Audi Q3 Road Test Review
2012 Audi Q3 – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Audi Q3 Review

Car Tested: 2012 Audi Q3 2.0 TDI quattro

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 46,59,500/-

The Audi Q3 may be the baby in the lineup but is immensely capable both on and off the road

Audi has been on an offensive off late. With the global economic slowdown straddling the fence, Audi is still doing good numbers and have closed the gap to their rivals from Munich. The Audi Q3 has played a vital part in this growth. The compact SUV segment is perhaps the most popular segment these days with almost all the manufacturers gunning to get a competitive product in the market. The Audi Q3 may be a compact SUV so as to speak but its only the size which we are talking about, the mechanicals are strong enough to give full blown SUVs a run for their money. The Audi Q3 currently faces competition from the BMW X1, which is based on the 3-Series platform. The Audi Q3, meanwhile, is based on the Volkswagen Group A5 (PQ35) platform, the same one on which the Volkswagen Golf Mk5 and Volkswagen Tiguan SUV are based. While the BMW X1 is a rear-wheel drive, the Q3 uses Audi’s ‘Quattro’ all wheel drive system. The folks at Stuttgart are still far from launching their compact SUV in the Indian market. The Q3 looks really good on paper but how does it fare in the the real world?

Exteriors – The Q3 derives its looks from its elder siblings, the Q7 and Q5. While the Q7 is more of a family SUV and is appreciably larger in size, the Audi Q3 is directed at a younger audience as its tagline suggests. There is no mistaking the Q3, the design and styling is classic Audi. The front fascia gets the signature Audi headlamps with daytime running LED lights. The large trapezoidal air dam with chrome surrounds carries forward the family design. Sharp character lines make the Audi Q3 looks sporty and agile.

The side profile flaunts the low roof line and flat D pillars. For the casual eye, one may muddle it for the Q5 but see both in flesh and you will know that the Q3 is indeed the baby of the ‘Q’ family. It is significantly smaller in length compared to the BMW X1. The aluminum roof rails and 16-inch alloy wheels give it an SUV stance with the black side trims going well with the sporty appearance.

The rear LED tail lamps are integrated in the tail gate. Rear fog lamp and reverse lights accommodate themselves with the rear bumper which get a two tone black and body color treatment. The meaty exhaust pipe highlights the engines capability. The 2.0 TDI signage sits on the left side of the boot lid. Initially the Audi Q3 is available only with the 2.0-litre TDI engine and Audi will eventually introduce the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine option.

Interiors – The interior quality is unquestionably fabulous. It seems as if Audi has picked out the interiors straight from their higher end luxury lineup. Audi is selling the Q3 as a CBU (Completely Built Unit) which is currently being shipped from their plant in Spain. It will soon be assembled at their Aurangabad facility. The interior quality, fit and finish is therefore world class. Leather has been used in healthy doses and careful attention has been paid to detail. Even the stitching on the steering is very precisely done. A 6.5-inch screen can be manually opened and displays information like on-board computer, audio and the regular stuff you see in this class of vehicle. Navigation was not supported in our test car and sooner or later Audi will have a tie up with a local navigation provider. There is no rear parking camera but parking sensors have been provided. Panoramic sunroof is available as an option on the Audi Q3.

The front seats are comfortable and the seating position is high giving you a commanding position of the road. The seats offer good back and under thigh support and are endowed with electronic seat adjustment.

The rear seats lack under thigh support and are best suited for two passengers as the transmission hump makes it difficult for the third passenger to squeeze in. Note that there is no central armrest for the rear passengers. Legroom is average and could have been more but at the legroom’s expense comes an extremely generous boot (460-liters) which can swallow loads of luggage. There are sufficient storage areas to stow away water bottles.

The rear seats can be folded in 60:40 ratio to make for even more room, should you fall short. In this position the boot can swallow 1365-litres of luggage. Under the boot lies a space saver with a maximum speed rating of 80 km/h. It’s better to have a spare wheel rather than not have one at all (read BMW X1).

The infotainment system deserves a special mention. Everything is so easy to use with great attention to ergonomics. You can play music from your SD card, CD or can connect your iPod through the iPod jack in the center console. The Bose speakers offer good sound quality. The instrument cluster will display the song list and its easy to flick between them through the roller on the steering. Dual zone climate control is standard and the switches are unique and high in quality. The air conditioner cools quickly. The heat insulated glass used cuts out most of the sun rays and the rear passengers get their own vent in the center.

The Audi Q3 gets an electromechanical parking brake. There is an Auto function which is tremendously useful in bumper to bumper traffic. Just keep it on Auto mode and the parking brake will automatically engage as you stop, say at a traffic signal. Step onto the gas and it will dis-engage automatically. A very practical feature for congested metro cities.

The instrument cluster is easy to read with the MID screen displaying all the information including mileage, distance to empty, etc.

The steering wheel feels solid and the buttons for the audio system, cruise control, etc are so conveniently positioned that you need not take your eyes of the road while toggling through the buttons. The roller buttons are accurate and very elementary to use.

Ride, Handling and Braking – The Audi Q3 offers a comfortable ride at high speeds. The suspension is tuned towards the stiffer side and this can be felt at low speeds over bad roads. However, high speed ride is commendable and so is the high speed stability. You can floor it and the engine will get you to three digit speeds in no time and even though you are sitting high up (higher center of gravity), it will seem much slower in the cabin. You don’t expect a 1600 kgs SUV to be a handler but the Q3 does well in its own might. The steering is light and changing directions is a piece of cake. Audi has worked hard to reduce the weight of this SUV by using aluminum in the hood and boot lid which leads to minimal amount of bodyroll with more predictable handling characteristics. While the BMW X1 has a really heavy steering with good feedback at high speeds, the Audi Q3 lacks in this department. At high speeds, this baby SUV feels solid and planted but you don’t get the steering feedback you expect. This electronic assisted steering does not weigh up enough to inspire confidence, the average user though will have no complains whatsoever.

The full time All Wheel Drive or ‘Quattro’ in Audi speak gives you sufficient grip on all surfaces and also makes sure you are never falling short of traction. The Q3 does fairly well in off-road situations and Audi is slated to bring in a cheaper front wheel drive version early next year.

The ability to shed speed in a jiffy is not easy, especially when you tip the scale at 1600 kgs, the Audi Q3 does just that without breaking into a sweat. Standing on the brakes at 100 km/h, it stopped without any drama. The wide low profile 235/55/17 Goodyear Excellence tyres are good for the job and all four-disc brakes help the cause. Ground clearance of 170 mm is not really SUV like and the Q3 won’t kiss its underbelly on the road, take it off-road and you may just get away without making contact with the ground. Off-road capability is true SUV like, the Q3 has the punch to get out of situations where most compact SUV’s would be struggling.

Performance – The Audi Q3 is initially available in diesel guise, courtesy of Volkswagen’s most widely used engine in India. The 2.0-litre TDI engine uses a Variable Geometry Turbocharger and churns out 177 BHP of power and 380 NM of torque. Power delivery is smooth and the engine is brilliantly refined, much more than Skoda or VW cars.

Mated to this a 7-speed S-Tronic DSG gearbox which is one of the best dual clutch gearboxes in the business. This DSG unit offers tip-tronic function or the ability to shift manually in layman speak. Nonetheless, paddle shifts have not been provided as most would have liked. There is an initial turbo lag till about 1500 RPM after which the engines pull all the way to the red-line at 5000 RPM. NVH levels are very good with hardly any sound creeping inside the cabin, though the engine gets louder past the 3000 RPM mark.

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The Audi Q3 does a 0 – 100 km/h run in just 8.2 seconds and you can expect a mileage of around 12 km/l in the city and about 16.5 km/l on the highway. Feed the throttle gently and the DSG will up-shift as low as 1600 RPM, extracting more mileage from the engine. On the contrary keep the engine on the boil and you will still get double digit mileage figures. Audi plans to introduce the 2.0-litre TFSI engine later this year. This petrol engine will produce 211 BHP of peak power but we think the Indians have a larger appetite for diesel powered SUVs.

Conclusion – Audi’s Q3 pulls the right strings with its sporty looks, well appointed luxurious interiors and performance. The baby SUV is no kid when it comes to getting off the road thanks to its ‘Quattro’ all wheel drive system. It will certainly get you noticed on the road but the only thing which is against it, is its price. The top end version is almost Rs. 10 lakhs costlier than the BMW X1, fundamentally owing to it being a CBU. Audi will eventually assemble it at their Aurangabad facility and that should dent its price by a significant margin, making it more value for money. Audi also plans to soon plug this gap with a cheaper front wheel drive version. All said and done, the Audi Q3 makes a very solid impression.

Whats Cool

* Built quality
* Exterior appeal
* Rich interiors
* Light steering

Whats Not So Cool

* No rear armrest
* No rear camera
* Top end almost Rs. 10 lakhs more expensive than the competition
* Cramped rear bench

2012 Audi Q3 Specifications

* Engine: 2.0-liter TDI with VGT
* Power: 177 BHP @ 4200 RPM
* Torque: 380 Nm @ 1750 – 2500 RPM
* Transmission: 7-speed DSG Automatic
* Top Speed: 212 km/h
* 0-100 km/h: 8.2 seconds
* Fuel Consumption: 10-12 km/l (City), 14-16 km/l (highway)
* Fuel Type: Diesel
* Suspension: McPherson Struts with aluminum lower wishbones (Front), Four link rear suspension, tubular anti-roll bar (Rear)
* Tyres: 235/55/17 Goodyear Excellence tyres
* Brakes: Ventilated discs (Front), solid discs (Rear)
* Safety: Six airbags, ABS, EBD, ESP

2012 Audi Q3 Dimensions

* Overall length x width x height: 4385 mm X 1831 mm X 1608 mm
* Wheelbase: 2603 mm
* Front/Rear Track: 1571/1575 mm
* Ground clearance: 170 mm
* Boot Volume: 460-liters, 1365-liters (with rear seats folded)
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 64-liters
* Kerb Weight: 1660 kgs