Why do I want to read about a roadster in this weather?
Look out of your window. Yes, you’ll see stormclouds, flooded roads and possibly a tornado, but you’ll probably also see an Audi TT roadster. In eight years 48,000 of them have been sold to optimistic Brits determined to make the most of every moment of weak sunshine. Astonishingly, more are sold in the UK than in any other country and at its peak the old model was outselling its nearest rival by three to one. So the new Roadster is headline news, whatever the weather, and we’ve driven it.
No fancy folding hardtop?
No. Nor was it ever really considered, according to Audi. The Roadster gets a fully electric hood (no catch to release by hand, unlike the old car) that drops in 12 seconds at up to 20mph. It folds in a Z-pattern, the rigid front section remaining facing upwards so a separate tonneau cover is no longer required. There’s an electrically-operated mesh windbreak that rises between the trademark rollover hoops. Boot space is a reasonable 250 litres whether the roof is up or down – enough for a long weekend’s baggage for two – and critically the weight isn’t significantly increased; up just 35kgs to 1295kgs for the two-litre, four-cylinder T-FSI manual.
Tell me what it’s like with the roof up, first.
Impressive. The UK gets a more thickly-insulated hood, optional in other markets, as standard. Roof up, the cabin feels more spacious than the old car’s but the dark headlinings (black or dark grey) make it feel a little gloomy and oppressive. We tested the car in high winds and torrential rain and might as well have been in a tin-top. In the brief moments between storms, the windbreak makes the cabin comfortable and conversation possible at over 100mph with the roof down.
But it’s still no Boxster-beater, right?
The old Roadster was grunty and grippy, but its Golf underpinnings lacked the sophistication and rigidity to challenge a bespoke roadster. Viewed in isolation the new Roadster is simply a good car to drive. The part-aluminium spaceframe of the coupe starts light and stiff, and for the Roadster requires only some internal reinforcement in the sills and a steel rollover hoop hidden in the windscreen surround. Of course, you can detect some flexing, but in fast driving on poor surfaces in the south of France the Roadster steered cleanly and accurately with almost none of the unpleasant distortion that plagued the old car. British roads have a habit of amplifying any lack of stiffness, but our first drive impressed.
Front drive or quattro? Turbo or V6?
We thought that putting 197bhp through the front wheels might have created torque steer which, added to the loss of stiffness might have kippered the handling. Not so. Even on streaming wet tarmac the front-drive-only four-pot turbo had to be seriously provoked before it would do anything other than grip and go. Quattro just feels unnecessary. The 250bhp V6 is a little quicker at 6.1sec to 60mph to the turbo’s 6.7, with a fuller, richer soundtrack you can better appreciate with the roof down. The turbo’s slightly harder rip is almost as good and its mid-range torque means it feels almost as quick, but its killer advantage is the fact that it is 135kgs lighter than the V6, and feels it; sharper, nimbler, keener to turn in.
And will I save much?
Yes, at £31,535 for the V6 and £26,915 for the turbo. The turbo will also depreciate less, though both will lose less money than almost anything else you could pick. We’d spend £1400 of the savings on the magnificent S-tronic gearbox, as Audi’s DSG system is now known, but would give the Impulse leather trim a swerve; it’s the new version of the baseball-glove big stitching offered on the old car.
Bigger and not as strikingly-styled as the old car, but so much stiffer and better to drive in Roadster form that someone who likes driving their car as well as just being seen in it can finally justify buying one. A turbo with the S-tronic ‘box would be our pick.