TT at 25: Audi’s iconic sports car bows out | CAR Magazine

TT at 25: Audi’s iconic sports car bows out

Published: 19 October 2023 Updated: 19 October 2023

► Audi’s TT is no more after 2023
► Final Edition marks the end of the line
► 2023 is the coupe’s 25th anniversary

One of Audi’s most iconic models, the TT, is retiring. Ingolstadt’s design-forward sports car comes to the end of its life this year, its 25th anniversary.

‘We’re still basking in its afterglow,’ says Audi UK director, Andrew Doyle. ‘It was one of the key catalysts behind the incredible transformation our brand has undergone over the past quarter of a century, and in this special anniversary year its history and legacy richly deserve celebration.’

In fact, the TT’s 25th anniversary and subsequent retirement had been celebrated with the Iconic Edition – an end-of-the-line variant for the sports coupe and convertible meant to mark its end.

An original Mk1, as well as a TT RS Iconic Edition Coupe and Roadster, has been out for one last photoshoot at the very location that gave the car its name: the roads of the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy.

Audi’s TT: this is your life

The TT’s story actually started three year’s earlier with the TT Coupe design study (pictured above), which made its public debut at the 1995 Frankfurt motor show. The mid-90s was a time when Audi was trying to modernise itself, introducing a new naming structure and a new design language. But the TT concept’s aim was to push the envelope, designed to show how Audi could be truly radical – rather than just modern.

Little changed between concept and Mk1 production car – save for rear side windows – and the TT was quickly considered to be a design masterstroke of the new millennium. Its launch propelled Audi from a maker of clean-if-plain premium executive cars and all-wheel drive weapons to one that’s capable of truly interesting and fashionable sports cars, too.

It was also proof that interesting things could come from humble beginnings. The Mk1 TT shared a lot with the rather dowdy Mk4 VW Golf, and yet the two look and feel worlds apart.

But such design freedom didn’t entirely mean an easy developmental ride; early Mk1 TTs, sans spoiler as originally intended, made the headlines after some high-speed crashes implied a lack of stability. The car was recalled, with an electronic stability control being applied, as well as a spoiler which, frankly, did more than spoil the air.

The TT carried on for two more generations, modernising and refreshing the formula. Some in the automotive community say the original TT will always be the best one, with later models not quite giving the same excitement and quirkiness.

While the TT has matured, grown more sensible and tried to keep up with the times over its later generations, Audi has consciously been trying to reinvent the wheel. There have been attempts and new theories put forward, including the TT offroad concept that was designed to take advantage of the SUV craze, or the TT Sportback concept which aimed to make the two-door coupe more usable. Neither got beyond the concept stage, but it means the TT won’t survive the electrification era we’re witnessing unfold in front of us.

‘TT was and always will be a part of our DNA,’ Marc Lichte, head of Audi design, tells CAR. Regarding the future of the model, Lichte adds: ‘we have many ideas of what could happen, but officially, nothing has been decided.’ Instead, Lichte says he wants design elements of the TT to remain part of Audi’s future portfolio. The ActiveSphere concept, revealed in 2023, features coupe-like roof pillars similar to the TT.

For now, though, we’ll have to accept that the TT’s life has come to an end. The small coupe shook up Audi as a brand and told the world it could make truly stylish and forward-thinking cars.

Rest in peace, TT.

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, gamer, serial Lego-ist, lover of hot hatches