The Audi TT and the original Porsche 356 are both timeless classics, but first and foremost, they are driver’s cars.
Many people wish Porsche still made the 356 or something like it. Just not necessarily air-cooled or powered by a flat-four cylinder engine. You can buy 356 replicas and even turn your Boxster into a Speedster but I’m talking about a car that shares its roots with Volkswagen. A car that’s a bit rough and tumble and recalls the days when Porsches were attainable by people with modest means. A car that’s playful yet practical enough to be your only car. It’s not an outright sports car, but one rewarding to drive. Better still, one you’re willing to drive daily and even park on the street.
Fortunately, that car exists. And the reason I’m writing about it here and not Rennlist is because it’s the Audi TT.
The original Porsche 356 shared many components with the Volkswagen Beetle. Porschephiles will cringe when you point that out, but it’s not a bad thing. The Audi TT also shares the VW Group A platform using the same configuration as the Audi A3 and VW Golf. It’s a solid platform that also underpins the Audi RS 3 which is a seriously good driver’s car. And like that car, the TT is a great car to drive. In fact, Car and Driver praised it for its balance and stability.
Driving it provides a similar experience to the Porsche 356 – just ask Wayne Carini. He owned an early TT Quattro and wrote about it in Hagerty. “The TT felt a lot like a Porsche 356 in that you didn’t need a ton of power to have a good time,” Carini said. Now over 20 years old, the original TT is gaining appreciation in the collector market. They don’t fetch obscene prices like the original Porsche 356. But with the general insanity happening on sites like Bring A Trailer, you never know what’s going to happen next.
The styling is also similar to the Porsche 356. Both vehicles have the distinctive shape of a streamlined VW Beetle, even though the TT’s engine is in front instead of the rear. The interior is simple and straightforward, matching the timeless look of the exterior. There’s no touchscreen to distract you. Everything you need uses a button or switch and is within reach. Few cars make you want to sit in them just to look around, to take notice of your surroundings, instead of getting in and driving. Both the Porsche 356 and Audi TT share that trait.
The Audi TT is not an outright, thoroughbred sports car. Critics in the motoring press damn it with that faint praise. “The TT is good but not a true sports car like the Porsche Boxter or Cayman,” they say. But they are missing the point. Neither was the Porsche 356, which couldn’t match a Jaguar XK or Corvette in the sports car department. Both the Porsche 356 and Audi TT are driver’s cars. They are meant to drive on any road, in any weather. They are an antidote to the rolling Novacaine, appliance on wheels most cars are today. And they exist for us to enjoy.
Recently Audi announced it will stop making the TT RS and stop importing the TT to the U.S. this year. It was a good run for a great car. A car that’s a modern classic and will someday fetch Porsche Speedster money. But like most things that come to an end, we didn’t know how good we had it.
Photos: Audi and Porsche