by Adam Lynton
When the Audi TT was first revealed in concept form at the 1995 Frankfurt Auto Show, people raved about Audi's bold design choices. As we all know, there's a big difference between concept car styling and production-spec looks. So when Audi finally started selling the TT Coupe in 1998 and then the Roadster in 1999 with its concept styling intact, it became an instant classic. The simplistic Bauhaus inspired design coupled with a powerful turbocharged engine, all rolling on the Volkswagen PQ34 platform, made the Audi TT Roadster an accessible and relatively reliable sports car. Fast forward a couple of decades and the TT is still with us, despite lacking the same visual and cultural impact as the MK1 car. For 2019 the MK3 Audi TT Roadster is more potent than ever and still makes use of a Volkswagen sourced engine and platform, which translates into a car that might not be the most exciting to drive, but offers a right balance of performance, comfort, and features. Going up against the TT Roadster is the new BMW Z4 and Porsche's venerable Boxster.
One of the most significant changes for 2019 is the replacement of the six-speed auto transmission. In its place, you can now find a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic which does service in both the Roadster, Coupe as well as in the more performance orientated TTS. Audi has also included its drive-select dynamic handling package, power-adjustable and heated folding mirrors, rain-sensing wipers and a new flat-bottomed steering wheel. Significant changes for the interior come in the shape of Audi's great virtual cockpit system that makes use of a 12.3-inch screen to display all vital navigation and infotainment stats. You'll now get two USB ports as standard, as well as Bluetooth streaming capability and a wireless phone charging pad and signal booster.
When the first TT Roadster was launched back in the late '90s, we were struck by its clean exterior design, which was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus style, which dominated European art styles during the 1920s and '30s. All we know is that you don't need an art lesson to know that the MK1 TT was a beautiful car. The subsequent versions have failed to grab our attention like the first one, but the 2019 TT Roadster is by no means an ugly car. The Bauhaus inspired wheel arches and chunky aluminum accents are still in place, but the exterior has adopted a more contemporary design which includes a plethora of sharp intersecting lines and furrowed brows. The 2019 TT Roadster comes equipped with 18-inch alloys as standard, full LED lighting front and back, and an aggressive rear end, that combine to make the TT Roadster look purposeful and rather sporty.
The third-generation Audi TT Roadster makes use of the Volkswagen Group's MQB platform which it shares with cars like the Audi Q3 and Volkswagen's Golf MK7. That should give you a pretty good idea of how big the car is, but the TT seems to shrink when you see it in the flesh. The 2019 Audi TT Roadster is 164.7 inches long, 53.2 inches tall, 72.1 inches wide, and rides on a 98.6-inch wheelbase. The TT Roadster is smaller in every dimension when compared to its main German rival the BMW Z4, but seems enormous when you compare it to the 154.1-inch long Mazda MX-5 Miata. The TT Roadster weighs in at 3,395 pounds, a hundred more than the Z4, and a telling 1,000 pounds more than the featherweight Miata.
The TT Roadster gets what can be considered the base model engine of the TT range of cars. For 2019, Audi has stuck with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder which produces 228 hp and a scrappy 258 lb-ft of torque. This is a clean revving engine that prefers to live in the mid-range where it loves to dole out its 258 lb-ft in a gentle flat curve. Seeing as the Audi TT Roadster only weighs around 3,400 pounds, that's enough power to give the TT impressive punch. That turbo four-pot sends its power to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that is in turn connected to its acclaimed Quattro all-wheel-drive system. The seven-speed transmission replaces the six-speed version found in last years' car. Audi's dual-clutch autos are some of the best in the industry and deliver cracking shifts, and you're never left waiting for your desired gear to arrive. Manage the perfect launch, and the baby TT will launch from zero to sixty in 5.5 seconds.
Far from being a purist track weapon, the Audi TT Roadster displays a beautifully balanced handling feel which is complemented by the Quattro AWD system that keeps any unwanted slippage at bay. The TT will spend most of its life cruising down Sunset Boulevard, but those who like to drive their sports cars the way they were intended to be driven will find that the Audi handles almost flawlessly. Electronically assisted power steering weights up according to the situation at hand, offering a light feel in tight urban settings, but weights up nicely when you're bombing down the freeway. It must be said that the TT Roadster lacks the responsiveness of some of its naturally aspirated competitors, but that is compensated for by a good dollop of torque. Brakes on the TT Roadster do an excellent job of slowing things down with no signs of vibration under harsh braking. This setup will stop car from sixty in around 103 feet.
The Audi returns respectable numbers of 23/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined. Considering the nature of the TT, a combined figure of 26 miles per gallon is acceptable, yet BMW manages to better that number by two mpg with the Z4 which is considerably more powerful (255 hp and 295 lb-ft) for a total number of 25/32/28 mpg. The much lighter and less powerful Mazda MX-5 will return a perfectly round 30 mpg combined (26 city and 35 highway). The 2019 Audi TT Roadster is fitted with a class-leading 14.5-gallon fuel tank which gives it a city cruising range of 333.5 miles, and a highway cruising range of 450 miles.
The name should tell you everything you need to know: the TT Roadster follows in the footsteps of so many two-seater sports cars before it. You get two seats and a minuscule trunk with which to transport yourself and your stuff. Front legroom is generous, but not class-leading, and measures in at 41.1 inches, one inch less than what is offered in the BMW Z4 and a whole two inches less than what you get in a Mazda MX-5. Headroom is also tighter in the TT than in any of the competitors at 36.6 inches, which could spell trouble for taller drivers. The seats in the TT Roadster offer sufficient support but are clearly designed with a comfort bias in mind.
Unlike many other convertible two-seaters, the Audi TT Roadster's trunk space doesn't decrease when the roof is folded down, and the trunk lid opens up to a practically sized trunk entrance which is, however, rather shallow by industry standards. The TT Roadster offers slightly more space than a BMW Z4, and you'll be able to fit at least nine yoga mats in the trunk. The official measurement is 7.5 cubic feet, a giant improvement over the Miata's measly 4.6 cubic feet.
Personal storage inside the Roadster is taken care of via two door pockets, an average-sized glove box, and an extra glove box located above the gear selector. Unfortunately, the driver and passenger will have to play rock, paper, scissors to decide who gets to use the single cupholder.
The feature list on the TT Roadster is long enough to keep you entertained, but with a limited amount of space on offer, and a precise goal in mind, don't expect A8 levels of tech. At first glance, you'll first notice the full LED head-, tail- and all-weather lights. The side mirrors are power folding, heated, and auto-dimming and even the turn indicators are LED-equipped. The rear spoiler is speed-adaptive. Inside, an all-new multi-function steering wheel with rear-mounted shift paddles feels pleasant to the touch and is manually adjustable. The sport bucket seats are heated and power-adjustable in eight ways and include lumbar adjustment. Audi's phone box package adds a signal booster and a wireless phone charging pad as standard for 2019. Getting in and out of the 2019 Roadster is easier than ever thanks to keyless entry. Taking center stage, Audi's virtual cockpit fully customizable instrumentation looks incredible and operates flawlessly.
Audi's MMI infotainment system has seen many improvements over the years, and finds its way into every Audi on the market today, in one shape or another. The system used in the TT Roadster is straightforward and highly intuitive as far as modern infotainment systems go. The TT Roadster foregoes the centrally mounted display screen you usually find in Audi's other offerings, and instead, you get what Audi calls a "virtual cockpit" screen installed where the instrumentation cluster would traditionally go. This screen displays all the vital stats but also doubles up as a navigation map and menu for any other infotainment requirements. The MMI system on the Roadster includes handwriting recognition software that makes it easier for the driver to input names, numbers, and addresses. Along with the 12.3-inch virtual cockpit screen, you also get HD radio, dual 32GB card slots, two USB charging ports including an aux input and Bluetooth streaming. The sound system consists of a nine-speaker, 155-watt system with CD and MP3 playback capability.
The Mk3 Audi which has been in production since 2014 has been recalled twice for issues ranging from software defects through to fuel leaks. There have been no recalls for the 2019 year model. The second recall was issued in May of 2018 and affected Audi TT cars produced in 2018. The recall was issued due to a faulty fuel hose connector that could detach from the fuel supply line in the engine bay, causing a severe fuel leak that could lead to fire, injury, and even death. Audi backs the TT Roadster with a four-year/50,000 mile warranty, including powertrain, a 12 year/unlimited mile corrosion warranty, a one-year/10,000-mile maintenance warranty, and a four-year/ unlimited miles roadside assistance package.
Unfortunately, Audi doesn't sell enough TT Roadsters to warrant a full crash safety test by the federal government, so there are no ratings available. Audi has included semi-autonomous parking with front and rear parking sensors, and chrome rollover bars to increase the safety of the ragtop. Standard six airbags include dual front knee airbags, too. It is disappointing to note that Audi has failed to include any of its pre-collision warning technology, including lane-keep assistance, rear-cross traffic alert, or frontal collision warning.
From the outside, the TT may have lost some of the charms the much loved MK1 TT Roadster possessed, but under the skin, the TT has made giant leaps in terms of powertrain and chassis development which has transformed it from a glorified hairdresser's car into a proper sports car that offers serious levels of performance. On the outside, the TT Roadster has moved on from its art-school days and has adopted a more contemporary look that fits in with the general Audi design ethos of clean and conservative looks achieved through intersecting sharp lines through vast expanses of sheet metal. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine which it borrows from Volkswagen delivers strong mid-range power and gets the TT Roadster to sixty in under six seconds. The new seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is crisp and provides every gear on time, even when it's being hurried along. Inside, the Audi TT Roadster shows off its Audi heritage with a beautifully sculpted cabin that features a full leather and Alcantara upholstery and cutting edge tech features such as Audi's virtual cockpit technology. Space is limited, but that can be expected from a full-blooded Roadster. The TT offers a tangible balance of speed, handling, and comfort but is pricey and lacks modern safety tech.
The 2019 Audi TT Roadster will set you back $48,400 (MSRP) excluding a destination charge of $995. There is only one model on sale. The TT Roadster is competitively priced, but some of its competitors offer similar performance and driver enjoyment for much less. With the optional packages included, the Audi TT Roadster's price will creep into the mid to high 50k range.
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
The TT Roadster is a stand-alone model, so you only get the one trim package, which means you get a lot of standard features that would usually be divided between trim levels. The exterior of the Roadster features full LED head and taillights, dual exhaust outlets, an adaptive rear spoiler and power-adjustable and heated folding mirrors. Inside there's climate control, a flat-bottomed steering wheel with shifter paddles and aluminum door inlays. The leather and Alcantara covered sports seats are power-adjustable and heated. The MMI infotainment system gets two USB ports, Bluetooth streaming as well as dual 32GB memory card slots. The 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display screen shows navigation and infotainment information in the cluster unit behind the steering wheel. Occupants are kept safe thanks to six airbags, ABS brakes, and electronic stability control. Automatic parking and a rearview camera coupled with front and rear parking sensors make the Audi a practical city companion.
The BMW Z4 is probably the TT Roadster's closest competitor and is priced at an MSRP of $49,700. The sDrive30i Roadster is powered by a similar 2.0-liter turbocharged four which produces 255 hp and 295 lb-ft, considerably more than the TT Roadster, although the BMW sends its power to the rear wheels exclusively via an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. This setup will propel the Z4 to sixty in 5.2 seconds. The more powerful and lighter BMW is also lighter on fuel, returning 25/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined, but the Audi has an equal estimated range thanks to a larger gas tank. The BMW offers more interior space, tech features, and safety equipment, and is a better overall package.
The Mazda Miata might be over $10k cheaper than the Audi TT Roadster ( $12,905 to be exact), but in theory, they both do the same thing; offer an exhilarating, top-down driving experience with all the modern-day amenities you'd come to expect from big car brands such as Audi and Mazda. The MX-5 Miata is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder sans turbo, and it sends all 181 hp and 151 lb-ft to its rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, the classic two-seater sports car combination. The Miata will cruise past gas stations thanks to a fuel consumption figure of 26/35/30 mpg city/highway/combined. A curb weight of only 2,386 pounds surely helps. The Miata will sprint to sixty in 5.7 seconds and delivers a much more involved driving experience; however, it can't match the Audi for comfort and practicality. The Mazda MX-5 Miata will appeal to those who care more about the driving experience than leather-covered armrests and heated seats.