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Video | Here’s Why the 2001 Audi TT Is a Beautiful, Underrated Sports Car

When the Audi TT came out in 2000, it was considered to be sort of the "black sheep" of the small sports car world. Specifically, the TT was thought to be less exciting than rivals like the rear-wheel drive (RWD) roadster BMW Z3 the Mercedes SLK, with its trick folding hardtop, and the midengine Porsche Boxster.

But the TT was special, too — and in the years since the TT first went on sale, we’re starting to see just how special it was. The performance is one reason, and I’ll get to that soon — but the item that primarily makes the TT so special is its forward-thinking design, which saw the arrival of several items that are now commonly used by many cars.

Some examples are given in the video above, but just to clarify them: The TT was the first vehicle that really used aluminum as interior trim, and not just structural materials. The TT didn’t really have bumpers — they were integrated into the car’s design, rather than protruding from it, which is a traditional standard today. The TT had rounded headlights that conformed to the body shape, and oversized wheel arches for effect — neither of which were common at the time, and both of which are common today.

The TT really was a triumph of design, but it wasn’t just that — it was also just a really nice car. When the TT debuted, it was sold in two versions: a front-wheel drive (FWD) model with 180 horsepower, or an all-wheel drive (AWD) version with 225 hp. Later, a V6 was added in one of the first dual-clutch transmission applications in any vehicle.

I drove the AWD model with 225-hp, dubbed the "TT 225," and I was highly impressed. The power isn’t as exciting as I thought it would be, to be clear, but the car feels fun, exciting and tossable, owing to its impressively small size. It’s just enjoyable to throw around the TT, and that’s exactly what I did with it. It’s a little car with an open roof, and it’s exciting and nimble.

Yes, it’s true that the Z3 is a bit more nimble — and, of course, so is the Porsche Boxster from this era. They both offer more of a "driver’s car" feel than the TT, though neither are much faster. But I personally feel the TT is right there behind those models — not as thrilling, but close — and with a much more beautiful design.

More importantly, used TT models are cheap. It’s surprising how inexpensively you can now buy a used TT, but it’s almost hard to find a first-generation version for over $10,000, as the vast majority are well below that number — even well-kept cars like the one I drove. That’s a bargain, not just considering the fun you can have in a TT, but also considering the beauty and the fact that the design really set some impressive trends in the automotive world.

If you’re still not convinced, at least remember the TT’s design impact the next time you see one on the road — and appreciate the fact that it’s the most special car ever to ride on the same platform as the Volkswagen Golf. Find an Audi TT for sale

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