Overall rating: 4/5
The most sensible and stylish of roadsters your money can buy, the TT TDI ultra Roadster is an automotive juxtaposition that is wholly agreeable.
In the Metal:
Apparently, the original Audi TT was conceived as a roadster, even if the coupe's shape has become the iconic signifier of Audi's compact sports car. If there is a better-looking car at or under the TT Roadster's price point, we've not seen it. The new model continues that tradition with real conviction. There's a technical edge to its looks, Audi's more assertive front grille, framed with the cool headlamps and driving lights, presents a bolder TT to the world and one that Audi says has driving dynamics to match its dramatic looks.
Sit inside it for a moment and driving will be the last thing on your mind. Audi does interiors well and the TT is Audi at its very best. The 'virtual cockpit' screen that replaces the conventional instruments enables Audi to move navigation and entertainment functions away from the centre of the dash, allowing for an indulgently sweeping design. Under the dash are some quite beautiful air vents with the sort of gloriously tactile operation that's usually the reserve of something hand-built and crushingly expensive. Nothing, absolutely nothing, touches the TT at its price point for the sheer feel-good factor. Dropping the roof only adds to that feeling.
That feel-good factor used to wane a bit in the predecessors of this third-generation TT, for keener drivers in any case. Audi itself admits that the original was all about style and little else; the second-generation car was an improvement if still outclassed; but this new car finally makes a more convincing case for itself on the road. There's a proviso; this 2.0-litre TT TDI ultra diesel model is not the best driving car on the TT Roadster price list, but then it does a neat balancing trick of being entertaining enough, while delivering the sort of economy and emissions that bring an altogether different sort of joy.
To enhance efficiency, the TDI ultra version does without Audi's quattro four-wheel drive system and it is also only offered with a manual six-speed gearbox - rather than having the option of an automatic. That means you need to have delicate throttle and clutch control on wet roads to prevent wheel spin - something that is enhanced by the considerable 380Nm of torque on offer - it's less troubled in the dry. The diesel engine might be the economy champion in the line-up, but it's not short of power, it revs with reasonable enthusiasm for a turbodiesel and delivers an off-beat throb that's faintly reminiscent of the five-cylinder engines Audi has previously been famous for. The steering is accurate, if devoid of real feel, though the suspension does a decent job of maintaining control and providing decent ride comfort. S line models do suffer slightly in this regard due to a 10mm drop in ride height and a sportier setup, but it's a no-cost delete option if you want the S line's sharper looks and enhanced equipment without sacrificing the ride quality.
The manual transmission works well though and all the controls in the TT's glorious cabin are slick in operation, while the roof folds away and raises at the touch of a button, quickly and neatly. Drop it and there's more enjoyment to be had, yet when up the hood's insulation and finish are so neat you quickly forget you have fabric rather than metal above your head.
What you get for your Money:
Sport trim comes with a huge standard list of equipment, so much so that you would really have to love the subtle S line changes to justify the €3,500 premium it attracts.
The roof can be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 50km/h, and it doesn't reduce the boot space. That said, the Roadster's boot holds 280 litres, 25 litres less than that of its coupe relation.
The new Audi TT Roadster TDI Ultra is a highly compelling combination of sensible ownership costs and huge desirability in an enjoyable to drive, thrilling to look at package. There are better driving alternatives out there, not least in its petrol 2.0 TFSI quattro relation, but it is difficult to ignore the real world appeal of this most glorious looking of open-topped cars.