Other premium carmakers need to take a cue from Audi’s baby SUV, the Q3, and start offering more to customers to justify their not-so-tiny price tags, writes Sony Thomas.
No wonder Audi’s cars are technically brilliant. When you have billions of euros set aside for research and development and a photocopier is the biggest investment for the design department, your cars better be mechanically good. Audi’s nomenclature has never been the hardest to crack, with model names sounding more like an innovative way to teach the alphabet to kids. But lately, the designs of all the models in its line-up have started to look like reduced or enlarged photocopies of each other.
For instance, the new A8 looks like an A6 on steroids, which in turn looks like a bloated A3, while the A7 Sportback looks like a stretched A5 Sportback. So when Audi took the plunge into the SUV segment with its Q7 flagship, you immediately knew what the smaller variants would be called or for that matter how they’d look. And you were right, as the Q5 and the Q3, when they were eventually out, were facsimiles of the Q7 in various percentages of shrinkage. But luckily, in most segments, the original that Audi places on the copier glass is a good-looking car, so the Q3 starts off with a distinct advantage over competition especially the ungainly BMW X1.
The single-frame, chrome-rimmed grille that harks back to the auto union days of the Thirties, that’s become a signature feature of all Audis now, has found its way into the Q3’s face, and is complemented by daytime running LEDs and large air inlets up front. The coupé-like roofline that slants down to the wraparound tailgate completes the bold and muscular exterior design. Step inside and it’s typical Audi fare with generous standard equipment levels including sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, electromechanical parking brake, Bluetooth, cruise control, hill-start assist, light and rain sensors and so on. Mood lighting in the foot wells, the doors and around the speakers bathe the cabin lending it a level of sophistication that’s beyond the segment. In fact there’s nothing in there that will serve as a constant reminder of the good things in motoring that you couldn’t afford.
Press the start button and the sprightly 2.0-litre TFSI four-pot comes alive. The 211bhp, 300Nm engine is not the quickest one around, with actual progress feeling slower than the official 0-100kph time of 6.9 seconds. However, mated to a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch with quattro permanent all-wheel drive, the turbo engine is good enough for the 1.5-tonne soft-roader. The Q3 is sharp and responsive, handling bends and corners as well as a hot hatch, while smoothing out potholes and speed bumps remarkably thanks to the chassis being a mix of the best bits from the Passat, Tiguan and the Mark VI Golf. The electronically controlled power steering is rightly weighted offering decent feedback.
The optional drive select system allows the driver to fettle with the settings, allowing for changes to throttle response, power steering assist and so on. It also disengages the clutch when you lift off the throttle, letting the car coast for a reasonably long distance, thus saving on fuel. And with enough space for five adults and a 460-litre boot, which extends to 1,365 litres with the back seats folded, the Q3 scores high on practicality as well.
My test car came packed with some optional extras including an S-line exterior package, panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting package, rearview camera and park assist, taking the price up to Dh199,000. But if you choose not to get these, you can still get a Q3 with all the other standard equipment mentioned earlier and a set of 19in alloys with five-double spoke design starting from Dh146,000. Compare that to a BMW X1 xdrive 18i, with its 150bhp 2.0-litre engine, costing upwards of Dh160,000, and the Range Rover Evoque prices starting at Dh235,000, you’ll begin to see why the Audi Q3 is going to be a hit in the segment. Maybe it’s time other carmakers started investing in photocopiers.
The interior is as well-appointed as those of SUVs that command twice the price