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First drive: Audi cues Q3

Entry SUV: Audi Australia has thrown a cat amongst the pigeons with its pricing on the Q3, whick kicks off from $44,800.

Entry compact SUV to usher in new buyers for Ingolstadt brand


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30 Mar 2012

AUDI’S new-model onslaught continues with its first entry-level compact SUV offering, the Q3.

Priced from $44,800 for the base model (FWD front-wheel drive 2.0 TDI diesel manual), or $48,950 for the cheapest automatic (AWD all-wheel drive 2.0 TFSI quattro S-tronic petrol), the Spanish-built five-door wagon/crossover will go head-to-head with similarly sized premium offerings from BMW (X1 and Mini Countryman) and Land Rover (Freelander II and Range Rover Evoque).

But Audi is also expecting to attract a sizeable slew of new customers to the marque from mainstream brands who market similarly sized and priced SUVs.

Among the conquest competitors are up-spec versions of the Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage, Hyundai ix35, Ford Kuga, Skoda Yeti, and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Although the latter two share significant drivetrain technologies with the Q3 as a result of all three using the Volkswagen Group A5 PQ35 platform, Audi points out that it was designed and engineered from the ground up to accommodate the four-ringed badge.

That means no body or interior parts are interchangeable, with the Q3 adopting strong visual cues from its Q5 and Q7 siblings – notable in the rounded silhouette, blunt nose design and wraparound tailgate treatment that seem to be Audi SUV trademarks.

Other styling details – namely the single-frame grille, daytime driving lights, LED tail-lights, and six-window daylight opening – further underscore the family resemblance, while the Q3’s aluminium bonnet and tailgate, low 0.32Cd aerodynamic figure, and use of ultra-high strength steels, reflect the company’s engineering drive of lower mass and increased efficiencies.

At 4385 millimetres long, 1831mm wide, and 1590mm high, and sitting on a 2603mm wheelbase, the Q3 is 42mm shorter in length, 22mm wider, 96mm shorter in height, and 2mm shorter in wheelbase, compared to its Tiguan cousin. Ground clearance is set at 170mm (Tiguan: 195mm).

Like the Volkswagen, the Audi’s engine sits transversely across the nose, necessitating some different drivetrain choices compared to the longitudinally equipped Q5 and Q7.

For now only a quartet of EU5 emissions-rated 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo powerplants are available for Australian-bound Q3s in a pair of 1968cc TDI diesels and two 1984cc TFSI petrol models. Diesels first. The base engine (and lone FWD model) is the familiar Volkswagen Group 2.0 TDI turbo-diesel (103TDI) boasting 103kW of power at 4200rpm and 320Nm of torque from 1750rpm to 2500rpm.

Tipping the scales at 1445kg (some 38kg less than the lightest Tiguan 118TSI petrol) and mated solely to a six-speed manual gearbox, the Q3 103TDI accelerates to 100km/h in 9.9 seconds on the way to a 202km/h top speed, returns 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres in the average combined fuel consumption cycle, and emits 137 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide pollution.

Since no automatic version of this engine is offered for now, Q3 diesel fanciers must stump up another $9700 for the $54,500 2.0 TDI quattro S-tronic (130TDI) that ups the power and torque ante 27kW and 60Nm to 130kW and 380Nm respectively.

Like every other Q3 bar the base car, a Haldex AWD system oscillates 100 per cent available torque from the front to the rear wheels according to road and driving conditions, for improved traction.

The upshot? Unladen weight rises to 1510kg – partly due to the AWD and seven-speed S-tronic (DSG in VW-speak) dual-clutch transmission hardware that help the 2.0 TDI quattro achieve 0-100km/h in 8.2s, 212km/h, 5.9L/100km and 156g/km.

Petrol-powered Q3s commence with the 2.0 TFSI quattro (125TSI), packing 125kW from 4300rpm to 6200rpm and 280Nm from 1700rpm to 4200rpm.

With all four wheels are driven by either a six-speed manual ($47,000) or 7-speed S-tronic gearbox ($48,950), Audi says the 125TFSI shadows the 130TDI with its 8.2s 0-100km/h and 212km/h results, but consumption leaps to 7.3L/100km and 174g/km for the 1510kg manual and 7.7L/100km/179g/km for the 1555kg S-tronic.

Finally there’s the high-performance Q3 variant known as the 2.0 TFSI quattro ($56,000 155TFSI).

With S-tronic and AWD, and hauling 1565kg of Audi about, the vital statistics here are 155kW from 5000rpm to 6200rpm, 300Nm from 1800rpm to 4900rpm, 0-100km/h in 6.9s, 230km/h, 7.7L/100km and 179g/km – with the final two figures equalling the lighter and less powerful 125TFSI.

Being a car with its roots in the Golf V generation architecture, the monocoque bodied Q3 employs similar MacPherson struts with aluminium wishbones up front and four-link arrangement out back. Steering is electromechanical rack and pinion offering an 11.8-metre turning circle, while the brakes are via ventilated front discs and solid rear discs.

Along with electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with EBD Electronic Brake-force Distribution, hydraulic brake assist, and an EDL Electronic Diff Lock, the Q3 also features six airbags to help it achieve a five-star ENCAP crash test rating, while an electronic park brake for convenience, Stop Start technology (to help save fuel), and a Brake Recuperation system (that temporarily stores braking energy in the battery for improved acceleration) are also employed.

Towing capacity on the FWD 103TDI is rated at 1800kg (braked) and 750kg (unbraked), rising to 2000kg unbraked for the other models. The standard tyre size is a 235/55 R17 unit, with 18 and 19-inch items available optionally.

Luggage capacity spans from 460 litres with all seats erect to 1365L with the backrests folded. In contrast the Tiguan is rated from 395L to 1510L.

The base model is equipped with dual-zone air-conditioning, Audi’s ‘Concert’ audio system with Bluetooth streaming and phone interface, cruise control and rear parking radar.

Among the optional items are an adaptive light system for the Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, a panoramic glass roof, satellite navigation, an LED interior lighting package, a Bose high-end audio system, power-adjustable front seats, a lane departure warning system, a parking assist device that uses radar to help find and manoeuvre the car using the steering into a parking spot, and Audi Drive Select that employs active dampers and alters the steering (among other electronic items) to either sharpen or soften the driving experience.

Audi is bundling a few of the more popular options it anticipates into a series of option packs, including the $5000 Technik package (Xenon, parking system with rear camera and navigation), $3350 Comfort package (Nappa leather, electric front seats, proximity entry/start key), and the $750 High Gloss package (aluminium trim and inserts as well as extra body brightwork).

Additionally, buyers can also specify several specialised styling packages.

The $5150 to $6500 (depending on wheel choices) Off-road styling package adds trim strips on the doors and flared wheel arches, a stainless steel underbody guard, redesigned rear bumper, and beefy 18 or 19-inch alloy wheels the $2750 S-Line exterior package includes a different front apron, a rear bumper with a diffuser added, chrome fog light surrounds, vertical elements to the grille, black air inlets, body coloured trim and unique badging and the $5800 to $7500 S-Line sports package with different seats, paddleshifts for the steering wheel and modified trim and inlays.

From initial styling renderings to Job One, the Q3 took four years to reach the market in Europe, where it was launched in the middle of 2011.

All cars are produced at Seat’s highly automated Martorell facility near Barcelona, Spain.

Meeting global demand will limit sales in Australia. Audi expects to shift about 2800 Q3s each year (or just over 230 per month), which is about the same number of Q5s it managed during 2011.

The individual bestseller is expected to be the 125TSI 2.0 TFSI quattro, though collectively the diesels should account for slightly higher overall volume than the petrol variants.
Audi Q3 pricing (pluson-road costs):
125TFSI&nbsp $47,000
125TFSI (a) $48,950
130TDI (a) $54,500
155TFSI (a)$56,000

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