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With Audi’s TT Coupe, Greatness Is Within Reach

Great sports cars must combine two elements: performance that stirs the senses, and styling that delights the heart and soul. With the addition of all-wheel drive Quattro technology to the sporty Audi TT Coupe, greatness is within reach.

While I’ve been totally blown away by the breakthrough styling of the basic TT Coupe, I was less than dazzled by its overall performance. But the addition of all-wheel-drive does make a pronounced difference in terms of handling. The Quattro all-wheel-drive system adds a quite reasonable $1,750 to the base price of $30,500. The option list of the test TT Coupe also included such items as heated seats, 17-inch high-performance wheels and tires and a high-end Bose music system.

But the Quattro option is the real story. The TT Coupe with the all-wheel-drive system seems not only more stable than the front-wheel-drive version under all driving conditions, but also provides better feedback to the driver, particularly on curvy mountain roads. And on wet pavement, I felt more confident knowing that all four wheels are activated to prevent any slippage.

Whether in its front-wheel-drive form or with the Quattro option, the TT Coupe provides an acceptable ride for a sports car. The TT has excellent structural integrity and is free from unwelcome noise or vibration. The suspension does a fine job of coping with surface irregularities that upset many sports cars.

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More Power Coming

Power for the TT model is provided by Audi’s turbo four-cylinder engine. Utilizing cutting-edge technology, the engine delivers 180 horsepower from a modest 1.8-liters of displacement. The resulting performance is adequate for a high-performance automobile.

But given the car’s design and Quattro technology, it simply screams for more power, a situation that Audi will address in the 2001 model which will deliver 225-horsepower. Audi has announced that this model will be available in May of this year, and I can’t wait.

An increase in power or any other mechanical improvement to the Audi TT will not in any way eclipse the luster of the car’s stunning design.

Audi’s design for the new TT is a refreshing take on the sports coupe. The TT was first introduced as a concept car in the Frankfurt auto show of 1995 to critical raves. The production car retains the prototype’s smooth lines and pure, expressive forms.

The TT’s design moves into the future contrary to much recent automotive styling that features strong reference to the past. This so-called retro movement is expressed in such sports cars as the BMW Z3.

Visual Statement

The Audi TT’s designers even make the lowly fuel-filler door a visual statement. While most stylists seek to hide the door or blend it with the design, Audi’s designers cast the opening in aluminum and mount it on the rear deck in plain sight. The large smooth portal looks like it was ripped from an airplane or a race car and adds a purposeful note to the design.

The TT’s smooth exterior delivers many dividends. Its wind-cheating design improves gas mileage and overall performance, particularly at high speed, and also helps establish low levels of wind noise at cruising speeds.

The Audi TT’s interior also reflects its grounding in modern industrial design. There are strong design elements used in the interior as well as high-touch surface materials such as brushed aluminum and stainless steel. The interior makes clever use of a circular form cast in aluminum which is repeated in switches, door handle components and adjustable air vents.

A downside of the low profile Audi TT is that tall people or even average-size men and women with agility problems may have trouble gaining entrance to the coupe. Once in the car, the driver and front passenger have adequate room, while the back seats cannot be recommended for any adult body, even for the shortest distances. And despite its narrow windows, visibility is adequate in any direction.

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