Audi TT 2011: fast, quiet and turns heads

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Few of my test cars turn heads or draw compliments, but the bright red 2011 Audi TT coupe I drove attracted an unusual amount of attention.

I expected stares I got from young guys, but was surprised when a middle-aged lady, who looked like the Toyota Camry type, glanced at the zoomy TT and said “Nice car!”

The TT is offered in a variety of trim levels, including a top-line $50,000 convertible. But I tested the base, well-equipped $38,300 TT model, which should satisfy most TT buyers.

The latest TT has minor styling revisions, including redesigned front and rear bumpers and radiator and fog light grilles. But watch out for the car’s low front end when approaching low objects.

The quiet, high-quality interior has additional aluminum optic accents. Gauges generally can be easily read, although the fuel gauge is tiny and sunlight sometimes causes reflections off gauge surfaces—making them difficult to read. Front cupholders are a little hard to reach from the driver’s seat. And long storage pockets in the doors are too shallow to be of much use.

Horsepower of the base TT’s turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine has been increased from 200 to 211. A $47,000 hot rod 265-horsepower version of the four-cylinder continues to be offered for the TT, but really isn’t necessary for most TT buyers.

The base 211-horsepower engine actually produces as much torque as the 265-horsepower engine. And torque, not horsepower, is generally more important during typical U.S. driving.

The base TT coupe is plenty fast, hitting 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and quickly doing 65-80 mph passing on highways. Estimated fuel economy is 22 mpg in the city and 31 on highways.

The engine shoots power through a responsive six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, with an easily used manual-shift feature. Standard all-wheel-drive helps effectively transmit power to the road.

Too bad, though, a manual transmission isn’t offered. Without one, the TT sometimes feels as if it’s more of an agile cruiser than a sports car.

The front area is roomy, with supportive seats, but the rear seat area is strictly for kiddies or small pets.

The hatch is large and heavy, with a rather high opening, although interior indents help close it without getting hands dirty on outside sheet metal. The cargo area is modestly sized , but rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat to significantly increase cargo volume.

Standard for the base TT I tested are automatic air conditioning, power front sport seats, cruise control, 9-speaker sound system, keyless entry and power windows.

Safety features include a bunch of air bags, including driver and front passenger knee air bags, and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution.

Helping keep the TT on roads in dicey conditions is an electronic stability control system. Low-profile tires on 18-inch wheels also help roadability.

The quick steering tightens up appropriately for better feel at highway speeds. And a firm-but-supple ride helps provide confident handling, along with the car’s all-wheel drive setup. Brakes are strong, controlled by a pedal that felt a little touchy during the first few blocks of use.

The hood is held up by twin struts instead of an awkward prop rod, and the engine compartment looks attractive.

The solid TT doesn’t feel quite as sharp as a Porsche Boxster or Mazda RX-7, but is plenty sporty.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read his new and vintage cars reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

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