by Roger Biermann
The thrill of an Audi R8 Spyder is alluring for many – but the funds required to get behind the wheel of one are less available than many would like. So if it’s a more budget-friendly R8 Spyder alternative you’re looking for, the Audi TT Roadster is your pick. Based on the same MQB platform that underpins the TT, A3, and VW Golf, the TT Roadster is a 2-seater soft-top convertible available with just one trim line, one engine, one gearbox, and one drivetrain option. But I guess it rings true that beggars can’t be choosers.
Inside the Audi TT Roadster, you’ll find a vastly more cramped cabin. The convertible ditches the rear pair of seats found in the coupe in order to stow the power retractable soft-top – a feat that takes a very brief 10 seconds. The seating shrinking to accommodate the roof pays dividends – though a loss of cargo volume is unavoidable, the TT Roadster makes do with a knock of just two and a bit cubic feet – now down to 9.9 cubes. The front seating retains its high levels of spaciousness, and supreme cabin quality – though a central infotainment is notably absent in the inclusion of Audi’s virtual cockpit that handles all navigation, infotainment, and drive information in the driver’s gauge cluster.
In a noteworthy achievement, even with the roof is down, wind noise and buffeting inside the cabin is kept to a minimum – making it comfortable to drive at freeway speeds and even in cool weather with the top down.
With standard all-wheel drive and electromechanical steering, the TT Roadster remains a cool character that doesn’t communicate much with the driver until its very limits. Grip is seemingly endless, but with the AWD system able to cut power to the front wheels, understeer is mitigated, and oversteer can even be induced – though begrudgingly. It’s the type of sports car that’s easy to manhandle though, and the Roadster’s chassis setup is forgiving enough to allow anyone to drive it rapidly.
However the TT Roadster retains all the comfort of its MQB-based siblings, despite its outright ability. The slightly more flexible chassis makes it marginally softer than the coupe too. With the optional S-line 19-inch alloys and S-line sports suspension, the ride becomes firmer, but still not unbearably so – though they both add the benefit of enhanced handling should you wish to sharpen the soft-top’s demeanor. .
Much like the Audi TT Coupe, there’s just one engine available, with one gearbox, and one set of driven wheels. The 2.0-liter TFSI turbo 4 cylinder engine boasts more than satisfactory outputs of 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque – the latter arriving at just 1600rpm. Mated solely to an all-wheel drive drivetrain through Audi’s six-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the Roadster will do 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds. Sadly, no manual transmission is available. The engine is punchy, and the dual-clutch lets off a series of bangs, pops, and farts on up-shifts that add theater to an otherwise sterile drive.
The TT Roadster is available in just one trim – featuring most kit as standard such as LED lights, heated power adjustable seating, a rear-view camera, front and rear park sensors, and automatic climate control. Options to choose from include paint colors and interior trims, along with the choice to upgrade the standard sport seats to S Sport seats with quilted stitching. The available technology package includes Audi’s MMI Navigation plus system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system. In terms of safety, the Roadster benefits from pneumatic rollover hoops, stability control, and ABS brakes.
Against rivals like the Mercedes-Benz SLC and Nissan 370Z Roadster, the Audi TT offers greater efficiency, greater ease of use, and higher levels of technology. But it comes at the expense of character; the TT Roadster is cold and numb, albeit incredibly competent.