As Konrad Adenauer slowly rebuilt West German in the post-War era, the resulting Wirtschaftswunder finally realized the economic prosperity necessary for personal automobile ownership; something that Germany had lagged far behind its rivals in until well after the War. Though they had developed the first motorized carriages and had a reputation as a nation of drivers thanks to some clever Nazi propaganda and the development of the revolutionary highway system, the reality was that in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Germany was a nation of riders – motorcycles, that is.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the fledgling car companies which were the most successful at first were able to incorporate motorcycle technology into their automobiles. This kept development and production costs down, and in turn meant that the company could bring a small, economical car to market much more inexpensively than a traditional manufacturer. This worked perfectly for BMW, whose Isetta and later 700 models paved the way for the modern car company you know today. But BMW was not the only motorcycle-engine toting company, and though the name isn’t as well-known today, it was NSU Motorenwerke that was the world’s premier motorcycle producer in the 1950s. So, in the late 1950s, NSU put those great engines to work in the back of their new economy car – the Prinz.
The Prinz would go on over the next decade to develop several times. The Prinz I-III models featured continuous upgrades, better driveability, and more power from the twin. But in 1961 the Prinz 4 model took NSU to a much larger market. It featured modern 3-box sedan styling, though it retained the twin drivetrain from the earlier models. The Prinz 1000 model rectified the motivation issues, introducing a new air-cooled 1000cc inline-4. This package was then further developed into a sporting model; the TT.…
As I looked at in my recent write up of a 2016 Audi TTS, if you’re willing to forgo some of the wow-factor and horsepower of the RS models, the standard 8S TT offers plenty of thrills and smiles. That awesome MQB-platform is paired with the 2.0 TSFI turbocharged inline-4 pumping out 220 horsepower at 4500 RPMs and 258 lb. ft of torque at an unbelievable V8-esque 1600 revolutions. Carrying the same S-Tronic DSG dual-clutch 6-speed as the TTS and RS models as well as the same all-wheel drive system, the 3,300 lb Roadster is good for 0-60 sprints in the mid-5 second range and yet will still return 30 mpg on the highway. While those numbers may sound tame in today’s mega-horsepower market, you don’t have to go far back in time for them to be leading-edge performance for sports cars.
Excellent chassis dynamics are paired with a beautiful exterior and interior design, as well. I’ve long admired the Audi TTs for their clever packaging and taunt, no frills design. They just look better to me than the fussy lines from both BMW and Mercedes-Benz. They are thoroughly modern without looking cliché, cutting-edge yet unpretentious. The performance is here married with a package that can enjoy top-down weather yet remains usable year-round, even when the weather turns as snowy and cold as it has here in New England this week. This particular Roadster is even a bit more special than the standard TT. Outfit in Mythos Black Metallic with Admiral Blue leather interior and well specified, this car carries a color combination and set of options that can’t easily be replicated in a brand-new 2018 model:
The Audi TT may have felt solidly like a child of the post 9/11 world, but in fact by the early 2000s it was already a pretty old design. The concept car toured the show circuits in 1995. First was the Frankfurt International Car show for the Coupe; later that year, the ‘TTS Roadster’ hit the scene in Tokyo.
While the Coupe would hit the market in 1998 en mass, it wouldn’t be until 2000 that the Roadster model finally was available for purchase. Now with the 225 horsepower 1.8T motor and quattro all-wheel drive, the Roadster was a hit and a serious step up in performance from the outgoing Cabriolet which had soldiered the B4 chassis on to 1998. The 1.8T was massaged and the boost turned up to generate 225 horsepower and 207 lb.ft of torque, available with a 6-speed manual gearbox and all-wheel drive – much more punch than the B4’s V6 had, and it was a model only available in FrontTrack automatic form. For enthusiasts, this was a boon; even the heavy TT Roadster could hustle from 0-60 in a tick over 6 seconds.
I’ve looked at some quite nice examples recently; each, in its own way, a special item. Just a few weeks ago I looked at the impressive Imola Yellow TT Coupe with 27,000 miles:
2004 Audi TT 225 quattro with 27,000 Miles
Before that was a glowing TT ALMS Edition with even fewer miles on the clock:
2002 Audi TT 225 Coupe ALMS Edition with 18,000 Miles
And perhaps most relevant to this listing, a nice 2004 Roadster in very rare Papaya Orange:
2004 Audi TT 225 quattro Roadster
While today’s Roadster doesn’t have the outrageous color, interesting options or limited edition status of the others, it’s nonetheless one of the most impressive examples of the 8N out there, with a staggeringly low 7,433 miles since new:
This 2004 Audi TT 225 quattro represents an interesting comparison point to Rob’s Talbot Yellow 911SC from last night. First, the color – Imola Yellow bares a striking resemblance to the infrequently seen 911 shade, but like the tone on the 911 it wasn’t often selected on these TTs. It obviously has a similar overall shape to the 911, too. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not likely to be able to squint and see how alike they are, but to most non-car people, if you parked them side-by-side, they’d likely claim they were much more than distant cousins. I’d wager that most would probably prefer the TT, too – after all, it looks modern and new, still, unlike that ‘old Beetle’ design.
That a clean first generation TT still looks new some 13 years later is rather miraculous. Perhaps it points to a change in car designs; less revolution, more evolution. Consider for a moment that the TT concept (which went into production largely unchanged) toured the car show circuit in 1995 – only 6 years after the move to the 964 model by Porsche. Of course, it’s easy to see why Audi would only evolve the design of the TT. It was a hit off the bat, as pretty much everyone liked the snappy performance, the unique looks, the economic practicality of a 2+2 hatchback, the available all-wheel drive. So park a 2004 TT next to a 2014 TT, and though the design moved into a new decade, it didn’t change direction.
Because the TT has been ubiquitous over the past nearly twenty years in the marketplace, it’s often taken for granted that you can get one pretty much any time you want. News flash: you can get an air-cooled 911 of any variant, an E30 M3, a Bugatti EB110 – whatever – anytime you want, too.…
I watched this past weekend’s Le Mans with diminished interest compared to the past few years. The loss of the great champion Audi narrowed the likelihood of overall victory to a two-horse race. And within that duo was one horse who, if it didn’t have bad luck, would have no luck at all. To be honest, I was rooting for Toyota to finally come good on their promise of the (gasp) last 30 years of racing at Le Mans.
Of course, the curse of Toyota struck once again and with a vengeance, leaving Porsche to smirk in their pits until an equal fate befell them. It would have been Audi’s year, almost for certain, had some engineers not decided to push the limits of diesel technology.
It brought me back to the golden era of Audi’s dominance; the early R8 period, when the cars seemed unstoppable in endurance racing. So successful was the company in making the leap to Le Mans that they generated a special model just to celebrate; two alternate color options for the 2002 Audi TT 225 Coupe. All were laoded manual quattro coupes only in 225 horsepower form; the only choice you had was whether you wanted Misano Red Pearl Effect with Silver Gray Nappa leather interior or Avus Silver Pearl Effect with Brilliant Red leather. As like the rest of the S-Line models of this period, the TT also got a special set of “Celebration” alloy wheels inspired by the RS4 design. Lastly, you got a commemorative sticker and a membership to the Automobile Club de L’Oeust for a year.
While no performance gains were to be had, these smart looking 8Ns are still among the more favored examples of the first generation TT – and this one might be the best out there.
Like the Audi Cabriolet which preceded its introduction, the TT Roadster lives in a strange no man’s land; traditional Audi folks usually aren’t very interested in them, and those from outside of Camp VierRinge (who generally hate Audis to start with) really dislike the TT. Most decry its lack of sport car attributes and claim it’s just a poseur for hairdressers and trophy wives.
That’s a shame, really. The 8N chassis might not make for an M3 killer, but it was a serious step up from the Cabriolet if you enjoy canyon carving. First off, it came with more power – in any configuration. While the B4 had droned on with the reliable but not powerful or exciting 2.8 liter V6, the 8N got turbo power from one of two 1.8T motors initially. Later in the run, as with the R32 they added the 3.2 liter VR6, and yes – you could get that in convertible. Unfortunately in the first gen TTs, the big horsepower came at a cost – it was a bit nose heavy and only available with the admittedly trick but also complicated dual-clutch DSG box here. So, if you’re really in need of the 6-cylinder powerplant, your better bet is to look towards the second generation TT; better driving dynamics were mated with the option for a 6-speed manual there.
But all is not lost on the first gen, because the 225 quattro is the real gem of the lineup. And, it’s quite affordable, all things considered. Towards the end of the run, they were heavily optioned up and even available in some wild colors:
Rightly or wrongly, the Audi TT has been accused of being a pretend sports car. Usually that criticism is lumped onto the chassis by the regurgitating internet generation; masters of all they have never experienced. Get in to a second generation TT, and you’ll be amazed at how they drive – I promise. But the first gen? Based on the same platform as the Mk.4 Golf, the 8N certainly isn’t as sporty as its replacement, but it’s still a very competent sports coupe. In 225 or 3.2 VR6 form, it’s plenty potent, too. But for some people that just isn’t enough:
Once in a while, a truly special package comes along and is seemingly gone in the blink of an eye. The TT RS was that package for Audi, marrying the fantastic 8J chassis with the outrageous 2.5 liter turbocharged inline-5 and a 6-speed manual. With 360 horsepower on tap driving all wheels and a sticker price below $60,000, it was Audi’s answer to the BMW 1M, and it was a good one. Though the driving experience perhaps wasn’t as “pure” as the Munich monster, the TT RS was a potent alternative that was on par with the competition, if not better. It was a Porsche killer at a fraction of the price.
But it was short lived, only being available for the 2012 and 2013 model years. On its way out, around 30 of the RSs were handed over to Audi Exclusive. Painted special Nimbus Grey Pearl Effect and optioned with the bi-color leather interior, they were also heavily optioned with the Titanium Exhaust package treatment which came with the titanium exhaust, black optics grill and titanium “Rotor” wheels. A special “RS” shift knob was also present, and the total package (which included the Tech Package, as well) upped the sticker price to over $70,000. Today you can have a basically new one for a seeming steal at some $20,000 less:
I went to college in London in 2000, about the same time that the first generation TT started to appear on British roads. Because my dorms were in a posh part of town, there were always a few of these parked nearby. The car’s styling struck me as extraordinary. It captured something of the millennial zeitgeist: a minimalist, Bauhaus-esque design that artfully blended lines and curves on the outside, with a bespoke-feeling cockpit on the inside featuring splashes of brushed aluminum and baseball-glove stitching on the leather seats. Back then, I had ambitions to become a lawyer, and this was the perfect car, I thought, for a young single man about town. The perfect yuppie’s car.
While I usually try my best to focus on bang for your buck cars, today’s 1972 NSU will have difficulty fitting in to that category. It’s not that superminis aren’t valued as there are many who highly prize and collect the diminutive car class. But I’m talking about literal bang, or lack thereof. At 30 horsepower, the .6 liter single overhead cam inline-2 wasn’t the most powerful engine available, but the Prinz 4 was intended to break into markets where the barrier to automobile ownership was not only entry cost, but tax brackets. Namely, this was problematic in the U.K., where the original Mini reigned supreme. The Prinz 4 offered an alternative, albeit a slow one – even weighed down with only around 1,250 lbs, the two cylinders struggled mightily to motivate the car. Acceleration curves depended on what you had eaten for breakfast, but figure it was the strong side of 35 seconds to reach 60 m.p.h.. But this car was about affordability and economy rather than speed, and threw a dose of more upscale-looking class into a segment dominated by quirky designs: