There are SUVs. There are fake SUVs. There are coupes. There are fake coupes. And then, there are coupe SUVs, which, if you think about it, are nothing but double fakes!
The brand-new Audi Q3 Sportback seems to match this description to a tee – at least, on paper. You see, even though it has got quattro AWD, it’s not the proper quattro, meaning it’s not an SUV in the true sense. And then there’s the question of it being an actual coupe. Well, it’s not that either – it’s just a Q3 that’s wearing its cap backwards to look cool.
When Audi sent the Q3 Sportback for us to test, I thought it was a foregone conclusion. However, after driving it for a couple of days, it completely changed my mind, to the extent that I now feel it’s the best entry-level luxury SUV on the market. How and why? Well, let me explain in five simple points.
1. Dressed to the Nines
I find the regular Q3 to be a handsome-looking car, but it’s just that – regular. The Sportback addresses this problem by adding not just a curvy derriere but also a lot more flash and jazz. Unlike the SUV, the coupe derivative gets an S-Line styling package, so you get more angular bumpers, a mesh-pattern grille (instead of vertical chrome slats), and, thankfully, an exciting set of 18-inch double-spoke alloy wheels, which look much, much better than the regular version. Plus, in this exclusive Turbo Blue paint scheme, the Q3 Sportback looks ravishing and stands out from other entry-level luxury SUVs.
2. Classy Minimalism
The interior here is virtually identical to the Q3. This means that you get the same classy, solid build, and minimalistic design, along with a lot of tech and creature comforts. You get a 10-inch HD touchscreen, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto connectivity, Audi’s sensational Virtual Cockpit digital driver display, and dual-zone air-conditioning. There are two upholstery / trim options available with the Q3 Sportback – black & brown and black & beige. Our test car came with the former, and I personally thought it clashed with the exterior paint. I’d have preferred the lighter upholstery in this paint scheme. That said, it’s good that Audi gives you two options.
What’s more, despite being a coupe, it’s also quite spacious and practical. The front seats are large and accommodating, whereas the rear bench has decent legroom. Overall, it’s as good (or bad) as any other vehicle in the segment. Sure, the sloping roofline does eat into the headroom, but if you’re below 6 feet, it won’t bother you much. The boot space is also identical to that of the regular Q3, at 530 litres.
3. Sublimely Balanced
It may have the word ‘sport’ in its name, but this thing isn’t about achieving breakneck speeds or hunting apexes – it’s a rather subdued do-it-all luxury vehicle. It gets the same 2.0-litre TFSI engine that powers the standard Q3, with identical power output and torque. This engine is an absolute peach. The acceleration is quick, smooth, and steady, and the 7-speed DSG shifts in a snappy yet seamless manner. Downshifts can be slow, but you’ve got paddle shifters to take matters into your hand. Refinement is exemplary, and as you inch closer to the redline, it sounds quite sporty. The performance isn’t thrilling but it is enjoyable, nonetheless.
The suspension setup is identical to that of the Q3 (no adaptive dampers), and it’s tuned for comfort. The ride quality, as a result, is plush. Big potholes do send loud thuds inside the cabin, but, overall, occupants remain isolated from the world outside. Handling is neat and tidy – it rolls a fair bit, but you’re always in control. The steering may not be dripping with feel, but it’s precise and well-weighted. What I absolutely love about the Q3 is its size and manoeuvrability as it feels more like a hatchback to drive.
4. Quattro Power
Okay, the Q3’s quattro isn’t the real deal, since it uses a Haldex system, which primarily favours the front wheels. But, then, it can send the drive to the rear wheels as and when needed. There’s an Off-Road mode too, in which you can do light off-roading, as the clearance is also quite decent. Not to mention, the Q3/Q3 Sportback are the only petrol SUVs in its segment that are equipped with AWD.
The Q3 Sportback commands a premium of around ₹1 lakh over the regular Q3. Given the style and substance it brings to the table, I think its price tag is more than justified.
…this isn’t a puff piece, which is to say that there’s more to this story. The Q3 Sportback isn’t perfect in a lot of areas. For instance, it misses out on a lot of features – no panoramic sunroof, no wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, no ventilated seats, no 360-degree camera, and the quality of plastics is questionable in some places. Honestly, I would have looked past these shortcomings had it not been 2023. But, today, even mass-market cars have a superior feature list than this Audi. So, whether it matters to you or not, it just doesn’t feel right somehow in this day and age. Also, it’s not as sporty to drive as it looks. In fact, it doesn’t even have a hint of sportiness as compared to the driving experience of the regular Q3.
All told, though, the Q3 Sportback is still the entry-level luxury SUV / Coupe of my choice. Agreed, it’s neither an SUV nor a coupe – and those are two big fat negatives. However, if you add things up, it paints a completely different picture – one that, whether you think from your head or heart, makes a lot of sense. The only way to explain this verdict, then, is that double negatives indeed make a positive.
- Audi Q3 Sportback
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: ₹51.43 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: A sublime combination of style, substance, and opulence – pretty much the perfect entry point to luxury motoring.
• Driving Experience
• Not as sporty to drive as it looks
Audi Q3, Q3 Sportback Production Commences in India
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