* If the X1 is the cheapest Beemer around, can Audi be far behind? When the Q3 gets launched in India by April or May next year, this compact SUV will be the most affordable Audi around. Affordable of course is a figure of speech, because my guess is that the Q3 will retail in Mumbai for about Rs 25 lakh onwards – a bit more than what the X1 costs over here. An Audi... For 25 big ones... Hmm, certainly not affordable for me! Perhaps I’ll be ready by the time the Q1 comes along.
* The Q3, the baby SUV from Audi, is like a shrunken Q7/Q5. It’s a proper Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear situation. The party pooper can be Goldilocks, in the form of the Volkswagen Tiguan which is also being readied for launch next year. Essentially, the Q3 has all the attributes of the bigger Qs, without being bigger of course. It does not look dramatically different except perhaps for the sharply raked D-pillar and a more tapering roofline. But it is in the details that the Q3 makes itself stand apart – especially with the lighting fixtures. Audi is of course the ones that started the whole LED craze, leading to even Indicas and Innovas in India to wear blue LED strips below their headlamps. So it is the case with the Q3 as well, to have distinctive front and rear lights.
* So why is this review called ‘Politically Correct?’ Because that’s what the Q3 is. And that’s not only because it’s a compact SUV. It’s because the Q3 comes loaded with features that give the car an eco-friendly greenish hue. And we’re not talking only start-stop tech. It’s light and as Audi claims, it’s got a segment-busting Cd of .32 – now that can only means fuel savings. The Q3’s brain has an Efficiency mode along with the usual Comfort, Auto and Dynamic, which gives you tips on gear shifts and what element inside the car is taking up energy. Plus, there is a Freewheel function that disengages the clutch while you’re coasting and the electro-mechanical steering setup does not consume any energy when you are driving straight ahead. And there’s more.
* The insides of the Q3 look as if Audi’s not lavished too much richness in it. Or maybe I’m so used to seeing larger, plusher Audis that the Q3’s dash looks simple to me. There is no issue with the quality however – it is still top notch. But two points with the Q3 show that Audi has been clever with the Q3 to keep the costs low. For one, the AC knobs look quite close to the VW Polo/Vento headlamp switches. Of course, the same one serves the same function in the Q3 as well. Then, the MMI system is placed right on the central console instead of the usual location on the central tunnel behind the gear lever.
* Rear space is adequate in terms of leg room. Of course, there’s that intrusive central tunnel that would make the middle passenger a bit uncomfortable. For four adults, the Q3 is good enough. The boot is deep but if Audi has to fit in a space server in there, it might compromise the space available.
* For the Q3, Audi has the 2.0 TFSI petrol with 170 hp/28.5 kgm and 211 hp/30.6 kgm – yes the same engine that has won the Engine of the Year in its category since 2005. The diesel is the 2.0 TDI, again with two output options: 140 hp/32.6 kgm and 177 hp/38.7 kgm. In the future, there will be a 140 hp version also. For the moment, the lower output petrol motor gets a six-speed manual option. The powerful versions of both the TFSI and the TDI motor get a seven-speed S-tronic dual clutch transmission. Which is what I sampled on the roads in and around Zurich.
* There is no mistaking that you’re driving a diesel Q3. The 177 hp TDI sitting up front makes itself known on the outside, but inside, the insulation is pretty good for a car of its size and category. The diesel is a strong motor, because of the combination of that superb torque and the overall light build of the car. It pulls the Q3 so effortlessly that you know instantly that it’s capable of bigger things. There is no reason to use the paddle-shifts because the torque is always available. The petrol motor is extremely refined and the 211 horses that it summons are more than enough to push this mini SUV around. It revs brilliantly and shines through in the Dynamic mode, when you redline it.
* But then, unfortunately or fortunately for Audi, I sampled a hot test-mule 2.5 TFSI which could be making around 300 hp... But more on that in the magazine!
* The Drive Select settings of course allow you to drive the Q3 in the mood you are in. And I am never in an Efficiency mode, irrespective of which car I am piloting. Even in the Dynamic mode let alone the Comfort mode, the ride quality was pretty decent. The shifts are quick but it was not practical in those narrow Zurich roads, while the steering tightens up a bit artificially.
* ’Nuff said. Pick up the forthcoming August issue of BSM for more on the ‘affordable’ Audi. Who knows, it could be your very first Audi, but not mine!