Audi’s baby Q is all grown up in its second generation, but can it go back to being the segment leader it once was?
It’s been a long, long time coming, but the second-gen Audi Q3 has finally landed on our shores four years after its global debut. COVID-19, supply shortages, and logistics hurdles – there are a whole bunch of things to be blamed for the delayed arrival of Audi’s best-selling SUV in India. But since it’s here now, let’s put everything aside and see if the new Q3 has still got enough substance to become the segment leader that it once used to be.
Audi shipped over a million units of the first-gen Q3 across the world, making it the company’s best-selling Q car. Even in India, it was a darling of entry-level luxury SUV buyers. But, as good as it was overall, it never looked SUV enough – the design was rather staid and boring, which became quite apparent towards the end of its life cycle. With the second-generation model, Audi seems to have fixed that issue – the Q3's now got character in spades. The new version isn't just handsome and contemporary but is also packed with the right mix of aggression and elegance. Its overall shape and silhouette give it a mini Q8-like appearance. It’s as if Audi designers put the Q8 in a photocopier and reduced the size to 60%, and voila! – you have got the next-gen Q3 ready.
Up at the front, the Q3 has an imposing face, thanks to a wider single-frame grille, a flatter bonnet with a prominent power dome, wedge-shaped LED headlamps, and a chunkier bumper. The same goes for the side profile, courtesy of its more dramatic shoulder lines and contours. Since the new Q3 is 97mm longer (4,485mm) than its predecessor, it doesn’t look like a hatchback or an A3 on stilts anymore. It has a more purposeful SUV stance, I’d say. The wheel size on the India-spec Q3 is limited to 18 inches. While there’s nothing wrong with that for our driving conditions, I find the alloy wheel design to be a little underwhelming, especially considering the vast improvements in the Q3’s design and appeal over the previous model.
At the back, the Q3 cuts a familiar shape, although the new wrap-around LED tail lamps and a wider bumper give it a sturdy and slightly rugged look. You now also get some cool colour options with the Q3, such as Pulse Orange and Navarra Blue. On the whole, I wouldn’t shy away from giving a solid thumbs up to Q3’s design. And I believe it won’t be an exaggeration to say that it’s the most SUV-like machine amongst its rivals.
Step inside, and you’ll find the Q3’s interior to be a much, much nicer place than what it was earlier. Not to mention, it also comes with a fair few modern toys. The cabin design follows Audi’s signature minimalistic approach – the dashboard is well laid out and uncluttered. Our test car featured a black-grey-silver theme, which looked premium but not exquisite. You can also opt for tan / brown seat covers. Speaking of seats, the front ones are large, accommodating, and comfortable, and they come with electric adjustments. The seats aren’t ventilated, though, and that may come across as a deterrent to some of the buyers. Also, the quality of some plastic bits – wiper stalk, quick access buttons, etc. – isn’t the best.
In terms of tech, a 10.1-inch Audi MMI touchscreen infotainment takes the centre stage. It’s a familiar unit – the same as the one offered in the A4. The touch response is brilliant, and the interface is simple and intuitive. But there’s still no wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, which might bother you, considering that it’s a 50-lakh luxury car and that VW Group’s mass market MQB A0 IN cars, like the Taigun/Virtus, feature that functionality. There’s no 360-degree camera either, meaning you only have a rear-view camera and your senses to rely on while parking in tight spaces.
Now, let’s talk about the good bits. First up, the ‘Virtual Cockpit’ driver display – it’s easily the best in the business. Then, there’s the usual Audi or German common sense – unlike other modern cars, the Q3 gets physical buttons for HVAC and volume control, which are super convenient to use as opposed to touch-operated controls in other rivals. There are also large and chunky quick access buttons for the ‘Drive Select’ so that you can quickly switch between the driving modes. Plus, it comes with a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, and so on, which most certainly amp up the Q3’s luxury quotient.
In terms of rear seat comfort and space, the new Q3 has improved quite significantly. Thanks to its larger footprint – its wheelbase is 2,681mm, which is an increase of 78mm – there’s a lot more room for rear occupants. The seats are also large and wide with ample under-thigh support. Average-sized adults will find the headroom to be adequate, but taller passengers (above 6 feet) may find it a bit constrained. The rear seats also get a sliding-and-reclining (manual) function, which is a welcome addition. Now, since the Q3 isn’t a wide car, sitting three abreast will be a tight affair. A prominent transmission hump doesn’t help either. If you want to travel comfortably, the Q3 should be considered a four-seater. With 530 litres of boot space (with seats moved all the way back), it’s quite practical too. Overall, the Q3’s rear bench may not have acres of room to stretch your legs, but it definitely is a shade better than its counterparts, especially the Volvo XC40 and BMW X1.
There’s no diesel and no strong hybrid powertrain on offer with the new Q3 in India. Instead, Audi has gone with the company’s tried-and-tested 2.0-litre TFSI petrol unit, which already does duty in the India-spec A4. The power and torque outputs of the engine are identical at 188bhp and 320Nm. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is used for power transmission duties. In the Q3, it can channel the drive to all four wheels using quattro – the A4, in comparison, is front-wheel drive.
Audi claims that this Q3 can sprint from 0 to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds, which is identical to the lighter A4 sedan. On the road, the Q3’s performance lives up to the claim. It’s a quick-accelerating vehicle, without any turbo lag to speak of. The engine offers strong performance right from 1,500rpm, and the momentum keeps on building until about 6,500rpm. The overall refinement is exemplary as you’d expect in an Audi, but at high revs, you do get a bit of engine noise filtering into the cabin. However, it doesn’t sound coarse or thrashy – it’s rather sporty.
Do I miss the diesel? Well, in terms of grunt and outright performance, the TFSI motor is quite diesel-like, with its strong mid-range punch, so don't really miss an oil burner here. However, when you check the efficiency figures, you definitely do feel the pinch. Drive the new Q3 with a heavy right foot, and you’d struggle to get to a double-digit figure/litre.
The DCT transmission is virtually flawless with its lighting quick and intuitive shifts when you’re on the go. However, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it’s a little clunky, like any dual-clutch automatic, since it keeps on shuffling between 1st and 2nd gears, holding revs, and being indecisive in general. That said, I feel that the Q3’s powertrain makes for an effortless drive for my kind of commute, which is 70% highway + 30% urban. It offers an excellent balance of performance and everyday usability.
Q for Comfort
The second-gen Q3 ditches its predecessor’s PQ35 platform in the favour of VW’s MQB architecture – the same that underpins the Tiguan and Skoda Kodiaq – for better structural rigidity and car-like driving dynamics. And it’s quite evident when you take the wheel. Instead of driving like a high-riding SUV, the Q3’s road manners are like that of a light, agile, and neutral handling hatchback. That being said, it’s far from being a driver’s delight because the standard setup is tuned for a comfortable ride instead of corner carving. Plus, there are no adaptive dampers on offer either, which means that you don’t have the option to firm up the suspension.
Now, the Q3 may not set your pants on fire with its driving dynamics, but it more than makes up for it with its sublime ride quality. Be it broken roads, speed breakers, undulations, or serpentine highways, the Q3’s suspension does a stellar job of absorbing road imperfections. It’s only when you go over a really big or sharp pothole that you hear a thud from the suspension. Otherwise, there’s nothing to complain about.
The Q3 features quattro AWD, although it’s the Haldex system, which means it is primarily front-wheel drive. Power is only sent to the rear axle once the system detects a slip or loss of traction. Now, it’s not an off-roader in any way, but you can do light off-roading with the new Q3 as it doesn’t feel out of its depth on the rough turf. It’s also got an Off-Road setting, along with four more driving modes, that alters the throttle response, traction control, etc. to get you out of tricky spots.
Considering a product has a lifecycle of eight years, the new Q3 is already past its mid-life, which should have worked against it. Fortunately for Audi, that isn’t the case since its rivals – the X1, XC40, and Mercedes-Benz GLA – haven’t quite moved the goalposts to an extent that the Q3 can’t catch up. In fact, if you look at these cars as a whole package, the Q3 seems to be the best bet on paper. It looks the most SUV-like, drives quite well, and rides even better. And it’s got an interior that’s up there with the best in the segment in terms of tech and comfort. Sure, at 50 lakh (ex-showroom), it’s a tad expensive for what’s essentially an entry-level Audi SUV, but then that’s the case with virtually all new launches in this post-pandemic inflation-riddled world. So, if you have a spare half crore lying around and want to make a statement, the Q3 is still as potent and relevant as it always was.
- Audi Q3 40 TFSI Technology
Engine: 1,984cc / 4-Cylinder / TFSI
Transmission: 7-Speed DCT / All-Wheel-Drive
Power: 188bhp @ 4,200 – 6,000rpm
Torque: 320Nm @ 1,500 – 4,100rpm
Price: ₹50.39 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: As an entry-level luxury SUV, the Q3 covers all the bases – it’s stylish, premium, sophisticated & effortless to drive.