The Audi TT has reached the end of the road and what a journey it’s been.
I was lucky enough to attend the UK launch of the TT Coupe in Leeds in 1999 (see below), a year after it went into production and on sale in Germany and now, a quarter of a century on, production has ceased.
In that time there have been only three generations of the car but it developed from Coupe to Roadster and even teased an Off-Road Concept coming with a bewildering range of four, five and six cylinder engines and a host of special editions over its 25 years.
Named after the legendary Isle of Man TT Races where Audi predecessors, DKW and NSU, gained fame and distinction in the early 1900s with their racing motorcycles, the Audi TT is also said be the abbreviation for “Technology and Tradition”.
Whatever it says on the can, it’s the contents which fill an enthusiast with satisfaction and generate a near permanent smile behind the wheel.
Today, it turns heads as easily as it did a quarter of a century ago so no wonder it’s been the hairdressers’ car of choice for decades.
The Audi TT has gone to over 157,000 UK drivers from its launch and in reality it’s changed very little and kept its ‘less is more’ design concept with the two-plus-two Coupe sacrificing the rear space to accommodate the folding fabric roof and pop-up wind defector in the Roadster.
In its run out year the range shrunk to just a handful of models including our Roadster S line 40 TFSI with a bit more kit over the entry level model but which can be maxed out with an extensive list of packs and individual options.
The test car’s total added kit cost £5,880 and included deluxe automatic A/C, Bang & Olufsen system, comprehensive technology pack, and plus pack along with Nappa hide and S-scrolls on the headrests. The Audi virtual cockpit replaces round dials but the theme of the ‘four circles’ carries over with details such as the familiar filler cap (below).
The Audi 2.0 litre engine is a workhorse of the Volkswagen Group and tuned to give 197ps in the TT Roadster S line which it eagerly poured out, not in neck-snapping style but more a touring laid back get-you-there gallop.
Combined with the acclaimed seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, the changes were barely perceptible at all but highest engine revs and the overall fuel consumption was easily sitting in the 40mpg sector.
Brakes were delightfully balanced so a gentle toe curl on the pedal produced a rapid and controlled deceleration while a stronger shove from shoes easily pulled it up with utter control and no skidding.
The flat-bottomed steering wheel felt a bit different winding along country lanes but the feedback was precise, the turning circle compact and there was plenty of assistance squeezing into tight parking spaces.
Frequently used stalks and secondary switches were all neatly and conveniently placed close to driver’s hands and the clever virtual, adjustable cockpit is one of the best in any car as well as being very legible in any light. The ability to increase the size of the map display is also very useful.
The sophisticated automatic air conditioning system is a godsend when the roof is closed on a rainy day and even welcome with the roof down to warm feet at other times. It had no trouble filling the two-seater cabin with huge quantities of air at a chosen temperature, backed up by powered door windows.
With the powered fabric roof quickly folded in under ten seconds and the wind deflector in place occupants could enjoy a trip at motorway speed without too much turbulence disturbing them.
Oddments room was very tight in the cabin with small compartments and the small boot only accommodated some soft bags or modest overnight case.
Access was fairly easy but getting out demanded a bit more dexterity due to the low-lying platform and seats but once inside they were surprisingly comfortable despite their modest adjustment range.
Visibility was clear with the roof stowed but there were over the shoulder blindspots when it was covering the cabin and the additional reversing sensors were a must.
Headlights were very good with a long, wide beam and the wipers swept a wide area of glass.
The powertrain was smooth and quiet, the wind noise surprisingly modest and this meant the road noise rumbling from the tyres and suspension was more noticeable and at times the ride was bumpy due to the 19-inch wheels and tyres picking up everything.
Acceleration from rest was reasonable and it was very composed on main roads and motorways, with good pickup for overtaking, and that excellent miserly fuel consumption.
The handling was very surefooted and predictable with good grip and responses to brakes and steering, only occasionally being thrown off line by mid-corner bumps. Easing off the throttle quickly tightened the line on curves without making it twitch.
There is no doubt the Audi TT Roadster is an iconic and individual car and as enjoyable to drive as it was 25 years ago, combining simplicity and sophistication and delivering a rewarding return in what will become, I am sure, a future classic with a unique character.
|Audi TT Roadster S line 40 TFSI
|Mechanical: 197ps 4cyl 2.0 turbo-petrol 7sp auto
|Max Speed: 151mph
|0-62mph: 6.9 secs
|Combined MPG: 41
|Insurance Group: 41
|C02 emissions: 159gkm
|Bik rating: 36%, £645FY, £570SRx5
|Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles
|Size: L4.20m, W1,85m, H1.36m
|Bootspace: 280 litres
|Kerbweight: 1370 kg
For: Lively, agile, economical, well made, comfortable well equipped cabin, powered hood
Against: Small boot and oddments space, restricted interior, road noise, rear visibility with erect hood.