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Shanghai show: Audi begins Q3 countdown

Compact: An official sketch of Audi's forthcoming BMW X1 rival, the Q3.

Audi’s all-new Q3 SUV emerges in official sketches ahead of Chinese world debut

8 Apr 2011

AUDI has revealed the first official images of its long-awaited rival for BMW’s X1, the compact Q3 crossover, ahead of its world debut at the Shanghai motor show on April 19 and its subsequent release in Australia in the second half of next year.

Unsurprisingly, the production Q3 emerges looking much like the suave Audi Cross Coupe Quattro concept that debuted no less than four years ago at the 2007 Shanghai show, and is therefore considerably more stylish than the Volkswagen Tiguan upon which it is based.

Audi has made no secret of its desire to bring the Q3 to Australia, where so far this year its mid-size Q5 remains leader of the luxury SUV market segment ahead of BMW’s X5 and X1, and Audi’s first SUV, the full-size Q7.

The Q3 could well outsell both of its larger siblings in crossover-crazy Australia, where it will land with a significantly lower pricetag than the Q5 (from $62,200).

However, it remains to be seen whether Audi’s smallest SUV, which is likely to be an all-wheel drive-only model like the Tiguan (from $33,990), will match the price of BMW’s cheapest rear-wheel drive X1 sDrive18i ($43,900).

Apart from its basic chassis architecture, the compact five-door Q3 wagon will also borrow the Tiguan’s range of turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines.

7 center imageAccording to European reports it will initially be available with two turbo-petrol fours – most likely a 125kW TFSI matched with a manual transmission and a 147kW TFSI mated to VW’s twin-clutch DSG automatic (S-tronic, in Audi-speak) – plus a 125kW 2.0-litre TDI turbo-diesel with S-tronic.

Three other engine variants will follow, including one petrol and two diesel powerplants.

The five official renderings of the all-new Q3, which will soon be produced by Volkswagen’s Spanish subsidiary Seat at its Martorell plant outside of Barcelona, emerged a day after Audi officially announced its third SUV will debut in China, where it will join world debuts of the redesigned BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz A-class.

Unlike the concepts from its two German arch-rivals, however, the Q3 will emerge in Shanghai in a fortnight in full production guise – as will the redesigned New Beetle from Audi’s parent company Volkswagen.

Underlining the importance of China, which has overtaken North America as General Motors’ largest single vehicle market, GM will also stage the world debut of the all-new Malibu that will be a belated successor for GM Holden’s slow-selling Epica in Australia next year.

“In two weeks’ time, the Audi world will once again be focusing on China: The Audi Q3 will celebrate its world premiere at Auto Shanghai 2011 from April 19 through 28,” said Audi at the end of an April 6 press release announcing its record first-quarter sales results in China.

Audi delivered 64,122 vehicles in China and Hong Kong in the first three months of 2011 – a 24.6 per cent increase on 2010 figures – including 11,481 imported models (up 66.4 per cent) and a record 51,951 examples of the Chinese-built Q5, A4L and A6L (up 18.2 per cent).

Audi sales chief Peter Schwarzenbauer said the VW luxury brand plans to sell a record 280,000 vehicles in China this year and hopes to expand its current retail network there from 174 to more than 400 dealers by the end of 2013.

Globally, Audi sold a record 312,000 vehicles in the first quarter – 18.4 per cent up on Q1 2010 figures – and has forecast that its next-generation A6 sedan, which went on sale in Germany on April 1, will be 25 per cent more popular than the outgoing A6 over its life cycle.

BMW, meantime, posted its best-ever March sales to lead Audi in Q1 with 382,758 BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce sales - up 21.3 per cent on the first quarter of 2010 - while Mercedes-Benz's Q1 global passenger car sales were up by 12.7 per cent to 280,552 - or 305,533 including Smart (up 12.4 per cent).

In Australia, after out-selling both Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the first two months of this year, Audi’s Q1 sales tally stands at 4323 – up 16.5 per cent on Q1 2010.

Meantime, commercial vehicle sales have helped Benz, last year’s local luxury market leader, to claw back a narrow overall sales lead with 4405 sales so far this year (down seven per cent), while long-time local luxury leader BMW languishes in third with 3927 sales – down nine per cent.

Following the release of its big new A7 Sportback in March, Audi Australia’s next launch will be that of the A1 Sport, powered by a 136kW/250Nm version of VW’s turbocharged and supercharged 1.4-litre ‘Twincharger’ petrol four, which also does duty in the Golf and Polo GTI.

The A1 Sport will top the two-variant A1 1.4 TFSI turbo-petrol range that arrived here in December, while Audi’s redesigned A6 range will follow it on sale in July.

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