In 1993, my father purchased a W113 Mercedes-Benz 280SL Roadster. It was green with black MB Tex and do you know what? It looked, and felt, old. At that point, it was a 22 year old car that had been mostly forgotten by the enthusiast world. After all, the dated W113’s replacement – the oh so 80s even though it was from the 70s R107 – had just gone out of production, itself replaced by the thoroughly modern R129. A teenager, I loved the fresh R129 at the time, and the W113 seemed like a dinosaur by comparison. But my father loved the look of the W113, and so for the then princely sum of mid-teens he purchased a relatively clean, reasonably low mileage and (almost) fully functional Mercedes-Benz SL. Not a bad deal in hindsight – or at the time, considering the new SL’s $80,000 sticker price – in 1992!
Fast forward 27 years, and the SL market has gone completely bonkers, awakening to the fact that the W113 was (and still is) a beautiful, classic and elegant design. I’m not even sure you could buy a non-functional, rusty wreck of a W113 for the same price my father paid in 1993 – and an expensive restoration would await you.
Why do I mention this?
Currently, almost no one has time to even consider the 8N chassis Audi TT. It’s old, with the last of the first generation produced 15 years ago and its replacement – the 8J – has also fully completed a production cycle. It doesn’t have the super wiz-bang computers, million horsepower engines, or cut-your-hand-on-the-front-end styling of the new models. A fair amount lay in a state of disrepair; crashed, thrashed and trashed to a point where they’re nearly given away – quite seriously, there’s one near me for $1,500. But find a good one, and I think now is the prime time to grab a clean TT that will be a future collectable. So here we are with a ’03 TT 225 Coupe in Goodwood Green Pearl Effect over a light tan interior. I think I’m in love!
You could be forgiven for thinking that the VAG 1.8 liter turbocharged motor was the go-to motor for the company in the late 90s and early 00s. It appeared nearly everywhere in the U.S.; the Golf, Jetta, GTI, GLI, Passat, Beetle, Audi A4 and Audi TT all received the forced-induction unit. And that was just in the U.S.; go to Europe, and you’d find many more models (the A6 and Sharan) and even other companies (VAG’s Skoda and SEAT) with the venerable motor. They were used in race series like Formula Palmer as well. You’d also be forgiven for thinking they were all the same – however, a pause for thought would tell you they couldn’t be. First off, there were the drive train configurations; the Golf-based variants have their engines mounted transversely, while the Audi A4-based cars have them longitudinally. Then there is the output that was available from the factory; the 1.8T started with 150 horsepower in the early 1990s and ended with 240 horsepower in the highest output TT Sport. The natural assumption would be to think they had just turned up the boost, but in fact there were a host of changes to the higher horsepower motors to help sustain the increased pressure.
There are, in fact, no less than 13 distinct versions of the 1.8T from that generation. All shared the same basic structure; cast iron block, 20 valve head with a single turbocharger; but details including injection, crank, computers and engine management and breather systems vary in between each of the models. The Audi TT was the only one to offer various engine outputs here; available in either 180 horsepower or 225 horsepower versions, the later of which was pared with a 6-speed manual and Haldex viscous-coupling all-wheel drive. Though heavy, they were nonetheless sprightly thanks to the turbocharged mill. I’ve said for some time now that I think these will eventually be more collectable as they were an important part of the development of the company, yet few remain in good shape. Were I going to get one, I’d opt for one of the 2002 special edition coupes; the ALMS edition, launched to celebrate the American Le Mans Series victory by Audi’s R8 race car. Available in two colors, Misano Red with extended Silver Nappa leather or Avus Silver Pearl with Brilliant Red Nappa leather, they were mostly an appearance package but also received special 18″ ‘Celebration’ alloys and were limited to 500 examples each:
The Audi TT is dead. Following the 2019 model year, Audi is pulling the plug sporty coupe because well, no one is buying it. After launching the third generation in 2016, sales were down almost 45% in 2018, and word is that 2019 isn’t looking much better. The world wants SUVs and automakers are listening. I don’t think it has anything to do with the actual car, because the MK3 TT is downright brilliant. The interior with the Audi virtual cockpit is changing the game for every auto marker by putting all the infotainment directly in the gauge cluster to free up the valuable dashboard space. This was even more important in the TT because of it’s size and small cockpit, so even going a step further by putting the climate control dials directly in the middle of the vents was genius. Add in the fact that you can buy a TT RS to run with super cars, and there isn’t much to complain about. As long as you don’t have much stuff, of course.
Today’s car, a 2016 TT S up for sale in Houston, Texas, was reportedly ordered by an Audi executive in Michigan. Naturally, when you have access to special treatment and know money isn’t really an obstacle, you do things like order it in Viper Green and add a bunch of options that suddenly pushes the sticker price north of $60,000. Thankfully for all of us, niche German cars depreciate faster than you can imagine, and you can buy it for a 35% discount.
That a clean first generation TT still looks new some 15 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. The difference? You and I can afford the TT.
Update 11/20/18: This Audi TT 180 Coupe quattro sold for $6,290.
In its first model year, the Audi TT was only available in one configuration – 180 horsepower Coupe. You could choose between quattro and FrontTrak drivetrains, but otherwise it was fairly limited. As a result, most outside of the Audi rings just referred henceforth to every single TT they saw as just that – a TT. But the naming convention was actually more complicated than that, as Audi steadily introduced more models and configurations for the small Golf-based sporty car. For 2001 came the Roadster model and the turned-up ‘225’ version of the TT which had…you guessed it! 225 horsepower from a massaged version of the transversely-mounted 1.8T. That remained the order of the day for a further two model years until the introduction of the 3.2 model. Although the 180 model continued right through the 2005 model year, this 2002 represents the end of the availability of the lower-horsepower motor with quattro all-wheel drive.
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. Named after the famous ‘Tourist Trophy’ races of the 1960s, a bigger motor with more power was met with larger wheels and tires and revised styling. Like the BMW 700, these NSU TTs and the subsequent TTS model formed the basis of their respective companies post-War racing efforts, and are still fan-favorites in vintage racing today. But in the U.S., though all NSU models are rare, the TT and TTS are especially so. That’s what makes it such a treat to see an example like this one for sale today:
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:
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: