Heading north on Route 257 through southeastern Quebec, it occurred to me that Audi's second-generation TT is a perfect example of how, sometimes, it can take years to fulfill a promise.
Then my thoughts turned to manure.
The first TT arrived in the US as a 2000 model, and the rounded little Bauhaus design made visual promissory notes: It would be wonderful to drive.
But we were tricked. The steering lacked feel and the driving experience was rather average, not coming close to matching the magic of the TT's appearance.
For the 2008 model year Audi has an all-new TT. A stronger body and redesigned suspension have delivered huge improvements in its handling, finally giving it the performance to back up its come-hither-and-enjoy-driving look.
As before, there are coupe and convertible versions and a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. There are two engines: a new turbocharged 2-liter 4 producing 200 horsepower or a carried-over 3.2-liter V-6 that makes 250 horsepower. You can get a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Unfortunately, there are restrictions on what goes with what.
Prices start at US$35,575 for a front-wheel drive coupe with the 4-cylinder engine, which comes only with the automatic.
Those who want the V-6 must also take the quattro all-wheel drive system and a price of US$42,275. A six-speed manual is standard on this version; the automatic is an option.
All-wheel drive is not available with the turbo 4, although Audi is thinking of changing that, said Filip Brabec, product planning manager for Audi of America.
For those who desire a convertible, the least-expensive TT Roadster is US$37,575 with front drive and the turbo 4. A version with the V-6 and all-wheel drive starts at US$45,275.
The roadster that I tested had the V-6 and the automatic and a base price of US$46,675. The final price was US$51,225 with options including fancier leather upholstery, larger 18-inch wheels and an upgraded stereo system with Sirius Satellite Radio.
But back to the manure. Starting early one summer morning my wife, Cheryl, and I drove north from our home in New Hampshire along Route 3, passing the First, Second and Third Connecticut Lakes. These are names that hint at a lack of pioneer poetic imagination but excellent counting skills.
By 10am we crossed into Canada and were headed toward this farming town advertised by a small, weathered sign in French that translated to "Let us charm you." A few minutes later, the smell of manure hit with the most drenching pungency possible when a convertible top is down and olfactory protection is drastically reduced.
If we'd had some additional warning ("Let us charm you, but we stink") we could have quickly protected ourselves. Putting the top up (or down) is possible with a push of a button even while the car is moving up to 40kph an hour.
Incidentally, the power open-close mechanism worked flawlessly; the top was snug.
With an overall length of 418cm, the new TT is 14cm longer, but the biggest change cannot be seen. It is the extensive use of aluminum (there is still some steel) to achieve strength with less weight.
The advantage of this new structure can be felt easily. Anyone familiar with the tiresome shake and wiggle of a poorly done convertible will be amazed by the TT's wonderful solidity even on the worst surfaces.
Inside, the TT feels sports-car intimate without being crowded, and Audi's tradition of handsome accommodations continues. The basic controls are easy to use, lacking the classic Teutonic approach in which mystery is preferred over logic.
All the good safety gear is standard, including stability control; antilock brakes; rollover hoops intended to keep noggins off pavement; and seat-mounted bags to protect chests and heads in side impacts.
The coupe and roadster each has more cargo capacity than the first TT and could easily be used for a weekend trip.
By noon we had spent about two hours in Canada and saw no reason to wear out our welcome. We crossed into Maine at Coburn Gore and headed south on Route 27, a smooth two-lane with turns ranging from benevolent sweepers to tricky kinks. Route 27's straights can be short, but with the TT it was easy to build speed.
The 3.2 liter V-6 is rated at 32.6 kilogram-meter of torque, all available between 2,500rpm and 3,000rpm. Part of the swiftness comes from the S Tronic dual-clutch automatic with six gears chosen for strong acceleration, not maximum fuel economy.
The dual-clutch gizmo means quick gear changes (Audi claims 0.2 seconds) and, unlike a manual or conventional automatic, there is no discernable drop in power as the gears change. It is also an extraordinarily eager gearbox that needs no more than a hint that the driver needs a downshift.
On most turns, the TT is a delight. The steering has a good feel and is nicely weighted, inspiring the confidence and communication crucial in a good sports car.
Thanks to a redesigned suspension and extra-sticky summer tires (you can choose all-seasons instead) there is so much cornering power that blind mountain turns at high speeds come with a greatly reduced fright factor.
Alas, it is on the tight turns, like hairpins, that the TT becomes less fun and shows its weak point. It begins feeling nose-heavy and less willing to change direction, reminding the driver that about 59 percent of its weight is up front, far from the ideal 50-50 balance.
On a rough surface the TT's ride is comfortable, at least for a sports car. That means the TT is suitable for enjoyable long-distance travel. It is not one of those rough-riding, tiring sports cars no good for anything more than an afternoon romp.
By mid afternoon we were home, having covered 541km on our TT International Tour, more than enough to come to some sunny and solid conclusions. While the original TT was a dynamic disappointment, Audi has learned its lesson and made nice with the new car. It has not just looks and style but the anytime-anywhere acceleration, cornering and braking that finally make the TT as delightful to drive as to look at.
Since its launch in 2014, the Taiwan Season has increasingly become a “must-see” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. So, when this year’s three-week Fringe became an early casualty of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Chen Pin-chuan (陳斌全) was determined that the Taiwan Season must continue in some form. Chen, director of the Cultural Division of the Taipei Representative Office in the UK, says that he and Taiwan Season curator and producer Yeh Jih-wen (葉紀紋) had been thinking of ways of growing and adding value to the season anyway. The crisis and the cancellation of the live performances brought those ideas forward as
Scott Saulters wasn’t sure if his film had just taken one of the two top prizes at a recent film competition. Although Saulters has been in Taiwan for 15 years and is proficient in Mandarin, the award ceremony for the inaugural “Bi Tian Iann” (眯電影) short film contest was conducted entirely in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), a language he can’t speak. “I thought I heard it, but I didn’t want to look too excited,” he says. Despite his limited command of the tongue, Saulter’s entry, Wu Yu Tzu (烏魚子, mullet roe), took first place in the amateur category of the
The 22nd Taipei Arts Festival (臺北藝術節) opens tonight with three productions, a slightly scaled-down pandemic version that seeks to keep its tradition of big ideas, challenging programs and international connections alive and moving forward in an increasingly uncertain world. The theme of this year’s festival is “Super@#S%?” — as good a term as any when descriptives and superlatives seem not only inadequate, but somewhat irrelevant in a world where so many people cannot imagine being able to return to theaters, either as performers or audience members — they are too worried about having a job and their health. Technically, however, it is
Shuanglianpi (雙連埤) is both a Hakka outpost and a place of great ecological interest. The conjoined body of water from which it gets its name is the centerpiece of the 17.16-hectare Shuanglianpi Wildlife Refuge (雙連埤野生動物保護區). No waterways of significance fill or drain this scenic lake in Yilan County’s Yuanshan Township (員山鄉). During the 1895 to 1945 period of Japanese rule, the colonial authorities — struggling to secure Taiwan’s foothills — encouraged Han people to settle in areas adjacent to indigenous communities. Around 1910, a 49-year-old Hakka pioneer called Tsou Cheng-sheng (鄒成生) from what’s now Taoyuan decided to begin farming at