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2019 Audi TT Roadster review: The exit interview

Twenty years after the original Audi TT hit the scene, we take a final spin in a special-edition Roadster.

Steven Ewing Former managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
Steven Ewing
5 min read

Life hasn't been easy for the . The original car was a stop-the-presses moment in automotive history -- a car so jaw-droppingly stunning that I firmly believe it will remain an icon for decades to come. Because of that, the first-gen TT proved to be an incredibly tough act to follow. Even as subsequent successors improved dynamically, that initial, instant-hit design was always the catalyst that drove the TT's momentum.


2019 Audi TT Roadster

The Good

The 2019 Audi TT's turbocharged engine provides adequate punch, and a nicely tuned chassis makes the roadster enjoyable to drive on winding roads. Audi's Virtual Cockpit technology is still some of the best.

The Bad

The TT isn't the style icon it once was, and even this most modern version lacks driver-assistance features.

The Bottom Line

Audi's little TT is still a joy to drive, but without great styling to set it apart from the competitors, it's no longer a standout among convertible sports cars.

Twenty years later, Audi hasn't officially put the final nail in the TT's coffin, but the writing is clearly on the wall. The 20th Anniversary Edition model you see here might be the car's final act, and it's a bittersweet way to say goodbye.

Audi TT 20th Anniversary
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Audi TT 20th Anniversary

Nimbus Gray is a US-exclusive paint color, and looks great with the gunmetal 19-inch wheels.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The 20th Anniversary Edition brings a host of throwback design cues to the 2019 TT, inspired by the original 1995 TTS Roadster concept. Aviator Gray or Nimbus Gray are the only exterior colors offered -- the latter a US exclusive -- with matte silver Audi logos on the rear side sills. Available as either a coupe or roadster, the 20th Anniversary model gets the trick OLED taillights currently found on the , as well as stainless steel exhaust tips and 19-inch, five-spoke wheels. The overall look is pretty fetching, even if the current TT isn't half the fashionista its progenitor was.

Inside, brown leather seats with yellow contrast stitching are unique to the 20th Anniversary car, and are supposed to be a sort of modern interpretation of the baseball-glove interior from the original TT. I wish Audi would've brought back the real baseball-glove seating, though. This brown/yellow scheme is fine and all, but kind of feels like a half-assed attempt to recreate one of the coolest automotive upholstery treatments of all time.

Otherwise, the 20th Anniversary Edition is the same as any other 2019 TT. Which is to say, largely unchanged from 2015, when the third-gen car went on sale. The cabin still looks and feels pretty fresh, with only minimal switchgear on the dashboard, and I still get a kick out of the multifunction dials with digital displays inside the circular air vents.

Behind the steering wheel, you'll find Audi's Virtual Cockpit gauge cluster, with standard navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on this 20th Anniversary Edition tester. I've always loved Virtual Cockpit -- it's one of the most beautiful, feature-rich digital IPs available today, and it's easy to control via the rotary dial on the center console or with the buttons at thumb's reach on each side of the steering wheel.

Audi TT 20th Anniversary
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Audi TT 20th Anniversary

Audi says this brown leather with yellow stitching is supposed to mimic the baseball-glove interior from the original TT Roadster. It... kind of works.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Unfortunately, driver-assistance tech is pretty much nonexistent. Modern features such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist are nowhere to be found on the 2019 TT. But hey, at least a backup camera is standard. A wireless charging pad joins the roster this year, too.

The comes with a four-seat configuration, though the rear seats are better suited for grocery bags than humans. In the , the rear seats are jettisoned so there's a place for the folding soft top to stow, though it does eat into cargo space. The trunk has 7.5 cubic feet of room, which is less than what you get in a . It's a shallow area, too -- coming home from a week away, I could put my carry-on suitcase and a backpack in the cargo hold just fine, but if I had a passenger with me, they'd have been out of luck.

Interestingly, the 20th Anniversary Edition builds on the base TT, rather than the hotter TT S or TT RS models. That means power comes from a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, with 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, mated to a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. (Basically, the same setup as the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI.) Quattro all-wheel drive shuffles power around between all four wheels, and Audi says the TT Roadster can accelerate to 60 miles per hour in a respectable 5.5 seconds. The lighter Coupe, meanwhile, does the same sprint in 5.3.

After some initial lag, the engine offers strong midrange punch. The transmission is occasionally lazy to downshift in its normal setting, but move the shifter to Sport and things get noticeably more responsive. The steering wheel-mounted paddles execute rapid-fire, do-it-yourself gear changes, but the small, plastic flippers are clicky and unsatisfying in their action. This problem isn't unique to the TT, either. Audi could stand to fit better paddles to pretty much all of its sports cars -- even the R8.

2019 Audi TT Roadster 20th Anniversary Edition has throwback cues

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The TT is a perfectly nice car to drive, though in base guise it's better suited for lazy, winding roads like California's Pacific Coast Highway; leave proper canyon carving for the S and RS. The suspension tune is firm, but not unpleasant. You'll feel pavement imperfections through the chassis thanks to the tires' short sidewalls, but on smooth roads, the TT strikes a great balance between sports car and Sunday cruiser.

Audi's Drive Select toggle lets you switch between different driving modes, though the deltas between each setting aren't all that huge. The steering, specifically, is pretty light across the board, and while the TT is quick to respond to inputs, the overall experience is number than what you'll find in, say, a or . The new, four-cylinder BMW Z4 poses a real threat, too.

Sure, it's lovely to throw the TT's top back and drive through the Angeles National Forest on a beautiful July day. But as I hug the corners of some of my favorite roads, I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't rather be driving any of those aforementioned sports cars. The 2019 TT is better to drive than any version that came before, but it isn't a standout in its class.

The 2019 TT Coupe starts at $44,900, while the TT Roadster comes in at $48,400, not including destination. If you want the 20th Anniversary special, you're looking at $52,900 or $56,800, respectively. If you aren't married to the limited-edition spec, I'd recommend the $53,800 TT S Coupe, simply for its better on-road manners. If it's the droptop you desire, it oddly isn't available as an S anymore, so it's the base version or nothing for you.

Audi TT 20th Anniversary
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Audi TT 20th Anniversary

The 2019 Audi TT is lovely to drive, but give me the first-generation car any day.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

As for those competitors, a Mazda MX-5 Grand Touring doesn't offer quite as much cabin tech, but at $31,855, it's one hell of a bargain -- and better to drive, too. The BMW Z4 is also more engaging than the TT, and has newer onboard technology, for $49,700 to start. Spend a few extra grand and you can step into the 718 Boxster, at $59,000, though with options, the Porsche's as-tested price can escalate quickly.

The 2019 Audi TT is a perfectly nice car, but only a mid-pack offering in a small class of luxury roadsters. And while it was easy to overlook the original TT's dynamic shortcomings because it was so goddamn pretty -- a rolling sculpture of modern art -- the new version doesn't have that same crutch, even if it's arguably better to drive.

So when the TT gets the axe in the not-too-distant future, it won't be too hard to say goodbye. I'll always wax nostalgic about the TT, but it's Audi's original icon that I -- and car lovers everywhere -- will remember most.


2019 Audi TT Roadster

Score Breakdown

Performance 7.5Features 8Design 7Media 8.5