In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s twenty years since Audi revealed its finished TT to the gawping populace. Today they’re commonplace, but in 1998 you really couldn’t overstate the groundbreaking, jaw dropping impact of its design, crafted by J Mays, Freeman Thomas and Peter Schreyer.
Audi board member and TT development supervisor Ulrich Hackenberg originally laid it out as “a sports car concept with high practicality”, with an interior sporting “as much as necessary and as little as possible”. It wrapped existing components inside a radical, ‘tense’ skin to create a standout vehicle at an affordable price. Mercedes’s competing SLK looked sad next to it, being both more conventional and more expensive.
The fact that the Audi TT is still selling well in 2018 after only two light styling refreshes speaks volumes for the public’s ability to accept out-there designs, as long as they work. As a sharp-looking coupé that was also a practical 2+2, the TT certainly did work – at least, it did once Audi had sorted out a fairly serious high-speed handling glitch on early cars by adding suspension tweaks, a boot spoiler and (a bit later on) ESP.
Early examples of that first 8N model are very much still working, as this week’s Shed double-header of 4WD quattros clearly shows. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to decide which of these two would make the best Shedly purchase.
It’s not going to be easy separating them. We’ve got a 2001 153,000-mile 225 in blue with part-leather seating, and a slightly newer, lower-mileage but also lower-powered 2002 132,000-mile 180 in black with full moo. Both have headline prices of £1500, but the seller of the black one has muddied the waters a bit by putting ‘£2000’ in his copy. We’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the £1500.
What do you get for that? A steel-bodied coupé (the Mk2 incorporated more aluminium) that was powered by the ubiquitous Volkswagen/Audi 1781cc turbo four producing 180hp or 225hp, plus torque of 173lb ft or 207lb ft. The 225 got its extra power via the relatively unsophisticated means of a bigger turbo. All the quattro TTs ran a Haldex 4WD system.
Both our Sheds have decently long MOTs, the black 180 to the end of December and the blue 225 to early May of next year. Advisories on their last tests boiled down to a deteriorated near side front lower suspension arm bush on the 225, and nothing on the 180 after (it would appear) the replacement of all four tyres.
The battleship-style tumblehome design of the TT means that owners often underestimate the width of their cars. Both our Sheds have made the acquaintance of more than one kerb in their lifetimes, the black one most obviously in terms of actual metal damage. On the blue car, the tyre rim protectors have taken most of the punishment. The 225 had new rear brake pipes fitted last March; the 180 had a couple of CV joint gaiters replaced and an ABS fault cleared in December 2016.
Given that 180s have often been messed about a bit to squeeze out more power, which is not necessarily a good idea in the long term, you may take the view that, of these two, the 225 would be a better choice. Or you might ignore both of them and look instead for a TT Sport 240, a limited edition that arrived in the UK in 2005, or a 3.2 V6 250, available from 2003. Good luck finding either in our sub-£1500 price bracket, though: useable V6s generally start at £2500, while just 800 of the pared-down, two-tone 240s came here, as a result of which they rarely pop up below £7000.
Audi’s gradual powering-up programme has successfully chipped away the TT’s early ‘hairdresser car’ association. Now it’s a seriously quick machine that the most macho of drivers would happily be caught dead in (as PH found out with its recent fleet TT). Interestingly, the TT actually does take its name from the Isle of Man TT motorcycle races, where NSU (one of the companies merging to form Audi) took a win in the early 1950s, an event celebrated by the creation of a Prinz 1000 TT car.
Although Audi has dallied with SUV-styled TT concepts, most recently in 2014 with the Allroad Shooting Brake and the TT Offroad, we’re hoping that a good stretch of clear blue water will always remain between the TT and every other Audi. Today’s exterior product designer at Audi, Dany Garand, is in no doubt about the TT’s uniqueness, or about the immutability of its basic design. “There are a few design features on the TT that will never appear on another Audi,” he says. “You don’t see this styling approach anywhere else in the line-up today, and we feel it should stay that way.” Well said that man.
Most of us like to play the game of identifying future classics. You’d think that a first-year TT in primo condition, ideally a ‘dangerous’ one without the boot spoiler, would be a nailed-on cert for aesthetic and financial appreciation. We can’t offer you one of them, but £1500 (or less after haggling) for the ones we do have doesn’t seems like a lot for such a unique, important and capable car.