Audi marks 25 year of TT… at the TT

A quarter-century ticks over just as Audi calls time on the era-defining TT – where better to wave it off?

By Matt Bird / Tuesday, 17 October 2023 / Loading comments

Back when sports car buyers might also be tempted by a Nissan 350Z, Vauxhall Monaro, BMW Z4, Mazda RX-8 or one of numerous others, it was easy to be dismissive of the TT. Not special enough, not exciting enough, too reminiscent of the hatchback beneath. Yet here we are, 25 years after launch and with production about to end, ready to mourn the TT. It’s always looked smart, there have been some superb engines available, and certain versions actually drove very nicely indeed. 

Little wonder, then, that with UK sales soon to cease, Audi is keen to remind us all of the TT’s enduring popularity. More than 157,000 have been sold in this country since 1998, but it’s easy to forget what a monumental impact the TT had on Audi’s image in the late 20th century. A young, dynamic model in the lineup back then was an A3 1.8 T – otherwise it was A4, A6, A8, the Convertible, and that was pretty much it. Audi was even three years from its first RS4 in 1998. The brand was more interested in evoking a stoic, sombre quality than the Bauhaus-inspired style and aluminium details that would come to define it. Combining the latter with Audi solidity delivered an instant hit, its buyers delighted to find the local showroom stocked with a production car that mimicked the svelte concept from 1995. In the eight years until 2006, more than 56,000 TT Coupes and Convertibles were sold in the UK. 

It wasn’t just significant for the look, either – the TT was also where Audi debuted the dual-clutch transmission technology that’s now commonplace. And the first generation bowed out with the Quattro Sport; prior to the TT it was hard to imagine Audi having the confidence to launch a stripped-out two-seater, but such was the impact it had at the time. 

Inevitably the updated look of follow-up could not repeat the impact of the original (undeniably, the TT suffered from the law of diminishing returns) but the second TT has enjoyed a similar fate to many other Audis of the mid-2000s: it looks handsome to this day. It introduced the first TT S (still regarded as one of the best derivatives to drive) as well as the five-cylinder RS, resurrecting the two-door Audi coupe that sounded like a rally car – and not before time. A heavier engine didn’t help the handling, but it was hard to argue with the sound and the turbocharged output. Especially if you could nab one with a manual gearbox, the only time in the UK that the legendary inline-five was matched to a six-speed. 

It’s incredible to think that the current (and final) TT was launched almost a decade ago, because it still looks so good. We’re so familiar with it now that you wouldn’t look twice, but in a world of bloated SUVs (even the ‘coupes’!) it’s a real treat to see a compact, attractive, well-proportioned two-door out there. Perhaps that more truthfully applies to the lesser TT models, because some of the RS add-ons got a bit silly – although it’s also likely to be a classic case of missing what you’ve got when it’s gone. There really aren’t many two-doors left at all now, and the Mk3 TT remains a great bit of design, inside and out. Beyond that, this TT was probably best known for cranking the RS to 400hp. It was certainly fast, we’ll give it that. 

To mark the 25th birthday, Audi has taken its heritage fleet Mk1, plus a TT S Final Edition and the TT RS Iconic Edition, to the place that gave the car its name – the Isle of Man TT course. Where – guess what – they still look ace, even if the Iconic Edition is probably an OTT TT. Audi’s press release that accompanies the lovely snaps is nothing if not confident: ‘Audi may be reorienting towards electrification as it pursues its aim of becoming a leading provider of sustainable mobility, but the same passion for progress and innovation that gave rise to the TT remains firmly rooted in its Vorsprung durch Technik ethos. Thankfully, that means history of the kind made by this particular masterpiece of automotive design looks set to regularly repeat itself.’ 

Imagine what a car that completely redefines Audi’s image for the EV era, as the TT once did, might now look like. You could argue a lightweight two-seat sports car might do it. But then nobody would buy one. Anyway, if the future doesn’t appeal much, there’s a lot to be tempted by over 25 years of the Audi TT in the classifieds. We’ve seen them at Shed money for a little while now, but as the real scrap is moved on, so values are strengthening just a tad. But with so many sold, bargain Mk1 TTs do still seem to be out there. Only £4k buys a low mileage, one-owner 180 Coupe; there are examples out there boasting that glorious V6, and a manual if you’re lucky, for not much more, though the best of those are now above £10k. Still not much considering what the engine will cost in a Golf. A Quattro Sport remains the most valuable original TT, with something like this 90k example up at £12,995.

Obviously we won’t go through every Audi TT for sale on PH, but there are a couple more worth drawing your attention to. Manual ones, specifically, because nothing quite compels involvement in a driving experience like three pedals and a stick. This original TT S has a smart spec and a very enthusiastic owner, while this stunning Kingfisher Blue RS must be a one-of-one with the six-speed (and Exclusive Ivory leather). Finally, a car we didn’t think actually existed: the most recent TT S, without the DSG. Must be rarer than that silly Iconic Edition. And definitely better to drive. Anyway, thanks for the memories, TT. It was fun while it lasted. 

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