(QQ, Winter 2004) — The Audi steamroller maintains its advance. Not only does the motorsports juggernaut continue to lay waste to the competition, as evidenced by the recent ALMS and Speed Channel GT championships, but Audi AG continues to turn out top quality product, as evidenced by critically lauded automobiles like the RS6 and the S4. Enter Audi's latest handiwork, the TT 3.2 quattro with Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). The DSG is a transmission that delivers on the heretofore-unrealized promise of a manual gearbox that can also be operated in a true (read smooth) automatic mode. That's correct-a clutch pedal-less gearbox that manual tranny fans can finally embrace as opposed to the slew of "xyz-tronic" manu-matic transmissions that are parading around as something more than an automatic transmission-of which they are not, including Audi's own Tiptronic transmission.
As a result of recent comparison test wins (Car and Driver May 2003, and Road and Track December 2003) the Audi brand continues its move towards the Premium and Progressive ends of the automotive spectrum (see Graphic). The 2004 TT 3.2 contributes to this progression by reflecting all of Audi's brand characteristics: sportiness (powerful engines routed through quattro all wheel drive), sophistication (in design and execution), and progression (trendsetting technical achievements). This new TT features a 3.2-liter V6 (Audi shies away from the decidedly VW "VR6" moniker) with 250 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 236 pound feet of torque from 2800 to 3200 rpm. The aforementioned DSG transmission performs its duties extremely well in manual, automatic, and automatic + sport modes. As this TT is part of the S Line (newly introduced to North America) it visibly differentiates itself from its stable mates as a result of its bolder exterior package that includes more aggressive bodywork and S Line badging. Audi considers S Line vehicles stand-alone models as opposed to vehicles merely equipped with an option package.
The TT 3.2's missions include: enriching the TT model range late in its lifecycle, showing Audi's increased level of V6 engine expertise, and introducing what was originally used only as a race car transmission in a serially produced passenger vehicle. A comparison of TT buyer demographics versus those of all sports car purchasers, shows that the TT enjoys more women buyers, and a higher instance of buyers with college degrees. In what has become an increasingly crowded market of coupes and two-seat roadsters Audi sees the BMW Z4, Chrysler Crossfire, Mercedes-Benz SLK, and Nissan 350Z as primary competitors. The TT 3.2 does climb in base price with an MSRP of $39,900 and $42,900 for the coupe and roadster, respectively.
3.2 liter V6 motivation
Audi's engineers have taken VW's latest iteration of the 15-degree, narrow-angle, VR6 motor and bumped displacement from 2.8 to 3.2 liters by increasing bore and stroke commensurately. Additional modifications include changes to the intake tract, cylinder head and compression ratio. While fans of turbocharged motors will bemoan the lack of extreme tunability, this naturally aspirated V6 offers torque off the line, usable power in the lower rev-range and, hence, first class drivability. The run up to sixty miles per hour from a standing start takes 6.4 seconds (factory estimated and probably a bit conservative). Off the line, with the ESP switched off, the TT 3.2 will break traction and casually snap your head back.
And the sound, especially top-down in the roadster-oh the sound! Audi provides yet another internal combustion concerto. Gone are the days of Audis so silent that a glance at the tachometer was required to verify the motor was running. Immediately upon startup, the exhaust barks loudly and then falls into a noticeable idle. Feed in the throttle and a conspicuous growl builds through the lower rev range. Open it up a bit and things actually quiet down. Outside of increasing wind noise, this is a direct result of a dual chamber muffler system similar to the operation in that of the B6 chassis S4. At lower revs the mufflers are essentially a "straight-through" design. At higher revs a vacuum actuated valve reroutes exhaust gases to reduce sound pressure levels at cruising speeds. At first, this may seem counterintuitive towards increasingly stringent European drive-by noise standards. But, in a nod towards the enthusiast, Audi has focused on the all important aural aspect of driving enjoyment.
I found little to dislike with Audi's latest V6, it is smooth, offers good low-end torque, and makes great sounds. As enthusiasts, we can always use more power, but the most important aspect is not the motor, but rather what it is connected to-the belle of the ball-the DSG transmission.
Vorsprung durch Technik at your fingertips
Audi's Direct Shift Gearbox offers a quantum leap in transmission technology and it is the first sequential manual gearbox to deliver glass smooth semi-manual up-shifts, as well as, the more easily executed, perfect rev-matched downshifts. It is important to note that the DSG is a derivative of a manual gearbox, in that it is devoid of the power sapping torque converter or planetary gears that are associated with automatic transmissions. There are, however, two electro-hydraulic clutches handling two gears simultaneously. Audi's technical description is as follows: During operation, DSG engages one gear and pre-selects the next based on the approaching point of the next up- or downshift. When the shift process occurs-either automatically or by driver input via the shift lever or the racing style, steering-wheel mounted shift-paddles-the clutch of the engaged gear opens as the clutch of the next pre-selected gear closes. The gear change takes place under load, with a certain overlap, resulting in the continuous flow of power to the wheels.
The idea of a dual clutch setup isn't new. In fact both Porsche and Audi have used transmissions based on similar principals in racecars during the 1980s. Porsche's vaunted and terribly successful 956 and 962C race cars benefited from the Porsche Dual Klutch, or PDK, transmission. In 1985, Audi used a dual clutch transmission in the Pike's Peak Hillclimb winning Sport quattro S1 rally car. In both instances, since dual clutch transmissions provide "shift without lift" or uninterrupted power flow to the wheels through all the gears, these transmissions were extremely well suited for keeping the racecars' turbocharged motors "on the boost."
Serial production of a dual clutch or DSG transmission has been untenable to date due to insufficient means of mechanical (proper clutch actuation requires precise control of the simultaneous engagement and disengagement of the clutches) as well as electronic controls. Audi again proves its technical expertise and prowess by bringing this first-ever commercial application to the streets.
This is the transmission of the future. Maximum torque capacity aside (this unit can only handle approximately 250 pound feet of torque) it bests offerings from the likes of BMW, Ferrari, and Maserati. The unit isn't perfect though. It offered some brilliant shifts and some not so brilliant (particularly some oddly timed downshifts while in automatic + sport mode), but for the most part every shift was smoothly executed-far smoother than anything BMW or Ferrari has been able to offer to date. There are three modes: automatic (which is as slick, or slicker, than a conventional automatic), automatic + sport mode (which is almost too aggressive in holding gears upon overrun) and manual mode, wherein the driver can control shifts from the steering wheel mounted paddles or the shift lever itself. For a more detailed discussion of the DSG transmission see the Spring 2003 edition of the quattro quarterly, page 32.
I am enamored with the DSG as it provides the best semi-manual operation yet at the same time provides a smooth shifting automatic that those used to standard automatic transmissions would not object to driving. This true duality of purpose is something that BMW's SMG cannot provide, as it just isn't smooth enough. My main gripe with DSG is that in the manual mode it will still up-shift on its own at redline. While I am all for protections built into the system (i.e. not allowing one to downshift and over-rev the motor) I would prefer a less autonomous manual mode.
The original TT 3.2 press release detailed that, "a super high-performance feature of DSG is Launch Control, for F1-type starts." Much like BMW's SMG launch control a combination of choosing sport mode, switching off the ESP and then depressing the accelerator and brake pedals simultaneously would invoke the launch mode. Unfortunately, even though page 116 of the early version of the TT 3.2's owner's manual specifies the above procedure, we were unable to bring it into play. We were later informed that Audi of America's legal eagles have killed launch control for the North American TTs. What remains to be determined is whether the launch control can be re-enabled with the use of the VAG 1551/1552 (or similar emulation tool like the VAG-COM or ProDiag) tool. One would think that the enthusiastic TT owner base will answer this question very early on.
Revised suspension and running gear
The TT would qualify as the go-kart of the Audi line, if you could call a 3,351 pound vehicle with a 58/42 front to rear weight distribution a go-kart. Nevertheless, as a result of the TT's handing characteristics, it is the closest thing that Audi has. Upon blasting through two hundred miles of Texas Hill Country, one comes to quickly appreciate the TT 3.2's revised-uprated spring and damper settings.
The reworked suspension, quattro all wheel drive and improved brakes (derived from the Europe only B5 chassis RS4) help this TT continue in the tradition of its forebears. You might not win many stop light grand prix, but when the going gets twisty you'll certainly hold your own and then some. The DSG will put the power to the ground evenly through the gears and the quattro system will do its job, all you have to do is concentrate on the approaching apexes.
The 2004 TT's interior design elements have withstood the test of time and continue to impress. The original bare aluminum interior items that inspired many vehicle interiors over the past five years continue their visual and tactile roles. Although many manufacturers have resorted to lower quality or even faux aluminum trim, the TT's genuine bits continue to set it apart.
Interior materials, fit and finish are typical Audi, which is to say, the best currently available from any major manufacturer. The biggest interior change for the TT 3.2 Roadster is the availability of the black baseball glove leather seats, which is extremely handsome. It is a shame it isn't available on the coupe. A TT roadster with this interior, an Alcantara steering wheel, and all of the contrasting aluminum bits easily outdoes the offerings available from competitive roadsters.
The TT 3.2 boasts a model specific front fascia with enlarged inlet openings to feed additional cooling air to the V6 motor, an extended front apron and vertical gills at the trailing edges of the front bumper. Out back a modified and larger version of the TT spoiler sits atop the rear deck. Although, for a vehicle that was originally designed without spoilers, the idea of a larger version seems somewhat peculiar. A honeycomb-pattern front grill and rear diffuser combined with 18" RS4 nine-spoke wheels help add to the aggressive overall look.
The TT 3.2 enjoys its first V6 motor and the first commercial application of a dual clutch gearbox. This combined with design tenets that continue to impress both owners and passers-by alike as well as enjoyable handling characteristics add up to another winning vehicle from the folks in Ingolstadt. Who knows what they will come up with next, but I am sure they will continue to please our need for progress through technology.