Success with its Q7 and new Q5 was enough to encourage Audi to further exploit opportunities in the SUV market but the German brand was relatively late to the luxury compact SUV segment with the Q3.
Audi spokespersons would have us believe its small SUV segment Q3 was designed with a completely different philosophy than the Q5 mid-size and Q7 full-size SUV models. The fact the class is already propped by offerings from Land Rover, BMW and (overseas, at least) Mercedes-Benz meant Audi had to try something different.
Head stylist for Audi, Achim Badstubner (pictured) was in attendance from headquarters in Ingolstadt during the recent local launch of the new Q3.
We asked him to draw the grilles of the Q models and while illustrating the design application for the Q3, Badstubner explained the "theme" of the front-end styling used by the bigger Q models, incorporating the brand's standout daytime running light design, was integrated in the Q3 but made sharper. The "facet" of the Q5 is more sloped than the Q7, and especially distinctive in the Q3 for "more vertical appeal".
New regulations in Europe regarding location of vehicle number plates "are some of the small things" to be considered; requiring stylists to modify the appearance of the distinctive Audi grille. More importantly, position of the engine's air intake was also a design parameter. Stylists can rarely convince engineers to change design, he confirmed. "But we are always negotiating with them."
Badstubner mentioned placement of equipment like foglights as just one point on the stylists' list for discussion with engineers. In the Q3's case, design had to accommodate the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine's main radiator which is positioned low (with the intercooler nearby) meaning stylists needed to customise grille design to promote cooling.
"We had to get the right angle to the grille: you always start with the grille. On the Q7 it was a little bit more upright but for this one [Q3] it's wider and lower," explained Badstubner. "We have to reach certain quality requirements, and for at least one of these requirements you definitely need the right amount of air [to the engine] and it's not just about the amount but the pressure.
"For example, we couldn't add an intake here," he said, pointing to a far side of the front bumper he was drawing. "So we're told to add it nearer the centre, and if it's [moved] three millimetres more we'll get so-and-so much more [cooling] in and so it will tow better. All these things are different regulations at Audi than say, VW or SEAT."
On VW's version, he said: "The Tiguan is more upright and has more shoulder room; it's more space-oriented. We said early we wanted to focus not on space but more on the feel of it. The car had to look lighter; it's meant to be a new statement on what an SUV should be, for example [Audi's version of] the body-to-glass relation."
Adding the mandatory centre line and Audi rings to his drawing, he said: "This is basically the main image of an Audi. We tried to keep the same angular design to the grille. If you look to the Q5 and Q3, the Q5 is a little bit mean [looking] and has dominance by its height but the Q3 [treatment] is more horizontal and slimmer.
"Everything is a lot more squeezed for the whole thing. It does have the pocket around the headlights; for a protected feeling... Then we had to accommodate the air intake and ramp angle." Designers also aimed to maintain the "muscle in the bonnet" across the Q family.
The smallest member has a "vastly different design philosophy" however. Badstubner said that unlike the other Q models designed for cargo and/or passenger space, the Q3 is "more for people who like driving that's more agile. It's not about seeing something and copying it down [scale]... Not more of the same SUV-type feeling but more about creating something strongly different from what we know.
"It's about forming character, which is what I believe we did here. The Q3 is not a load capacity world champion, but it doesn't need to be," Badstubner suggested. "If we'd just copied the Q7, which we could have done -- we could've added a third row -- it wouldn't have any character."