions include a length of 165 inches, a width of 72.1 inches excluding the mirrors (77.4 inches with the mirrors), a 98.6-inch wheelbase, and a height of 53.4 inches. At 3,395 pounds, the TT Roadster's curb weight works out to about 198 lbs more than the TT Coupe.
The Audi TT Roadster is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder TFSI engine with 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. It's paired with a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission and quattro all-wheel drive. Together, the setup can power the TT Roadster from 0 to 60 mph in a solid 5.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 130 mph. The base model TT Coupe is a few tenths faster to 60 mph as it's the lighter car, while the BMW Z4 is faster as well. Look beyond the numbers, though, and the TT Roadster's powertrain impresses with excellent mid-range punch that makes overtaking maneuvers a stress-free affair. The turbo-four even sounds pretty fruity for what it is, an effect that is heightened when the roof is lowered. The quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission adds to the fun and helps to get the most out of the engine.
The Audi TT Roadster's ride and handling characteristics are a lot like its powertrain. There are no great fireworks here, but at the same time, the compact drop-top doesn't disappoint in any area either. Although quite firmly sprung, the TT Roadster has the ability to soak up enough surface imperfections to keep disruptions inside the cabin to an acceptable level. Although it's tempting to opt for the bigger wheels, do note that these may firm up the ride more than you'd want.
As a sports car, the TT Roadster is good rather than great. The light steering doesn't communicate all that much, although it does allow the driver to place the roadster with accuracy, and the car responds keenly to inputs. Overall, it feels light on its feet, and on smooth sweeps, there is certainly fun to be had. The gearbox adds to the fun with the ability to take over shifts yourself via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. In Sport mode, the shifts are pleasingly rapid. Although nowhere near a Porsche Boxster in terms of feel and delicacy, the TT Roadster is a palpable improvement over previous iterations of the TT.
Despite carrying more weight than the TT Coupe, the TT Roadster returns identical EPA-rated gas mileage estimates of 23/31/26 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. With its 14.5-gallon gas tank, a range of around 377 miles in mixed driving should be achievable. While the TT Roadster is reasonably efficient, the base BMW Z4 is even better with figures of 25/32/28 mpg.
Unlike the TT Coupe, which is technically a 2+2, the TT Roadster is a proper two-seater sports car. The car's dimensions may lead you to believe that the TT's cabin is cramped, but the head- and legroom for a pair of six-footers is surprisingly generous. Newly standard S sports seats in Fine Nappa leather, standard neck-level heating, and extended leather trim combine to create a classy and sophisticated aura in the best Audi tradition. All the controls are within easy reach of the driver and the build quality is rock-solid. Standard eight-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way power lumbar support make it easy to get comfortable, and ingress and egress aren't a chore. As with many two-door cars, though, the long doors necessitate extra care when opening them in more confined spaces.
Audi hasn't been able to pull off any miracles when it comes to cargo capacity, so the TT Roadster offers up a mere 7.5 cubic feet of volume for your luggage. In our Audi TT Roadster review, we found enough space for two carry-on suitcases but not much more can be squeezed into the square but shallow trunk area.
In-car storage isn't something you always think about when purchasing a new vehicle - until you need a place to stash your personal belongings conveniently. The TT Roadster offers only basic solutions in this area, with a tiny center storage compartment and door pockets that aren't especially accommodating. The glove box isn't that large either, but a storage net in the front passenger footwell and beneath the passenger seat can accommodate a few slim items, at least.
The Audi TT Roadster is even better stocked with equipment this year. With just one trim on offer, Audi has included dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power-adjustable seats with four-way power lumbar support, heated front seats, neck-level heating, ambient LED interior lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power-folding soft-top roof, shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel, and the Audi drive select controller. A lack of modern driver assists is rather disappointing, although the TT Roadster does come with front/rear parking sensors, cruise control, and the obligatory rearview camera. Rain-sensing windshield wipers and blind-spot monitoring are included as well. The highlight of the interior is the bright 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit display.
Unlike almost every other modern vehicle, the Audi TT doesn't have a centrally mounted infotainment display. Instead, the 12.3-inch LCD screen ahead of the driver displays both key driver information and handles infotainment duties. Two visual modes - classic and infotainment - can be used depending on what the driver wants to see, and as we found in prior reviews, the whole setup is logical. As standard, there is the MMI touch system with handwriting-recognition capability. Along with a rotary knob and a couple of hard keys, it's simple enough to navigate the various infotainment features. Standard connectivity features include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth. The MMI navigation system includes five free mapping updates and the wide LCD screen displays vivid images that make it easy to get to your destination. For the nostalgics, there is a single CD player and MP3 playback, but HD Radio can also be channeled via the 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
So far, 2020 and 2021 versions of the Audi TT Roadster have not been recalled for any issues, which indicates a solid early reliability record. That said, the last recall affected 2019 models and was for a damaged fuel tank that could leak fuel, increasing the risk of a fire.
As standard, the TT Roadster comes with Audi's four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty that also covers the powertrain, along with complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first year or 10,000 miles. That being said, BMW offers superior complimentary scheduled maintenance coverage.
Both the IIHS and NHTSA have yet to evaluate the Audi TT Roadster for crashworthiness, although it does come equipped with all the safety essentials you'd expect, such as multiple airbags (including front and side airbags for both occupants), tire-pressure monitoring, LED daytime running lights, a rearview camera, front/rear parking sensors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, anti-roll bars, and Audi side assist for safer lane changes. However, more advanced driver aids like adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system aren't offered. However, we expect that the TT would return a solid safety rating if it were tested.
Although the future of the Audi TT lineup is in doubt, the TT Roadster makes us wish that this weren't true. As a drop-top, the TT Roadster's blend of nippy performance, stylish design, and compact size is just as appealing now as it has always been. It may not match a Porsche Boxster or BMW Z4 for driving thrills, but the TT Roadster strikes a fine balance between comfort and entertainment from behind the wheel. The cabin is a typically polished effort from Audi, with superb materials and plenty of comfort features, although we would have preferred to see a wider range of available driver-assist technologies. Starting at over $50,000, the TT Roadster isn't cheap, undercutting the Boxster but coming in as a pricier proposition than its talented Z4 rival. It's a cracking roadster, though, and one that will be missed if Audi decides to discontinue it in the near future.
The Audi TT Roadster carries a starting MSRP in the USA of $53,900, a price that excludes tax, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $995. Although it boasts more standard equipment than before, the base price has increased by nearly $5,000 relative to last year's model. By comparison, the base BMW Z4 starts at $49,700 (with prices rising to $63,700 for the six-cylinder Z4), and the Porsche Boxster begins at $62,000. With enough options ticked, the TT Roadster will cost over $57,000.
Audi only sells the TT Roadster in a single trim in the US, so there isn't much choice available beyond the optional packages. The most comprehensive of these is the S line competition package at $2,100, an upgrade that adds leather/Alcantara seats with contrast diamond stitching, black roll bars and exhaust tips, 19-inch wheels with summer performance tires, and the S line sport suspension. If you can live with the firmer ride, it's a worthwhile upgrade that definitely endows the TT Roadster with more street cred. However, it escalates the Audi TT Roadster price to a level that feels uncomfortably close to the base Boxster.
The Audi TT Roadster doesn't have the weight of expectation placed upon it that the Porsche 718 Boxster does. Whereas the Boxster seems to often live in the shadow of the all-conquering 911, the TT isn't commonly compared with other Audi models. Perhaps because of this, the Boxster seems to try harder to impress. It handles with a fluency that leaves other convertibles for dead and is possessed with a wonderful steering system that better communicates with the driver. Equipped with the brilliant PDK gearbox, the Boxster is also quicker than the TT, and a manual transmission is offered along with other engine choices. With more configurations to choose from, the Boxster range is more diverse. However, the Audi is better-equipped as standard, has a classier interior, and its turbocharged engine, while not as powerful, sings a sweeter tune. The price differential is notable too, with the Boxster starting at $62,000 - over $8,000 more than the TT. Even so, we'd take the Porsche for its magnificent driving experience.
The current generation of the BMW Z4 has traded its hardtop for a lighter soft-top roof in the interests of weight-saving and ultimate dynamics. It works, because the Z4 is the more emotive machine to pilot with its RWD setup and sprightly 2.0-liter turbo, which produces 255 hp and 295 lb-ft, outputs that beat the TT's 228 hp/258 lb-ft. As a result, the Z4 is a bit quicker off the mark and one of the top-performing competitors in the class, and that's before taking into account the available six-cylinder variant with 382 hp. The base Z4 is lighter on fuel, too. Both cars have smartly trimmed cabins with many features, but the Z4 has more standard and available safety technologies like fatigue/focus alert, city collision mitigation, and a parking assistant. With the TT's latest price increase, it's now over $4,000 more expensive than the BMW. The Z4 walks away as the winner.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Audi TT Roadster: