Audi’s no stranger to the AWD market, but the company only officially entered the SUV segment when they launched the Q7 back in ’06. This super-sized SUV was originally designed for the American market but proved to be globally popular.
The Q7’s success prompted the design and production of a similar but slightly smaller version, the Q5. This mid-sized SUV was launched in ’09 and much like its bigger brother it also enjoyed successful sales; in fact, to this day Audi cannot build enough of them to meet demand.
Then they scaled down the Q range some more and produced a Q3, a recently-released compact SUV aimed at the premium 4×4 market.
Aside from its smaller proportions the Q3 prides itself on its lightweight design, weighing in at less than 1 500 kg for the base model. Audi has gone to great lengths to achieve this mass, using aluminium body panels and replacing 4 400 weld points with 74 metres of ultra-strength adhesive.
The Q3’s styling pays homage to its family tree while simultaneously branching off in a coupé-like direction. This sporty identity is distinctly evident in the Q3’s wedged-shaped headlights, swept-back roofline, sharply sloped D-pillars, pronounced wheel arches and the integration of a very flat-set rear window. The Q3’s sporty styling is further expressed in its dimensions, particularly its height; the Q3 is 4 385 mm long, 1 831 mm wide and just 1 590 mm high. The baby Q’s wheelbase measures 2 603 mm.
Inside, the Q3 boasts a similar streamlined look, incorporating a sweeping, horizontally stepped instrument panel, broad centre console and a clean interior layout that offers intuitive operation and large-faced dials. Buyers will also be impressed by the Q3’s retractable LED display screen which lies hidden in the vehicle’s dashboard – a light tap on the top edge of the monitor extends the screen in a smooth upward motion.
Integrated into the driver information system is the on-board computer with efficiency programme. This computer gives the driver tips for fuel-effi cient gearbox shift s while off ering additional information on which on-board power consumers – such as the air conditioning or the rear window heating – are active and how they aff ect fuel consumption. On the engine front, the Q3 off ers four options, all of them 2.0-litre. Th ere are two diesels; one produces 103 kW and 320 Nm, while the other churns out 130 kW and 380 Nm. On the petrol side, you can opt for an FSI that produces 125 kW and 280 Nm or the more powerful FSI capable of 155 kW and 300 Nm. All three 4WD models are coupled to a 7-speed sequential gearbox, except for the 125 kW AWD model which is mated to a 6-speed manual. Th e 103 kW version is available in 2WD guise only.
Regardless of model spec, all engine derivatives come standard with Audi’s recuperation system, which uses intelligent voltage control on the alternator to recover lost energy during braking and coasting phases. Th e energy is stored temporarily in the battery and fl ows back into the on-board electrical system, relieving the load on the alternator, and thus on the engine.
Th e start-stop system is another Audi effi ciency technology. When the Q3 comes to a halt, the control unit shuts down the engine. A powerful starter motor quickly restarts the motor when the brake pedal is released or if the clutch pedal is depressed.
Th e Q3 is set to square off against its number one competitor, the BMW X1. Audi foresees a sales potential of 2 000 units per year but they’re already talking about supply constraints. If that’s the case, it won’t matter which of these German rivals is the better buy – whoever’s got the metal will make the sale.