It has an engine to match its looks and the best clutchless manual gearbox ever devised. Michael Booth wants one


Price: £31,405

Engine: 3.2-litre, V6, 247bhp

Performance: 155mph (limited), 0-60 in 6.4 seconds, 28.8mpg

CO2: 235g/km

Worth considering: BMW Z4, Porsche Boxster 2.7, Nissan 350Z, Mazda RX8

Just when you thought the Audi TT was becoming passé, when every new car seemed to ape its profile (Diahatsu Copen) and pilfer its interior jewellery (Nissan 350Z), along comes Audi to stick a dirty great V6 engine in it, transforming its personality.

What is more, they have mated it to possibly the finest sequential gear change fitted to a production car, the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), and it might well even be the best way to change gear. Ever. Just what the brand manager ordered.

This week our testers all happen to be colleagues from Jane's Defence Weekly. Jeff wrote in on behalf of his office and when they overheard him talking to me on the phone and discovered what the car was, our conversation was drowned out in a chorus of "Me, pleases".

I have tried to think of a witty segue from Jane's Defence to the TT but, aside from the standard issue car journo's anti-German tirade, I can't think of anything. And anyway, this is just the kind of car to make you warm to our Teutonic cousins.

There is no need to introduce you to the various delights of the original TT, but its slick new gearbox and engine require some formalities. Audi has been developing the DSG shift for nearly 20 years, since the days of their World Rally triumphs. Changing gear via paddles mounted behind the steering wheel is nothing new. What makes the DSG special is its extraordinary smoothness, its lighting-quick cog-swaps and its ease of use.

It makes other clutch-less manuals feel like they have been programmed by Maureen from Driving School. This is a car that plugs right into your synapses; its Sport mode is thrillingly sporty, but equally, if you are in a Radio 2 kind of mood, you can just stick it in D and drive it as an automatic.

And now the TT has the engine to match its looks, the V6 from the impressive VW Gold R32 which at last allows you to push this four-wheel-drive limpet to its limit.

Wisely Audi has not tinkered with the appearance too much, realising that the original was the best. My only gripes are the quite oppressive amounts of road noise on motorways and the age-old TT problem of poor side visibility -- at junctions you feel like you are peering through two letterboxes, the roof line is so low.

Other than that, the TT V6 is such a comprehensively magnificent car that it is a continuous cause of painful regret that I do not own one. And there is something else I regret: not asking who on earth Jane is, and how come she knows so much about defence?

Katherine Willis, 39, sub-editor from Croydon, Surrey

Usual car: Peugeot 106

"It is gorgeous. I was really nervous because of the gear changes, but if you just leave it in automatic it couldn't be easier. I love the shape. It seems like a huge amount of money, but I guess the price is about right for what you get. Performance is not so important to me, but knowing it is there if you need it is great. The acceleration is a delight, as is the power steering -- which I don't have on my car. I think the typical driver will be a 30-year-old male, although I should think women will like it. And even though the back seats are small, I suspect a lot of people would manage to squeeze themselves in for the chance of a ride!"

Peter Felstead, 39, journalist from Richmond, Surrey

Usual car: Lotus Elise

"It was better than I expected, so much so that I am now seriously thinking about a TT as my next car. I had no idea about how the paddle gear-change worked before I drove it, but I really liked it. If you are feeling lazy you can just stick it into automatic, then when you get out into the country and want some fun you can change with the paddles so that you can really drive the car. What I like about it is that it is sporty but has four seats. My sons are eight and six, so they would fit in the back. It is a lot more sensible than my Elise, but it still feels like a sports car. It is a fantastic shape -- like something straight from a drawing board."

Jeff Pye, 56, designer from Carshalton, Surrey

Usual car: Peugeot 405

"It absolutely lived up to expectations and it was so easy to get used to driving it -- the paddle gear-change was super and in traffic the ability to drive it just like an automatic is a real bonus. You can accidentally knock the indicator instead of changing gear, though. It is smoothly quick, and I think it is a good price considering the build quality and the performance. It sounds terrific. It is much nicer than an equivalent BMW, and I think it could attract a variety of owners, possibly older rather than younger. It is a brilliant example of good engineering and good design. You feel like you can drive it forever, it is so comfortable. If I have a criticism, it was the visibility."

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