Everyone dreams of owning a Porsche 911.
Well, everyone who dreams of high-performance German sports cars. But the price tag that's attached to a 911 makes it just that — a dream — for most people.
There are 911-like alternatives that are more accessible: the Audi TT, for instance.
Its styling is similar, and it comes with mechanically similar things including a high-performance turbocharged engine and seven-speed automated manual transmission. But you can pick one up for less than half the cost of a new 911, which is kind of a dream come true.
What It Is
The Audi TT is a two-plus-two (four-seater) coupe/convertible with more than passing similarity to the famous Porsche 911, except that you can pick up a TT coupe for $44,900 — vs. $91,100 for the least expensive 911.
A TT convertible costs $48,900.
Both versions come standard with all-wheel drive, a feature that costs another $7k extra with the Porsche.
Both the coupe and convertible 2019 TT come standard with the seven-speed automated manual transmission and wireless smartphone charging.
It's nearly a 911 for not nearly as much.
It has more than twice the trunk.
AWD doesn't cost extra.
What's Not So Good
You can't get a manual transmission — at any price.
The 911-style roof slope gives 911-style back-seat headroom, which isn't much.
There's just one engine.
Under the Hood
Whether you go with the coupe or the convertible, the TT comes with the same engine and transmission: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that has 228 horsepower, paired with a seven-speed automated manual transmission. It has clutch, like a manual manual, but the engaging and disengaging is handled automatically.
These transmissions are designed to give the quick-shifting performance of a manual manual with the ease of use of an automatic.
The hard-top coupe is the quickest version, which isn't surprising, because it's lighter by about 100 pounds (3,208 pounds versus 3,395 pounds) compared with the convertible. It can get to 60 mph in about five seconds; the soft top takes about 5.3 seconds.
Surprisingly, both versions rate the same mileage — 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway — even though the convertible is heavier.
Both TTs come standard with Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which modulates the power flow from front to back to maximize traction in a straight line as well as in the curves.
On the Road
While not as quick as a 911, the TT does a pretty convincing job of summoning the German sports car experience, which ought not to be surprising, given it is a German sports car and Audi and Porsche are more than just kissing cousins. Both are part of the same big family, and the familial DNA is evident in both looks and feel.
The TT even has some advantages over its exotic car cousin.
Its standard AWD makes it much more sure-footed on wet roads as well as more forgiving going into a curve too hot when it's dry.
The rear-drive 911 requires a more cautious right foot on wet roads, and a more expert foot when driven fast on dry ones. Like all powerful RWD cars, the 911 will swing wide if the rear wheels break traction, which is fun on the track and if you're ready for it, but not so much if it's on the street and you're not ready.
At the Curb
If the TT were to have round headlights, it'd be almost a dead ringer for its more exotic cousin.
From the side, the kinship between the two is readily apparent. Both have short hoods that arch up to a comparatively tall windshield that dives toward a tapered rear.
No matter the badge — or the price — both are beautiful.
But one is much more space-efficient.
At just 165 inches long overall, the TT is a smaller car than the 911, which is 179.4 inches bumper to bumper.
But it has a functional cargo area of 12 cubic feet versus the Porsche's 5.6 cubic feet.
Both cars, however, suffer from guillotined back-seat headroom due to the dramatic sweep of the roofline. While the TT driver and front-seat passenger seats have a reasonable 37.1 inches of headroom, that gets chopped to 33.8 inches for the TT's back seats.
If you like this TT, the time to buy one is now, because a revised TT is coming next year.
It has been restyled a bit and will offer a more powerful engine as well as (according to preliminary info) an available manual manual transmission.
So if you want more 911-like performance and prefer to shift for yourself, you might want to wait a few months.
The updated 2020 TT should be available by late summer/early fall.
The Bottom Line
Sometimes you get what you pay for. Sometimes you get more than others paid for!
To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com. His new book, Don't Get Taken for a Ride! is available now.