Matt Prior: we need to save the Audi TT
Audi TT concept of 1995 caught the imagination
Ingolstadt has cast doubt over the future of its two-door sports coupé, but now looks like the perfect time for its reinvention
I still remember the first time I drove an Audi TT. Not because it was a particularly exciting drive or because I went somewhere extraordinary. In fact, beyond knowing it wasn’t to the north of Scotland or across Route 66, I don’t recall exactly where I got in it, when it was, where I went or how long it took.
But what I do distinctly remember is being wowed by its fantastic, immersive interior design: the letterbox view outwards; the cocooning high window line; the industrial/nautical inspiration for it all that meant it had air vents that looked like portholes and slabs of aluminium (real or, more likely, not) doing a decent job of looking like structural components.
Because, remember, Audi’s range at the time comprised the A3, A4, A6 and A8. It wasn’t a bad-looking lineup; the first-generation A4 (1994) had started something interesting, and the ’98 A6 was quite elegant – the first car I remember, too, having little red ambient lights in the roof, to cast a warm glow over the interior. Sounds like a right nightmare. But none of them was the TT.
Nothing was quite like the TT, even though there were other good-looking, even outlandish, cars at the time. There was the Ford Puma, the Alfa Romeo 156, and the ’90s was a decade that brought with it the Fiat Coupé and Alfa Romeo GTV.
Nonetheless, the TT came as a bit of a shocker. There was the mid-decade TT concept, photographed apparently inside a massive turbine hall or something. And then pop: there it was on sale, looking, if anything, better than the concept.
So we bought them. We bought loads of them. Loads to the extent that I wonder whether the TT was the car that taught Audi it could do well filling what had previously been thought of as niches. By the end of the first-generation TT’s production run, in 2006, Audi had added its first Q model, the R8 and Allroad models to its range. And the A2, of course, which had been and gone. Shame.
But now, three generations down, apparently it’s the TT that’s under threat, seemingly because we’ve stopped buying it in big enough quantities. It’ll go on until 2022 but, in the same two-door form, possibly no longer than that.
Perhaps that’s part of the problem: we’re buying those, or hot hatchbacks, and not TTs. And, while I couldn’t honestly implore you to buy a TT over a great-driving coupé, if the choice is the Audi or a hatchback, do buy the TT. If nothing else, it’ll be lower, lighter, more compact and a lot more interesting.
And this, I think, is important. The Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ look like they’ll be replaced like-for-like, even though – how to put this? – I don’t think it’s Toyota’s most profitable vehicle. But I think Toyota’s bosses know, at the moment, anyway, that making interesting cars is good for the wider business.
There are “emotional discussions” in Audi’s boardroom about the TT’s future. I hope they go its way because an Audi range without the TT would only be a little per cent smaller, but a big per cent duller.
Source: Autocar Online