Audi’s range of the Q SUVs has been well received here and the carmaker’s soaring sales figures make it more than evident. The eldest Q was the first to be launched here and is still one of the top contenders in the segment. The middle sibling, the Q5 is of course, the most popular one here. The reason for these cars doing so well is the number of things Audi has gotten right with them. The carmaker’s four-wheel-drive system – christened Quattro – is one of the best systems around. It wastes very little energy and is very effective. Audi also seems to have got the balance between car and off-roader just right. While the Q SUVs are very car-like and easy to drive, and come with beautifully crafted interiors on one hand, they have plenty of off-roader appeal as well.
The baby of the family, the Q3, has been on sale in diesel avatar since June last year. This new petrol, however, promises to be better rounded, and though it may ultimately appeal to a smaller set of customers, the car is so good we think it could be a better overall package.
The Q3 isn’t an Audi, but a Volkswagen under the skin. But it’s a car that’s executed so beautifully, you’ll almost never feel short-changed or be able to tell. First impressions of the car are great. The body is exquisitely crafted. The fit of the panels is millimetre perfect, the manner in which the doors and hatch open and close reeks of precision engineering and even the quality of the paint is exceptional. The Q3 is also the best interpretation of Audi’s Q design language yet. It has that all important upright SUV stance, but it isn’t boxy or brick-like in the least. It also has the neatest headlamp and tail-lamp design of the three Audi SUVs.
What’s even more exciting in this case is the presence of the 208bhp, 2.0 TFSI motor under the hood. The motor uses direct injection for added pulling power at low engine speeds as well as a turbo to boost overall performance. The engine is very refined, settling into a really smooth idle, and feels willing and ever-ready for action on the move. There is almost no turbo-induced delay in throttle responses from this free-spirited motor – tap the throttle and the engine just sings, a sporty snarl emitted every time. It feels very eager at almost all engine speeds and closing up gaps in traffic, as a result, is a mere flex of the right foot away. In Sport mode, the urgency is even higher, although this feels a little jerky in traffic.
On open stretches, you can wind the motor up to 7000rpm and enjoy bursts of acceleration that make this car fun to drive. And this is one seriously quick SUV with the 0-100kph sprint taking a blistering 8.3 seconds, while 150kph comes up in 17.4 seconds.
Audi has chosen to omit gearshift paddles in the Q3, although the twin-clutch gearbox does work really well when you slot the gear lever into manual mode and push it forward to up-shift and pull back to down-shift. Quick downshifts in Normal mode, however, are not the smoothest.
The baby SUV handles very well. The car turns tightly into corners, with body roll well contained. The steering, however, feels a bit too light. It’s better than the one on the diesel and feels more precise, but there are times when you’ll be left wanting more feel.
The sporty setup of the suspension also means there is some stiffness in the springs and dampers. Ride quality at low speeds is a bit jiggly and you are quite aware of how bad the road is from the seats. However, at higher speeds, the suspension becomes more comfortable and pliant.
The big front seats are comfortable with plenty of back and thigh support, although finding the ideal driving position takes a bit of time. At the rear, there’s plenty of legroom and head and shoulder room is good. The only complaint would be with the thigh support, which is lacking.
The interiors are rather decently done, with great material and build quality. The dashboard, high-quality bits like the knurled aluminium dials and high-gloss pieces of wood make you feel like you’re in something special. The only complaint we had was the absence of the full Audi Multimedia Interface (MMI) screen-based navigation system on the low-spec version on this car.
Starting at Rs. 31.03 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), and going up to Rs. 35.45 lakh for the top-end version we're testing, the Q3 2.0 TFSI is still quite expensive. However, it is fast, fun, extremely well built, well equipped and attractive even by Audi standards. It certainly is one of the better compact luxury SUVs in India.