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Road & Travel's 2004 Sexy Car Buyer's Guide

Audi TT
2004 Audi TT

Can a small, front-drive roadster with pristine German heritage keep the motoring world's fires burning? If it's a sculptured, seductive Audi TT, we'd bet that it still can.

Time was a few years ago, when there was only the hardtop coupe version, it needed a bent body entrance and exit. Once one got used to the low brow line and tiny interior and settled instead on controls, the world of driving fun began to unfold. It zipped. It sped. It cornered with a sense of abandon. It even bred imitators. The roadster that followed opened a whole new world above the deepset headliner. And with lots of competition in the wings, it was time for even more.

For '04, the overall look remains classic, what Audi calls "performance art." Think Teutonic types like supermodel Heidi Klum or Kill Bill's Uma Thurman (sans the Kung Fu attitude) who exude under-control grace with every fine-boned move. Think pop diva Beyonce, with unbridled excitement traveling in perfect form. Such similarly channeled fire remains present in TT's cool-hot exterior design.

But Audi adds more punch to the present package with a husky 250-horsepower 3.2-liter V-6, angled to fit the TT's compact engine compartment. It's the first time Audi has mated such power with its diminutive two-seater sportscar. It also uses a newly-developed six-speed transmission called Direct-Shift Gearbox or DSG, inspired by motor racing. According to Audi, it senses the next upshift to be engaged either as manual or automatic and keeps a smooth flow of power or permits a launchpad start. Audi even calls that super performance feature "Launch Control," for slingshot takeoffs and high rev driving. With Audi's four-wheel-drive Quattro system added, capability is expanded even more.

We think the TT designation comes from Tourist Trophy, a legendary 1905 auto race Audi won then used as inspiration for the current model. Such heritage-based driving comes in reasonably-priced packages, from $33,250 for the base 1.8-liter four to $42,900 for the top breed V-6. And if you thought Matrix Reloaded was a futuristic blast, try the top-of-the-line TT on for size.