Audi is trying to put a pretty bow on things these days by announcing it will make a limited offering of 50 special editions of its TT RS sports car that will comprise an “appropriate farewell to the remarkable high-performance coupe following the 2o22 model year.” But this doesn’t change the fact that the earlier-announced end of this special little runabout in the U.S. market is a very sad concession to the oncoming era of the EV.
The company’s final offering for the U.S. market of the five-cylinder, 394-horsepower TT RS will include one version that combines a hue called Tizian Red metallic with Havanna Brown leather and Jet Gray stitches. But such Heritage Editions, with color schemes based on the old Audi UR-quattro, are a mere diversion from the reality that Audi appears to be closing out the most robust version of its iconically designed TT partly because it has committed billions of dollars to a relatively quick transition to all-electric vehicles and no longer wants to afford keeping this particular ICE powertrain competitive.
Audi noted that the TT RS will continue to be available for the time being in international markets and that its four-cylinder, less-expensive TT and TTS models will continue to be available in the U.S. and international markets. But it appears to be just a matter of time until TT RS overseas and the lesser versions everywhere, too, get the axe, perhaps along with the larger R8 that Audi once celebrated as Tony Stark’s car in the Iron Man series.
Sales of TT and R8 have lagged, and the EVs Audi has been developing and introducing — beginning with e-tron — are the shiny new objects to which the brand has become devoted. The last few years have seen rumors come and go that Audi has scheduled the end of those two ICE lines, but it’s unclear if axing the TT RS in the U.S. is the end of that deliberation — or just the beginning of a phase-out.
Of the hundreds of vehicles I’ve driven over the last 20 years as a journalist covering the auto industry and applying a non-car-geek POV to the models I reviewed, the four-cylinder TT became one of my all-time favorites for pure driving enjoyment (along with the previously defunct Chrysler Crossfire.)
TT is small, but wow, was it mighty! Today’s EVs can supply instant torque with their souped-up-golf-cart architecture, but none of what they can do is as thrilling as punching the accelerator even on the four-cylinder TT and enjoying the ride. The fact that TT also is solidly engineered in a reliably Germanic sort of way, and nicely appointed in an Audi sort of way, added to the pure joy of driving and riding in one of those vehicles.
It would be easy to pan the presumed end of the TT as a misstep for Audi. The car was popular at the height of Audi’s brand-building opus of the last decade in the crucial U.S. market, under the highly successful regimes of Johan de Nysschen and then Scott Keogh. TT served as a sort of halo vehicle for the brand as it determinedly reached for the first tier of the American luxury market occupied by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.
But it is pretty clear that all global auto companies must bear the yoke of converting their fleets to all-electric vehicles, and there are only so many resources to go around. What’s more, Generation Z, which is now ascendant as a primary market for vehicles, appears to be little interested in gas-burning runabouts that stress their follicles upon acceleration. Apparently there are better distractions.