Home » The Audi TT Is Finally Dead. Here’s Why It Was Such A Wonderful Car

The Audi TT Is Finally Dead. Here’s Why It Was Such A Wonderful Car

Audi Tt Lothar Spurzem Ts

A glorious and timeless German car has met its end. Production of the wonderful Audi TT has ended after over 25 years of making enthusiasts’ hearts skip a beat with its scintillating design and drivers happy with ample performance. As the book closes on this coupe and roadster, let’s take a look into what made the Audi TT a car worth remembering. Perhaps it’s even worthy of being caused an automotive legend.

The news of the TT’s departure is a sad one and it comes to us from Audi Tradition, Audi Germany’s collection of important vehicles from its colorful history. According to Audi, the very last TT was constructed on November 10 at the Győr, Hungary plant, capping off a production run spanning over 25 years, three generations, and the manufacture of 662,762 vehicles. Thankfully, the very last is going to a good home as part of the Audi Tradition collection. What’s next is anyone’s guess as reportedly, the brand plans on replacing the TT with an EV that could be a crossover.

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Either way, the Audi TT as we know it will soon fade into the pages of history. Let’s send it off with a bang.

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How A Car Gets Named After A Motorcycle Race

If you’re familiar with the Audi TT, you know that Audi’s naming of the vehicle is a reference to the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, the high-octane full-throttle motorcycle race that makes your heart pound even when you’re just a spectator. But the Audi TT is a car, not a bike. How did this happen?


As Audi writes, the TT’s story started with motorcycles. NSU and DKW were two of the companies that merged to become what we call Audi today. Long before that happened, NSU and DKW were both known for their advanced motorcycles.

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In the late 1920s, German engineer Adolf Schnürle invented a loop-scavenging system. In the Schnürle porting system, there are two angled intake ports that flank a singular exhaust port on the same side of the cylinder. This design allows the incoming fuel to effectively push the burned fuel out without the waste and without the need for a deflector piston. Schnürle porting allows gas to flow in a loop. DKW incorporated this design in its DKW RT125 motorcycle and, after World War II, war reparations meant the design would end up in the hands of other manufacturers. This engineering paid off in races. Audi says DKW motorcycles racked up “innumerable” championship titles, Grand Prix victories, six-day trial wins, off-road events, and record-breaking runs.

In 1938, a DKW motorcycle raced in the English Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man. Two-time champion Ewald Kluge piloted the DKW ULD 250 and the motorcycle became the first bike not built in Great Britain to win the race in 30 years. After World War II, DKW motorcycles racked up win after win in 125cc and 250cc classes and a championship win in the 350cc class. Those were just the motorcycles. DKW, which was originally founded as Rasmussen & Ernst company in 1902 or 1904, wasn’t just a motorcycle racing and manufacturing powerhouse, but its cars set speed records, won races, and experimented with technologies such as front-wheel-drive while doing so.

The other company involved in this was NSU. Established as Mechanische Werkstätte zur Herstellung von Strickmaschinen in 1873, the company started as a manufacturer of knitting machines and then bicycles. NSU was also an early pioneer in motorcycles.


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In 1905, the then-young company set a two-horsepower motorcycle record in the Eisenach–Berlin–Eisenach, a race over 410 miles in length. Just two years later, the company would place a high finish at the Tourist Trophy. NSU continued winning after, with a 65 mph speed run in 1908, a cross-country run of the United States in 1910, and a Tourist Trophy Gold Medal in 1911.

NSU continued its wins into the 1930s and even after WWII as well, from Audi:

In 1947, NSU claimed the German championship titles in the 600cc and 1000cc supercharged sidecar categories. A year later Wilhelm Herz became German champion on a 350cc supercharged NSU motorcycle. Heiner Fleischmann was German champion in 1950. In 1953 Werner Haas took two world championship titles, in the 125cc and 250cc classes; he also won the German championship titles twice in these classes.

NSU celebrated its greatest victory in the 1954 “Tourist Trophy” (TT) on the Isle of Man. The brand won the 125cc class, and crossed the line in places 1 to 4 in the 250cc class.

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That same year Haas triumphed in the 250cc world championship, with Rupert Hollaus taking the equivalent title in the 125cc class. Two German championship titles also went to Haas, in the 125cc and 250cc classes. Top honours in the 350cc class handed Hermann Paul Müller the German championship title. NSU contested 24 races and won them all. In 1955 Müller became the world’s first privateer to win a world championship, on an NSU Sportmax in the 250cc class. But the brand did not only celebrate success in circuit racing: from 1955 to 1967, NSU secured 23 German off-road championship titles.

Of course, who can forget NSU’s work with rotary engines? NSU had its hands in some incredible engineering and it was backed up with solid racing. Audi says the TT’s name celebrates this great racing history. It’s also a nod to the NSU Prinz TT, a hopped-up Prinz featuring a two-barrel carburetor, disc brakes, and a 1.1-liter-four pumping out 55 HP.


From The Nsu Prinz To Bergmeister

The little Prinz TT itself proved to be a successful racer in hillclimb events.

Timeless Design

What would become the Audi TT started as a concept sketched by American designers. As Metropolis Magazine writes, the design for the future TT was drawn on a piece of paper in 1994. The vehicle’s main exterior designer was Freeman Thomas, who then worked at the Volkswagen Group Design Center in California under the lead of then Head of Design Peter Schreyer. Aiding Thomas was J Mays, a former BMW designer who was also involved in the designs for the Audi 100 C4, Volkswagen Golf Mk3, and the Volkswagen Polo.

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Schreyer’s team was tasked with the mission of creating a pure sports car with a fresh, progressive design. For his part, Thomas drew from the past to create the future. The Audi TT’s design was influenced by Auto Union racecars of the 1930s as well as Porsche racers from the 1950s.


Having a brilliant exterior design would be enough, but the interior was also another high note of the original TT. Interior design was handled by an Avengers-esque team including Hartmut Warkuss, Martin Smith, Romulus Rost, and Peter Schreyer. Rost was inspired by how baseball gloves cup a ball in place and thus wanted to translate that to car seats. This is why you can find the TT with fantastic seats that look like baseball gloves. That’s just part of the equation. The team also sought to create a driver-centric cockpit with design taking inspiration from art of the day including architecture, fashion, and music.


Audi presented the design study at IAA in Frankfurt in September 1995. The automaker says the crowd was stunned. The ideas of Thomas, Mays, and the design team culminated in a vehicle with a timeless aesthetic. It was as much art as it was a sports car. Just a few months later, Audi decided to put the vehicle into production, and the TT became a rare example of a production car that was faithful to the concept. From Audi:

In December 1995, the decision was made to mass-produce the Audi TT Coupé. Torsten Wenzel, the exterior designer at Audi who helped introduce the study to series production, recalls: “To us, the greatest praise was when the trade press noted appreciatively that not much had changed from the study to series model, although we did, of course, have to adapt many details due to the technical specifications for the series version, including the proportions.” Most noticeable was the integration of a rear side window, which elongated the car’s profile and increased the sports car’s dynamics. For Wenzel, the Audi TT remains “a driving sculpture, with highest-quality surfaces and lines.” The body of the Audi TT appears to be made from one piece, he says, and the front end without traditional bumper overhangs emphasizes its clear form.

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Another design element contributes to the unmistakable silhouette of the Audi TT Coupé: the circle – “the perfect graphic shape,” as Wenzel describes it. Numerous circular elements inspired the sports car’s exterior and interior design. Inspired by Bauhaus, every line in the Audi TT has a purpose, every shape a function. “At Audi Design, we always follow the philosophy of ‘less is more’. Bringing out the Audi TT Coupé’s unique character by reducing it to the essentials was a challenging and special undertaking for us designers.”

The Audi TT’s body utilized laser welding in its construction, leading to a clean seamless form. Reportedly, this is part of why it took Audi until 1998 to get the TT onto the market. Unfortunately for Audi, the problems didn’t stop with manufacturing. Early TTs were notorious for crashing, sometimes causing deaths, due to stability problems above 110 mph. Audi’s fix was to add a spoiler and stability control.


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With the issues ironed out, the TT would go on to become an award-winning coupe and roadster. In the early days of the TT, you couldn’t even get it with anything other than a manual transmission. First-generation cars were available with a 1.8-liter turbo four rated for 180 HP or 225 HP and could be had in front-wheel-drive or Quattro configuration. You could have also gotten your TT with a 3.2-liter VR6 making 247 HP. The 180 HP TT could dispatch 60 mph in 8 seconds while the faster 225 HP variant did the job in 6.7 seconds. The hot 3.2 sprinted to 60 mph in about 5.1 seconds.

Descapotables Usados 10.000 Euro

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I owned a first-generation TT once. It was a terrible disaster, but for the brief moment things were good, I was happy. My dream TT is a convertible with the baseball glove interior. I’ll take it in blue or yellow, please!


Worthy Sequels

In 2006, Audi released the second-generation TT. While the new car lost some of its famous design, it gained a mix of aluminum and steel panels resulting in a near perfect 50-50 weight distribution. Audi brought other improvements in the form of a greater selection of engines, including, for the first time, the ability to get a diesel-powered TT. Sadly, we didn’t get that one in America, but Audi did call it the world’s first diesel sports car.

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The smallest engine was a 1.8-liter turbo four making 158 HP. There were also three flavors of 2.0-liter turbo four, making 197 HP and 207 HP, respectively, with torque ranging from 207 lb-ft to 258 lb-ft. You could also find the 2.0-liter turbo four making 268 HP in the TTS. The king of powertrain configurations was the Audi TT RS, itself an important vehicle in Audi history. Launched in 2009, the TT RS is notable for being the first Audi RS model to be built outside of the Audi Sport GmbH factory in Neckarsulm. It also marked a new point in Audi’s history with five-cylinder engines, from Audi:

Sporty five-cylinder gasoline engines have a long legacy at Audi. The most famous is arguably the turbocharged 2.1-liter engine in the Audi Quattro. The first version, which was launched in 1980, offered an impressive 147 kW (200 bhp). And the Sport Quattro from 1984, directly inspired by motorsport, delivered a whopping 225 kW (306 bhp). For 25 years, turbochargers and quattro have been a dynamic formula for success.

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The Audi TT RS is the first classic sports car in the Audi RS family. Like the RS 4 and the RS 6, the Audi TT RS was developed by quattro GmbH as a pure, no-holds-barred driving machine. A new six-speed manual transmission conveys the engine’s tremendous power, and permits easy and precise operation thanks to a specially designed shift lever boasting particularly short shift travel. The transmission’s defining characteristics are a high efficiency ratio and a sportily narrow spread of the gear ratios.

At its height, the TT RS punched out 355 HP and 343 lb-ft of torque. That car was capable of laying down a legitimately fast 60 mph acceleration time of 4.3 seconds, which was faster than what the Audi R8 4.2 V8 could do.


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Audi gave the TT one more sequel in 2014, and designers were given the task of taking the original 1998 design and freshening it up for the present day. Personally, I think the original is still the best, but the third-generation was an improvement over the second generation. Audi sort of messed up with the 2014 TT. It showed off one concept that reimagined the TT as a hot shooting brake and another as an Infiniti FX-esque off-road wagon. Sadly, neither saw the light of day.

Still, what we got was good. The third-generation TT was lighter and sleeker than its predecessor. A new TT with a 2.0-liter turbo four made 227 HP or 306 HP in TTS form. The 2.0-liter diesel was impressive in itself as it churned out 181 HP, one pony more than a base model TT 1.8t back in 1998! A 1.8-liter gas turbo four was also available, also making 180 HP.

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The top TT also got better. The Audi TT RS was still adorned with a spicy inline-five, only now it was making 394 HP and 354 lb-ft of torque, good for a blistering run past a state road speed limit in just 3.4 seconds. That’s fast by anyone’s definition! Car and Driver notes that the TT RS also weighed 3,270 pounds, 42 less than the old TT RS and about equal in weight to a first-generation TT. Yep, while the TT did grow through its generations, it didn’t bulk up on weight!

Sadly, sales data suggests that as the third-generation TT continued production and eventually grew long in the tooth, fewer buyers stepped up to the plate to buy them. Here in America, TT sales numbers haven’t been above 900 units a year since 2019. In Europe, the TT hadn’t seen five-digit sales numbers since 2019.

Goodbye, Sweet TT

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Back in February, Audi confirmed that the TT wasn’t going to make it to 2024. Slow sales spurred the end of the great TT. Unlike the death of Pontiac, which was a sad affair of rental cars built without celebration, Audi has allowed the TT to take one final bow.

Over in Europe, Audi sent out the TT with the Final Edition, which draped regular TTs in black accents, 20-inch wheels, an Alcantara-trimmed interior, a special Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel, and a few more bits. The final TT to ever be produced is a TTS painted metallic gray with darkened chrome accents. It also wears 20-inch bronze wheels, bronze badging, and a 2.0-liter four good for 315 HP. This car isn’t top spec, but it’s a good example of what will soon be the past.


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In this world of cars with muscular designs, crossovers, SUVs, and sharp edges all over the place, the Audi TT was sort of an anachronism. Even its final generation had gentle lines and graceful curves. The images here come from Audi as it followed the last TT down the line.

Sadly, sales data would suggest that the TT lost its magic and people have moved on. While the car didn’t sell many examples in its final days, it’s always upsetting to see a vehicle like this relegated to the pages of history. It seems like only yesterday, if you wanted a sporty roadster, you were able buy one from Mazda, General Motors, Audi, Nissan, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and so many more brands. Nowadays, not so much. So, hug your small coupes and roadsters tight, you never know when they too will become history.

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(Story images: Audi; top image graphic: Lothar Spurzem/Wikimedia Commons)



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4 months ago

I think that 662K cars over 25 years isn’t bad at all for small, low, two-seater sportscar (or sporty car if you prefer). I think Mazda reached the one million mark with the Miata in roughly the same span of time, but of course, their car is/was cheaper and (IMO) had more mass-market appeal (as well as being more reliable and much slower to depreciate than most any Audi).

I drove and loved the first gen TT, and came close to buying used ones two or three times. Audi pioneered the use of battleship grey (by the time Toyota does it, it’s jumped the shark) still so popular today. And the baseball glove seats on that first Neiman Marcus special edition continues to look great even now, a quarter century later.

I wasn’t bothered by the VW Golf platform and drivetrains, despite the premium charged for the TT. I wasn’t as fond of the second and third gen cars as I was the clean lines of the original though.

My favorite (now retired) mechanic, a soft-spoken Polish gentleman named Eric, upon hearing that I kind of liked the first-gen TT, basically told me it was such an awful car to work on that if I bought it, he’d prefer that I didn’t bring it to him for service. 😉

4 months ago

The second-generation TT RS will always hold a special place in my heart. 5-cylinder couple with AWD? I’d daily that thing in a heartbeat. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when I hear “5-cylinder engines”.
A diesel version over here in the US would’ve been sweet too though.
I’ll take a 2nd generation TT RS in a heartbeat.

Myk El
Myk El
4 months ago

This car wasn’t to my taste, but I do lament at some level the loss of a decent performing coupe.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
4 months ago

No love for the Steppenwolf concept? It may have been more A4 than TT (I’m really not sure) but it’s a lot cooler than the TT Cross thingy- which they also probably should have built. Better than the Q3 (at the time, at least) I suppose.

I dearly love the MK1, But I never understood how people prefer the 3 to the 2. I always thought the 3 was just too machismo and angular/angry for being a TT. better car, for sure, but I still don’t love the design. The original is an icon in so many ways.

Also Nardo Grey. Everyone thought it was awful when it debuted (from what I always heard when seeing them in the wild) and now you can’t get away from it. Only took 25 years for the world to catch up.

Nolan Orr
Nolan Orr
4 months ago

I loved my Mk2TT, it was a great blend of sporty, attractive, practical, and capable in Michigan winters. I miss it from time to time. Someday I’ll buy a MK3, the driver focused cockpit is just too cool.

4 months ago

I first saw the gen 1 TT on display the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, and I was smitten. Gen 2 left me cold, and I thought Gen 3 was an improvement, but didn’t match Gen 1. I’d like to see Adrian do a study of all three, discussing the evolution of the designs, what problems/goals each design addressed, and how successful they were.

4 months ago

I contend the Audi TT was the modern incarnation of the Karmann Ghia. Frankly, I didn’t realize they were still making them.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
4 months ago

My dad had a first generation, red convertible. One time I took it over to the house of a HS friend; he was a Camaro man, his dad a Ford guy. I’ll never forget his dad looking at it and saying, “How could you not get yourself killed in that thing?” It was a high compliment.

He only had it a few years, so I only got to drive it a couple times. Amazing ride, though.

4 months ago

Loved the looks of the original TT, which reminded me of 60s 500 series Porsches. The design also aligned with the New Beetle in ways that made sense within the VW-Audi storyline. Never drove one, but always liked seeing them. My wife still wants one but doesn’t want expensive repair costs on old cars so that decision has been made. The later versions turned into sports wedges, not as interesting to me.

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