IAIN ROBERTSON 

Thanks to an immense range of models, highlights Iain Robertson, scarcely a month passes and another new Audi hits the road, although the Q3 has been a good-seller for the German carmaker and a more dynamic approach is demanded.

Ever since Audi was sold by Mercedes-Benz to become a valued brand of the fast-growing VW Group, it has been a marque on a positive offensive. When Audi’s retail presence was developed into a stand-alone role in the UK, in the mid-1990s, it could be suggested that its onwards and upwards escalation was inevitable. In reality, it has taken a substantial amount of market push to make its mark, regardless of how impressive it can be perceived.

Of course, the SUV market segment is as important to Audi, as it is to every other brand. The company has representation in every sub-segment from Q2 compact to Q7 full-size. Possessing the right amount of space for the family, the right amount of SUV road presence and the right combination of enduring quality, practicality and efficiency, have long been the tenets behind the Audi Q3. The current model has been with us for a hard-to-believe seven years.

Yet, the game has moved on considerably in that time and there is no way that Audi wants to be left behind. Market demands that its all-new successor maintains equilibrium, while incorporating Audi design changes, however minor, and both technological and connectivity advancements. A fully digital cabin incorporating the Audi Virtual Cockpit and a large MMI touch display warrants that the new model will more than meet consumer and manufacturer requirements.

Sharper styling lends the Q3 a more purposeful air than ever before. A new radiator grille, larger side air-inlets and slimmer LED headlights set a fresh and more dynamic tone. The shoulder line adds to an impression of strength, with defined accents that make the SUV seem even wider. Available in a choice of 11 paint colours and, initially in the UK, in either Sport or S-line specification, it will be possible to order a contrasting colour finish for trim attachments in the lower body section of Sport versions to accentuate the off-roader look even further.

A new cabin design, inspired by the brand’s full-size models, features a reductive instrument panel that references the motif of the grille and is surrounded by a wide chrome strip. Divided into two levels, the top part includes the air vents, while the bottom section carries a black-panel look. All displays, buttons and controls are located ergonomically (driver focused). The seats are available in cloth, synthetic hide, or Alcantara, which can be carried onto the door cards in a choice of colours that includes a vibrant orange, which seems to be a new colour for the class, as Volvo has also introduced a retina-burning orange trim level for its class-leading XC40 model.

Made at the Győr plant in Hungary, the new Q3 is based on the VW Group’s MQB platform. It has grown in virtually all dimensions and is positioned in the upper compact SUV segment (4,485 millimetres long, 1,849 millimetres wide, but 1,585 millimetres tall; 5mm lower than before). A 78mm longer wheelbase results in greater and much-welcomed interior space.

The luggage compartment is more accessible, with a standard electrically-powered tailgate. Its capacity totals 530, or 675-litres, dependent on the position of the eminently practical 40:20:40-split and sliding rear seats and backrests. With them folded forwards, the figure rises to a very capacious 1,525-litres.

The two launch versions are equipped with new ‘natural-language’ voice control. It understands freely-structured wording, asking qualifying questions, if necessary, allows corrections, offers choices and defers to the speaker when interrupted. Responses to enquiries are made not just with the benefit of information stored onboard, but also with detailed knowledge from the cloud, as on the new Audi A8. It is noticeable that several carmakers are installing equipment from their top models within their smaller stature but volume-selling models, which suggests that they can perceive the continuing trend towards downsizing.

Hybrid radio is also included in the specification that can shift between the strongest signals as required. Many Audi connect functions are brought together in the myAudi app that connects the customer’s smartphone to the new Q3. The app also supports music streaming and transfers the smartphone calendar onto the MMI. Furthermore, the user can remotely lock and unlock their car, consult the current vehicle status and pinpoint where their Audi Q3 is parked using the myAudi app on their smartphone. The Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System, with virtual 3D sound, provides three-dimensional audio of exceptionally high quality.

On the safety front, Audi Side Assist is standard, its two radar sensors scanning constantly for vehicles located in the blind spots, or approaching quickly from behind, and illuminating a warning LED in the relevant exterior mirror to alert the driver. There is also a lane departure warning function and even corrective steering intervention. Pre-sense front safety system that uses radar to detect critical situations involving pedestrians, cyclists and other road-users is also standard.

Manoeuvrable in town, agile on country roads, composed on the motorway, the MacPherson strut front and four-link rear suspension system underpinning the Audi Q3 has been tuned to ride more comfortably, yet remain assured and responsive. An 18.0-inch alloy wheel is reserved for Sport versions, while a 19.0-inch style is retained for the S-line, which also incorporates sport suspension settings for tauter handling. Variable damper control is available as an option and Audi assures us that the ride quality has been vastly improved.

Keen drivers can adjust the characteristics of the new Audi Q3 to suit their preferences using the standard Audi Drive Select dynamic handling program. It includes six modes: auto, comfort, dynamic, offroad, efficiency and individual. The throttle response, steering, the shift characteristics of the S-tronic gearbox and the damper control all adjust accordingly, with the driver being able to personalise his settings via the central touch-screen, using the MMI controller.

Four engines power the new Audi Q3 initially, three TFSI petrol and one TDI diesel. Power ranges from 147bhp (1.5TSi/2.0TDi) to 227bhp (2.0TSi) and each features direct injection, with turbocharging, and a particulate filter. The new Audi Q3 is available to order in the UK now, ahead of first deliveries taking place in late 2018. Pricing and full UK specifications are available at dealerships now.

Conclusion:    The Audi range has always been a popular choice for high-end and business customers, which means that obtaining details of this new model is helpful, when contemplating your next choice of car. Dealer discounts, while thin on the ground initially, will ensure that a new Q3 becomes a compelling proposition.