Recently, I’ve been asking people to document any experiences they’ve had with other comparable marques and write in to tell us all why that car was good, or bad, and why they’d still prefer their Saab.
Today’s instalment in this series comes from……….me!
I don’t have any actual photos, and I can’t claim to know all about this car, but today I had an unexpected opportunity to drive an Audi TT. I don’t know what year it was or whether it was FWD, AWD, 180hp or 220hp – but I can tell you a few things about it.
First of all, it looked quite a bit like this one:
And apart from the shifter, the interior looked very much like this, though not so open and light, but I’ll get to that in a second….
As I mentioned, the drive was unexpected and whilst I spent around an hour in the car, only about 25 minutes of this time was with me behind the wheel. This was enough to form an impression, though, and confirm what I like and dislike about this car.
My ride/drive in one today came about because I had to take a Realtor out to our block of land that we’re trying (once again – grrr) to sell. She’s a former colleague of mine and offered to pick me up for the ride out to the block. I was quite pleased when the silver TT that pulled up on the street was for me.
First, the likes.
I’ve always been a fan of the TT’s styling – since the first day I saw one. Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the TT was pretty distinctive for its time and there’s still little out there today that looks much like it.
I still like the styling. It looks great, but that doesn’t mean it’s great in practical terms. More on that in a moment.
I also like the interior styling. Again, it’s distinctive and Audi’s famed high quality is on show. The car I rode in today – I’d guess it was around a 2002 or 2003 model, still looked great inside, both in terms of design and in the quality feel it’s retained since new. They spend money making the cabin a nice place to hang out and once you squeeze into it, it definitely is a nice place to hang.
But that’s the problem, and the start of all those reasons why I wouldn’t have one.
First up, my brief experience in the TT today showed me that the execution of this car used what is essentially an anti-Saab ethos. Form, in this case, comes well and truly before function.
This small side windows give the impression of a high beltline and they look great, but I cracked my head twice on that car today, and I thought I was being careful. Once you do get your bruised head inside the car, that interior’s very trendy and all, but the sloping roof line seems to extend waaaaay forward in front of you. It’s all black, which is cool, but the windscreen seems so small and so far away that it’s easy to feel claustrophobic in there.
And memo to Saab – never abandon the green instrument lighting. The red stuff in the Audi is once again a case of form prevailing over function. They’re hard to read, meaning you’re concentrating on doing so and distracting yourself from the road in the process.
The drive itself wasn’t spectacular. It struck me as a German version of the Toyota Celica actually. Capable of some good looks, but little in substance. It held the road pretty nicely, but there was no big kick in the seat of the pants AT ALL. It could zip along nicely once you really planted the foot but it felt like I was kicking the absolute stuffing out of it. The torque of the Saab turbo is definitely a better and more logical feel as far as I’m concerned.
The gearshift was well placed, but the gearbox felt very, very stiff to me. In all fairness, most gearboxes feel strange the first time you drive them, but this was nowhere near as flowing as what I’d been led to believe an Audi gearbox would be.
It’s a drive I’m glad I got to take, and I’d happily spend some more time behind the wheel of a TT to get a better feel for it. At the end of the day, though, I’d keep my Viggen (or pick up a 9-3SS) over a TT – eight days a week.
More practical, more comfortable, and more responsive.
There’s definitely things that Saab could learn from Audi, most notably in the interior department. But there’s things Audi could learn from Saab, too.
Quite often the first experience in a car leads to a come-down after the initial rush of expectation. Such was the case with the TT. It happens in all cars, even with the Viggen. But at least with the Viggen I’m still coming down slowly – after 17 months of owning it.
Except for the design and finish of the interior, I was over the TT in about 35 minutes.