With the introduction of the Q3, Audi in Malaysia now have a complete arsenal in which to assail the potential customer that walks through the doors of its showrooms. They now have the A1, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, Q3, Q5, Q7, TT and R8 that would appeal to everyone in the family, and them some. And this is not counting the variants in each model line.
However, due to the fact that we don’t get the full variant-range as Audi in Europe do, the plan here is more of a surgical strike than an outright barrage-blitz. Honestly, it does not leave you with much choice.
Take the Q3 for instance; it comes in only one configuration, which is a 2.0 litre TFSI engine that produces 170 hp from 4,300 to 6,200 rpm and a torque of 280 Nm from 1,700 to 4,200 rpm. A seven-speed S tronic delivers power to all four wheels, which means the Q3 gets sublime quattro system as well.
If you want a more powerful Q3, you can’t. At least, not yet. For now, more power means you’ll have to buy the Q5. There’s a reason for the Q3 being this way, it is meant to compete with the BMW X1 and it does that by slotting itself in the tight niche between the sDrive18i and the xDrive20d.
The Q3 offers more power than the sDrive18i and has a four-wheel drive system like the xDrive20d. In a nutshell, the Q3 is the middle path. Even the price fills the gap; the Q3 is more expensive than the sDrive18i but cheaper than the xDrive20d. You can see where this is going.
You can have it on your driveway for RM258,000 on-the-road (without insurance) for the base version you see here. Add RM21,000 and you’ll get the S line garnishing that includes a bigger 18 inch wheels (the base gets 17 inch wheels), three-spoke steering wheel and some chrome bits. You could also option for the comfort key (RM2,500), 14-speaker BOSE Surround Sound System (RM5,000), panoramic roof (RM6,000) and Pearl effect colour (RM3,500). Tick all the boxes and your Q3 will cost you RM296,000. I’d go for the comfort key, it makes getting into the SUV quicker than fumbling for the key.
Audi’s latest measures 4,385 mm long, 2,019 mm wide (mirror-to-mirror) and is 1,608 mm high. The cargo bay is able to hold 460 litres of luggage and can be extended up to 1,365 litres with the seats folded.
I have to admit that I like Audi’s design language. Big hexagonal grille with daytime running lights and LED rears gives the Q3 a commanding on-road presence. In spite of the Q3 looking like a puffed up A1, I still give its looks a thumbs-up.
My thumbs-up extends to the interior as well. With a wheelbase of 2,603 mm, a shoulder room of 1,362 mm, the Q3 is always going to be spacious. The quality of the materials, fit and finish is as expected of Audi – overdone. Everything that can be wrapped in leather, is wrapped in leather. Things that are not wrapped is finished in aluminium or brushed metal.
All button and dials have a tactile feel that adds to the indulgent experience of driving an Audi. Surrounding the occupants are 10 loudspeakers hooked up to a six-channel amp for a total output of 180 watts. The Audi concert radio handles all multimedia and is displayed on a 6.5 inch TFT colour display, which you need to manually open and close.
In case you’re wondering, the six-CD changer is secreted away in the boot and it does not come with satellite navigation. The Q3 also has a voice dialogue system that lets you activate your phone and change music; it does not let you control the climate with your voice.
Let’s not forget safety. Audi’s baby SUV comes with six airbags and ESP, which consists of traction control, electronic differential lock, ABS, EBD and BA. ISOFIX is also found inside, a must for families with younglings.
But there is one thing that Audi missed – a power button to shut the boot lid. The trouble is that once popped it open, it’ll be challenge to pull it down because the lid will be high and heavy. Anyone shorter than five feet three inches may need a stool to reach the lid. Park it on a steep slope and someone that is five feet ten inches may need to tip toe to reach the handle. Although Audi says that the Malaysian Q3s have already had its struts shortened, it is still a stretch for most.
The SUV is also fitted with the Audi drive select, which lets you tweak the engine mapping, throttle and gear shifts. There are four modes to dial in: auto, comfort, dynamic and efficiency. Of the four, efficiency would be the most notable one.
Don’t read that as bad, I tested the car mostly with efficiency on. Yes it makes the car much lazier but it also makes it more frugal. The spotlight is on the gearbox that disengages and goes into neutral whenever the feet leave the accelerator, so the Q3 coasts to a stop. It works on any speed above 10 km/h. The gear re-engages the moment you step on the go-pedal or the brakes, or if the car slows down too much. Audi measured the combined fuel consumption as 7.7 l/100 km, my best was about 9.0 l/100 km.
In the other modes, the car feels the same. The characteristics are so similar between the four that you’d be hard-pressed to feel the difference. Dynamic is especially disappointing because it does not deliver close to what its name suggest. The pedal still feels soft and the gears still changes up too quick. So, if you’re looking for a quick and faster Audi, try the Q5. Or one of the sedans.
Unless you click the stick into ‘S’ then it revs till red before shifting up. Or get into manual and you can flick the gears to the heart’s content. The Q3 has a top speed of 212 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time of 7.8 seconds, but it never feels explosive. For sure it has enough power to get the wheels turning from rest, but I can’t help wanting a bit more burst from the Q3.
As mentioned earlier, the Q3 comes outfitted with the all-wheel drive quattro system that automatically bestows the SUV with brilliant handling. It has good body control and it follows the line you set for it really well. There is plenty of feedback coming from the steering with adequate weight and resistance to match the speed. The ride is supple and it is almost never punishing even when skimming over potholes that suddenly appear. The suspension setup is also firm enough to give it stability when cruising at highway speeds.
As good as this SUV is, I also find the Q3 lacking in character. There is nothing that, after closing the door and locking it, makes that vehicle particularly memorable. Aside from the boot lid debacle, there’s nothing really wrong or really special about the Q3.
It is odd because Audi has birthed one of the better compact SUVs that money can buy. The Audi Q3 offers a good-looking SUV with all the trappings of luxury that will have you arrive in style. It does not offer anything else, really.