Audi TT Roadster: Top down, thumbs up

Audi's latest TT Roadster is a lot more fun at the wheel than its predecessor

The biggest change in Audi's new TT Roadster is not in its edgier, angular design. It is not its digital "virtual cockpit" either. Or its super swift soft top, which can now be deployed while it is travelling at speeds of up to 50kmh.

The biggest change in this two-seater has to do with the way it feels at the wheel. In a word, it feels f-a-s-t.

Lighter than its predecessor, this little two-seater is nippy and zippy to a fault. It seals the century sprint in 5.6 seconds - 0.9 of a second quicker than the previous model.

Its engine is the same 1,984cc block found in the old car, but has been cranked up to produce a lot more juice. At 1,600rpm, you have 370Nm of torque available - a level of shove you would not have imagined possible with a 2-litre five years ago.

And by 4,500rpm, its peak output of 230bhp is yours for the taking.

  • SPECS/AUDI TT ROADSTER

  • Price: $265,700 with COE

    Engine: 1,984cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

    Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch with manual select

    Power: 230bhp at 4,500rpm

    Torque: 370Nm at 1,600-4,300rpm

    0-100kmh: 5.6 seconds

    Top speed: 250kmh (electronically limited)

    Fuel consumption: 6.8 litres/ 100km

    Agent: Premium Automobiles

The previous car had 200bhp and 280Nm to its name. While it was no slouch, it pales in comparison when placed next to the latest roadster.

Beyond sheer firepower, its level of responsiveness at the throttle, steering and chassis makes it seem like a completely different car.

Everything seems lighter and breezier, and the body in motion makes all the right vibrations - the kind that syncs with the rhythm of your own body.

As corny as it sounds, you now feel like you are moving with the car, instead of in the car.

The steering is light but flawlessly sharp. Its chassis deals with corners and undulations calmly and competently.

Ride quality is unusually high for a roadster, even if you are able to "feel" the road by the seat of your pants.

Comfort is enhanced by features such as an extra-cushy headrest that would not feel out of place in a limo, a motorised wind deflector and the car's silky seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (up from six before).

All these, plus the engine's beefy output, make cruising a thoroughly relaxed affair.

But when you are in the mood for verve, the TT obliges willingly. Even without tugging the shift lever downwards to activate Sport mode, the convertible goes from zip to zoom in a jiffy.

Gear changes come with a stirring series of staccato notes from its tailpipe, dishing out aural delights that supplement the sensation of speed that soon becomes overwhelming.

The only thing that has not changed is this: The car is best driven with the roof down. That way, the mentioned aural sensations come to the fore - along with the crisp evening air experienced these past weeks.

With the roof up, your enjoyment may be marred by less pleasant sounds.

In the test-car, an intermittent clunking noise emanating from the rear was hard to ignore.

Nevertheless, the car is a winner, primarily because it is such a pleasure to drive.

To be honest, if this roadster had been launched earlier, it might have displaced the Mazda MX-5 as last year's favourite topless. That is, if price was not a consideration.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2016, with the headline 'Top down, thumbs up'. Print Edition | Subscribe