The age of artificial intelligence (A.I.) is nearly upon us. We’re promised automated grocery delivery, robotic assistants that know our every need, massive job cuts, and perhaps connected toasters that will take down the world’s internet.
The companies driving the charge toward A.I. are located down the street from where I picked up my future money pit, a 2009 Audi TTS. Complete with quattro all-wheel drive, magnetic adjustable suspension, navigation, two-toned leather interior, back-up sensors and a dual clutch automatic, this is the car to usher in the artificial intelligence era — but not for the reasons you’d expect.
Driving the Audi TTS
Outside of dynamic stability control and back-up sensors, the Audi TTS does not come with many driving aids. There is no intelligent cruise control, lane departure warnings, blind spot detectors or self driving capabilities. Most things — thankfully — are left to the driver.
The Audi TTS quattro all-wheel drive system with Michelin Super Sport tires allows for so much more grip that most of us will have the cajones to test. Coming in at 0.99g of force on the skidpad, you’d essentially have to drive this car on ice to get it to lose grip. If you want a car to toss around the corners, this is car for those thrills.
What won’t be thrilling though, is the steering which has the feedback of… well, nothing. The feedback from the steering wheel is so muted that the driver is likely to feel completely detached from the entire experience. The steering feel isn’t any better when engaging the suspension in sport mode, which lowers the ride height by 10mm and firms up the shocks. Between the grip and the steering, the driving ordeal feels like a point and click experience. Lifeless and robotic, just like our future A.I. overlords.
The 265hp/258 ft-lb turbo four doesn’t do much to add a lively feel to the experience. The turbo lag off the line is severe. But as the revs approach 3,000rpm, the TTS feels like a rocket launch and your head is likely to slam into the headrest. 60mph happens in about 5.1 seconds with the convertible.
Worse yet is the transmission which, when left in drive, does everything possible to keep the car out of the turbo range. When put into S, your life will be hell in traffic as it does what it can to keep the turbo spooling. In both modes, the car will shift well before redline. Balance between the two modes can be found by putting the shifter into manual mode, which allows you to run through the engine range right up to the fuel cut off at 7,000 rpm.
Living with the Audi TTS
Balance can also be found the TTS aesthetics which, despite being a six year old car, holds up very well against more modern cars. The lines are smooth and the car comes standard with LED daytime lighting and xenon headlamps. The interior is well-designed, with the optional two-toned leather holding up well against 50k+ miles and 6 years. Leather is stitched across the steering wheel and dashboard in red stitching and climate, music and phone functions can be handled through physical buttons. Music, phone, and voice recognition can also be done through steering wheel controls. 2009 models are equipped with bluetooth, but not bluetooth music. An auxiliary port located in between the driver and passenger seat can connect to your headphone jack on your phone. The 10 speaker bose system sounds great with the top up, but could use a bit more volume with the top down.
The early MMI system could use work if compared to 2016 standards. The navigation screen is a low resolution and doesn’t present a broad range of colors. The MMI controller is also attached to the unit, instead of installed near the driver as in more modern cars. Navigating through the MMI is relatively simple once you get the hang of it and fine tuning sound, navigation, and other elements doesn’t take long.
The age of A.I. promises to make life easier for all of us. Robot butlers and online assistants will know what we want before we do. Lifelessly and joylessly. Just like the Audi TTS. On paper, the spec sheet shows real promise. On the road, with the numb steering, laggy engine, finicky transmission, and unlimited grip, the TTS becomes a robotic affair of getting from point A to point B.
Cam follower will wear out over time and need to be replaced (<$1.000)
Camshaft can be scratched by worn cam follower and will need to be replaced (~$2,500)
Thermostat can wear down and need to be replaced ($700)