Roadster sales have hit rock bottom and will probably keep falling. The only way to keep these models alive is to glom them onto something else. That's why BMW has teamed with Toyota for a Z4 replacement, why Porsche partners the Boxster with the Cayman, why Mazda worked with Fiat on the new MX-5 Miata, and why the next Mercedes-Benz SLK will share its DNA with the successor to the SL.

In other words, everyone is doing what Audi figured out years ago when it built the TT coupe and Roadster out of the bones of a Volkswagen Golf. Audi is still at it with the third-gen 2016 TT Roadster. The convertible is again mechanically similar to the coupe, and both use the same components set as the latest Golf.

The new 2016 Audi TT chassis, dressed in a mix of aluminum and steel body panels, weighs some 3,150 pounds, about 50 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The Audi's also lighter than either the SLK or the Z4, despite the fact that the TT is laden with all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch automatic as standard equipment. Credit the low weight to the TT's top, which is still made of fabric.

The softtop is also a boon to luggage space, taking up none of the 9.9-cubic-foot trunk when folded. It looks slick when raised, but you'll still want to lower it -- a 10-second affair that can be done at speeds up to 30 mph -- to show off the car's giant roll hoops. An extra-cost electric wind deflector and neck warmer let you keep the top down in chilly temps.

The base 2016 Audi TT Roadster in the U.S. will feature a 220-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-four. The TTS has the same basic engine tuned to 292 hp. The Euro-spec TTS beats the base model to 62 mph by 0.7 second (4.9 seconds versus 5.6 seconds), and top speed is higher (155 mph versus 130), but the torque duel is quite close (258 lb-ft versus 280 lb-ft). The TTS feels much more energetic thanks to its wider tires, tauter suspension, and exuberant exhaust note amplified by a sound symposer that pipes the most flattering frequencies into the cabin.

Those who would dismiss the 2016 Audi TT Roadster out of hand because it doesn't come with a stick shift should experience this six-speed automatic. It's very good at upshifting on maximum momentum with minimum intermission and puts a smile on your face with noisy throttle blips before downshifting. It's somewhat obnoxious, but when descending "blat-blat" down a winding road at the limit, social acceptance is not the first concern. It only sounds like this when in Dynamic mode, so TT owners can putter around in peace. Dynamic mode also delays upshifts, but we'd recommend working the paddles, which is more accurate and involving.

Audi has taught Quattro, its signature all-wheel-drive system, a few new tricks. It now distributes torque in concert with stability control, the magnetorheological dampers (standard on the TTS), throttle position, and steering angle. During hard cornering, the wheels closest to the apex are momentarily decelerated to aid turn-in and to reduce understeer.

Like most everything else on the car, Quattro behaves differently depending on the drive mode. With stability control in Sport, torque is shifted to the rear differential as soon as the driver flicks the wheel. Keep the loud pedal down, and the Audi will, with some skill and luck, drift until the exit of the bend, where the front wheels pull the car straight again.

Not enough drama? Then switch off ESC altogether, but be ready for lurid liftoff oversteer, for a sudden loss of cornering grip at either end, and for a fair amount of windup and shock as the forces play havoc with each other. But in most driving situations and on most dry surfaces, you'll rarely experience such drama. When the tires get hot and the slip angles increase, you must work the wheel harder, but doing so is a pleasure thanks to the TT's variable-rate and effort electrohydraulic power steering.

The 2016 Audi TT Roadster would probably still succumb to a Boxster in terms of raw driving pleasure—at least until the brawny TT RS convertible comes along in 2016. But it very probably is quicker from point A to B and might be the only sporty softtop you could live with 24/7, 365 days a year.

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