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4T : Columns

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17 April 2006


The job of redesigning Audi’s iconic TT could not have been an easy one. A welcome challenge to Audi’s design studios it may be, but following the lead of a ground-breaking original is no easy feat. Any designer picking up a pen to take a stab at the TT’s successor had to know that everyone would be a critic of the new design, constantly comparing it to that paradigm-changing original. All eyes would be on this car. And, as it turns out, all eyes would be on this car at the 2006 New York Auto Show after it was determined by Audi AG that the new coupe would make its auto show debut in the Big Apple.



New York is not far from our East Coast regional office near Washington, D.C. The trip is either a quick ride by car or train, though a great four-day forecast placed the emphasis on ‘car’ with our Four Seasons S4 Cabriolet prepped for top-down motoring.



As I made the 3-hour trip northward toward the Big Apple, the gratuitous blast up the New Jersey Turnpike was made listening to the car’s XM Satellite Radio and specifically to E! Radio’s ‘Ask the Asnwer Bitch’ show. Okay, it’s not the most macho thing to listen to, but you can find out all the inside information on the Entertainment Industry… not lectures on astro-physics, but it helps the turnpike exits pass by more quickly.







One question from the show now seems more than poignant. It asked where all the super models had gone. Sure, there is no shortage of fantastic-looking waif-like models out there, but models achieving true household names like Cindy Crawford, Elle McPherson, Claudia Schiffer and Tatjana Patitz have not continued to emerge. Whereas models like the ones mentioned were mainstream, with MTV television shows and appearances in George Michael videos, the names of today’s models are largely known only to those familiar with the fashion industry.



It was the contention of the so-called ‘Answer Bitch’ that those super models marked a more opulent era. That might be the case, though it’s hard to remember an era more opulent in recent history, with today’s Bugatti Veyrons and P. Diddy parties.



I’d argue it’s more of an issue of background noise. With more media outlets on TV, radio and web covering an even wider array of quasi-celebrities, it’s even harder to generate buzz and make a name for yourself as a model… much less a super model.



The successor to the TT finds itself in a similar position. Well respected and given its due, it still has a tough road to drive down as it follows its predecessor. The original TT was a fashion icon as well – a super model if you will.







In 1999 when the TT hit the scene, the automotive landscape was a lot more barren. The Mustang had lost its luster, Nissan was just getting ready to dust off the Z-car, the Evo was not sold in the USA and the only Imprezas were non-turbocharged. Though driven by James Bond, the BMW Z3 was a tad girly and the SLK was S-L-O-W. Since those days, the market has changed significantly.



The new TT will have to make a name for itself with much more background noise. There are countless more news outlets covering countless more significant rivals. The public is generally jaded, competitive cars on the market are stronger than they’ve ever been and there’s no reality show like ‘America’s Top Model’ to help cars get noticed unless you can talk Chip Foose into busting loose for the first time on an Audi.







That’s not to say Audi hasn’t been crafty in playing every card at their disposal to get the word out. First came the rumors from automotive writers tight with the Audi board such as George Kacher from Automobile and CAR. Then came the Shooting Brake Concept teaser based on the TT, followed by hardly disguised TTs photographed in winter testing. Next were the micro-website with revealing drawings and photography, the widely-covered Brandenburg Gate reveal and now the aforementioned industry-specific auto show reveal in New York ironically complete with fashion show and supermodel Tatjana Patitz.



To borrow a phrase from the old UK sitcom ‘The Young Ones’, there are as-of-yet undiscovered tribes in the heart of the Peruvian Jungle who’ve heard there’s a new TT in town and the wave of test drives of both the Shooting Brake and coupe models have barely begun.







Audi PR has clearly done its job getting the word out on the new car. Now it’s up to the TT itself. Will it win over the industry and the driving public? Will it maintain the cult-like following of its predecessor, with a veritable market itself based on accessories and personalization? Will it be a super model?



Having viewed the TT in New York, things certainly look good. With an aluminum space frame comprising about 71% of the car’s structure and newer and more powerful engines, it appears as if the car’s performance should be better than ever. Where the new car may not have the heavy machined aluminum bits of the original, smart and trend-setting design on the inside should still win over even the pickiest dash-stroking consumer. We even caught a glimpse of J. Mays wandering over to the Audi stand to take a closer look, and spoke to some BMW staff who admittedly described it as ‘beautiful.’







Will it achieve super model status like the original? That’s tough to say. The new TT Coupe faces the same problems that today’s would-be-supermodels do in the fashion world as waxed upon by E!’s Answer Bitch. It certainly won’t get lost in the crowd, but gaining Cindy Crawford-like status certainly will not be easy.


More Information

First and Second Generation TT Gallery

New York Auto Show Gallery

New York Auto Show Coverage

Brandenberg Gate Reveal Coverage

New TT Press Release

Second Generation TT Spied

Shooting Brake Concept Press Release





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