The Road Ahead : April May 2007
52 APR/MAY 07 The 323i's front seats are broad and comfor table, suited for cruising rather than cornering. It's a mismatch on practicality, with BMW way ahead. Even as simple a task as accessing the rear seats is a trial in the TT, while foam and a compressor don't appeal as a solution if a tyre goes flat. Flip-for ward front seats, run-flat tyres, rear airconditioning vents and multiple power outlets are all welcome aids in the 323i. Watch the long doors in tight spots. Both cars are under whelming on build. Audi's usually high standards don't extend to a rubbing and peeling handbrake. The elegant 323i interior includes flimsy belt-feeders, while the 'orange peel' in its paintwork is disappointing. It's a points decision to BMW on safety, with extra passive and active safety gear. There is no doubt the 323i cabin is easier to access and adapt to, in no small par t because of the limited vision in the TT. On the road With a manual TT and auto 323i the battle was uneven, however both brands' transmissions are known quantities. Audi outshines BMW in manuals with a lighter clutch and sharper gearbox. BMW comes back into calculations with the ZF auto less demanding than Audi's direct shift S-tronic. Either option allows Audi to turn an on-paper advantage into reality. Its direct-injection, turbo 2.0-litre is too strong for the in-line BMW six. Both are smooth-revving, purposeful operators with terrific top-end thrust, however the TT punches harder below the mid-range. The lightweight Audi (1260 kg V 1405 kg) also makes a statement under brakes, with more bite and extra stopping ability. TT's put a dent in 3's handling high-ground with accurate, rewarding and consistent steering complementing a capable, taut and grippy chassis. This 3 coupe still satisfies with balance, roadholding and predictability, however its meaty steering can feel a little vague at lower speeds and there's more body roll. On rough roads where TT is still stiff and fidgety, the 323i is superior, with better bump absorption and longer suspension travel. Both suf fer from tyre roar, the BMW more so, but overall the 323i is quieter. Conclusion TT looks soft in its second coming, with more mature, less purposeful styling. Which is the direct opposite of the driving experience. More focused and more fun than ever, TT is the purist's choice as a per former but, in true spor ts car tradition, is far from versatile, with ride, value and space concerns. BMW runs circles around the ringed brand on practicality, room and refinement. In the end it comes down to a wrestle between correctness and charisma, grace and brawn. Both vehicles contribute plenty to the coupe contest. BMW 323i Coupe PRICE: $70,200 SAFETY: Six airbags, electronic stability program (ESP), anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), cornering brake control. KEY FEATURES: Dual zone climate control, cruise control with braking function, xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, leather trim, run-flat tyres with monitoring system. ENGINE: 2.5-litre, in-line 6-cyl. FUEL (ADR figure): 8.4 litres/100 km. FOR: Space, handling, ride. AGAINST: Value, per formance, build. STAR RATING (out of 5): Audi TT 2.0 TFSI PRICE: $68,900 SAFETY: Dual stage front airbags, side airbags, ESP, ABS, EBD, BA, active front headrests. KEY FEATURES: Climate control, cruise control, leather trim, 6 CD stacker, power-adjustable seats with lumbar suppor t, power rear spoiler. ENGINE: Turbocharged, direct-injection, 2.0-litre 4-cyl. FUEL (ADR figure): 7.8 litres/100 km FOR: Per formance, handling, brakes. AGAINST: Ride, value, space, practicality. STAR RATING (out of 5): Both Audi and BMW have loaded up their cars with safety gear and handling prowess.
June July 2007