TT 20th anniversary

Celebrating 20 years of Audi’s iconic TT. 

Two decades ago, Audi produced an automotive icon that still quickens the pulse today.

1 August, 2018


It’s not everyday that an icon is born. In automotive circles, new cars materialise with often monotonous regularity causing little or no reaction on arrival or during their model life. Some cars though, inspire from the very concept unveiled at a motor show. A teasing glimpse at what ‘might’ happen in the future, but all too often never realised.

When Audi unveiled the TT concept in1995, it struck a chord with critics and the public alike – ‘if only Audi would actually build a car that even resembled the futuristic TT concept’ was the overwhelming cry, though most didn’t believe it would happen.

Well, 20 years ago to the month, the first series Audi TT was delivered and the rest as they say, is history.
It was at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt am Main in 1995, that Audi presented the first Audi TT as a concept sports car. It took Technical Development and a team of Audi designers very little time to come up with the concept for a sporty coupé. In November the same year, the Roadster version made its premiere as a TTS concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show. 

The TT was unlike anything else at the time, although the now distinctive shape has been copied by others countless times since. The outer lines of the two show cars followed the German design philosophy, and called to mind the rounded shapes of the pre-war racing cars and post-war sedans of Auto Union – those famed silver cars that dominated world racing in what was a golden era of motorsport.

The interior too mirrored the ‘circular, rounded’ theme and worked on the principle of ‘as much as necessary and as little as possible’. Minimalist and functional were the basic design principles of what resembled an aircraft cockpit, the circular air vents reminiscent of aircraft jet engines, the short throw gear shift pure race car.

The solid, hunkered down shape had massive appeal, but few believed the Frankfurt or Tokyo show cars would become reality.

When Audi unveiled the TT concept in1995, it struck a chord with critics and the public alike – ‘if only Audi would actually build a car that even resembled the futuristic TT concept’

As it turned out, it was only three years from concept to reality, with the first Audi TT road car delivered in August 1998

As it turned out, it was only three years from concept to reality, with the first Audi TT road car delivered in August 1998. Closely based on the show car, the production model with its formally coherent design idiom has remained a milestone of innovative automotive design ever since. From the aluminium elements in the interior, progressive wheel design, the short, spherical gear knob and round tailpipes positioned closely to one another, the concept car became a working reality. It was also the first time that Audi adopted the rapid-shifting dual-clutch transmission – the so-called S tronic – in one of its series-production models. Power output in the original TT cars ranged from 110kW to 184kW, giving the TT the performance to match its dynamic styling. 

Little touches like the fuel flap have become recurring details in subsequent TT models as has the distinctive shape, albeit evolving over time.

The second generation TT made its much anticipated appearance in 2006, onlookers waiting to see what would become of the car that had had such a profound impact on the automotive world. The pressure was very much on Audi’s designers not to ‘mess’ with an icon, but even the greatest sceptics nodded their approval when it arrived.

The design of the second generation TT paid homage to the original, but gave the new car a sharper look. Performance too was sharpened, the turbocharged four-cylinder engines producing between 118kW and 155kW in a car that became as well known for its performance as its styling. Audi took this idea even further when it extend the lineup with an S version producing 200kW and then even further again with the introduction of the Audi TT RS with 250kW. A later TT RS plus version even produced 265kW. Ground-breaking technologies such as the Audi Space Frame (ASF) lightweight construction, TFSI engines and the powerfully sonorous five-cylinder engine played key roles in the car’s success. The second Audi TT was also the first sports car to use TDI technology.

Along the way, special models have been developed around the distinctive TT design and performance philosophy. The TT clubsport quattro in 2008 followed by the awesome Audi TT clubsport turbo concept with its 441kW, just two examples of the TT taken to extremes. So popular has the model proved, that it has also enjoyed its own race series in Europe since 2016 – the Audi Sport TT Cup – which has steadily grown in popularity since the first race and is now an integral part of the European racing calendar.

The third generation was a further refinement of the original ideal, now internationally recognised as a serious sportscar. The Audi TT came across as being even sportier, more dynamic and more innovative than its predecessor. One characteristic feature persisted through all generations: the round tank flap with the typical TT logo.

Now, the iconic TT has been refined even further with the most recent upgrade arriving just as the model celebrates 20 glorious years young and still igniting the automotive imagination.

Along the way, special models have been developed around the distinctive TT design and performance philosophy