2023 is a bittersweet year for the iconic Audi TT. It’s no secret the TT is exiting the market as the German automaker unveiled the TT RS Heritage Edition in 2022 to celebrate the sports car’s final hurrah in North America. However, 2023 happens to mark the 25th birthday of the Audi TT. Like the mythical yet tragic members of rock and roll’s 27 Club (Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and others), the TT is too young to say goodbye. The question is will its legacy live on?
From Concept to Production
The Audi TT gave the buying public a fresh perception of the brand with the four interlocking rings. Introduced as a concept in 1995 as an ultimately desirable 2+2 sports car, the first production TT rolled off the assembly line in 1998 with little differences from the concept car that debuted three years earlier.
“To us, the greatest praise was when the trade press noted appreciatively that not much had changed from the study to the series model, although we did, of course, have to adapt many details due to the technical specifications for the series version, including the proportions,” said Audi designer Torsten Wenzel. “Most noticeable was the integration of a rear side window, which elongated the car’s profile and increased the dynamics.”
Selling Like Hotcakes
The first-gen Audi TT rode on VW Golf Mk IV underpinnings like the Audi A3 and came with turbocharged four-cylinder and V6 engines. Audi introduced the TT Roadster in 1999 and sold over 90,000 drop-top TTs until 2006 (Audi sold 178,765 Audi TT Coupes in the same timeframe). And while the second and third-gen TT did not enjoy the commercial success of their predecessor, they did open the doors for new technology in the German automaker’s loveable sports car.
For instance, the second-gen Audi TT Coupe and Roadster that debuted in 2006 and 2007 utilized the architecture of the brand’s second-gen Audi A3. In addition, the new TT came with optional adaptive dampers and magnetic ride suspension for the first time. In 2008, Audi debuted the TTS with a 268-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. The TT RS followed in 2009 with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbo with 335 horsepower (355 horses in the TT RS Plus) under the hood.
Shedding Weight & Adding Tech
The third-generation TT that debuted in 2014 emphasized shedding excess weight to improve handling and performance. As a result, Audi claims the TT Coupe with a 2.0-liter TFSI engine and manual gearbox was 110 lbs. (50 kilos) lighter than before, tipping the scales at only 2,711 lbs. (1,230 kilos). Furthermore, the third-gen TT debuted trademarked Audi technology like the brand’s virtual cockpit (digital instrument cluster) and organic LED lights or OLED, features that trickled down to other Audi vehicles later on.
The third-gen TT also featured more potent engines. The range-topping TTS, with a 2.0-liter turbo engine, had 305 horsepower, while the TT RS of 2016 had a 394-horsepower five-cylinder turbo unit.
Audi TT RS Heritage Edition
Before the curtain closes, Audi has the TT RS Heritage Edition for North American buyers. It inherited the high-strung 2.5-liter turbocharged five-banger from the 2016 variant, along with Quattro AWD and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
With the engine sending 394 horsepower and 354 lb-ft. of torque to all four wheels, the heritage model rushes from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. Equipped with 20-inch wheels, a performance exhaust, an Alcantara interior, and heritage colorways, it’s a fitting sendoff for Audi’s sports car. Only 50 TT Heritage Edition models will arrive stateside, making it rarer than some exotic supercars.
There’s a silver lining among the clouds. Audi clarified in 2019 that the TT would probably return as an all-electric sports car (we hope the same will be true for the R8 GT). If true, we expect the TT moniker to have more birthdays in the decades to come.
Alvin Reyes is an Automoblog feature columnist and an expert in sports and performance cars. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.