In 1980, Audi turned the car world on its ear when it introduced the first Quattro all-wheel-drive coupe. The Quattro system set traction and safety standards that many other companies are still struggling to match and started a decade of worldwide competition success for Audi. But for the last few years, Audi has concentrated more on luxury than straight-up performance. So to remind folks about the fun side of Audi, they’re introducing the all new TT coupe. Could performance history be about to repeat itself?
It’s still too early to tell, but to future generations of fun-to-drive car lovers, the introduction of the 2000 Audi TT Coupe will certainly be a memorable event on the sports car timeline. If for no other reason than while the competition has saturated the market with convertibles, Audi chose to concentrate on a coupe.
And what a coupe it is! Its eye-catching visual statement starts with a broad, slightly raked, flat nose that smoothly incorporates the three-way headlamp assembly behind rounded, rectangular polycarbonate lenses.
Choose the Performance Package, and you’ll get Xenon headlamps behind those lenses and 17-inch alloy wheels to fill the large wheel wells that figure prominently in the TT’s torpedo-like profile. Our staff is divided on the TT’s “flattened New Beetle” styling, but all agree the aluminum fuel filler cap is very trick, and that the overall appearance causes most pedestrians to do a double take.
Another surprise, the 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space under the rear hatchback, 24.2 cubic feet when the back seat is folded, turns the TT into a surprisingly accommodating little cargo hauler.
The cockpit, however, is not quite as accommodating for those over 6 foot tall. Unless you drive reclined, outward visibility is limited to the sides, providing you can tear your eyes away from the internal visual feast laid out around you.
The driver faces a thick, 3-spoke leather steering wheel that’s also adjustable for rake and reach. The compact gauge cluster, under the small, rounded binnacle, automatically adjusts for brightness. But the rest of the controls, like the dimpled aluminum rings that adjust the air flow from the vents, and the optional seat heater switches, are such a pleasure to operate you’ll be glad they’re not automatic.
Behind the brushed aluminum faceplate we found the available Bose 175 watt AM/FM/Cassette stereo. The optional CD changer is mounted in a storage compartment behind the driver. Below the stereo, the climate controls are a combination of smooth rotary dials and flat toggle-type switches. An auto setting is included. Also behind the driver are the TT’s 2+2 seats. Intelligently, Audi recommends they only be used for children up to 59 inches tall.
But enough about posture. Let’s talk performance. Under the hood of the TT Coupe is a 180 horsepower version of the 1.8 liter, turbo charged, intercooled, 20-valve, 4 cylinder that also drives the A4 and Volkswagen’s Passat and New Beetle. The additional horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque, available at only 1,950 rpm, comes courtesy of the KKK Type K03 turbocharger’s 11.5 pounds of boost, and a Motronic ME 7.5 engine management system. Which propelled this 5-speed manual front driver to 60 in 7.4 seconds and through the quarter mile trap in 15.9 seconds at 88 mph, despite some pretty strong head winds.
Although not overwhelming, power delivery is smooth and consistent throughout the powerband. And the shifter, while somewhat clunky, is precise. But we were not expecting so much full throttle torque steer.
There are no complaints about ride quality and handling, however. Riding on a platform shared with the VW Golf and New Beetle, the TT, with its 95.4-inch wheelbase and 60-inch track up front, 59.6-inch in the rear, does a superb job of hugging the road.
When pushed through our low speed slalom, the TT’s quick-ratio rack and pinion steering delivers crisp and precise turn-ins that gives way to moderate understeer. Rapid side-to-side movements feel balanced and controlled, and as you might expect, body roll is almost nonexistent. And so too the high drama that can sometimes be associated with panic braking. Bringing the TT to a halt are 12.3-inch ventilated discs up front, 9.4-inch solids in the rear. And governed by ABS with rear electronic brake proportioning, they get the job done in an average 115 feet.
So, by now you’re bracing yourself for the answer to the inevitable question, how much is it? Well, you can relax. It’s not as much as you think. Base price on the 2000 Audi TT Coupe is just $30,500. And with just three option packages available, that price is for a pretty well-equipped car.
You still want more? Of course you do. And Audi has anticipated your burning desire. Because later this year an all-wheel drive Quattro TT will hit the streets. Still not enough? Next spring a 225 horsepower, six-speed Quattro will be released, followed by a Roadster version at a later date.
One need look no further than Audi’s successful A-series luxury sedans to see what Audi is capable of when they focus on a particular slice of the market. Now that the focus is on performance, we can’t wait to drive what’s next.
Engine: 1.8 Liter, Turbo Charged, Intercooled, 20-valve, 4 Cylinder
Torque: 173 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.4 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 15.9 Seconds @ 88 MPH
60-0 MPH: 115 Feet