The new Audi Q3 might be fashionably late, but it has enough and more in its arsenal to be the life of the party.
‘Start Young’ is Audi’s slogan for the soon-to-be-launched Q3 SUV, and makes things clear as to the demographic the company is targeting. There’s much to like about the new Q3, and it makes a very good first impression.
Design & Engineering
The big chrome-lined grille and typical Audi headlamps ensure you’ll never mistake it for anything else. The wedge-shaped headlamps intentionally mirror those on the bigger Q5 and Q7, ensuring the family lineage is maintained. Xenon light package is an optional extra on the high-end variant, as is adaptive lighting technology. The adaptive lighting technology automatically dips the high-beam when faced with oncoming traffic while driving at night.
The big 16-inch wheels give the Q3 a squat stance, which lend its SUV pretensions much flavour. The steeply-raked rear windscreen really does lend a sporty touch to the Q3, and is quite in keeping with its character.
The front suspension consists of McPherson struts with an aluminium sub-frame and tubular anti-roll bar. At the rear, Audi has resorted to an independent four-link arrangement, with the shock absorbers and springs mounted separately. This allows for better wheel articulation as we found out on the off-road course later.
High strength steels have been used for most of the Q3’s monocoque construction, although the bonnet and tail gate are made from aluminium. The Audi Q3’s construction ensures both low weight and a low drag coefficient, which Audi claims is a measly 0.32, ensuring good high speed manners and good fuel efficiency.
Under the bonnet nestles Audi’s ubiquitous 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine, which will be available from launch. The company also plans to offer the Q3 with the 2.0 TFSI petrol engine, but this will be available only later. The Q3 is the first Audi SUV to have its engine mounted transversely, and this has helped the engineers to package the entire vehicle in a more compact manner, which in turn has allowed for a roomy cabin.
Interiors & Comfort
The dashboard itself is typically Audi in its design and layout, which makes it very easy to get accustomed to, if you’ve driven an Audi before. The wrap-around, curving dashboard extends the width of the car, beginning just aft of the A-pillars on either side. The quality of the switchgear is excellent, with a wonderful tactile click when operated. We drove the top of the line variant, which has leather upholstery, Audi’s MMI or multi-media system, and a panoramic sunroof. A base version will also be offered, which will have a simpler multi-media system and part-fabric upholstery.
The seats are sumptuous, offering superb comfort levels without being overly cushy. The front seats are electrically adjustable, but there is no memory function. Surprisingly, the rear-view mirror inside the cabin does not have an auto-dimming feature either, further evidence of cost control. These are the few hints at how Audi has resorted to cancelling a few features to keep costs in control.
At the rear, it is possible to accommodate three adults in reasonable comfort, but living quarters are snug. Those who are used to the Q7’s football pitch levels of space will find the Q3 quite cramped.
Performance & Handling
The Q3’s 2.0 TDI engine is mated to Audi’s excellent seven-speed S-Tronic gearbox. S-Tronic uses two hydraulic clutches for seamless gearshifts. There’s an S or sports mode as well, which allows for even faster gearshifts, with the engine management system holding on to gears even when you lift off the throttle, ensuring more control if an attacking driving style is your thing. The 2.0-litre TDI produces a prodigious quantity of torque – 380 Nm – which ensures the Q3 is never lacking in grunt. Matched with well-spaced gear ratios, the Q3 always has sufficient oomph for quick overtaking. Audi claims a top speed of 212 km/h, and a 0-100 km/h time of just 8.2 seconds. We have no reason to contest either of these claims.
Audi will sell the Q3 with quattro four-wheel drive as standard in India. The Q3’s quattro system utilises a Haldex clutch which apportions power between the front and rear axles in the ratio 90:10 during everyday driving, although it can send all the torque to either axle if required. Differential locks and low-ratio are not available with the Q3, but even then it displays remarkable agility and ability over broken terrain, as we found out. A Q3 owner is unlikely to ever use his or her vehicle for serious mud-plugging. The Q3 utilises McPherson struts at front, with a four-link rear suspension mounted on a sub-frame, which is road-biased in its layout. What is impressive about this vehicle though is its ride quality, which is supple over broken tarmac, yet planted and reassuring around corners. Yes, the Q3 does display a tendency to understeer, but this is intentional to keep the handling fail-safe. Also, the predominantly front-wheel drive bias plays a part here as well. It is important to note that the four-wheel drive or quattro system as deployed in the Q5 and Q7 usually sends 60 % of the power to the rear wheels.
The light steering action does tend to be a little devoid of feel, but this is a criticism which has been levelled at other Audis too. If we have a criticism of the Q3, then it is the lack of feel through the brake pedal. The brakes themselves are very powerful, with large diameter discs at each corner, but the light pedal action and lack of progression through the pedal is disappointing, especially in a car with such a high specification.
ARAI has certified the Q3 to deliver 15.7 kpl, which may not be achievable in the real world, but points nevertheless to good fuel economy. The 2.0 TDI engine is a known entity across VW AG’s product family, and is one of the best diesels in production around the world today. The S-Tronic gearbox plays its part too, and if driven with a very light foot, the Q3 can easily come close to the ARAI figure of 15.7 kpl on the highway.
Safety has always been key to German car-makers, and the Audi Q3 sets a very high standard. The occupant cell is crafted from ultra-high strength steel, which is bonded and laser welded for an extremely light-weight yet rigid structure. Structural cross members run front-to-back and side-to-side through-out the car’s construction, ensuring any impact is distributed and the energy dissipated. Six airbags, two at the front, two at the side and two curtain airbags are available as standard. The Audi Q3 also has ESP or electronic stability programme, ensuring a certain degree of prevention for a crash in the first place. The quattro system itself makes the Q3 inherently safer. Four-wheel drive provides a massive safety margin in the wet, and on sandy roads. Given our horrid roads in most parts of the country, Q3 owners will definitely step in to their vehicle with peace of mind.
Audi is very clear that it will not resort to de-contenting in an effort to spark a price war with BMW’s X1. Prices for the new Q3 are likely to start north of Rs 28 lakh, when it goes on sale in June.
The Audi Q3 as an overall package is very impressive, marrying good looks with a great engine and gearbox, comfortable seating for 5 adults and a high degree of equipment and features, including quattro all-wheel drive. Audi does sell a front-wheel drive only version in Europe, but for India, the company plans to offer all-wheel drive as standard, at least for the time being.
So good is the Q3 in fact, that it could pose a challenge to Audi’s very own Q5, but this is something the company has already anticipated. It will also be very close to the A4 saloon in terms of price, which could tempt some buyers away from that car as well.
Without explicitly stating it, Audi is confident the Q3 will sell in large numbers, to the tune of at least 200 units a month. That’s a tall ask, but considering the upward movement in brand and price of India’s car-buying demographic, very much possible.
For the brand of the Four Rings however, the new Q3 looks set to become a superstar in India’s premium car market.
BMW X1, Mercedes B-Class, Skoda Yeti, Renault Koleos, Toyota Fortuner, Honda CR-V, Nissan -Trail,