Home / Reviews / Shootout / BMW Z4 Vs Audi TT

 

Adhish Alawani finds it behind the wheel of BMW’s blisteringly fast Z4 and Audi’s fire breathing TT

Photography Sanjay Raikar

The white needle in the twin pod console is pointing at the double ton mark and is refusing to show any kind of reluctance in its further travel. And just how much time had it taken to cross those 20 markings on the speedometer – less than half a minute! I am trying to figure out what my fellow road users must be feeling as they hear the six cylinders roaring past them at speeds more than three times theirs. My vision has turned into a tunnel one. The bushes on the roadside (or are they fully grown trees?) are vanishing in a blur. I decide to take it easy and come back in the middle lane cutting down my speed to slightly under the three digit figure. And just when I do that, I experience what I had been wondering about sometime back. A white coupe makes a move on me disturbing my concentration as its V6 growl echoes in my ears for a few seconds even after it’s gone a hundred feet ahead of me. That’s it – time to play. Flooring the pedal, I lead my roadster into a battle with the coupe. Once again I am on the move, gathering as much pace as possible in as little time. Getting on the tail of the coupe in front, the speedometer is reading close to 200km/h. Both the cars exchange a few breathtaking moments with lane changing maneuvers and before one of us ends up in tears, I decide to let off the gas pedal and pull up in the service lane.

I can recall every bit of that drive on the stretch of the Expressway between Pune and Mumbai where my colleague Bunny and I enjoyed the two German sportscars to their fullest. The aggressive BMW Z4 35i was standing and looking at the subtler and well-mannered Audi TT. There was no doubt that these cars mean performance in its purest form. And when I say performance, I mean it. I had been driving around in the 3-litre, twin-turbo Z4 that was pumping out over 300 horses every time I closed in on the 6000rpm mark. Flooring the accelerator and holding it there, I experienced my head rock on my shoulders and my back
sink into the seat as the Z4 exploited every bit of the inline-six residing in the never ending bonnet at the front. The surge with which the Z4 was scaling speeds was phenomenal. The 400Nm of humongous torque acts up from 1300rpm and gives a brilliant low and midrange drivability. And it was not just the straight line speed that impressed me. The ease with which the Z4 went about negotiating corners at breathtaking pace was laudable. Of course with all the electronics working, the slightest hint of a tail out situation is corrected and you are back on the track. Undoubtedly, this makes the roadster a dream to drive and throw around the bends. But it wasn’t exactly the perfection of the electronics in the car that I was looking for. I wanted more action, more fun, something that would add more than just a grin to Sanjay’s face who was sitting in the passenger seat. I knew exactly what I had to do to serve the purpose. BMW has given a three-setting Sport button in the Z4 which controls the steering, throttle response and stability of the car. The first is the Comfort mode (the one that you would want to use every day), the second is the Sport mode (the one which would force the enthusiast inside you onto the road to control the beast) and the third is the Sport + mode (the one which you would never want to use unless you fancied shaking your hair out and churning everything in your stomach in the roughest possible way. Mind you, the traction control is also switched off in this mode).


 

With the least intentions of getting into any sort of extreme trouble, I decided to opt for the Sport mode and trust me, the car’s behavior changes completely. The transformation in the throttle response, the steering feel and the suspension is evident in every possible manner. The ride might feel a bit stiff in the Sport mode, but I don’t think it is the slightest of concerns when you are talking sportscars. Sport + does go a bit too far with an extremely stiff ride quality and a transmission that is ready to jump down a cog at the slightest hint of deceleration. The Comfort mode sets a higher gear every time making your drive a rather drab one but fuel efficient at the same time. The transmission goes up shifting to the seventh gear at speeds even marginally over 80km/h while cruising. Talking of transmission, the Munich car gets a seven-speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) gearbox that makes sure that gearshifts happen within fractions of seconds and are butter smooth at the same time. The paddles, push to downshift, pull to upshift are not my choice. I fail to understand why they can’t equip the car with the conventional paddles in which one paddle is an upshifter and the other one is a downshifter.

The BMW Z4 is a wonderful car to drive not just because of its mind numbing performance, but also because of everything else that makes it up. The techie interiors welcome you in the cockpit of the roadster. Everything inside is properly laid out and easily accessible. However, I wasn’t pleased with the materials used for the dash and the console (plastics everywhere). Leaving all that aside, what makes the Z4 a desirable car for many is the brilliantly engineered two-piece folding roof. Retractable in 20 seconds, the hard top convertible means that it replaces two older versions of the Z4 – the soft top roadster and the coupe. Roof down in the boot will reduce your boot space from 310 litres to a mere 180 litres, but at the same time, it will give you all the attention on the road that you deserve after spending over 60 lakh rupees (ex-showroom). The wind in your hair while driving with the roof down is an experience in itself.

The styling of the Z4 is another aspect that will give every other competitor in this segment a run for its money. The radical looking Z4 with its aggressive, pointy snout, the 7 Series-ish kidney shaped grille, flowing creases across the length of the car and true roadster dimensions make it one of its kind. No matter how much attention you might get from onlookers, you are still not going to be happy while driving the Z4 in urban areas due to its size and shape considering that there are a whole lot of careless road users in India.

While I was still mesmerized by the phenomenal show of power and torque, Bunny walked up to me to exchange seats. I really didn’t want to get out of the look-at-me Beemer and get into a simpler looking coupe that pumped out just 250PS of peak power (56PS less than the Z4) and 320Nm of max torque (80Nm below Z4’s peak figure) with its 3.2-litre FSI heart. However, my perception changed as soon as I opened the door of the Audi. A spacious cabin with amazing black and red leather interiors was inviting me inside. Fastening the seatbelt, I turned the key to bring the V6 alive. The difference is quickly evident. The growl of the V layout is something else, something that the inline-six is not capable of replicating. A prod at the throttle was enough to make me believe that the TT was not at all a machine that I should have underestimated. Once again on the move, it was time to exploit the prowess of the turbocharged V6 this time. The brochures claim lower statistical figures in the Audi as compared to the Z4 and it becomes evident as you make your way even with the pedal to the metal. The torque surge in the TT is not as intense as experienced in the Z4. The Audi doesn’t come close to what the Z4 does in a straight line run. But that’s not all that defines the performance of sportscars, does it? Hence, it was time was the real test around corners.

I had been impressed with the Beemer’s amazing abilities in the twisties. The rear-wheel drive machine had called for a few tail out moments as well. Now it was the turn of the TT. I knew that the Audi had a weapon called Quattro that would lead the Ingolstadt to surpass any standards set by the Z4 in my mind around corners. And boy, was I surprised! The permanent four-wheel drive
on the TT is such a boon that it will make sure you don’t feel the slightest hint of a diminished road grip whatsoever. Of course, the traction control and other electronic aids are always working to make it safe for you to push as hard as you can, but it is basically the Quattro which gives you fantastic road grip around the bends.

The TT has a much softer feel to it overall. It is easy and comfortable. The steering is lighter and the seats are more relaxed. Also, you sit a little higher in the Audi than the BMW. The suspension and ride is way softer in the TT than the Z4. Getting in and out of the coupe is far easier than the roadster. The TT also has two kids’ seats at the rear which are foldable giving you an option of increasing the boot space. Although both cars are more or less the same lengthwise, the Z4’s seats are far towards the rear wheels whereas the ones in the TT sit slightly behind the centre of the car. This makes the TT an easy car to drive around in congested traffic conditions.

So where did I stand at the end of the day? I had spent a lot of time behind the wheel of each of these two sportscars. The BMW Z4 had impressed me with its outright performance and a design that could kill. It has the true characteristics of a BMW to it. But then its overly long front hood becomes an issue, especially in a country like ours, and practicality that crop up every time you get into the car. You don’t have enough space to carry a lot of luggage with the roof in the boot. As against that, the TT might not run to 100km/h from standstill as quickly as the Z4, but it is much more comfortable to drive around and a lot more practical that too at a Rs 10 lakh discount as compared to the BMW. Verdict? The Z4 is for the enthusiast who loves to take the corners a little sideways and craves for all the attention as he pulls up at a club on a Saturday evening. The TT is for the more levelheaded guy who likes to drive up to work everyday in his coupe and have some fun on the weekends as well.

 

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