By Richard Yarrow
Summer is here, and what better way to appreciate the weather than with the roof down on a convertible car? The Audi TT was launched in 1998, first as a coupé then as a Roadster drop-top, and has enjoyed star status ever since.
All-new for 2015 is the third-generation of the cabriolet, with a wide range of trim levels to suit different budgets. However, the one thing they all have is the TT’s smart Z-folding insulated canvas hood, which collapses into its own space behind the two seats so there’s no compromise to the boot. Fully electric, 10 seconds up or down and able to operate at speeds of up to 30mph means there will be no nasty surprises if the weather turns autumnal.
Speaking of the boot, it is surprisingly roomy and goes back a long way. You won’t get multiple hardshell family suitcases in there, but wheel-along hand luggage and a few soft bags will certainly fit.
Another practical feature is the lockable compartment between the two seats to hide small items of value. But my favourite innovation is the three tiny stud microphones embedded in the driver’s seat belt fabric. It means at least one will be near enough to your mouth so you can make and take calls with the roof down.
Audi is particularly proud of the driver’s instruments. Called the ‘virtual cockpit’, the physical dials have been replaced with a customisable 12-inch screen behind the steering wheel. My description doesn’t do it justice; it’s very impressive and beautifully designed. Expect to see it on more cars in the future, Audi and otherwise .
The result is a strikingly minimalist dashboard, with fewer actual buttons. There’s one to turn on the audio, then almost everything else can be controlled from steering wheel buttons or a controller knob behind the gearstick. Also eye-catching are the three circular air vents, which have the digital controls built into the centre of them.
Technical improvements over the second-generation car can be summed up as ‘more power, less emissions’ from the engine. Volume sales of the TT Roadster will focus on two options, a 2.0-litre 230PS petrol and a 2.0-litre 184PS diesel. With a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, both are capable of getting the car from 0-62mph in under eight seconds. Trim levels are either Sport or S line, but above them both is the TTS Roadster – a range-topper with four-wheel drive, extra kit as standard and a more powerful 310PS version of the same petrol engine. The result is a 0-62mph time of less than five seconds. Prices for the TT Roadster start at £32,045, with the TTS costing from £38,790.
The one thing the TT has always been praised for is its driving performance, and this new model is no exception. The TTS wasn’t available to drive, but the two other models were both extremely enjoyable. Many people will prefer the punchy acceleration offered by the diesel, but I felt the petrol was better suited to the character of the car. It’s fabulous fun to drive, with excellent road-holding on all surfaces. All we need now is some summer sun…
Panel – Volkswagen Golf R Estate
If performance cars are your thing, but you need something with a bit more practicality than a two-seater convertible, this new version of the Volkswagen Golf is worth considering.
For more than a decade, R-badged cars have been the flagship of the Golf range. But there’s never been an estate until now. You won’t be surprised to learn it’s called the Golf R Estate.
This is a 300PS hot hatch with four-wheel drive, and so confident was VW in its new baby that it let journalists take it on a race track. With a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 155mph, the car is well-suited to circuits and more than proved its mettle. It’s exceptionally composed, with far more grip than most drivers will ever find the need to use. The downside is the price; at £33,585 it’s a lot of money to pay for such a compact car