Audi is automatically beautiful
CONSIDERING our sporting prowess, it's difficult to fathom the obesity epidemic sweeping the nation.
Despite great weather and wonderful beaches, Australia is ranked among the fattest nations in the developed world.
And it seems that laziness extends to swapping cogs. The majority of drivers can't be bothered changing gears.
Manual transmissions are shunned by Aussies nowadays, with self shifters the overwhelming choice of most drivers.
Pandering to our left-handed lethargy, Audi released a base-model variant of the sleek little TT convertible with an automatic transmission earlier this year.
The manual has been ousted, and for $72,000 you can get this slick package. If you want to step up to the all-wheel drive version with a more powerful engine it costs about 10 grand more.
Sliding into the TT, there's a feeling of envelopment.
The driver and passenger are cosseted within the muscular shell, and both should find ample head and leg room - although the shallow roofline would be an issue for those above 190cm.
Two pews take pride of place in the cabin and Audi hasn't bothered trying to provide seats in the back. Things are tight enough in the coupe derivative.
You sit low for a true sports car feel. The driver can jack the seat up or down, although all controls are manual with no electrics in this base model.
Both seats are supportive in the right places, yet we found the firm suspension was a big contributor to bum-numbness on longer highway journeys.
Our test car also had plush impulse leather upholstery with a seam trim that rekindled memories of my baseball mitt from many moons ago.
Typical of the four-rings, the dials and operations are clearly marked and easy to read, while the transmission shifter stands out with its "TT" moniker and the flat-bottom sports steering wheel feels great in your hands.
The roof comes down quickly at the pull of a switch on the console, where there is another option which deploys a wind blocker at the rear. With the lid off some air circulates in the cabin, but not enough to be too intrusive.
On the road
Fleet-footed and quick to respond when rapid acceleration is required, the TT is a nifty performer. It can sprint from standstill to 100kmh in just over seven seconds so it's no slouch when it comes time to put the power down.
Being front-wheel drive, rapid acceleration often leaves the drop-top scrambling for traction yet when it grips the power delivery is linear and smooth.
Despite its convertible attributes the chassis feels taut and there is no hint of scuttle.
You can change direction with ultimate confidence and it embraces the twisties along with challenging country terrain with a great feel through the steering.
Being so close to the ground there is a reasonable amount of road rumble - although not enough to impede conversations.
Vision can be obstructed with the wide rear pillar of the soft-top and its best to retain strong peripheral awareness in traffic.
One cool feature is the spoiler which extends automatically at 120kmh for addition downforce at the rear. Or you can deploy it at the touch of a button.
What do you get?
Sitting in the basement of the TT range, your standard inclusions are 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth interface, cruise control, front sports seats upholstered in Valetta leather and multifunction sports steering wheel with gearshift paddles.
Our test machine had 17 grand with of extras - and there are plenty of options to individualise your machine.
While the little drop-top sips the more expensive premium unleaded, average fuel consumption should hover around seven litres for every 100km.
Servicing costs may come as a shock to the uninitiated, but they are at 15,000km intervals and the warranty is for three years with unlimited kilometres.
Key rivals include the Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 BlueEfficiency ($83,450) and BMW Z4 Roadster ($76,900), while for those with no-so-deep pockets there is the Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe Sports ($51,930).
Roadsters aren't typically the domain for common sense. They're fun, have personality and scream for attention.
The TT has a flat but thin boot good for not much more than a suitcase or a few soft bags.
The original styling of the TT is seen by some as bordering on feminine, but this latest Roadster with is stubby stance and cloth roof has created a wider appeal.
Heads turned regularly during our test and on most occasions it was the blokes who lingered to gaze.
The S-line exterior package is worth the additional coin for even sportier looks.
Given the Australian obsession with automatics, Audi had little option but to introduce the self-shifter into this genre.
It's a realm where the drivers seek attention and love the option of lifting the lid to turn more heads - changing gears just gets in the way of looking good.
Those who want pure sporting prowess can spend an extra $30,000 and go for the TT-S.
This is still an engaging drive and offers plenty of fun for when you want to get willing with the wind in your hair.
Model: Audi TT Roadster.
Details: Two-door two-seat front-wheel drive luxury convertible.
Engine: 1.8-litre in-line turbocharged four-cylinder generating maximum power of 118kW @ 4500-6200rpm and peak torque of 250Nm @ 1500-4500rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed S tronic automatic.
Consumption: 6.6 litres/100km (combined).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 7.4 seconds; top speed 223kmh.
Bottom line: $72,400; tested with options 19-inch alloys ($3600), parking system ($850), hill-start assist ($165), leather upholstery with special seam detail ($2265), metallic paint ($1300), sat nav ($4600), S line exterior package ($2436), Xenon headlights and LED running lights ($1800) - total $89,416.