What is it?
It’s the new, more accessible starting point to Audi’s TT Roadster range. Okay, at more than £29,000 this 1.8 TFSI-engined convertible is hardly a car of the people, but a saving of nearly £3200 over an equivalently trimmed 2.0 TFSI will be welcomed by the majority of Roadster buyers who pay using cash or finance.
The catch? Well, with its 178bhp the 1.8 is some 49bhp down on the 2.0 and gives away a more considerable 89lb ft of twist. It is 20kg lighter overall, but even so, the 1.8 will get you from rest to 62mph in a relatively stately 7.2sec – a full second slower than the 2.0. It’s also restricted to a six-speed manual gearbox and two-wheel drive.
However, while all this might be a deal-breaker to the typical coupé buyer, those opting for the open-air Roadster are likely to be less easily swayed. A more pertinent problem might be the availability of BMW’s equivalent Z4 sDrive18i or Mercedes’ recently launched SLC 200 as alternatives.
What’s it like?
Slightly less energetic but still more than worthy. Push this 1.8 hard and it revels in being revved, and side by side with the 2.0 the gap doesn’t feel as big as the on-paper figures suggest. Of course, dragging the 1.8 from low revs and using the Roadster’s fairly long gearing requires more patience than with the 2.0, but it always feels warm-hatch quick when taken by the scruff of the neck. The only thing missing is a rasping soundtrack like the 2.0’s.
Yet that omission only aids the 1.8’s refinement; it’s wonderfully smooth across its rev range and near silent at a cruise. Roof up, the Roadster’s biggest issue is road noise, especially on the motorway, but roof down (which takes just 10sec at up to 31mph) and with the side windows up, the Roadster does a good job of keeping those on board out of the wind.
Ride and handling remain impressive rather than scintillating, with the former being as good as it’s likely to be on any Roadster. Our Sport model wore standard 18in wheels and sat on standard non-adjustable suspension, both of which ensure a firm but compliant ride which faltered over only the most rugged surfaces.
The A-pillar and floorplan strengthening the Roadster receives over the hard-top TT helps it to feel brilliantly stiff and, together with light but quick steering and high grip levels, this is an agile, faithful car that has the ability to gratify. Yes, this is a front-wheel-drive car that will stray at its front axle if pushed too hard, and it can be a little predictable if you prefer your roadsters to be rear-wheel drive. But is it engaging? Certainly.
From the driver’s seat, if you’re extremely long-legged, you might prefer to have your seat slid a bit farther back, but the chances are that drivers of most shapes and sizes will be able to get comfortable, thanks to lots of adjustment to the supportive seat and steering wheel. You’ll have no problem working out the dashboard controls, because there are only a handful of clearly labelled buttons set neatly into the fascia.
All Roadsters feature Audi’s 12.3in Virtual Cockpit colour display where you’d normally expect to find the instrument dials. Audi’s MMI infotainment system is easy to use; you control it via a large rotary dial between the seats and there are also handy shortcut buttons to take you directly to specific functions. The Roadster’s interior really is special, too, with high-quality and solid-feeling materials throughout.
Boot space is quite a bit smaller than that of the TT Coupé, but you’ll still fit more in it than you would in a BMW Z4’s or a Mercedes SLC’s. What’s more, the size of the load area stays the same whether the hood is up or down, whereas many rivals with folding metal roofs eat into their load space.
Should I buy one?
You certainly won’t feel short-changed. The 1.8 has all the performance you’re likely to want for a reduced price, but crucially, it doesn’t stop being a brilliant open-top. Audi really has nailed interior quality on the head, while the Roadster’s infotainment, refinement and comfort are some of the best you can buy at this level.
In fact, travelling a tad more slowly in the 1.8 and enjoying the open-air experience probably makes it a more fitting choice. Without doubt, the TT remains a more rounded package than an equivalent Z4 or Mercedes SLC with it, even if those rivals’ looks and rear-driven set-up will continue to win their own sales.
Audi TT Roadster 1.8 TFSI Sport manual
Location: Surrey; On sale: Now; Price £29,215; Engine 4 cyls, 1798cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 178bhp at 5100-6200rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 1250-5000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1210kg; Top speed 149mph; 0-62mph 7.2sec; Economy 47.1mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 138g/km, 24%
What is it?