Audi's TT roadster is a delightful driver, balancing tossable fun with the secure traction of quattro all-wheel drive stability. And, should you want a little more fling in your fun, there's the TTS version.
So what do you get for $50,000, a more than 10 percent price premium over the non-S TT?
Well, you get 25 percent more horsepower -- 265 vs. 211 -- good for half a second quicker in the 0-60 mph sprint.
You get larger wheels and lower-aspect tires to help you put that power to the pavement, as well as a magnetic ride system that, at the touch of a switch, firms suspension, enhances shift points and lowers the ride height by about four-tenths of an inch -- all to make better use of that power -- and larger brakes (with painted calipers) to help keep that power smoothly under control.
Completing the TTS package are LED daytime running lights, headlamp washers, special front and rear fascia and "Silk Nappa" two-tone leather seats.
Not that there's anything wrong with the non-S TT, and ultra-enthusiasts will insist on the even higher performance, 360-hp TTRS, which comes with a manual shifter -- only Tiptronic is available in TT and TTS roadsters. However, the TTRS is available only with a fixed roof.
So if you're an enthusiasts who wants to be able to push a button and watch the top lower itself behind the seats, the TTS is your car.
We've spent a week driving a 2012 Audi TTS roadster and are reluctant to give back the key.
Our test car looks great wearing its Phantom Black Pearl Effect paint (a $475 option) and with its Black/Spectral Silver two-tone interior, which has been covered pretty much throughout the week -- by people in the daylight and early evening hours, when we've kept the top down, and by the power top when the car has been parked overnight.
Other than that paint, our 2012 TTS roadster carries two options -- $450 for heated front seats, which some find to be a nice feature on "chilly" February mornings and evenings in Arizona -- and $2,000 for "Audi Navigation system with AMI, which means you get a 6-CD changer, real-time traffic information and even a built-in lap timer for track days.
Like the TT roadster, the TTS roadster has a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that pumps out 256 pound-feet of torque. But in the S, the engine is tuned to provide 256 horsepower instead of 211. Wheels are an inch larger; brakes more than an inch larger.
Depress the Sport button to initiate the magnetic ride system and you won't feel the car lower but you will feel the firmer suspension and more athletic shift points. Or, of course, you can use the Tiptronic paddles to shift for yourself.
The TTS is rated at 23 miles per gallon in city driving ad at 31 on the highway. Splitting our time between normal and Sport mode, we averaged over 25 mpg overall and pretty thoroughly enjoyed every top-down mile.
Our week with the car included a long Saturday drive from Phoenix out to the Superstition Mountains, then south and southeast across the Sonoran Desert on a two-lane state highway with a great view -- looming larger and larger the closer we got -- of snowcapped Mount Lemmon, where you can find America's southernmost ski resort.
Our road T-boned at Oracle Junction. We turned east toward the town of Mammoth and the historic Ore Cart Trail, a rail and road route that runs along the San Pedro River and still is used for shipping ore from the copper and gold mines in the Galiuro and other mountains of this part of Arizona.
At Winkelman, we turned onto a narrower, more curvaceous secondary state highway to weave our way between the Tortilla and Dripping Springs ranges and their various mines. The road splits the ranges at the slot-like pass just west of Sleeping Beauty Mountain, and then drops down into Superior.
We opted to do a lap through Superior's old western-and-mining downtown -- O.K., we missed the turn back on the U.S. highway, but with the top down in the TTS, we didn't mind getting lost, and lost in time, for a few minutes -- before heading back to Phoenix.