If the Range Rover Evoque is the equivalent of a Vertu cell phone, and the BMW X1 a Blackberry Torch, can the Audi Q3 be likened to the iPhone? Read on to find out
Steve Jobs will be looking down on the world and smiling because the brand he created has grown into the most highly valued company on the planet. And he was able to achieve that in what seemed like just a few years by turning the world of technology (and everything around it for that matter) quite literally on its head.
Technology, today, has to be fashionable, innovative, and yet intuitive and functional at the same time – so much so that fashion and technology seem to have amalgamated into a single entity. And that’s no longer true just for smart phones, but seemingly for everything else as well – including the automobile.
Studies around the world are beginning to indicate that young people today are more interested in their gadgets than their cars. But the compact-SUV revolution (if you can call it that) aims to change that. The Range Rover Evoque is as much a fashion accessory as a mode of transport – and it’s better for it, since the compact SUV is certainly the hottest thing on four wheels at present. It’s the newest urban style statement, and Audi aims to capitalize on this trend with the introduction of the striking Audi Q3.
Let’s put it this way, the Range Rover Evoque can be likened to the Vertu cell phone because it’s uber stylish and pretty pricey. The BMW X1 is the Blackberry Torch because it’s more sedate, affordable, and functional. Is the Audi Audi Q3, then, the iPhone – have the engineers from Ingolstadt hit the sweet spot to give the Q-range of SUV’s its latest star? Well, we had the arduous task of making a visit to Goa to find.
Of course, the first thing that strikes you about the Audi Q3are the ubiquitous headlight LED’s. It’s got a striking front end that’s sharp edged with chiselled lines – much like the latest gen A6. The new-age LED’s form a contiguous, and almost sinister looking, ribbon of light inside the headlight casing – so much so that it makes its older sibling, the Q5, look dated in comparison. In profile as well, the Audi Q3 has a more steeply sloping roofline to give it a ‘coupe-like SUV’ appearance – whatever that means. Either way, it’s bound to have been influenced by the tremendous acceptance of the daring Evoque. At the rear, however, the Audi Q3 is virtually indistinguishable from the Q5, which itself looks simply like a shrunken version of the flagship Q7.
Don’t be fooled however, the Audi Q3 is truly a compact SUV. Yes, it feels quite roomy on the inside, but three abreast at the back would be a squeeze, and headroom at the rear is also at a premium thanks to the raked roofline. If you were to draw comparisons with the Vertu and Blackberry, so to speak, you’d have to say that it falls somewhere in the middle. For those a little slow on the uptake, that means it’s slightly more spacious that the Evoque, but a little less so than the BMW. That said this is an Audi, so interior quality couldn’t be better if this car was commissioned exclusively for Buckingham Palace. Like all Audi’s, it’s a phenomenal cabin. It’s not as funky as the Evoque (a point that I think we’ve firmly established by now), but it’s head-and-shoulders above the X1. The seats are very comfortable and everything looks and feels fantastic. Our test car also had a panoramic glass roof, which made the cabin feel airy and much bigger than it really is. The only problem was that the strong Goan sun made its presence felt despite the retractable headliner – not to mention, of course, that it’ll be a very expensive option on the Audi Q3 when it’s launched in the first week of June.
The only real problem that I had with the cabin was the driving position. Most people like SUV’s for the commanding view of the road they offer, but I prefer to sit as low as I can to be in the best position to feel what the chassis is doing. Now, in the Q3, with the seat set as low as it would go, the brake pedal ended up far too high in relation to the throttle pedal and the steering too far away – despite (of course) being adjustable for reach and rake. Seeing that this is an Audi, you could argue that my anatomy is more likely to blame – either way, I couldn’t find an ideal driving position, and the pedal positioning was certainly questionable. Unlike me, however, if you like to sit high up in your SUV to get a commanding view of the lesser mortals on the road ahead, then I’m sure you’ll be just fine. Moreover, if (like me) you prefer to pass them as quickly as possible, you won’t be disappointed in the least.
The Q3 comes with two engines – a 2.0 litre turbocharged direct injection petrol engine producing 211bhp, and a 2.0 litre diesel with a variable geometry turbo producing 177bhp and a really rather useful 380Nm of torque all the way from 1,750rpm. Our test car had the latter, and was mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox that Audi refers to as S tronic, which is quite likely the best gearbox mated to a diesel engine that I’ve ever driven. The engine is incredibly refined and punchy, and it even sounds good, while the gearbox is absolutely instant and seamless – it has the tachometer needle dancing around in its gauge like a trapeze artist on speed. Suffice to say that the engine-transmission combination in the 2.0 TDI is most certainly iPhone worthy, which means that the Audi Q3’s drivetrain is best-in-class by a long way! Oh, but do order yours with optional shift-paddles on the steering wheel – they were sorely missed on our test car.
All Audi Q3’s in India will come with Audi’s famed Quattro four-wheel drive system, which splits torque 40:60 front-to-rear to ensure that there’s plenty of traction available no matter what the road surface – or lack thereof. On the road, the Audi Q3 offers a pretty good ride – better in fact than the Q5 – while also remaining completely flat and planted through the corners. And thanks to its compact size, you can really throw it into tight corners like a hot-hatch and power out thanks to instant torque and all-wheel drive. The only thing that detracts from the experience is a steering wheel that refuses to enter into any kind of dialogue whatsoever with the driver. Yes, it’s very light at low speeds – but overly so, if you ask me – and it weighs up nicely at speed, but it’s just hesitant to communicate freely. The BMW X1, which is essentially a 3 series on stilts steers far better, and, with rear wheel drive, it can be a little more engaging on the road, but if you’re going to buy any kind of an SUV (even a small one) it should have all-wheel drive – if nothing else, to at least provide you with the knowledge that you can go dune bashing if you so choose.
Granted, the Audi Q3’s ride off-road is a little too stiff – but if that wasn’t the case, its on-road manners wouldn’t be half as good. And its low ride height and front splitter mean that you have to be very careful in the rough stuff. Of course, it doesn’t have anything like the Terrain Response System of the Evoque – but, in reality, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what it’s capable of. The approach and departure angles are actually not bad, and the suspension travel and articulation is quite good. Combine that with the same all-wheel drive and diesel grunt that allows it to fly down the road, and you’ve actually got an SUV that can get you out of most sticky off-road situations. So, really, it works for both jungles – the urban, and the actual.
In light of this, however, it’ll be priced closer to 30 lakhs rather than 20 – so, you’d better start saving. And if you have, and would like to park one in your drive, you’d better act fast because dealers are already accepting deposits since supply is limited. Audi recently overtook Mercedes for the number two spot in the Indian luxury car market, and the Audi Q3 could be their joker in the pack (or should I say iPhone in their range) to really take the fight to BMW!