- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2001

Audi continues the tradition of the sports car with the TT Roadster in two versions both are powered by a 1.8-liter dual-overhead-camshaft, 20-valve (five per cylinder three intake and two exhaust), four-cylinder turbocharged engines. The difference comes in the output level one produces 180 horses and 173 pounds-feet of torque, while the other spews forth 225 horsepower and an impressive 207 pounds-feet of torque.
The TT 180-horsepower Coupe made its debut in May 1999, but even then, the concept of a future roadster was designed and engineered into the vehicle. The TT Roadster is not simply a coupe with the top sliced off. Its structural integrity is superb with cowl shake nonexistent and torsional rigidity getting high marks.
The extra power output of the 225-horse model comes not from chip tuning, but rather from new pistons, modified intake and exhaust manifolds, and the implementation of twin intercoolers for its four-cylinder heart. Audi's quattro full-time all-wheel-drive system has been around for 20 years now, and comes as standard equipment for 225-horsepower TT models. The 180-horsepowered TT roadsters are available in front-wheel drive only.
Base price for the 180-horsepower roadster is a little more than $33,000, while the 225-horsepower droptop begins at about five grand more and be sure to add $525 each for destination and handling. A manually operated cloth top with a heated glass rear window is standard for both fresh air models, while a power-folding top may be ordered for the 225-horsepower version for an additional $800.
A standard, electrically operated rear wind deflector, shaped to the contour of the twin roll-over hoops, is found on both roadsters. The roll hoops, by the way, are fixed and functional.
Power-top operation requires simply that the ignition be switched on, a combination release button/ twist handle activated and the specific graphic (Raise/Lower) button pressed. A boot for the top may be installed manually for a cleaner appearance when the top is down.
The TT roadsters were designed to look good with the top up or down, and the one that is particularly appealing is the 225-horsepower version finished in nimbus gray pearl effect with the optional (at $1,000) amber red premium leather seats with their unique baseball-glove hand stitching. Had the song not come first, the vehicle could have been the inspiration for John Fogerty's lyrics: "Put me in, coach, I'm ready to play."
Play, indeed, is what the TT roadster is intended for. It is exceptionally pleasing to gaze upon, but even more rewarding to zip about in, particularly sans top. There are, of course, some less sporting types who don't appreciate the ragtop premise except for severe inclement weather conditions, the top should always be down, as should the side windows. Heck, you don't even need the windbreak.
I've enjoyed the opportunity to experience all versions of the Audi TT coupes and topless versions, 180- and 225-horsepower models, and yes, even FronTrak (front-wheel drive) and quattro. My personal pick is the 225-horsepower two-seat quattro roadster, but those on a more limited budget (which is in reality what I happen to be on) will certainly find the 180-horsepower roadster a complete joy to drive with more than adequate power and nimble handling characteristics.
My most recent tester, though, was the 225-horsepower quattro. The base price was set at $38,550, while the final tag came to $43,075 after adding the Premium audio package, power folding top, Performance package and the destination and handling fee.


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