A unique concept. A different car. A sports car that amazed more than one when it was launched commercially in 1998. The AudiTTthe model that has conquered the world for its avant-garde design meets 25 years old.
Created by the American Freeman Thomas under the direction of Peter Schreyer, the brand’s chief designer, the German sports car is in its third generation; the first produced between 1998 and 2006; the second between 2006 and 2014; and the third from 2014 to the present.
The Audi TT also stood out for carrying a different nomenclature from the rest of the models in the range, recognized by the letter “A” (A3, A4, A6 and A8).
The name refers to the legendary Isle of Man “Tourist Trophy”, one of the oldest motorsport events in the world and where NSU and DKW celebrated great successes with their motorcycles. The “TT” name is also reminiscent of the 1960s NSU TT sports car.
The development of the Audi TT began in September 1994 at the design center in Simi Valley, California (USA), while the prototype was presented a year later at the Frankfurt Motor Show (Germany).
“For us, the greatest praise was when the trade press noticed that not much had changed from the prototype to the series, even if we did. Many details had to be adapted due to the technical specifications for the production version, including the aspect ratio. Most notable was the integration of a rear side window, which elongated the car’s profile and increased its sporting dynamism,” recalled Wenzel.
Production of the Audi TT Coupe started production in 1998. A year later, Audi released the TT Roadster. Like the concept car and Audi A3 launched in 1996, the sports car was based on the transverse engine platform of the Volkswagen Golf IV.
The first two generations were assembled at the Hungarian factory in Győr, using bodies made and painted in Ingolstadt, Germany, transported overnight by rail.
Mechanically, the model was supplied with a wide range of engines. The first-generation TT, for example, featured four-cylinder turbochargers with horsepower ratings from 150 to 225 and also a 250-horsepower V6.
Customers could choose extravagant body colors such as Papaya Orange or Nogaro Blue and equip it with special factory-installed accessories such as the “baseball glove” leather upholstery.
During the eight years of the first generation (1998-2006) 178,765 units of the TT Coupé (Type 8N) and 90,733 TT Roadster (1999-2006) were built.
The second generation was launched in mid-2006 (Coupe) and 2007 (Roadster) for which the same platform as the second generation Audi A3 was used.
Among the new technologies implemented in the model, the adaptive shock absorbers (Audi Magnetic Ride) stood out, a solution capable of continuously self-regulating according to the type of road and the type of driving.
In 2008, Audi launched the TT 2.0 TDI quattro, the world’s first production sports car with a diesel engine.
From that year the range began to expand with even hotter models. First with the TTS, equipped with the 272 bhp 2-litre turbo engine, and in 2009 with the TT RS, which featured a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine developing 340 bhp (360 bhp for the TT RS Plus variant ).
The third and current generation was launched in 2014 and weighed up to 50 kilos (1,230 kg) less than its predecessor.
With straighter lines while retaining the classic features of the first generation, such as the round fuel cap with the letters TT, the third generation offered several innovations.
For example, this model marked the debut of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, a fully digital instrument cluster with highly detailed and versatile displays that replaced the analogue instruments and MMI monitor.
In 2016, a new era for automotive lighting technology began with the Audi TT RS, when Audi used organic LEDs, known as OLED technology, for the first time.
The range of engines has also evolved. The TTS received a 310PS 2-litre turbo, while in 2016 the TT RS was equipped with the 400PS 2.5 turbo which was voted ‘International Engine of the Year’ nine times in a row.
To commemorate its quarter century, Audi has launched a limited edition of 100 units of the TT RS Coupé Iconic Edition, with Nardo Gray bodywork and a 400bhp engine.
Ben Stock is a journalist working for News Rebeat, where he covers the automobile section. With a passion for cars and the industry, Ben brings insightful and in-depth reporting to his readers.