Audi TT Mk1: history, specs and buying guide

The Mk1 TT still looks sharp, and you can now pick up some real bargains for just a few thousand pounds

Audi TT mk1

Many concept cars lose their most interesting design quirks and unique style cues by the time they make it to production. This was not the case with the Audi TT. A used TT Mk1 is now somewhat of a modern classic – a sports car built by Audi to capture the essence of fun German cars from the ’50s and ’60s (taking its naming convention after the Prinz TT from German manufacturer NSU) and is now itself a significant piece of automotive history. The car’s concept design was revealed at the 1995 Frankfurt motor show, and three years later made it to production relatively unchanged. The world loved it.

The Mk1 Audi TT’s story wasn’t all positive, however. Early models’ lack of stability when changing lanes at high speed on the autobahn led to several deaths, which left a dark tinge on the Audi coupe’s chic appeal, and it was criticised by car journalists for its inert steering and chassis. Despite these issues, however, the Audi TT still proved immensely popular. Before the arrival of the new Mini, the Audi TT was the boutique car of choice.

Read our review of the latest Audi TT

That might make the TT sound a little non-evo, and whilst that’s true of the tame 148bhp convertible and 178bhp front-wheel-drive versions, the four-wheel-drive 222bhp and 237bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, and 247bhp 3.2-litre V6 (available with the optional DSG transmission) models make a worthy alternative to the more enthusiast-focused Nissan 350Z and Porsche Boxster. Of course, that also depends on whether you’re a fan of the TT’s polarising looks.

If you’ve got this far, let’s assume you’re on board with the styling. In fact, while the word ‘influential’ tends to be a little cliche and overused when referring to the design of many cars, it really is true of the Audi TT. We take it for granted now, but styling cues such as flush bumpers and protruding wheelarches which break the line of the Audi TT’s bonnet were real statements when the car was released in 1998.Its outright pace is certain to be a draw, too, as even the 222bhp model – generally known as the 225, which is its power output expressed in metric PS – will nip from standstill to 62mph in 6.6sec and then thrust on to a limited top speed of 155mph (the special edition and lighter quattro Sport derivative of 2005-2006 enjoyed a power hike to 237bhp that helped cut its sprint time to 5.9sec). Superb grip is another temptation, especially as the TT’s all-paw underpinnings do such wonders for your confidence in trashy weather conditions.

But what really perks up the picture for the potential TT purchaser is the fact that prices for the Mk1 have been quietly falling away, to the point where even the very best examples are yours for less than £9k. And if you’re content to settle for less than the best, then the fact that the four-wheel-drive 225 coupe sold prolifically from its launch in late 1998 until production ceased in 2006, means a flooded market, with predictable consequences for prices – tatty 100,000-milers start from under £3k, while in the £5-6k area you’ve got so much choice you won’t know which way to turn.

The addition of the 3.2-litre V6 (or VR6 as it was called under the bonnets of Volkswagens) to the range in mid-2003 gave the TT a voice to go with its undoubted pace, while the optional Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG, endowed it with a level of technical marvel that out-gearboxed contemporary Ferraris and BMWs. And all this can now be yours from as little as £5500.

And yet it’s a four-cylinder turbo version of the TT, 2005’s limited edition quattro Sport, that’s really worth hunting down. Developed by Audi’s own sports division, quattro GmbH, the Sport not only has more power than the 225, it’s 75kg lighter, has uprated suspension and unique wheels, and with Recaro buckets in the front and no seats in the rear, feels pretty darned special inside. A sharper handler than any other mk1 TT – and with its contrasting black roof, a sharper dresser, too – Sport values are more robust than those of its siblings. Even so, cap your budget at £9K and a 55,000-miler is within easy reach.

'I bought one'

Chris Wood - A stalwart of the TT Owners Club since 2003, Chris Wood has owned two of the Audi coupes, and is a long-time Audi fan.

‘I ended up with a TT primarily because I couldn’t find an Audi S2 in decent condition, and in despair looked at other options. I bought a TT 225 in 2003. What I really wanted was a manual V6, but Audi assured me that it would only ever be available with the DSG. A year later Audi changed its mind…

‘My 225 suffered roof-rail corrosion and the illumination on one of the electrical switches failed, but both were sorted under warranty. Otherwise, though, I had no problems.

‘After three years I chopped in the 225 against one of the very last mk1 TTs, a V6 manual in Kingfisher blue, which I still own. I don’t use it every day and have only done 9500 miles in the car, but I have taken it on a fantastic trip with the club to Lake Garda in Italy – 2500 miles in ten days – and also with the TT Owners Club I’ve been three times to the Isle of Man. On a run it gives 30-32mpg, but drops to 25mpg around town.‘I know that some testers are cynical about the TT, but I really rate it to drive.’

Engine

Audi TT specialists and owners refer to the 1.8-litre turbo engine as ‘bombproof’ and there are several 200,000-milers knocking around to attest to that claim. But they must be well tended. The cam-belt and associated tensioners need replacing after 80,000 miles or five years at the very latest: if the engine goes pop because they’ve failed, it’s a £2500 rebuild. It’s important to see receipts to back up the stamp in the service book, particularly if the car’s on its third or fourth owner who may have scrimped with the car’s care. TT specialist Dave Mahony of The TT Shop advises a ‘comprehensive’ cam-belt change that includes more tensioners and dampers than a typical main dealer service. Replace the frail OE water pump at the same time, for one with a metal impeller. If it’s a V6, listen for a rattly cam-chain – some develop it at as low as 40,000 miles – as replacing it is a £1000 engine-out job.

Used Audi TT mk1 buying checkpoints

Transmission

The TT’s manual transmissions are pretty robust, and a clutch should last anything between 50,000 and 100,000 miles, depending on driving style.

There are more hiccups with the fancy DSG unit. If it’s reluctant to engage a gear, or the shifts aren’t super-smooth, then it’s likely to mean the gearbox’s mechatronic unit is failing. Fortunately specialists such as The TT Shop can now provide reconditioned units with prices starting at about £1200.

Suspension and brakes

An area of potentially large expenditure. The TT is a relatively heavy car and the suspension suffers for it. If your potential purchase bangs and knocks as the front end encounters small bumps then it’s possibly a sign of tired front wishbones and a shot front anti-roll bar. The TT is generally considered under-braked – upgraded pads start from £100, while a £1200 Brembo front discs and pads set-up is a popular aftermarket option.

Bodywork and interior

Rust is a rarity, scuffed alloys common. The cabin is tough, but ‘dashpod’ failure is an issue; clues are inaccurate fuel tank and water temp readings, and missing pixels from the data panel. Specialists can now supply recon units for £300 fitted.

Specifications

2005-2006 TT Quattro Sport

EngineIn-line 4-cyl, 1781cc, 20v, turbocharged
Max power237bhp @ 5700rpm
Max torque236lb ft @ 2300-5000rpm
TransmissionSix-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Tyres 235/40 R18 (front), 235/40 R18 (rear)
Weight (kerb)1390kg
Power-to-weight173bhp per ton
0-60mph5.7sec (claimed)
Top speed155mph (limited)
Price when new(2005) £29,355

Parts prices

Tyres£183.12 each (Continental Sport Contact 3)
Brake pads(front set) £126.97 (uprated, Ferodo DS)
Brake discs(front pair) £254.29 (uprated, Tarox)
Clutch kit £649.00
Oil filter £11.18
Air filter £58.27 pair
Exhaust cat-back£692.24 (Milltek, specific to Sport)

Supplied by Audi TT specialist The TT Shop (www.thettshop.co.uk). Tyre prices from blackcircles.com. All prices include VAT at 20 per cent

Servicing

Oil service£95.00
10,000 miles£149.00
20,000 miles£199.00
Gearbox oil change (inc filter)£90.00

Prices from The TT Shop

What to pay

If you’re just after a trackday hack, you can pick up a scruffy, 100,000-mile 225 coupe for as little as £2800; less than £4000 sees you in an 80,000-miler, while stretching to £4500 widens your choice of examples with sensible mileage.

With £5.5K in your pocket you can start looking at 100,000-mile V6 DSGs, but if you want to expand your options and get the mileage down substantially then you’ll want to spend £7000-8000.

The limited number of Quattro Sports in the UK (just 800 were sold here) helps keeps prices high: even so, £9000 or less will buy you a 50-60,000-miler.

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