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Used test: Audi TT vs BMW Z4
Buy either of these drop-top sports cars used and you'll save a bundle of cash, but which is the one to put on your driveway? We've got the answer...
Audi TT Roadster 45 TFSI S line S tronic
List price when new £40,355
Price today £30,000*
Available from 2014-present
The TT is a sports car favourite, so this convertible version should only add to its appeal.
BMW Z4 sDrive30i M Sport
List price when new £42,440
Price today £32,000*
Available from 2019-present
The Z4 has the key ingredients for driving fun, but do they form a class-leading product?
*Price today is based on a 2019 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
It's easy to be in two minds about convertible sports cars. On one hand, you imagine top-down cruises and spirited drives through picturesque countryside. On the other, if you live in the UK, the weather doesn't always co-operate. That's why it's important to find the drop-tops that excel when the sun is out – and when it's not.
The Audi TT Roadster is one of the models that do both well. It has a great, versatile basis in its coupé counterpart (the Audi TT), yet promises even more visceral thrills and spills. In other words, it's an alluring package, even before you consider the attractive saving you can make by buying used rather than new: around £10,000.
The BMW Z4 fits into the same category, because it's available with a similar saving and price tag at three years old. And while it doesn't have a hard-top sibling, it still has a strong basis – one more akin to a traditional sports car, in fact. The Z4 is rear-wheel drive, while the TT is available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The TT we're testing here has all-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre petrol engine. The Z4's unit fits that same description, so they're about as closely matched as can be. Time to put them head to head.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
The 225bhp Z4 is quicker than the 242bhp TT from 0-60mph, but the margin is close to non-existent. In fact, it could hardly be any closer to non-existent, because there's 0.1sec between them. Both can outrun a fair few hot hatches, and we have no complaints about the sheer pace of either.
That's not to say the pair's engines share a personality, mind you, because they're quite different. Starting with sound, the TT emits an eager and spirited tone, while the Z4 drones away a bit drearily.
The TT feels livelier at times, too, mainly because its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox responds faster and pings through its gears more quickly than the Z4’s slurring, sluggish eight-speed auto. Both gearboxes respond eagerly if you use the steering-wheel-mounted paddles to shift manually, though.
You'll find the TT handles, steers and stops better than the Z4. Take the brakes, for instance. While the TT’s are progressive, allowing you to stop smoothly, the Z4’s are grabby and lack initial bite, inspiring little confidence and making it all too easy to come to an abrupt halt in traffic. At least they stop you quickly, helped by our car’s M Sport Plus Package, a £1950 option when the car was new, which includes 19in wheels shod with wider, grippier tyres.
The TT is a doddle to place accurately on the road, thanks to steering that’s well-judged for weight and speed of response, whereas the Z4’s gives you little sense of connection. Past a quarter of a turn of lock, there’s an absurd ramping up in the speed of the Z4’s steering, too.
Included in the Z4’s M Sport Plus Package is adaptive suspension, but this is a mixed blessing. The softer Comfort mode allows too much body bounce on undulating roads and more lean than the TT through corners. The stiffer Sport setting is too unforgiving for all but the smoothest surfaces.
The TT – on standard suspension – is far better controlled over any bump, on any road, and feels altogether lighter and more agile. Its tyres always grip the road better under hard acceleration, too, although there is joy to be had from feeling the Z4’s rear end squirm under power out of corners.
Yes, the Audi TT Roadster thuds more over sharp potholes and expansion joints, while the softer BMW Z4 is more cosseting around town. Yet the TT’s ride is sophisticated enough that you’ll never think it harsh, and its body shakes and shudders less over bumps.
With their electrically operated soft-tops in place, the Z4 suffers from appreciably less road and wind noise at motorway speeds. With the roof down – a process that takes 10 seconds in the TT and 12 in the Z4 – there’s less wind buffeting in the TT.
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