Audi TT buying guide – The Bauhaus sports car

The Bauhaus styling of the original TT made it a sales boon for Audi. Its underrated driving characteristics and continued lineage give it the hallmarks of a modern classic.

The Audi TT was unveiled as a 2+2 Coupé at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1995, where its clean Bauhaus design language garnered high acclaim from the automotive media. The Roadster variant was displayed at the Tokyo Motor Show several months later. The first-generation TT hit showroom floors in 1998, looking almost identical to the head turning concept cars of three years earlier. 

Underneath the bodywork’s clean lines is a shortened version of the Audi A3 chassis. The TT’s engine at launch was the 1.8-litre inline-four turbocharged petrol from the Audi A4. Later, it received VW’s 3.2-litre VR6 unit. The 1.8 produced between 148 bhp and 236 bhp depending on the model, while the 3.2 made 247 bhp.

Unlike Audis of the 1980s, the TT’s engine is transversely mounted. The TT could also be specced with Audi’s celebrated Quattro all-wheel-drive system, and the doors, bonnet and boot lid were made of aluminium.

Many of the platform sharing decisions were made to save on costs when developing the car, which took just seven months. This attracted criticism from some corners of the media, who complained that the TT wasn’t designed from the ground up as an uncompromised, thoroughbred sports car. 

Even so, the TT is more capable than many of the detractors would have you believe; What Car? describe it as having “excellent traction and sharp handling but you’re better off thinking of it as a high-speed tourer than an outright sports car.” This is a fair assessment.

The car was offered with a five or six-speed manual, and an innovative six-speed DSG automatic. The TT was the second production car ever to get a DSG ‘box after its cousin, the Golf R32, got one first.

The TT did experience a few teething problems after it was launched, most notably some scary stability problems at high speed. This was remedied by a recall in 2000, in which traction control, a rear spoiler and suspension alterations were made. There are few cars around today that haven’t had these alterations done and the rear spoiler increases the car’s aesthetic appeal. Another issue was temperamental dashpods. These were replaced for free by dealers so long as the car had a full Audi service history. 

Despite these minor issues, the Audi TT is a well-built modern car and is generally a reliable and low risk purchase if the car has been looked after. If you find a clean example with a reputable service history, then you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

Audi TT Engine 

The real-world difference between the most commonly found 178 bhp and 222 bhp 1.8-litre engines isn’t massive, so the priority should be finding a car that has been well-maintained. 

Oil is known to leak around the rocker cover, injector ports and inlet manifold, so keep an eye out for this. If there is rattling coming from the cambelt then it will need to be replaced with its accompanying tensioners. This should be done every 60,000 miles or five years and is often overlooked, so make sure it has been attended to. Worst case scenario, a broken cambelt can mean an engine failure and £2500 rebuild; you’re better off spending £500 to get the belt changed. 

The stock water pump has brittle plastic impellers which are known to snap, so it is worth upgrading this for an aftermarket version with metal impeller blades. The engine’s dipstick tubing is also made of plastic and prone to snapping. If this occurs then it can cause a substantial oil leak.

Many cars have been remapped, which is excellent if done properly, but problematic if done cheaply with a generic map. 

The VR6 engine (although badged as a V6) is a tried and tested unit found in many other VAG cars. It is largely robust, but can develop a rattly cam chain at relatively low mileages. The fix requires the removal of the engine and costs around £1000. 

Audi TT Gearbox

The manual TT gearboxes are pretty bombproof and clutches can last for 100,000 miles if the car hasn’t been thrashed. This is good news, as a clutch replacement is a labour intensive job and is crammed in with the all-wheel-drive addenda on Quattro models. A more unusual issue is a fault where the clutch pedal snaps off. 

Predictably, the more complicated DSG automatics are more worrisome, particularly if not maintained property; gearbox oil should be changed every 40,000 miles. If the DSG unit engages gears hesitantly or is jerky during changes, then the mechatronic unit is likely failing. This means a £1200 bill. 

Audi TT Suspension and Brakes

Knocking from the front end is indicative of failing front wishbones or anti roll-bar. Springs are also known to snap. Suspension bushes can be perished due to the car’s age but these are relatively easy and cheap to fix. Additionally, the front suspension bushes can be downsized –  they were swapped with larger ones as part of the high speed stability recall and don’t do the handling any favours. 

Many cars have been fitted with aftermarket coilovers, cheap ones can ruin the handling and ride pliancy. If the coilovers are from a reputable brand like Spax, Öhlins or Bilstein then they shouldn’t cause any issues.  

Audi TT Bodywork

Thankfully, the TT has never had a reputation for being predisposed to rust. This is partially helped by the use of aluminium in some of the body panels. 

However, there’s no getting away from the fact that early cars are now over twenty years old, so rust can still occur. Rust is most often found along the roof rails of Coupé versions, front wheelarches, sills, bootlid and rear quarter panels.  

As always with this sort of car, check for misaligned panels and inconsistent paint texture as this means the car has probably been crashed. Bodywork modifications are prevalent and should have been done professionally if you want to prevent any future headaches. Scuffed and corroded alloys are also a commonality. 

Audi TT Interior

As is tradition with Audi, the interior is very well made and should still be holding up well. The heated leather seats are fairly ubiquitous in the first-gen TT and will likely be showing wear on the bolsters. The seat heater elements can also fail. There are plenty of decent replacement seats available so neither of  these things should be too concerning. 

The only other issue of note in the interior is the dashpod failure that blighted many of these cars. Check they are working properly and have had the fix carried out.

Audi TT Model History 

1995: TT concept car is unveiled

1998: Audi TT Coupé is released

1999: Audi TT Roadster is released

2000: TT is recalled by Audi to address high speed stability issues. ESP fitted

2000: Six-speed gearbox is standardised across the range

2001: S-Line Coupé is launched, gets leather seats, 18in wheels and lower suspension

2002: Lowered suspension and 18in wheels standardised across the range

2002: 3.2-litre Quattro VR6 model is released, DSG automatic gearbox now available. VR6 car gets bigger brakes, unique front bumper, rear splitter and larger spoiler 

2003: Front wheel drive 148 bhp Roadster with five-speed gearbox is released. Roadster now available with 3.2-litre VR6 and Quattro all-wheel-drive 

2003: 3.2 offered now available with manual gearbox

2004: Front-wheel-drive 178 bhp car available. Can be specified with six-speed DSG

2005: Coupé Quattro Sport model launched. Has 236 bhp and 49kg lighter kerb weight

2005: 148 bhp engine upped to 161 bhp. 178 bhp engine’s power increased to 187 bhp. 222 bhp option phased out 

2006: Mk1 TT replaced by Mk2

Which Audi TT to Buy?

There’s an array of Audi TT models available so it’s best to do your research and find the one that suits your needs best. As a general rule, the Coupé model is generally more practical and refined as a daily driver, while the Roadster is more enjoyable as a summer sports car. 

TTs are reliable, well made and still pretty modern so there isn’t a huge amount of risk involved in buying one. That said, low values have meant many have been abused and subjected to a harsh life, so it’s better to spend more and get a properly looked after example to avoid future expense. 

Audi TT Specifications

1.8-litre turbo inline-four

Power:          148-236 bhp

Top speed:   133-155 mph (limited)

0-62mph:      6.6-8.6 sec

Economy:    30-35 mpg


3.2-litre turbo VR6

Power:          247 bhp

Top speed:   155 mph (limited)

0-62mph:      5.7-6.3 sec

Economy:    27 mpg

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Words: Elliott Hughes Photos: Newspress

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