Audi TT or Ferrari Testarossa? For Wayne Carini, it isn’t even close
When the editors of Hagerty Drivers Club named the cars to be featured in the annual “Bull Market” issue, the list included two cars with which I am intimately familiar: the Audi TT and the Ferrari Testarossa.
When the TT first appeared in 1998, it was the unusual shape that drew me in. It reminded me of the many VW Beetles I had owned and repaired when I was in high school and college, and of the Porsche 356, a car I was always drawn to. The name got me as well—TT, for Tourist Trophy, the kind of wild race still run on the Isle of Man.
When I told Freeman Thomas—one of the designers of the Audi—that I had just gotten a TT and how much I loved the looks, he replied, “If you think it looks good, just wait until you take it on a road trip, and you’ll understand how great it really is.” He was right.
Mine was a first-year model, a 180-horsepower, 1.8-liter turbocharged coupe with Quattro all-wheel drive. Striking in silver with a black interior, it reminded me a little of the prewar Auto Union Grand Prix cars. I was thrilled with it.
Driving it hard, the TT felt a lot like a Porsche 356 in that you didn’t need a ton of power to have a good time. The five-speed was perfect, and it also cornered great. Of course, I wanted more power, but not so much that the chassis couldn’t handle it. By “chipping” it, adding a larger intercooler, and an improved air intake, output jumped to 225 hp, which made it a different beast entirely.
The Audi became the fun car that my wife, Laurie, and I used to escape to vineyards or to chase the autumn colors out on Long Island. We’d be on the ferry from Connecticut to Long Island and people would ask about it because it was so new and there were few on the road. It led to some terrific conversations.
I really got a kick out of driving it on one particular bridge near my home. There is a great corner just before the bridge that feels so good to take at brisk (but reasonable) speeds. To take a sweeping uphill turn with power to spare is always a treat.
Overall, the TT was a car that simply got better with time, so it’s no surprise to me it made the Bull Market list.
My Ferrari Testarossa experience, on the other hand, comes primarily from service and repair. The first Testarossa to come through my shop was a gray-market Euro model from 1985, a high-mirror car imported from Saudi Arabia. It was so wild to look at, and, like various Lamborghini Countaches also in my shop, it was a perfect fit for the 1980s.
With those distinctive side strakes and sharp angles, the Testarossa was always more of a styling exercise than it was a driver’s car. Back in the day, if you owned a Testarossa, you were the coolest person around. Its starring role on Miami Vice didn’t hurt, either.
Still, it was big, wide, and heavy, features more suited to an autobahn than to a racetrack or a winding back road. Sure, there was nothing else like it, but I didn’t enjoy driving it in the same way I did some of the great earlier Ferraris.
Over the years, I worked on and drove many Testarossas, though I never personally owned one or drove one daily, as I did the TT. With the Audi, the more I drove it, the more I loved it. I can’t say I would have felt the same about the Testarossa.
These days, Ferrari offers mostly V-8s, with a smattering of V-12s. Although many of the company’s cars remain mid-engined, they have little else in common with the radical Testarossa and its gutsy flat-12. Meanwhile, the TT has followed the same path of gradual evolution as the VW Beetle and the Porsche 911 (and 356). You can tell that the car has been updated and revised, but its profile and character have remained true to the original.
I’ll always love Ferraris, but I take comfort in gradual evolution, which is why I wouldn’t mind another TT in the garage.