In the segment of premium compact SUV’s, the Q3 has always been a solid contender, and with the major improvements introduced in the latest generation, it looks it’s to stay very much on top. It has been voted first in the “compact SUV/off-road vehicles” category in the readers’ choice of “Best Cars 2019” by German technical magazine “auto motor und sport.”Indeed, the confident styling, the superb workmanship, impeccable finish and build quality will already convince you, even before driving it. But also behind the wheel, it has lots more in store, just read further…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Clean and sharp contours
The Audi styling language has been sharpened up lately and the rounded contours have now been superseded by more angular surfaces and edges. It makes the whole car more elegant and lighter, and altogether more lively.
This added dynamism is also found in the available colour palette, and indeed our test car was sprayed in an attractive pulse orange, a new color, which suited it well.
The ‘new generation’ angular styling language is boldly continued in the interior, with as a highlight the suede finish of the dashboard surface panels, repeating the body colour. Led lighting is now introduced in door panels and throughout the cabin, and a large central screen running across part of the instrument panel makes abundantly clear that the digital age has well and truly arrived at Audi.
The digital instrumentation is an example of clarity and elegant design, and the large round dials for speed and revs can be made smaller to allow other information to take central stage in the line of sight of the driver.
Infotainment is of course top notch, and we enjoyed the DAB radio along with the premium sound system. The navigation also leaves little to be desired in terms of intuitive usability and accuracy. Of course there are also a host of driving aids to be enjoyed, of which more later.
Under the hood purrs a state of the art 150 hp 1,5 litre gasoline TFSI unit, coupled to a smooth and alert 7 speed auto S Tronic gearbox. In terms of smoothness and liveliness, this entry level engine earns top marks. It develops ample pulling power at low revs, is vibrationless and silent, and is willing to rev beautifully under a marvellous staccato when you floor the throttle.
The engine embodies the latest techniques. What to think of for instance its cylinder linings, which have an iron coating that is applied via plasma spraying and significantly reduces friction. The cooling module allows efficient thermal management, assisted by the exhaust manifold integrated in the cylinder head. The turbochargers generate up to 1.3 bar of (relative) charging pressure. The common-rail system injects the fuel at up to 350 bar – the high pressure results in spraying, even distribution of the flame front and low particulate emissions. Combined CO2 emissions are between 134 – 130 g/km.
The gearbox is utterly responsive, and has a well balanced gearchange behaviour according to the chosen driving mode. Because – noblesse oblige – the Q3 driver can choose how his car behaves according to his driving mood. Indeed, customers can order the Audi drive select dynamic handling system as an option. This system allows the driver to choose between auto, comfort, dynamic, efficiency, offroad and individual mode.
One has the choice between and together with engine and gearbox responsiveness steering and damping are also adjusted accordingly. When one has chosen the “dynamic”mode, pure driving pleasure is to be fully enjoyed, and indeed in terms of agility and steering precision, this Q3 truly scores very high indeed in this premium compact SUV segment. Even the standard steering system of the new Audi Q3 is sporty and direct with a ratio of 14.8:1. With the optional progressive steering, this ratio applies to the central position – the further the driver turns the wheel, the more direct the ratio. At full lock, it is 11.4:1.
In Audi drive select offroad mode, in which the adaptive dampers are set to soft, hill descent control can provide assistance (see illustration). Activated at the touch of a button, it constantly maintains the speed specified by the driver (up to a maximum of 30 km/h) on a steep downhill gradient of more than six percent through automatic brake interventions. The driver specifies the preferred speed by accelerating or braking. This allows the driver to concentrate fully on the terrain. In addition the MMI displays the tilt angle accordingly.
A few words more about this gearbox: In the entry-level gasoline version we tested, the two dry clutches manage without their own oil supply on account of the lower torque of 250 Nm (184.4 lb-ft). This improves efficiency even further. Oil is supplied to the gearwheels via a small, mechanically driven gear pump. In conjunction with Audi drive select, the seven-speed S tronic provides a freewheel function that becomes active in many situations if the driver takes their foot off the accelerator. It is deactivated in dynamic and offroad modes. We remind you here that the the Audi Q3 35 TFSI exclusively uses front-wheel drive.
Performance with this 150 hp version is more than adequate, with a 0 to 100 sprint time in 9.2 seconds, and a stable and effortless top speed of 207 km/h. When truly put through its paces with panache, this Q3 really shows what mettle it is made of, and indeed, in the true German tradition we would say, this Q3 feels totally at home on high speed outings on the Autobahnen, displaying the superb qualities of its chassis and suspension, and the thoroughly tested and proven quality of its (drivetrain) engineering.
In terms of economy, we remind you that the engine has the cylinder on demand efficiency system. Actuators on the camshafts temporarily shut down the second and third cylinders at low and medium loads by closing the inlet and outlet valves. The engine management system suppresses fuel injection and ignition. All this is totally imperceptible to the driver.
Despite all these technical refinement, the fuel consumption of a petrol engine car depends largely on your driving style. The very best we could achieve was an average of 7,3 liters/100 km, on a longer open road and motorway drive, with admittedly some 35 pct urban traffic thrown in. The manufacturer quotes a consumption between 5.9 – 5.7 l/100 km.
Suffice to say that a choice of three gasoline and two diesel engines, combined with front-wheel or quattro drive, is available for the Audi Q3. Their power outputs range from 110 kW (150 hp) to 169 kW (230 hp).
Infotainment, instrumentation and driving assistance: the digital age is with us…
The Q3 is manufactured at the Győr plant in Hungary, and is standard fitted with the digital instrument cluster, MMI radio including Bluetooth, multifunction leather steering wheel, air conditioning and LED headlights. In terms of assist systems, along with the Audi pre sense basic and Audi pre sense front safety systems, the Audi side assist lane change warning system and the Audi active lane assist lane departure warning system are fitted ex works. The light/rain sensor and the adjustable speed limiter also come as standard. We must say that this adjustable speed cruise control has decidedly come of age, and works is stunningly smooth and progressive.
Audi has done away with the analog instruments. Even with the standard MMI radio, they are replaced by a digital instrument cluster with a 10.25-inch screen diagonal, which the driver operates using the multifunction steering wheel.
First option: MMI radio plus. This first configuration level is called MMI radio plus – here, the customer can upgrade the digital instrument to the Audi virtual cockpit, which they can configure in many areas. In addition to the usual data such as road and engine speed, it also displays information on music tracks and Audi connect services.
If the customer has specified navigation, the display also includes the navigation map. The MMI radio plus also includes an MMI touch display with an 8.8-inch screen diagonal. It is integrated into the high-gloss black glass-look surround in the center of the dashboard. Then there is a still higher level: MMI navigation plus. Here, the MMI touch display measures 10.1 inches. In addition, the Audi virtual cockpit is available as an option in a plus version with a 12.3-inch screen diagonal. The driver can call up three different views on the screen, including a “dynamic” screen. Here, the engine and road speed are shown in square instruments with red graphical elements – a really sporty look. In all displays, the graphical user interface is so clear that the information can be read quickly. The menu structure is streamlined and easy to understand, as on a smartphone
Practical with more boot space
The luggage compartment has also benefited substantially from the growth of the new Q3 –it is the largest in the premium compact segment. Depending on the position of the rear seats and backrests, its capacity totals 530 or 675 liters (18.7 or 23.8 cu ft) With the backrests folded down the figure rises to 1,525 liters (53.9 cu ft) The loading floor can be adjusted in up to three levels; the low loading sill of 748 millimeters (29.4 in) makes it easier to stow heavy luggage. If the parcel shelf is not needed, it can be stowed under the loading floor.
The new Q3 has decidedly matured to a top contender, as we said before. Thoroughly engineered and built carefully to reach perfection, in terms of styling, quality, performance, handling, comfort and economy and longevity. It is in this segment of compact SUV’s a benchmark, without any doubt, by which others will be judged. Needless to say it will top the charts in the fleet segment, and win also the hearts of many private Audi enthusiasts and followers…
Hans Knol ten Bensel