25 years young – the life of the iconic Audi TT
What were you doing 25 years ago? Maybe you aren't old enough to remember the 90s, or maybe you are old enough to remember the 90s and hence enjoyed it so much the details have become a little hazy.
Maybe it just feels like so long ago that you've simply forgotten. If you'd been working for Audi 25 years ago you might remember when the very first Audi TT rolled off the production line: 2023 is a big year for Audi's iconic sportscar.
It celebrates its 25th birthday this year, and it's also the year production will finally cease as Audi moves towards an all-electric future.
Many concept cars fall victim to practical considerations and end up being 'toned down' in the transition to production. Not the Audi TT Coupe, which was praised at its 1998 launch for being virtually unchanged from the original concept unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show three years earlier. It was the enthusiastic public response to that original 1995 concept that persuaded Audi to put the TT into production. Now, 25 years on it still remains one of the most desirable cars on the road.
Central role in Audi's reinvention
When the TT concept was unveiled, Audi was in the process of transformation with a completely new naming convention for its models. The replacements for the old compact executive class 80, executive class 100 and luxury class V8 Saloon were launched as the A4, A6 and A8 respectively.
Then the TT came along bearing the name of one of the most famous races in the world: the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. The TT also played a crucial role in directing the world's attention towards Audi, cementing public perception of the brand as a design and technology powerhouse, and elevating it to the premium position it occupies today.
Underpinned by exciting performance, generous equipment, and relatively accessible pricing, as well as the remarkable aesthetic appeal, the Audi TT became one of the most sought-after sports cars of its era.
The keen response and performance in the 1998 Audi TT Coupé, and the convertible TT Roadster which followed it one year later, came from a 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. Outputs ranged from 150bhp to 225bhp in the standard models with a 240bhp version of the 1.8-litre engine reserved for the particularly sought after TT quattro Sport. This remained the range-topper until a 3.2-litre six-cylinder unit arrived in 2003 in the TT 3.2 quattro, the first Audi production model to feature the twin-clutch automatic transmission now known as S tronic.
Audi TT Mk2 from 2007
The second-generation TT Coupé, along with the Roadster that followed it in 2007, were based on a new platform shared with the second-generation Audi A3.
Its predominantly aluminium body helped to reduce overall weight and combined front-wheel-drive or quattro all-wheel-drive with 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder TFSI engines alongside a naturally aspirated 3.2-litre V6 with 250bhp. 2008 also saw the first turbodiesel option in the TT range as well as the arrival of the first ever ‘S' version of the TT. It boasted a 272bhp uprated 2.0 TFSI engine and was followed a year later by the first TT RS models.
These offered 340bhp (360bhp in TT RS plus form) from an extensively updated version of the five-cylinder turbo engine whose roots could be traced back to the formidable quattro rally cars of the 1980s.
Audi TT Mk3 launches in 2014
The third generation of the Audi TT, launched in 2014 and extensively updated in 2018, stuck with a design that had by that point become truly iconic. This would also turn out to be the final generation of the TT.
Weight was reduced further still – in some cases by as much as 50kg – and onboard technology and connectivity were greatly enhanced by the addition of the fully digital Audi virtual cockpit, which replaced the analogue dials.
Power was provided by more powerful 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre TFSI engines with outputs up to 245bhp, and by a 2.0-litre TDI engine. This latest range combines 197bhp and 245bhp versions of the 2.0 TFSI with Audi TT Audi TT S line, Black Edition and the generously equipped Final Edition specification levels. A 320bhp version of the 2.0-litre engine is reserved for TTS Black Edition and Final Edition models. In order to see the Audi TT out with a bang, the 2.5-litre five-cylinder TFSI squeezed into the engine bay of the TT RS Coupe and Roadster offers a significantly enhanced 400bhp for an even more intoxicating driving experience.
Throughout its life, the TT has been a particular favourite of performance car fans in the UK. Overall, across the three generations more than 157,000 examples have found homes here. The success of the TT isn't just measured in sales figures though. The influence of the TT on the brand's standing and reputation makes it one of the most significant models in Audi's history.
Audi may be moving towards electrification but the same passion for progress and innovation that gave rise to the TT remains firmly rooted in its Vorsprung durch Technik – loosely translated it means Advantage through Technology - motto. Hopefully, that should mean history of the kind made by this masterpiece of automotive design could repeat itself in the future.
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