2014 Audi Q3 S Review
Car Tested: 2014 Audi Q3 S Edition
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 30,40,250/-
The stick shift in the Audi Q3 S positively transforms the driving experience.
Manual transmission hasn’t been very popular in the luxury car segment and that’s the reason why the German trio has only offered automatics in the Indian market. The last time we saw a manual gearbox in a German luxury car was the second generation Mercedes C-Class (pre-2005) which came with a 6-speed manual transmission, power being channeled to the rear wheels. Now Audi going against the tide has launched a manual gearbox equipped Q3 (called the S Edition) which is front wheel driven, devoid of features, assembled in India and priced attractively to lure first time luxury car buyers. Does this slick shift really amplify the sporty quotient of the Audi Q3 S?
Exteriors – The Q3 S has the same dimensions as the regular Q3 but Audi has cut costs by giving a basic set of head and tail lights to the car, instead of the ones with LEDs. Audi is well known in India for its headlights and the lack of LED daytime running lights sort of robs away the character from the Q3 S. The vehicle does have daytime running lights (the headlight is smoked out) with the regular halogen parking lights doing the function, but in a much lesser dramatic way. The Q3 S also gets black alloy wheels (riding on 215/16 not 235/17 as seen on the press vehicle) which give it a very sporty appearance while the red paint job on our test car looks very rich. Head and tail lights aside, the Audi Q3 S is an attractive looking car. It looks sporty and the generous dimensions (compared to competition) gives it some presence.
Interiors – Step inside and you have a normal Audi Q3 cabin but devoid of quite a lot of features. While you still get all the options in the infotainment system including Bluetooth connectivity, 6-inch screen for the MMI (the one in the Q3 S is quite basic), cruise control, powered driver seat, leather wrapped steering, six airbags, reverse parking aid, hill start assist, steering controls (all the buttons you find on the regular Q3), etc., Audi has missed out on climate control system, USB for audio, sunroof and all this is due to cost cutting. The cabin of the Q3 S is all black to continue the sporty theme on the inside. However the dashboard doesn’t look as rich as the regular Q3 which gets dual-tone brown and beige treatment with wood inserts in various parts of the cockpit.
The buttons inside the Q3 S have reduced compared to the regular model, like between the audio system and the AC controls, there is just one button (traction control on/off) which makes the panel look a bit stripped out (the regular Q3 also gets parking sensor button there). The is an electro-mechanical parking brake but there is naturally no auto hold function since this car is a manual, thus there is a dummy button behind the handbrake switch. The right rear view mirro has a magnified glass which hinders judgement in certain driving conditions. Space inside the cabin is good, there is plenty of headroom, space is decent at the rear and the seats are comfortable. The Q3 comes with a big 460-litre boot.
Performance – The Audi Q3 S is a front-wheel drive (the quattro system has been ditched to reduce costs) and has thus been detuned from 177 BHP to 140 BHP, a full 37 BHP reduction. Even the torque output has been curtailed from 380 Nm to 320 Nm. This has been done in order to channel power more smoothly but since the front-wheel drive A4 has the higher output, the Q3 S should do just fine with more pep on offer. In spite of the reduction in output of the 2.0-litre diesel mill, the Q3 S is still fast and more importantly a whole lot of fun. With the removal of the quattro all-wheel drive unit, Audi has been able to reduce weight of the car by a significant 140 kgs.
The Q3 S has a lot of pep, the motor has a minor lag but once the turbo spools up, you are in for a strong mid-range which gives a definite surge every time you accelerate hard. The Q3 is at home in the city with drivability being strong while out on the highways, you will be pleasantly surprised by the rev happiness of this diesel powerplant, redlining all the way at 5000 RPM. The oil burner gets quite audible past 3500 RPM (in a good way) with a minor drone from the motor at higher revs. 100 km/hr comes up in third gear and 0-100 km/hr takes just 9.59 seconds as per our VBOX run (0-150 km/hr is achieved in 22.43 seconds) while the top speed is 202 km/hr.
The big surprise is the manual gearbox which is a joy to use. The clutch is well weighed but has a slightly longer travel and is on the heavier side but the 6-speed gearbox is effortless to use, offering slick shifts by slotting into respective gates with precision. 100 km/hr in top gear equates to 1700 RPM on the tachometer while the Q3 doesn’t bog down one bit till 170 km/hr, post which it takes its own time to gather further momentum and the lack of ponies is quite evident then. In-gear acceleration is terrific too and a prod on the A pedal is enough to gather pace quickly. The Q3 S has a tank capacity of 64-litres which coupled with a mileage of 14 km/l, gives it a tank range upwards of 850 kms.
Driving Dynamics – Not much has changed on the dynamic front, if anything the Q3 S rides even better than its quattro counterpart which is thanks to the lower weight and higher profile rubber (the stock Q3 S comes with 16-inch wheels and the 17-inch blackened wheels you see on the test car here are optional). Handling is good and body roll is well contained, the Q3 S remains stable at speed and the front wheels do a good job to steer and channel power at the same time (be slightly aggressive on the throttle and the Q3 S wheel spins in even second gear). Steering is light at low speeds, weighing up decently at high speeds but there is this artificialness at the helm which is very obvious when you push the car around corners. Braking performance has always been good and now you can make use of engine braking for reducing stopping time. NVH levels are good but the road noise is a bit too much at expressway speeds (seeping through the underbody) while the wind noise is a lot post 100 km/hr.
Verdict – The Q3 S is Audi’s answer to its German peers who have launched hatchbacks at similar price points. To reduce pricing, Audi has done quite a bit including local assembly of their baby SUV. The price difference between the regular Q3 TDI and Q3 S is Rs. 6.75 lakhs which is considerable but the latter is more fun. The manual gearbox really charms you, making you smile every time you ride that wave of torque. However the lack of LEDs on the head and tail lights rob away the identity of this Audi. That aside, if you want a fun to drive luxury car on a budget, there is no looking further than the S Edition of Audi’s smallest SUV which also happens to be the most affordable car from the brand with the four rings.
The Audi Q3 S is more fun to drive than the regular Q3 versions, largely because of the slick shifting gearbox and the higher driver involvement. If you can look past the lack of LEDs, the Q3 S is the most fun you can have in a German car at this price point.
* Slick 6-speed manual gearbox
* Ride quality
What’s Not So Cool
* Audi’s signature headlights missing
* Some features missing
Alternatives: Mercedes A-Class, BMW X1, Volvo V40 Cross Country
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