25 years ago, the market welcomed the Audi TT. The German sports car drew inspiration from Bauhaus and made brilliant use of its origins with platform engineering
Generalist cars are often considered a necessary evil. We buy them because they are what we can afford, and companies build them because they are what sells at high volumes. Therefore, typical generalist cars are hardly what people want, especially car fans. In most cases, when a company builds a luxury car using generalist parts, whether few or many, it is met with disappointment. And, as a consequence, low sales.
Being the opposite of that is one of the reasons why everyone loves the Audi TT. In short, it is a generalist sports car that managed to extract the best of both parts of that label. The German automaker has kept it in line just long enough to celebrate its 25th anniversary, and that is happening now. In this article, we are going to show why the Audi TT was important at its release and what legacy it will leave to the market.
Audi TT in its early days
Audi was going through a reinvention process in the 1990s. The 80, 100, and V8 lines became A4, A6 and A8 in 1994, the first and the third with all-new cars. In the following year, it tried its luck in the hatchback segment with the A3 after years of absence. From a technical point of view, the quattro AWD system and the aluminum body were all the rage. And the use of CAD was making cars more aerodynamic than ever.
While all those cars were advanced and efficient, emotional appeal was not their strongest suit. They had sporty versions, yes, but Audi as a whole needed more. The concept car presented at the 1995 Frankfurt Auto Show aimed to deliver all that. Strong, yet clean design inspired by Bauhaus paired to a reference to Tourist Trophy. That is a race where DKW and NSU, Audi’s forefathers, won many titles with motorcycles.
Realistic sports car
Typical sports cars are highly expensive for a number of reasons. They use cutting-edge technology, many custom parts, low-volume production… they end up being expensive to buy and to keep. We can interpret that as part of their charm, indeed, but what if there was another way? The Audi TT stood out because of that: it moved that balance a little bit towards affordability. And we have to thank the VW group for that.
Coupé and roadster borrowed the PQ34 platform and the turbocharged 1.8L engine from the Volkswagen Golf at first. That was important to make it attainable, if not downright cheap. You could buy an attractive sports car with German quality without being a millionaire. And you did not need to be a millionaire every time you had to service it. That made the original Audi TT earn a spot in the garage of 178,765 drivers.
Audi TT’s second act
Since the first generation had such a strong identity, the second limited itself to update it. The 2006 Audi TT paired its evolutionary design with whole new powertrain options. The base 1.8L made room for a new one and a 2.0L, both with turbocharger and stratified fuel injection. The latter came from Audi’s ventures at 24 Hours of Le Mans. There was also a diesel option for the very first time, only available with AWD.
The second generation also brought performance versions for the first time. The TTS arrived in 2008 with the typical German package: sporty body kit, S badges everywhere, and new tuning to make the 2.0L offer 268 hp. The Audi TT RS came in 2009 with much more aggressive design changes and a new 2.5L engine good for 335 hp. Both had the quattro system as standard and either a manual or a DSG transmission.
Third and final Audi TT
The picture above shows that the 2014 Audi TT followed the company’s guidelines once again. That move dissipated much of the original car’s identity, but it is still impossible to mistake it for anything else. Here, we can say that electronics made the main highlight. The car received Audi’s digital gauge cluster and an interesting climate control system whose commands are digital and directly embedded on the air vents.
As you can imagine, there are sporty variations galore. The Audi TT RS went a step further and got several limited editions over the past few years. One of them features all the upgrades available at the company’s Sport Performance Parts division. Audi only made fifteen units like that, which makes them extremely rare. Unfortunately, the company announced in 2019 that this generation would mark the end of the Audi TT.
New times for Audi
Time has shown that this recipe has an expiration date. Audi could always keep borrowing parts from VW models, but there are still many custom ones. Anything shared with generalist cars would reduce the TT’s prestige. On the other hand, the more exclusive components it had, the more expensive it would become. As popular as it may be, the Audi TT is still an enthusiast car. It exists in a niche that does not sell a lot.
Nowadays, Audi is focusing on SUVs and on electrification as everyone else. However, the latest “Sphere” concepts show that it has not forgotten about emotional design and driving pleasure. An optimistic point of view would suggest that it is trying to adapt them to characteristics that effectively turn a profit. That is the case with the aerodynamic profile of a sedan, and the tall cabin and rugged design of a typical SUV.
Audi TT tech specs
|Model||Type 8N 1.8T||Type 8J TDI||Type 8J S||Type 8S RS|
|Years||1998 to 2006||2008 to 2014||2008 to 2014||2016 to 2023|
|Engine||1.8L turbo||2.0L diesel||2.0L turbo||2.5L turbo|
|Power||178 hp||168 hp||268 hp||394 hp|
|Torque||173 lb-ft||258 lb-ft||258 lb-ft||354 lb-ft|
|Traction||FWD or AWD||AWD||AWD||AWD|
|Height||1,346 mm||1,352 mm||1,345 mm||1,343 mm|
|Length||4,041 mm||4,178 mm||4,198 mm||4,191 mm|
|Wheelbase||2,422 mm||2,468 mm||2,468 mm||2,505 mm|
|Width||1,764 mm||1,842 mm||1,842 mm||1,832 mm|
Frequently asked questions
No. Some versions, especially in the first generation, used front-wheel drive.
No. The model was available as coupé and convertible.
£41,910. That is the price for the Audi TT Final Edition in its base version (it is sold in Europe). The RS goes up to £56,435.
For the most part, yes. The car uses the same mechanical components as many cars of the Volkswagen group and shares some electronic parts with other Audi cars.
Tourist Trophy. It is a competition held in Isle of Man where Audi’s predecessors, DKW and NSU, used to compete with motorcycles.
1998 as coupé and 1999 as roadster. The second generation arrived in 2006 and the third in 2014.