WHILE sedans still hold a lot of appeal, SUVs are clearly the flavor of the moment. And Audi recently opened the brand to newer and younger buyers with the introduction of the Q3 that is the most affordable among Audi’s line of SUVs.
The Audi Q3’s closest rivals include the BMW X1, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Volkswagen Tiguan. Not one to rest on its laurels, however, Audi has been quick to bring the face-lifted version of the vehicle to the Philippines and we sampled it on urban roads of Bonifacio Global City roads to see if it has taken the successful formula further.
More of a crossover than a traditional SUV, the Audi Q3 is a rather shapelier, a chip-off the Q7 block, as far as styling is concerned. Visually, the 2016 Q3 immediately stands out from the outgoing model, thanks to a sharper-looking front fascia with a bolder interpretation of Audi’s trademarked single frame grille, and a redesigned bumper making the Q3 look a lot stouter than before. The back end gets a sportier bumper while a host of new alloy wheel designs and paint colors round out the list of exterior updates.
Inside, the basic layout hasn’t changed, but subtle modifications to the formula makes it feel altogether, more upmarket. You get an all-black leather upholstery; complimenting the nice textured metallic finish around the dash and brushed aluminum inserts all-over the cabin as well. You sit high, with a traditional SUV vantage point, but the vehicle is sufficiently compact to pass as a tall hatchback rather than a full-on SUV. Nevertheless, up front, the overall impression is one of satisfyingly snug surroundings rather than an unfortunately cramped cabin.
The bigger news is Audi’s multi-media Interface equipment list, which is an area where the outgoing Q3 lagged behind ever so slightly. The infotainment system has the signature 180-watt Audi sound system and “Symphony” radio while the top-mounted on-dash 5.8-inch multi-media color display hosts several features like Audi connect, communication screen to access the Internet, mobility and navigation.
Behind the multi-functional sport leather three-spoke design steering wheel, in between the two dials of the tachometer and speedometer, is a colored screen that gives you easier access to a lot of basic functions – like navigation features, optional back-up camera and phone call information – without taking your eyes too far off the road. Subtler still is the new cradle for your phone in the cubbyhole between the seats that let’s it use the car’s antenna to receive signal, which saves you precious battery life. It’s the little things, you know.
Styling and design
Under 4.4 meters long, the Q3 is a full 250 millimeters shorter than a Q5 and smaller than a Volkswagen Tiguan. For urban drivers, this SUV has much to recommend in terms of packaging. Although 460 liters of boot space sounds sufficient, the steeply sloping hatchback and high boot floor make the volume less useable than the capacity suggests. Tip the rear seats forward, however, and there’s a full 1,365 liters. The Q3’s gently sloping D-pillars and clamshell tailgate are among its most interesting visual features and will appeal to those repelled by the idea of a more boxy 4×4.
What is it like to drive
The 2015 Audi Q3 is offered with two fuel-efficient flexible engines: four cylinder 2.0 TDI turbo oil burner (diesel) producing 177 horsepower and 380 Nm of torque that averages 5.2 liters per 100 kilometers; and the 1.4 TFSI turbo-charged petrol engine producing 150 hp and 250 Nm of torque that averages 5.9 liters per 100 kms.
Audi has given the Q3 paddle shifters for the variant with the 2.0-liter turbo diesel engine, matched with a 7-speed dual clutch S-Tronic tranny Quattro all-wheel drive system. It is a great way to occasionally get a bit more out of the fantastic engine-gearbox combination, the motor is smooth, free revving and very punchy, if a little audible inside the cabin.
The front-wheel-drive 1.4 TFSI has an impressive linear pull that can easily rev to the redline: a big surprise for a tiny motor with lesser weight. The gearboxes are quick to respond too and then you have to factor in Audi’s Drive Select, which alters the engine, gearbox and steering to fit either Comfort, Sport or Auto modes. As before, the shift from one mode to the next doesn’t dramatically transform the way the car behaves, but you will like the way Sport mode lets the engine rev to the redline. Steering is easier in Comfort mode.
The steering is not a traditional Audi strength when it comes to driver involvement, but its lightness and directness make piloting the Q3 very easy.
What is the big strength of the Q3 is its ride. The engineers who worked on the suspension for the Philippines’ harsh roads and other “rough road” countries have managed to attain a great comfort-handling balance. Okay, sure the Q3 will thud hard through sharp bumps, will have some body roll but you wouldn’t think it’s still an SUV.
Should you buy one
You can, admittedly, buy a very well equipped Japanese or Korean SUV for half the price of an entry-level Q3, which may be more appealing to some buyers. If you’re sold on Audi’s premium-quality build and associated status, Audi’s plush interior and infotainment system, want an SUV’s raised ride height, together with Audi’s high standard of customer service, then the Q3 is the way to go.