Dec 17, 2008

Audi In India

Different types of cars appeal to different people. Some enjoy the commanding view from an SUV, others may prefer to be indulged in the back seat of a luxury car, while others still may simply look for a car that’s easy to drive around town – god knows with our unruly traffic, and the condition of our roads, you can’t really blame them.

And while each of these cars has its own virtues, if given the choice I’d grab the keys to a true sports car any day of the week. There’s a level of involvement and immediacy in the driving experience that’s missing in even the most sporty saloon. A well engineered sports car may be hard to live with, but the fact is that its sole purpose and reason for being is to please the driver, and that’s a very appealing thought indeed. Drive a nicely dialed in sports car on a decent driving road and it reminds you all over again just how much of a joy driving really is – something that’s easy to loose sight of sitting in bumper-to-bumper city traffic.

The car in question at the moment is the second generation Audi TT. The original TT was launched in 1999, and I still remember the moment I first saw one driving down the street in California. It looked like a seamless piece of fluid metal from front to back – a beautiful design unlike anything on the roads at the time. It was truly a piece of rolling sculpture. However, it was launched with a 20 valve 1.8 liter turbocharged engine – essentially the same engine as the one found in a Skoda Octavia VRS – not a bad thing in itself but it lacked the punch that its looks implied. Later versions had more powerful engines, and the TT was the first production car to feature a DSG (dual cutch semi automatic) gearbox in 2003. But despite all that, what was on the inside – the driving dynamics in this case – was always overshadowed by what was on the outside.

Audi intended to fix that with its second generation TT. Indication of this can be seen in the more aggressive face and angular lines of the new shape. Perhaps not as delicate as the original design, but more focused and still very attractive indeed. All of which points to the fact that it aims to be a more precise driving instrument – so let’s see if it really delivers.

The second generation TT is a clean and aggressive design with taut pulled back headlamps and a front grill that’s shared with its corporate cousins from Inglostadt. Its 18 inch 10-spoke alloys add to its muscular and squat stance. And while it may not have the styling flair of its predecessor, it does have some nice touches like the brushed aluminum fuel filler cap that has TT stamped on it. And of course, like all other Audi’s, you take one look at it and you can immediately tell that it’s very well built indeed.

Audi’s are known for their high quality and functional interiors, and the TT is no different. It doesn’t provide quite the same sense of occasion as the TT of old, which had some pieces of aluminum trim that were like jewelry on the car, but the cabin is still a very nice place to be indeed.

The small flat bottomed steering wheel is a work of art and feels very racy in your hands. The seats are infinitely adjustable and are contoured to hug you in place. The instrument cluster has a nice set of clear analog gauges with a digital display in the center that provides a wealth of information. Our test car had some nice touches as well like red contrasting stitching on black leather.

The rear seats exist in name only, but other than that, not for a minute does the cabin feel small and uncomfortable. Visibility is good and, even sitting in Mumbai traffic, you don’t feel particularly vulnerable. The hip hugging seats and fantastic steering wheel certainly encourage you to make the most of the driving dynamics available – as any good sports car should.