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A spotter's guide to the Audi TT

A spotter's guide to the Audi TT

You wouldn’t be wrong to think of the Audi TT as more than car. Yes, the Audi name may be synonymous with driving like a twonk a tailgating these days, but back in the late ‘90s it was more closely linked to style. And that’s because of the TT.

A car mainstream car like no other before it, the TT appealed to those who can read a fashion magazine and nod along knowingly. It wasn’t just style though, it was substance, too.

The TT was engineering perfection, offering drivers a class-leading ride that could both thrill and excite. It was, for all its style, a proper sports car, too. 

The TT has been with us since 1998, and is now in its third-generation. If you want to know what’s what about the little beauty, read on as we give you a comprehensive spotter’s guide. 

The Mk1

The Mk1 

Built from 1998 to 2006

Here’s a little bit of history for you. A company by the name of NSU and another called DKW used to race in a rather famous motorcycle event. That event was, and still is, the TT. Those two companies would later go on to merge and become Audi. So, that’s where the TT got its name from.

But you can’t just slap a racy name on a car and hope for the best. You have to have something to back it up. Happily, the TT did. It was first revealed as a concept in the mid ‘90s, to much praise.

Imagine, then, when it came out in 1998 looking exactly the same. It was a revelation given that most traces of a concept normally vanish come production. The TT was different though. 

It was clever, too. On top it was cutting edge, using laser welding in its construction. Underneath, however, it was a simpler beast. It used the same platform as the A3, Octavia and Golf. But that was no bad thing; it was a good platform. And it was even better when Audi bolted its all-wheel-drive Quattro system to it, making for maximum road holding in the process. 

To spot a Mk1, you need to look for a sleek, domed design. Think of it as two face down crescent moons, of you will. The arches are heavily stamped into the sides of the bodywork, while the bumpers front and back are seamlessly blended into the profile of the TT. It’s a sleek, smooth design. 

TT fact: The Mk1 was subject to much controversy due to not being fitted with a rear spoiler, resulting in cars crashing. A recall was ordered to address the issue.

The Mk2

The Mk2

Built from 2006 to 2014

For the second-generation TT, Audi played things mean. In 2005 it released a concept of the new TT, but in a ‘shooting brake’ guise, which got gear-heads the globe over all tight in the trousers.

However, unlike the first car, the concept was just a concept, and there were no plans to put it into production. Shame. Still, we did get a new TT out of it. And as you’d expect, it was a clever bit of kit. It employed more aluminium in the panels up front, so as to further refine the near perfect weight distribution. 

Again, the Mk2 TT shared its underpinnings with other cars from the Volkswagen Audi Group, namely the A3, Golf, Leon and Octavia. But again, this was no bad thing.

The familiarity of the mechanicals meant that the cost could be kept down, both in terms of purchase and maintenance. Also, this was the first TT to be offered with a diesel engine, as was the trend at the time. Needless to say, Audi knows better now!

To spot a Mk2 TT, you’re looking for the same familiar shape of the Mk1, but with more refined, sculptural lines. There is a deep swage line on either side of the bonnet, too, leading to the inner edge of the now diamond-shaped headlights.

The front grille also changed, becoming a giant piece that spans from the lower edge of the bumper up to the bonnet. 

TT Fact: The TT was the fist car to be offered in right-hand drive with a DSG (double clutch) gearbox.

The Mk3

The Mk3

Built from 2014 to present 

Again, Audi got our hopes up and dashed them almost immediately. Not only was the concept for the Mk3 a shooting-brake, it was also built to be an off-road machine, which showed the TT in an entirely new light.

Yes, the notion diluted the sports car appeal, but it was still cool. There was also a five-door concept, which again was in off-road guise. They were both great illustrations of what could be done, but they never saw the road sadly. 

What we did get was still pretty good. It followed the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality of TTs past, and that was just fine.

The platform was again shared, and once more was available in petrol and diesel guise. The interior was given a significant freshen-up, with a greater emphasis being put on ergonomics over design. 

To spot a Mk3 TT, you need to look for sharp, almost angry headlights that point into a clean-cut, hard-edged 6-sided grille. The arches are still prominent on either side, though the encroachment into the bonnet is minimal now. 

TT fact: The TT was used as a safety car in 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans race