Used Audi TT review: 1999-2003
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It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since Audi unveiled its TT Coupe as a concept. It was a standout design at the time and remains so today.
Four years later when it became a production reality it was a breath of fresh air at a time many carmakers were striking out in new and different directions as they attempted to reinvigorate their product offerings. The TT Coupe certainly brought renewed attention to the Audi brand, which at the time was noted for cars that were nice and neat rather than breathtaking.
It was as though Audi’s management had given its designers a free rein to design a car with passion. If that were true they certainly achieved their aim.
The Audi TT Coupe was a head turner whichever way you looked at it. Its no nonsense lines could have been carved from granite, they were crisp and clean, a break from the then common styling practice of soft edges and rounded shapes.
It was clearly meant to be an in-your-face statement of passion about the Audi brand, a sort of repositioning of the four-ringed badge as it tried to shake off a rather tired image and replace it with a new youthful image full of energy.
Audi was quite clear in its marketing ambition for the TT Coupe, men below the age of 39 who were also car enthusiasts. They also belatedly claimed it was aimed at those women confident enough to enjoy “this man’s car”.
The TT Coupe concept was of a functional car, sporty but without pretension. The result can be seen in the cleanliness of the shape and the purity of the interior execution in which there is nothing that isn’t needed. It’s bare, but it’s not basic.
If you closed your eyes you could see the great Auto Union Grand Prix cars of the 1930s in the lines of the TT Coupe. Its rounded curves and powerful proportions are very reminiscent of the old racers.
The TT Coupe’s body was fully galvanised steel, but aluminium doors, bonnet and boot lid helped keep the 2+2 coupe’s weight down to a lean 1220 kg.
While the TT Coupe’s body owed nothing to any other car, its mechanical package was derived from other Audi models.
At first the TT Coupe was available in front-wheel drive form only, but a few months after the 1999 launch an all-wheel drive Quattro model joined the front driver.
The TT Coupe was built on a sporting platform combining a short wheelbase and wide track with the wheels placed at each corner.
At the front of both front and all-wheel drive models the suspension was a combination of MacPherson Struts and an anti-roll bar, but at the back the front-wheel drive model had a torsion-crank system while the Quattro had a more sophisticated combination of trailing and double lateral control arms. Brakes were discs all round with anti-skid protection standard.
A concern about the handling arose shortly after the TT Coupe’s release. It tended to be a little too tail happy for some owners and Audi added a small spoiler to the boot lid to more effectively clamp the rear to the road.
Audi used its considerable experience in turbocharging to great affect on the TT Coupe’s engines. The base engine was a 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit with five valves per cylinder that developed 132 kW and 235 Nm over a broad band between 1950 and 5000 revs.
The more powerful version had uprated pistons, connecting rods and big-end bearings to withstand the extra induction pressure of the bigger turbocharger needed to boost its output to 165 kW and 280 Nm which flowed from 2200 to 5500 revs.
Performance of both was brisk, the front-wheel drive TT able to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 7.4 seconds while its Quattro cousin required a second less for the same sprint. Top speeds were in excess of 220 km/h.
A five-speed gearbox was linked to the 132 kW engine, while the more powerful 165 kW engine was bolted to a six-speed unit.
Inside, the TT Coupe was fully equipped with climate control air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, six-stacker CD sound, leather trim and remote central locking.
IN THE SHOP
The earliest TT Coupes are fast approaching the time for a cam belt change so it’s crucial to check for a service record to confirm the belt service has been done on cars that have passed the 100,000 km mark.
Regular servicing is important on any engine, but it’s more so today with the tight tolerances used by manufacturers. Missed oil changes can result in clogged oil galleries as sludge builds up, left long enough it can cause major internal damage when the oil can no longer get to where it’s meant to be.
A service record can be reassuring that the correct servicing has been done, but it’s worth taking a look inside the oil filler cap to check for sludge.
Make sure the clutch is smooth as you depress and release the pedal, and that the gearbox shifts smoothly without baulking when selecting gears.
When driving the car listen intently for any clunks or noises when running over bumps or making turns. Investigate any noise observed on the road test.
Also make the usual checks for body damage that might be a give away for crash repairs.
IN A CRASH
With its sports car handling, particularly the Quattro with its all-wheel drive system, the TT Coupe is well equipped to avoid collisions.
But if a crash is inevitable there is the considerable protection of dual front airbags and front side airbags for survival in side impacts.
Monty Stephens likes Audis, but none more than the TT Coupe he’s owned since 2000. In that time he has done 60,000 km, mostly commuting around Melbourne, but he’s also taken it on a number of long distance interstate trips. He says that while he plans to keep it as long as he can it would be wrong to say that it has been trouble free. While in the warranty period one headlight blew twice, the battery died at six months, and the entire $2000 instrument pack died the day before the warranty expired. Since the warranty expired, there has only been one fault, the driver’s side power window failed: $600. He gets 9-10 litres/100 km around town, and averages around 7.5 litres/100 km on a trip. He says the seamless flow of torque without turbo lag from low speed still gives him a buzz.
• head-turning looks
• smart handling
• brisk turbocharged performance
• rear accommodation minimal
THE BOTTOM LINE
A fashion statement on wheels the TT Coupe is good looking, has good performance and handles well.
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