• Audi Q3: First Drive Review

Audi’s popular SUV is late to the party but impresses nevertheless

The Audi Q3 has been a popular offering, being the German carmaker’s most accessible entry point for SUVs. It was discontinued in April 2020 owing to the BS6 changeover and also to make way for the second-generation Q3. Pandemic-induced delays meant the Q3 took a long time to reach our shores. Meanwhile, its rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW  X1 and Volvo XC40 have moved the goalpost further. The Q3 comes all guns blazing and is larger and more-feature packed. Does it have the same appeal as its predecessor?

Styling is a major factor in the entry-level luxury segment and the Q3 scores major brownie points with Audi’s flagship Q8-derived styling accents. In fact, you won’t be amiss in calling it a baby Q8. The Q3 looks larger than its predecessor and has more street presence thanks to its broad, upright grille and large headlamps. It is still recognisable as a Q3 mainly due to the sharply raked rear windscreen. I quite like the ‘Pulse Orange’ paint job which makes the new Q3 further stand out from the crowd. That said, the 18-inch wheels on the India-spec SUV tone down the design quotient especially given the cool alloy designs on the international models.

The new Q3 is even more impressive inside with a new driver-centric cabin that has the dashboard controls angled towards the driver. The dashboard itself features sharp, angular lines and layers lending a modernist vibe. The steering wheel is not of the flat bottomed variety though, a miss in my opinion. 

The 10.1-inch touchscreen impresses with its crisp display and intuitive interface. It is the same case with the virtual cockpit display though I would have liked more customisability options. Features include electrically-adjustable front seats, ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof and wireless charging. It misses out on memory settings and ventilation for the seats though. 

On the safety front, the Q3 gets six airbags, ESC and ISOFIX child seat mounts. It does not feature ADAS safety tech, something which is available in SUVs a few segments below. 

The new Q3’s larger dimensions translate to more space inside, especially the rear seats. A 77mm increase in wheelbase allows for better knee room. There is ample headroom as well, enough to accommodate tall individuals. That said, the shoulder room is wide enough to just about accommodate two persons comfortably. The seats are wide and comfortable though and the rear seat’s backrest can be adjusted to a certain degree allowing for more comfort. 

The larger dimensions also liberate more boot space which is a best-in-class 530 litres. It can be further expanded by folding the rear seats flat. The flat loading bay and gesture-controlled powered tailgate make loading and unloading stuff easier.

Like modern Audi’s, the Q3 skips the diesel powertrain in favour of a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol powerplant. It delivers 190PS and 320Nm to all four wheels via Audi’s fabled quattro all-wheel-drive system. The motor is quite impressive, so much so that you don’t really miss the diesel powerplants. Modern turbo petrol powerplants offer fantastic throttle response and the Q3 is no different. The on-demand performance is quite refreshing and Audi has done well to mask the turbo lag. Step on the accelerator and the punchy motor gets to triple-digit speeds quickly and with ease. It is impressive how well the engine, gearbox and quattro drivetrain complement each other. The seven-speed gearbox offers seamless and intuitive shifts. While the shifts might seem a tad slow, shifting to sport mode or manually shifting gears using the paddle shifters should have most enthusiasts satiated. Refinement is top-notch and when prodded, the four-pot turbo petrol motor emits a sonorous note as well!

The highlight is the quattro system that seems to offer an endless supply of grip. Pushing the SUV up our favourite hillclimb, the Audi felt planted even with a heavy foot on the accelerator. This is despite worn-out patches and gravel in some corners. The steering wheel now offers a bit more weight than the overtly light one in its predecessor and is more feelsome and direct as well. High-speed runs in the Q3 are a calm and composed affair, making this a good SUV for inter-city travel. Where the Q3 also shines is in the city, in the way it is easy to drive and park. That said, it lacks a 360-degree camera, a big miss for such a premium SUV.

Also impressive is its ride quality. The suspension is firm but has a sense of sophistication in the way it tackles our roads. And this sophistication comes irrespective of speed, offering an insulated ride be it broken sections of road or irritating rumble strips. The high-profile Michelin tyres help improve ride quality as well. The Audi Q3 offers a fantastic balance between ride and handling. 

Prices for the Audi Q3 start at Rs 44.89 lakh for the Premium Plus variant and Rs 50.39 lakh for the Technology trim we are driving. There is no denying that you pay a premium for brand value and the prestige associated with it. You have other larger and more feature-packed SUV options (two within the SAVWIPL group) but the Audi has an air of modernity and sophistication. It feels special and in a way feels adept for the young, modern family. It can double up as an exciting driver’s SUV while also being comfortable enough to ferry the small family around. It is more likeable than the previous generation Q3 and even a fine fit as a premium everyday SUV.

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