Just occasionally a car comes along which you know immediately will achieve classic status, a car so superior to it’s rivals that otherwise exciting competitors look humdrum by comparison. Road testing cars is always interesting, it’s not just about flashy cars for even the most mundane family transport has it’s own value, is the ideal transport for a group of people, is important in the effect it has on the market, is worth testing, evaluating and worthy of comment but, more rarely, a car appears that is so special the fleeting experience of it is filed permanently in the memory banks.
Our tale began when Bognor car dealer John Mawer, who always seems to fill his Aldwick showroom with unusual and interesting cars, phoned to offer a drive in a something not just rare but almost unique in the UK, just arrived from Germany where it has only been on sale a few weeks, one of the very first Audi TT Coupes in the country. Would I like a drive? Do bears perform their ablutions in the woods? You bet.
The stunning Coupe is not due to officially arrive in the UK for 6 or 7 months yet and demand is already so high that waiting lists of 1-2 years are rumoured, Audi only intending to bring in about 100 examples split equally between this car, the 1.8 Turbo, 180 bhp, 2 wheel drive Coupe and the awesome 225 bhp 4 wheel drive version. More 21st century in looks that anything else on the roads the Audi TT as concept car was making them gasp on International show stands barely two years ago, it’s now on the road and this car drew gasps of admiration wherever I took it, it had barely been in the showroom a few hours and was drawing huge crowds, few will have seen it’s like.
The gloriously futuristic Coupe could only come from Northern Europe, Japanese and American designers simply cannot design cars like this, it’s very much a product of it’s culture, the best of Scandinavian design in stainless steel, black leather and brushed aluminium, like one of those hugely expensive Swedish armchairs, space age yet retro, like a lower, leaner, meaner version of it’s kin, the new Beetle, but with styling throwbacks to the great Auto Unions that dominated motor racing in the late thirties blended, in a very heady brew, with the technology that later made Audi’s mighty Quattro Sport a world beating rally car until the sporting authorities effectively banned it. For some it was little surprise that a Quattro proved near as quick up Goodwood hill as a modern F1 car.
Powered by a 1.8 litre turbo engine the Coupe is awesomely rapid, no figures have yet been published but my gut says around 7 – 8 seconds for the 0-60 dash and 130 -140 mph a probable top speed but it’s the effortless way it gets there that is so impressive, incredible linear acceleration with little noise, beautifully direct and informative steering, stiff yet comfortable and well damped suspension with almost nil roll and inspiring amounts of grip, a wonderful drive, nimble and fleet of foot in a way some lumbering Supercars can only achieve with massive, fuel guzzling, engines and a ragged edge, lumpy, style of driving.
The cabin is as starkly modern as the body, crisp curves and clean lines, big, chrome bezelled, dials, very fitting leather seats, loads of high quality black plastics, brushed aluminium and chrome and very high equipment levels. The test car had ABS, Traction control, full climate control, a wonderful Bose sound system with a multi-play CD near the rear seats and the most refined heated seats I have ever seen with the ability how much heat your precious bits should receive. Given the size and shape of the Coupe it’s inevitable that rear seat leg room should be very limited as is the rear headroom so a full 4 seater it isn’t but it’s certainly a viable 2 plus 2 for small kids and the front passenger airbag is switchable to allow a baby to be carried safely.
If you want to see a future classic dash along to John Mawer’s Aldwick showroom quickly because a car like the Audi TT will sell very fast. I have driven a lot of cars in the last 10 years and some stick in the memory long after, the TT is one of the most exciting and enjoyable road cars I have ever experienced. Vorsprung Durch Teknik.. and some !
PRICE £25,995 on the road
TOP SPEED 130 MPH -appx
0-60 MPH 7 SECONDS – appx
First Published 1999 – Article © Graham Benge 2007