If you want an SUV oozing style and Germanic quality, this new 'Q' will be tough to beat
Sunday 10 July 2011
A brand is largely defined by its products' appearance, the way they interact with the user and the history behind the brand name.
So it doesn't matter that your iPad was made in China and contains microchips from who-knows-where, because it's a quality American product conceived in California.
Same with the new Audi Q3. It's an Audi, so it oozes Germanic quality and the particular Audi look. So it doesn't matter that it is made in the Seat factory at Martorell, near Barcelona, and that a chunk of its under-skin componentry is shared with the Volkswagen Tiguan. Much more obvious is that it is a more compact interpretation of the aggressive-faced, round-tailed, LED-strewn Audi SUV called Q7 and the more sensibly dimensioned, and rather likeable, Q5.
These two bigger versions have the usual large-Audi configuration of a longitudinally mounted engine and a Quattro four-wheel drive system, which always gives the rear wheels some work to do. The Q3, being loosely mechanically related to what we could call the Volkswagen Golf branch of the VW family, has a transverse engine, a shorter nose and an essentially front-wheel-drive approach.
The cheapest version (£24,560), with a 140bhp, 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, leaves it at that, but the three other engines on offer – a 177bhp turbodiesel of the same capacity, plus a pair of 2.0-litre petrol-fuelled turbos of 170 and 211bhp – automatically make themselves into 4x4s if the front wheels can no longer cope. But these aren't proper, off-roading 4x4s. They are style objects that look ready for rugged action. They could certainly tow a trailer across a muddy field but, as with so many such cars, the allure is in the possibility.
As with the recently launched Audi A8 and A6, the design of the Q3's dashboard helps reduce the sense of bulk ahead and contributes to the vehicle's airy aura. There is, optionally, an impressive tally of technology, including a built-in mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and no fewer than five parking assistance systems. Other things the Q3 can do that you really ought to be doing yourself are switching your headlights to main beam, warning you of objects in the "blind spot", and nudging the steering to keep you in lane.
A drive select option lets you tailor the way the Q3 responds to the road and to you, the variations being Comfort, Auto (that is, "let the car decide"), Dynamic and Efficiency.
I tried the two most powerful engines, which both endowed the Q3 with spirited pace. Ultimately, the TFSI petrol engine makes for a faster Q3 – with 62mph arriving just 6.9 seconds after launch – but the TDI diesel feels punchier for more of the time and is both crisp and smooth.
I liked the Q3, partly because it is very pleasing to drive, partly because it has virtually as much space as the larger Q5 yet occupies less road, partly because it just seems a very complete car. If you want a new compact SUV, right now there is none better.
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