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FIRST THOUGHTS: The new Q3 gives Audi a three pronged attack in the burgeoning SUV market.
In a brand sense, the Q3 joins the Q7 and Q5 models thus completing the set. Importantly this newest compact SUV has a starting price of $44,800 for the entry level 2WD 103TDi, a price point that's likely to attract a new audience for the brand. Until now the cheapest Audi SUV was the Q5 2.0L TDI priced at $62,200, and rival BMW, with their X1 SUV at $43,900 had an attractive lead into their line-up. The new Q3 evens up that price imbalance.
If you don't want your new Q3 in a manual with 2WD, the price jumps quickly to $48,950 for the 125kW petrol 2.0-litre TFSI Quattro S-tronic, and a diesel climbs a further $5,550 to $54,500 for the 130kW 2.0litre TDI Quattro S tronic.
Outwardly the new Q3 builds on the good looks of its sibling the Q5, and looks closer to it in appearance than the larger, gangly Q7. Weighing in at just 1445kgs for the entry level 2WD it's over 300kg lighter than the lightest Q5 with equivalent 2.0-litre TDi engine, backing Audi's claim that the new Q3 is the sporty as well as efficient and versatile SUV in the range.
With combined global Q7 and Q5 sales of 820,000 since 2007, Audi executives at the local launch hope that the new compact SUV will provide the added sales volume it needs to claim the number one premium brand position globally.
The Q3, like the Q5 will be available as a 5-seater, and the larger Q7 with its 7-seat option will continue to provide a solution for larger families. With the Q3 you can go down two additional option paths - rugged or sporty: Audi offers an offroad package as well as the sporty s-line package. And, unlike the Q5, the new Q3is available in 2WD as well as Quattro. There are two petrol engines and two diesel engines and anyone who has a passing interest in the vast Volkswagen conglomerate will recognise the spec of the engines as they see duty under the bonnet of many different brands in the empire.
The highly regarded 2.0litre 103TDi kicks off the range, with 103kW and 320Nm of engine torque, and its matched to a 6-speed manual transmission. With a combined fuel consumption figure of 5.2L/100kms and a CO2 figure of 139gm/km, it's the most fuel efficient engine in the line-up. If you're after even more diesel grunt the 130kW and 380Nm 2.0-litre is the shining light of the range and with a combined fuel figure of 5.9L/100km, the extra performance doesn't hurt at the fuel pump either. This engine is matched to Audi's 7-speed DSG transmission, and there's no manual version available.
The petrol engine choices are the 125kW 2.0-litre TFSI, with 280Nm of engine torque, and a fuel consumption figure of 7.3L/100km for the manual or 7.7l/100km if you opt for the 7-speed S tronic.
The 155kW, 300Nm 2.0-litre TFSI is the hero petrol engine and in the Q3 the extra power doesn't come with a higher fuel figure either, at 7.7l/100km it's the same as the 125kWTFSI.
With the exception of the 2WD model, the rest of the range uses Audi's Quattro drive system and like the engines, the system is tried and proven with different iterations used across the group. For normal driving the system delivers power to the front wheels and if wheel slippage is detected the electronically controlled multi plate clutch locks up and delivers drive to the rear wheels.
Standard features include the usual: power steering, power windows dual zone climate control air-conditioning, and Audi's standard 6.5in MMI [multimedia information] display and Bluetooth. In the centre console there's an engine stop/start button, and outside, 17in alloys are standard.
The Q3 comes in 12 colours, and if you decide to go with a shade other than white and black you will need to add $1150 dollars to the MRP. The additional spend underscores the multitude of packaged options that are available for the Q3.
The technik package, priced at $5000 adds the larger MMI screen and navigation plus, xenon headlamps, and parking system plus with rear camera.
A comfort package, at $3500 includes Napa leather seats, full electric adjustment and a proximity key, or in Audi speak a convenience key.
An off-road package to toughen up the appearance includes wheel arch extensions, front and rear bumpers and side skirts, and unique design alloys for an extra $5500.
If you don't want to go down the off-road path, then there's Audi's sporty S-line package starting at $6500. It includes sports front seats finished in alacantra/leather, a sports steering wheel, eighteen-inch alloys or for an additional $1200, 19in alloys.
In addition there are a multitude of individual options, like privacy glass, $700, and body colour painted lower bumpers, $600 to add to the options box if you want.
One of the new models we drove at the recent launch, a 2.0-litre TFSI 155kW Quattro S tronic, had two packs, the Technik and Off-road, plus pearl effect paint, and the price jumped $11,300 to $67,300.The larger Q5 at $63,400 looms large as an alternative if you need more space but it has a similar list of options and goodies to tempt buyers as well.
We drove both the 155kW TFSI and 130kW TDI and it was a tough choice to pick a favorite powertrain. Both the engines are at the top of their game in their respective classes and deliver a fantastic drive experience in the Q3. My preference after our drive from the Gold Coast hinterland via the west of Brisbane to the airport recently, was the diesel.
With its extra torque [380Nm] from low engine revs, off the mark it makes light work of the Q3's 1445kg [base model] mass and when you settle back to more moderate speeds the diesel is quiet, refined and barely audible. The 155kW turbo petrol engine is more sporty- but not by much and the diesel engine by its very nature is potentially going to be more consistent and closer to its claimed fuel consumption figure of 5.9L/100km- even when you start to push it along.
Dynamically, it doesn't matter which engine you choose, the Q3's chassis will handle any of the engine choices available easily. Up front there's Macpherson struts complete with a redesigned lightweight suspension wishbone, and the rear is a familiar multi-link setup. Electromechanical power steering is a feature on all Q3s and the combination ties the package together nicely.
The Q3's on-road manners remind me of its adept bigger brother and how nicely balanced and poised it is in just about any driving situation. The Q3 feels just like a scaled down version, perhaps even a touch more nimble. The optional eighteen- inch wheel and low profile tyre combo that was fitted to one of Q3's that we drove helps the sporty nature and surprisingly the ride quality remained compliant and the chassis wasn't upset by ruts or corrugations in the road surfaces.
The interior packaging is typically Audi, and the attention to detail a highlight. The different textures and materials used throughout the interior are used to good effect, and the presentation will appeal to even the fussiest of buyers.
Climb into the rear seats, not difficult thanks to a reasonably sized opening and there's enough legroom for an adult to sit comfortably for longer trips, and behind the rear hatch, 460-litres of cargo volume places the Q3 between some of its Compact SUV and larger SUV competitors for usable space.
VERDICT: On-road there's little to fault in the high specced models we drove, and it felt like a scaled down version of the Q5.
In fact, the whole package looks like a scaled down version to me and good things come in small packages.
A full test later in the year, including some time behind the wheel of the entry level two wheel drive, is planned and it will be interesting to see whether it takes the gloss off what has been one of the better new models launched this year.
Provides Audi with a model to compete with premium compact SUV's
You need to be careful with the options boxes, if you're watching your pennies
|Country of manufacture||Germany|
|Available from||May 2012|
|Number of cylinders||4|
|Engine size||2.0 L|
|Claimed max power (kW)||155 kW @ 5000-6200 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||300 Nm @ 1800-4200 rpm|
|Claimed fuel consumption||7.7 L/100km|