First Drive: Audi's luxury Q3

Sean Parker traveled to the beautiful North Eastern part of Italy to sample what Audi has in their SUV arsenal: the new Q3.

28 September 2018 | Motors

Sean Parker, Motoring Journalist - “Introduced to Southern Africa in 2012, the Q3 is a luxury compact crossover that in 2018 has more rivals than a premier league football team.”

Sean Parker - The small town of Bolzano looks like a slice of heaven on earth. Houses perched precariously on luscious green mountains gaze down onto the highways.

This region of Italy also has some stunning roads, most are in great condition and are more twisty than a contortionist on speed.

Those roads might be better suited for sportscars but such is the confidence of Audi that it used for the launch of the Q3.

Introduced to Southern Africa in 2012, the Q3 is a luxury compact crossover that in 2018 has more rivals than a premier league football team.

The second-generation has grown in every way and features the new octagon grille, the new ‘face’ of Audi Q cars. It looks like a mini Q8, Ingolstadt’s new flagship SUV due next year.

To make the car more practical, the rear bench seat can be moved by 150mm forward and backwards to create a bigger boot area. FYI, the standard boot size is 530 litres.

While the local engine line-up isn’t confirmed at the time of publishing it seems likely that we’ll receive the 2.0-litre turbocharged powered model, albeit in 132 kW form.

Claimed figures suggest 169 kW and 350 Nm, but it feels quicker. It’s a punchy powertrain that even revs quite high if driven in the car’s sportiest configuration. The gearbox is a 7-speed dual clutch which felt bulletproof.

Damn, SUVs drive well these days

The twisty asphalt was the perfect litmus test for the Q3 which felt composed, thanks to the sure-footedness of the all-wheel drive.

I was most impressed by the light, nimble steering feels and coupled to that with a low driving position the new Q3 has the hallmarks of feeling more hatchback than a crossover.

It has good straight-line acceleration and the optional paddle-shifts provide a driving experience more akin to GTI than a crossover.

During a second stint of driving it started raining and instead of coming down a few clicks, I pushed the front end more aggressively into the tight corners of the brilliant roads. The result? It felt composed with very little understeer.

The optional adaptive damping, which is most likely to also be offered on models sold in Southern Africa, did a good job of ironing out any bumps or ruts the surface threw at it.

Features such as progressive steering, adaptive damping, drive select, and hill descent control are optional.

Leaving the best for last

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better interior in any new car. The Q3 now features the automaker’s ‘virtual cockpit’ 31cm screen display which provides visuals of important information in different views including a full map when navigation is selected.

If you don’t have enough cash to splurge on the virtual cockpit, the standard 25 cm touchscreen located on the dashboard offers access to the infotainment settings. There’s inevitably an app for your phone that connects to the car that allows certain vehicle functions to be done from a distance.

Everything in the front end of the cabin is designed and tilted towards the driver. There has been special attention to things like the door handle and the opening mechanism. The use of materials is excellent, and you’ll find Audi has dipped into the more expensive parts basket for interior trim. A definite win for Q3 drivers.

S Line trimmed cars feature sports seats as standard and you can choose Alcantara surfaces on parts of the dash and seats. Feeling in the mood for a change of colour? Choose from a 30-colour light palette (standard on the design selection trim option).

When is it coming?

Audi South Africa says we’ll see the new model in the second quarter of 2019. And while the Q3 will clash heads with the BMW X2, Volvo’s XC40, Mercedes-Benz’s GLA, Jaguar’s E-Pace and Lexus’ UX, all those models will have to come with a free moon to match the Q3’s interior.

Oh, it helps that in 45 TSFI Quattro specification it offers a formidable package in the lux-crossover segment. It's a pity we'll only see it locally next year.

Audi SA said: Customers can expect the arrival of the new Q3 in quarter two next year (2019). The model line is still to be confirmed, but the German automaker is looking at introducing an entry model 1.4 TFSI 110kW engine with a possible 2.0TFSI 132kW and 2.0 TDI 110kW engine as well.

Pricing is not yet confirmed at this stage.-Wheels24

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