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Audi TT: The final chapter in an enduring automotive love story

With the final Audi TT rolling off the production line at the end of last year, it’s a good time to reflect on what makes this popular sports car such an iconic vehicle model.

We featured the Audi TT as Insider’s first and original Group Icon back in 2018 and five years on we are ready to close the final chapter on a 25-year automotive love story.

For this 2023 Group Icon reboot, we talk to Nick and Andrew from the Audi TT UK Owners Club about what makes the Audi TT such a much loved and iconic vehicle. We will recap the Audi TT’s history from its show stopping debut at Frankfurt Motor Show, its development through three model ideations and finally its journey into the affections of generations of motoring enthusiasts. 

The Audi TT has reached the end of the road and what a 25-year journey it’s been for this iconic modern era sports car.

First launched into production in 1998, it has become one of the most popular and affordable coupes and roadsters in the UK and beyond. But what is it that makes the Audi TT such an iconic vehicle?

From the moment it was first unveiled as a concept car at the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Audi TT has proved a head turner and it’s maintained that wow factor ever since. Roll on three years into 1998 and the concept car, developed by the Volkswagen Design Group in California, was made real as it moved into production with only minimal deviation from its original form.

The Audi TT was indeed the rarest of automotive ideations – a mechanical and design vision that retained all the beauty of its original beholder. It was the showstopper that actually translated into showrooms.

There were many reasons for its appeal, with the Mk1 TT’s influential design chief among them. Its retro-styled aluminium body and unique bulbous curves, sloped coupe roofline and wonderfully sparse dashboard made it an instant hit with sports car enthusiasts everywhere.

Don’t just take our word for it, here is what Nick from the Audi TT UK Members Club has to say about the car’s initial impact on the automotive world. Nick said: “It was such a futuristic design and at the time there was nothing like it on the road.”

Sitting on a Golf Mk4 platform, the Audi TT was powered by a choice of 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engines, with 180bhp and 225bhp versions both available. It had good outright pace and was certainly nippy enough to live up to its TT moniker – a tribute to Audi predecessor NSU’s Tourist Trophy racing pedigree.

Mechanically, the standout features that marked it out from the crowd were the Haldex four-wheel drive system and its dual clutch six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG).  First made available in 2003 in the 3.2 litre VR6 addition to the range, the DSG took the TT to a whole new level, offering lightning-fast gear changes and acceleration.

Stunning looks on the outside was matched by the interior, with design touches and flourishes that exuded quality and finesse. The baseball glove stitching on the seats were among the most distinctive features.

With accolades that included ‘What Car? Coupe of the Year’ for five consecutive years, the Mk1 Audi TT helped lay the foundations for the car’s place in the automotive hall of fame.

The second-generation TT was previewed at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2005 and a year later the MK2 began its production run. In 2009, a notable addition to the range was unveiled with the first compact sports car Audi "RS" variant, available in both Coupe and Roadster options. The standout features on the RS included a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine, producing 340bhp - more than a Porsche Cayman S - and a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds for this top of the range model.

The third and final generation Audi TT was unveiled at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. The Audi TT Mk3 adopted a familiar, smoother look, but kept the pronounced wheelarches, the stubby dimensions and arcing roofline. It also included added upgrades such as the debut of the Audi Virtual Cockpit, a fully digital instrument panel with highly detailed displays.

It’s this Mk3 ideation that leads us to the Audi TT’s swansong, a special Final Edition model to mark the end of production. It came equipped with various add-ons including on the exterior body with a Black Styling pack, resulting in a black gloss finish to the Audi badges, side mirrors, exhaust tailpipes and rear spoilers.

Inside, the TT Final Edition is fitted with the Extended Leather Pack, applying a leather finish to the door pull handles, door armrests and centre console. Finally, The Comfort Pack adds a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors and keyless entry.

The Audi TT RS also receives its farewell model - the Audi TT Iconic Edition – a specially exclusive option limited to just 100 units in Europe and 11 in the UK. On announcing these final editions, Audi Director UK Andrew Doyle paid his own personal tribute to the Audi TT.

He said: “Few models have lasted the test of time as well as the Audi TT. The crisp, Bauhaus-inspired lines of the sports coupé look as fresh today as they did back in 1998, and to mark the model’s incredible success here in the UK, our Final Edition combines everything our customers love about this iconic model.”

Audi customers and motoring enthusiasts the world over do love the TT and so it’s perhaps most fitting to leave the final word with one such customer and enthusiast - Andrew at the Audi TT UK Members Club.

Andrew said: “We have hundreds of members and their vehicles who attend our annual event each year and every one of them is so proud to show off their car.

“I personally have had a Mk1, two MK2s and a MK3 RS and first time I saw it I was like ‘wow  this is incredible, like nothing I have seen before.’

“The MK1 really broke the mould at the time and it was just so different to everything else. All of them have been a joy to drive, the RS in particular is just in a different league,

“The Audi TT is a very special vehicle indeed and one that thoroughly deserves its status as an iconic vehicle model.”

More information on the Audi TT UK Members Club