First there was the Audi TT, and now with the BMW Z4's entry we have two of the hottest sports coupes from Germany ready to be lapped up by India. Sopan Sharma and Abhishek Nigam pit the cars against each other, and defend their choices!
Sports. Coupes. One of the words is about the absolute pleasure of the senses one experiences inside a car while driving it at speed, the other implies the visual pleasure of looking at the uncluttered, sensuous demeanour from the outside. Bring the two together and you have a lethal combination - a car that looks as fast as it is capable of going. No wonder then that when it comes to inciting desirous reactions from people outside and passion-filled squeals from the passengers inside, sports coupes are the order of the day.
And then we have the ones that come from Germany. Almost invariably with a pedigree in fun, drop-dead gorgeous looks, rock solid reliability and space-age technology, they usually figure in any auto nut's list of most desirable cars. But here is what we are excited about - now, with enough Indian Rupees in hand, two of these stunning machines can occupy our garages.
The Audi TT in its new form has been thrilling enthusiasts with its shape and sense since 2006, and was made available to Indian buyers last year. Not only is it one of the most elegant looking sports coupes in the international market, it also got a headstart on most other cars of the same category in India. Internationally, the TT comes with a host of engine options - ranging from the front-wheel drive 2.0-litre petrol to the one that we had - a full blown 3.2-litre V6 with four wheel drive.
But the reason this story came into existence was because of the launch of another sportster. This one comes from the three-lettered car maker from Munich, and has been sending enthusiasts in a tizzy with its aggressive lines and Casanova characteristics. The BMW Z4 has also received an upgrade and it has stepped away from its Bangle influences and moving further into macho territory. Plus, it's a Beemer, which means it probably goes like stink. The perfect set up for a face off then? Hell yes!
Sopan is driving alongside in the gorgeous Audi TT, but I have something very special. It's the spanking new BMW Z4, an update and a redesign to the international model, but for us Hindustanis it's an all-new sort of car. And my word, what a car! Not just to drive - as one of the foremost sports coupes in the world it has to be that - but also to look at. Enough to intimidate everything else on the road, and more than enough to make any aficionado go weak in the knees.
The 2009 BMW Z4, visually, is the perfect amalgamation of creases and curves. It has a long nose that bulges up, reaching above the level of the lower edge of the windshield, making it seem like you're piloting a World War II fighter plane. For all practical purposes, the Z4 looks like a roadster on steroids. It is much more conservative on the inside though, but just as expected from any Beemer, the ergonomics are spot on. The elegant and well executed cockpit simply wraps around you. And that really helps when it comes to pedal-to-the-metal fun in the car, which borders on being vicious thanks to the massive 3-litre twin turbo inline six housed under that expansive hood. The Z4's 3-litre unit thumps out a massive 307 PS and 400 Nm of torque. 100 km/h comes up in a scant 6.3 seconds and the quarter mile is done with in a blistering 14.8 seconds. Keeping outright acceleration aside, the car's midrange power delivery is just as impressive.
A stiff suspension set up coupled with ultra low-pro tyres means that the Z4 is absolutely unforgiving on the minutest of bumps. But where all that stiffness excels is on the corners. The chassis and the suspension work harmoniously, giving you tremendous confidence to hurl the car around corners at speeds one can only dream off. But that's for later - in its essence, the Z4 is a car made to arrive in style, to leave jaws dropped. Factor in the massive show-off accessory that the top-down ability brings, and you have the flashiest car on Indian roads.
Look at him, being all cool with his shades on. He just grinned at me through the window, stepped on the gas and sped away. A show-off, just like any sportscar enthusiast - all-go, little sense. Am I jealous? Of course not. What I am driving may not look as hot as the BMW Z4 and may not keep up with its vicious acceleration in a straight line, but it beats the flashy convertible in good, plain sense. And it feels good from the inside too. Sweet car, this Audi TT.
The TT has been Audi's sportster of choice for many years now, and in its second redesigned iteration it certainly makes a much larger statement on the street compared to its predecessor. In fact, this same design garnered a bucketful of 'Design of the Year' awards when it was launched in 2006. Curvaceous, compact and uncluttered, the TT may not look like it is out to eat other cars on the road, but carries almost the perfect design for someone who wants to look fast, and not scream about it.
The interiors have a decided feel-good sports coupe streak to them, with the red leather treatment, chunky dials and that beautiful steering wheel. The TT is pretty spacious on the inside too, with +2 seats for kids at the back and a seriously large boot to carry all your stuff in. No true-blue sports coupe would stand the shame of being called plush, but the TT comes as close to being comfy as any other car made to go fast and look good at the same time.
And go fast, it does. The 3.2FSI six-cylinder engine pumps out a healthy 250PS of power and 320Nm of torque. It does not disintegrate other cars in terms of acceleration, but aided by its compact dimensions and that awesome Audi Quattro four-wheel drive system, it would happily outcorner most cars on a tight set of twisties without breaking a sweat. Not only does that make the TT a safer car, it also makes it a really easy car to go fast in. Favourite ghat approaching ahead. Must reel in the cool guy with his shades in the sharky Z4.
Since sports comes first in sports coupes, let's speak of performance before anything else. In terms of numbers, the BMW Z4 has the Audi TT covered. Be it power, torque, quarter mile times or seconds spent speeding to a 100 km/h, the Z4 outperforms the TT in almost all respects - and it should too, given that the Beemer is a good Rs 15 lakh more expensive than the Audi. The TT does not make any excuses about its performance, however. Give it a real world road and not a dragstrip, and watch it keep up with the Z4 merrily. Sports cars are meant to be a little over the top, a little scary - but we don't believe that should be held that against the confidence and safety that the TT's Quattro system brings with it.
When it comes to looks, the Z4 makes the TT pale in comparison when the two are rolling together. There is just so much visual entertainment coming from the curves and creases of the Z4 that the TT's smooth surfaces are somehow just not enough. That being said, the only time when the TT does not get looks on the street is when a Z4 is around, and it remains one of the coolest and most distinctive set of wheels on Indian streets.
If the Audi does not have much going for it on the road, it makes up for the shortcomings from the inside. Sportier and more feel-good interiors, a lot more usable space, more comfort and more well-rounded performance - the TT probably is more car per car in a straight head to head. The Beemer does not care, and goes roaring past. Handing out a verdict between the two would mean judging between unhindered flamboyance and calculated sense. And in our books, both are equally important.