Although respectable, the TT’s straight-line speed is not its forte. Curves are what this Audi is all about. Bring a twisty mountain road to the table, and the TT will gladly carve it up. Just drop the Direct-Shift Gearbox into sport mode—which retards upshifts, quickens downshifts, and even blips the throttle during the latter—and pretend you’re battling Schumacher to the checkered flag. Shifts are lightning fast (Audi says 0.03 to 0.04 second) and ultra-smooth. With no shifting required, simply manage the throttle and brake, concentrate on the set of turns ahead, and let the precise steering and the tenacious Quattro all-wheel drive keep you between the lines. Want to be more involved? Select manual mode, and shift via steering-wheel paddles that even move with the wheel, allowing for mid-turn shifts, should you so desire.
To compensate for the TT 3.2’s added weight and performance capability, Audi made myriad changes to the chassis, including larger front and rear anti-roll bars, stiffer springs and dampers, and bigger 13.1-inch front rotors squeezed by dual-piston front brakes that are based on those from the Euro hot-rod RS 4. Those enhancements, plus the 18-inch Continental tires on our tester, make it easy to hustle the TT, yet it still delivers an appropriate ride that is stiff but not jarring.
Changes to the exterior are subtle but effective. A new bumper with a honeycomb-pattern lower grille and “lateral ventilation apertures”—side vents—adorn the front and improve airflow and cooling. Honeycomb-pattern diffuser trim and a bigger rear spoiler with a black lip accentuate the rear and help reduce lift.
Beginning this fall, Audi will export 1000 units of the 2004 TT 3.2 Quattro to the U.S., priced at about $40,000 for the coupe and $43,000 for the roadster. That’s about what you’d pay for a BMW Z4 3.0 but more than for a Mazda RX-8 or Nissan 350Z or Chrysler’s upcoming Crossfire (see page 92). The TT’s most serious competition, however, will come from in-house, thanks to parent VW’s Golf R32, which goes on sale this fall. It sports the same engine (making 241 horsepower), transmission, and all-wheel-drive system for about $10,000 less. Hey, no one said the quest for dominance would come cheap.