Since its inception, the Audi TT has been regarded by its parent company as a pure sports car.
This review was originally published in MOTOR's May 2003 issue
In this instance, ‘pure’ was applied with typical Teutonic single-mindedness, and meant there would be no ‘automatic transmission’ option box to tick on your TT order form. Until now. Continued success for the three-year-old model in markets like Japan and the US, in particular, hinged on the availability of a self-shifter.
The all-new six-speed Tiptronic ’box makes its debut in the mildly facelifted – a new grille design and soft-looking 16-inch alloys, in essence – ’03 TT, backing onto the stock 1.8-litre, five-valve-per-cylinder turbocharged inline four.
The sweet little four-potter makes 132kW, and its torque value of 235Nm is deemed the maximum that the Audi-designed and -built gearbox can deal with. Pushing out about 9psi, the engine is eager to whang the redline at the merest whiff of throttle.
The twin-clutch (for smoother shifts) gearbox has three modes; Drive (der!), Sport and Manual, with the expected improvement in shift speed and quality in the Sport setting. But this box of planetary gears and electronic sensors has a few more tricks at its disposal, chief among them being a switch under the throttle pedal that, when you flatten it, instantly drops the box back two cogs, engages its fastest shifting program and holds gears to the redline in all modes.
The only problem with this innovation is if you don’t quite hold full throttle when trying an overtake manoeuvre, for example, the box will short-shift at the most inconvenient time possible, with the added disadvantage of the low-capacity turbo falling off-boost, further slowing much-needed progress.
Gone but not forgotten with classic MOTOR
The gearbox also shares the infuriating trait of many of its ilk of taking over shift duties from the driver whenever it damn well pleases when ‘Manual’ is selected.
While slotting itself back into first idling at the traffic lights is fine, its reluctance to yield control when diving through the twisty stuff only encourages you to ignore the up/down toggles on the steering wheel spokes, stick it in ‘Sport’ and get on with enjoying the taut, if somewhat soulless, TT chassis and steering.
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There’s no doubt Audi would be silly to continue to ignore the need for an auto TT. As it sits, though, the driver is obliged to learn the gearbox’s idiosyncrasies, not the other way around. Put it in ‘S’, say we, and get on with it.
2003 Audi TT
Engine: 1.8-litre, 20-valve DOHC turbo inline four
Price: $74,100 (Coupe)