Test Drive: 2019 Audi TT 20th Anniversary

The iconic auto's latest chapter is a bonafide driver’s car

In the ’80s and ’90s, Audi built a heroic reputation in the motorsports world but somehow that daring ethos wasn’t translating to its line-up of cars. The directive became clear: to produce a sports car worthy of unpacking that emotion and racing excitement and translating it into an accessible and alluring sports car. What began as a vision in 1994 at the Volkswagen Group’s California Design Center would become the first Audi TT Coupe in 1998. The Roadster would follow a year later, and the two-door sports car was an instant and early success.

Back in 2000, Dany Garand (who designed the third and current generation of the TT) had just joined Audi, coming from the Honda design studio in Germany. He tells us the TT was one of the reasons he fell under the brand’s spell. That original mission would also come full-circle once again when Garand was tasked with designing the latest TT.

Back then, Audi was creating cars to align in three distinct avenues: A (core line up), Q (crossovers) and R (sport models). When the team had to decide where to position the newest TT the decision was clear: “Our line-up had really grown since the first TT came out,” Garand says. “The third generation was meant to keep the icon alive, to keep that original mandate of performing as a sports car. We knew this had to be an R to be a true ambassador for the sportiness of the brand.”

Garand says he’s a fan of the wedge shape—one that’s certainly at play with the new TT. The front end is slimmer than the previous two generations, which helps emphasize the muscle in the rear. You can best see this on the front- and rear-three-quarter angles.

The 20th Anniversary Edition is a further tribute to that first car, and gets several special touches. It comes in Aviator Gray with pearl effect or Nimbus Gray Metallic (exclusive to the US), which complements the five-arm-design gunmetal wheels on summer tires. It’s produced in ultra-limited numbers, at just 999 cars available worldwide, and only 40 coupes and 40 convertibles available to the US.

“20 Years of TT” badges can be found along the front fenders, as well as matte-finished Audi rings etched into the rear sills. The 20th anniversary edition also gets the striking OLED lights from the TT RS model to give it a sharp, almost predatory aesthetic. The interior gets plenty of attention too.

In a nod to the original TT, the 20th gets Moccasin Brown Fine Nappa leather seats—a fitting name as you feel as if you’re slipping into custom-fitted seats. Gorgeous details are there to be noticed. Air vents look like a turbine engine, and have a unique design aspect that Garand, who is an exterior designer, appreciates. “You can orient the air flow in different directions, but the look of the air vents doesn’t change. That first optic impression remains.”

Exquisite yellow stitching contrasts the seats to intentionally give it a “baseball glove” feel like that of the original. There are commemorative badges on the steering wheel and shifter and the wheel is finished in the same leather as the seats and door trim. Audi’s MMI suite of technology is there of course, including the Virtual Cockpit. Striking Bang & Olufsen speakers round it all out.

Powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, the TT pushes 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque—all channeled via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The drive select button opens up a goody bag of driving modes that completely change the nature and character of the car. There’s an Individual mode, Comfort or Auto for a quieter, get-about-town ride, and Dynamic which dials up the drama. The TT is quick, the 19-inch wheels eager-to-lurch, but it also has an accessible level of performance.

The steering feels wired to your brain, the Quattro all-wheel drive and well-sorted chassis each contributing to the cause. In Dynamic mode, the clean, clear grunt builds as your foot presses the accelerator and speed builds in a hurry. Coupe or convertible, both versions can hit 60mph in a blink over five seconds. It feels even quicker than its numbers would suggest, too. Like the original, the latest in the TT chapter is a bonafide driver’s car.

Images by Matthew Askari