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Audi Q3: High-rider with attitude

2012-04-20 10:27

Q3 GOES TO THE QOUNTRY: Audi has just launched its latest Q-car in SA and sent it down the backroads of the Western Cape to show off. Image: LES STEPHENSON

LES STEPHENSON

Audi has another winner on its showroom floor with the introduction of its Q3, described as “a premium SUV” but “with the looks of a coupe” – the latter stretching things a bit.

No pun intended. And reality says it’s a high-riding, hatch-backed four-door with an attitude problem.

Audi Q3 image gallery.

It’s basically the baby brother/sister to the established Audi Q7 (since 2006) and Q5 (since 2009) – Dad, Mom and now Junior, if you like. A hunky, chunky, naughty-looking kid whose beefy little body and 4x4 drive train will (probably) be up for anything its driver can point it at.

TOP SELLING POINT

It’s the way such vehicles are marketed in South Africa but reality (again) is that this type of car is not meant for rocks, the deep desert and dry river-beds (as is, say, a Jeep Wrangler) but for the rain, ice, snow, sleet, slush, mud, pot-holes and unprotected sandy beaches of the northern latitudes.

There’s no low range, for a start, but any serious driver will tell you that all-wheel drive, while adding prodigiously to the cost of a car, undoubtedly also adds hugely to its road-holding capabilities and, consequently, to the safety of its occupants.

It’s also a selling point on which Audi has traded brilliantly for the past three decades and on which it will no doubt continue to trade brilliantly even when we are reduced to the hideous whining of nothing but electric motors.

R70 000 FOR OPTIONS

The data shows five two-litre turbocharged engines; the reality (sorry) is there are only two – a diesel and a petrol – in various stages of tune for power ranging from 103 to 155kW and variously equipped with a six-speed manual or seven-speed auto/manual sequential gearbox.

Each of the rest of the six models is pretty much basically the same; each is available with options that can add (depending, of course, on your personal wealth) horrendously to the final price – R70 810 and R57 790 in two of the cars I drove this week, much of it for the optional satnav system which these days you can get on your cellphone for nothing.

None of the above is intended as criticism; the same type of sales operation exists within most of the upper-crust of automobiles – it’s up to you, the buyer, to do your sums properly before you go handing over your child’s university education for the sake of out-speccing the neighbours.

PRICES
Q3 2.0 TDI 103kW manual - R370 000
Q3 2.0 TDI 130kW quattro S tronic - R 431 500
Q3 2.0T FSI 125kW quattro manual - R 404 500
Q3 2.0T FSI 125kW quattro S tronic - R 421 500
Q3 2.0T FSI 155kW quattro S tronic - R 467 000

OPTIONS
18" twin-spoked alloy rims - R10 800
Satnav system MMI 3G - R22 200
Milano leather upholstery - R14 500
Parking radar front and rear with rear-view camera - R13 020
Xenon Plus headlights kit - R10 240

The first consignment from the factory in Spain (which financially embattled country you will be doing a huge favour by buying one) is already sold out and Audi SA’s boss Ryan Searle is hoping that around 1500 will be delivered during the cars’ first full year. Potential? Perhaps 2000, he thinks.

He adds: “The Audi Q3 sees our brand entering a new product segment in the market. The Q3 has won many accolades since entering the global market late in 2011 and we look forward to the same performance in South Africa.” Is he already talking Car of the Year?

If that doesn't grab you, Audi is also planning an RS version of its Q3 SUV!

There are, if usually well-informed sources such as Britain’s Auto Express magazine are to be believed, even more Q-cars on the way. Next, it says, will be the Q2 as a Mini Countryman rival, and the Q4. The latter will be based on the Q3 platform but intended to mimic the Range Rover Evoque.

As the mag says, will Audi never stop inventing niche models?

ENGINE OF YEAR

The four engines in the Q3 follow Audi’s philosophy of downsizing volume while boosting power through turbocharging and each has stop/start. The driver must keep a foot on the brake pedal (auto box) or off the clutch (manual). A powerful starter motor fires the engine quickly when the driver releases the brake or depresses the clutch.

It’s deactivated during warm-up, on a steep gradient in extremely cold weather and definitely saves fuel. One day, all cars will stop/start.

The petrol engines are two-litre (1984cc) TFSI units: international Engine of the Year five years running from 2005-09. They use a combination of direct fuel injection and turbocharging in two versions, one producing 125kW and the other 155kW/300Nm – the latter from 1800-4900rpm.

In combination with the standard seven-speed S tronic, it will launch the Q3 to 100km/h in 6.9sec and reach 230km/h while burning 7.7 litres/100km on average.

The 125kW turbodiesel version gives 280Nm from 1700-4200rpm and will reach 100km/h in 8.2sec with a top speed of 212km/h and average fuel consumption of 7.3/100. The 130kW/380Nm (a brief 1750-2500rpm) version burns 5.9/100 on average, takes 8.2sec to 100 and tops out at 212km/h.

GRUELLING ON GRAVEL

A third version capable of a more modest 103kW is used on the only front-wheel drive/manual gearbox model in the range. It still produces 320Nm (also 1750-2500rpm) and can accelerate to 100 in 9.9sec and reach 202km/h while returning an average fuel consumption below 5.2/100 – and claims to be the most fuel-efficient premium SUV on the market.

It’s 64-litre fuel tank, Audi says, could take it beyond 1000km.

The Q3 is available (as an option) with Audi’s ‘drive select’ computer software through which the driver can choose Comfort, Auto, Dynamic or Efficiency, the last combining all systems, including cruise control and aircon, to optimise fuel consumption.

Whatever mode you choose, however, the Q3 wasn’t really happy on the Western Cape’s corrugated and lumpy gravel back roads; few cars are, to be fair, but for close to a half-million bucks I’d like a suspension/tyres combination more compliant to such surfaces than those of the two models if drove off-tar on Thursday.

The cars handle the gravel well thanks to all-wheel drive and I easily maintained 100km/h when the view ahead was sufficient - there's just too much vibration.

POWER EVERYTHING

No fault with the cabin otherwise: plenty of headroom, even with the front seats elevated, and rear-seat legroom though three adults might feel a trifle squeezed (reality again: when did YOU last have five adults in your car?).

There's power everything, a thick-rimmed multi-function and multi-adjustable steering wheel, big and clear speedo and rev counter and a read-out window for a multitude of other on-the-move information. The auto accepts manual shifts through the floor shifter or wheel paddles, full auto aircon and a pop-up fascia-top screen for audio/satnave etc displays.

Rear passengers get their own aircon outlets.

Each Audi Q3 is sold with a year's unlimited-distance warranty and a five-year or 100 000km maintenance plan.



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