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Driven: Audi Q3 smartens up

Leader of the pack: The Audi Q3 is ahead in the sales race against its premium crossover competitors, but Mercedes’ GLA is closing in.

Audi’s popular Q3 crossover scores subtle improvements to help keep it on top

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Audi logo5 Jun 2015

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

AUDI has massaged its popular Q3 compact SUV with improvements to performance, fuel efficiency and driver assistance technology that are designed to keep it ahead of the pack.

Despite a spate of newcomers including the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Lexus NX, the Q3 has held its ground in the premium compact SUV segment for the first five months of this year, with 1362 sales for 32.7 per cent of the segment against the Benz’s 1186 units and 28.4 per cent.

Although, given that at the same time last year the Audi accounted for more than 52 per cent of the segment, the GLA is rapidly closing in and even outsold the Q3 last month by 67 units.

Speaking with media at the Q3 and A1 launch in Queensland this week, Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle said the revisions to the Q3 should ensure it maintains its lead in the segment.

“We’ve focused on the equipment that our customers regularly opt for when they make a purchase,” he said. “With these enhancements across the range, we are confident the Audi Q3 will continue to go from strength-to-strength in Australia, retaining its market-leading status.” On sale now from $42,900, plus on-road costs, for the 1.4 TFSI S tronic front-driver, the base version of the Series II that will account for about 60 per cent of total volume costs $600 more than the outgoing equivalent.

This variant, as well as the 2.0 TDI S tronic quattro all-wheel drive turbo-diesel from $47,900 gains $3000 worth of additional gear, including Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, climate control, automatic parking and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The other two variants – the $52,300 132kW 2.0 TFSI S tronic quattro and $56,900 135kW 2.0 TDI S tronic quattro – gain more than $7000 worth of goodies in their new Sport guise, including 18-inch alloys, colour-coded bumpers, sports front seats, Convenience Key auto entry and start, up-spec Milano leather trim and Audi Drive Select – which alters engine and gearbox parameters according to Normal, Eco or Sport settings.

Note that the 132kW 2.0 TFSI quattro replaces two variants – the old 125kW 2.0 TFSI quattro from $49,450 and $56,500 155kW 2.0 TFSI quattro.

The high-performance RS Q3 upgrade arrives next month, bringing with it an uprated 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-petrol engine delivering 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque, to shave almost half a second off the old car’s 5.2-second 0-100km/h sprint-time.

Pricing for the wild crossover is yet to be announced, but it currently retails for $81,900.

Visually, a keen eye is required to spot the thicker-chromed grille surrounds, revised headlights and tail-lights, more angular bumpers, restyled alloys, improved cargo cover, and refreshed colour and trim additions of the updated Q3.

Underneath, there are larger rear brake discs, a two-stage electronic stability control for on and off-road driving, and automatic trailer detection. All engines now meet Euro 6 emissions compliance.

The base 1405kg Q3 1.4 TSI uses a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, delivering its 110kW (between 5000rpm and 6000rom) and 250Nm (from 1500-3000rpm) to the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.

It sprints to 100km/h in 8.9 seconds, on the way to a 204km/h top speed. On the flipside, Audi’s Cylinder-on-Demand technology helps cut fuel consumption from 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres to 5.8L/100km, while carbon dioxide emissions slide to 134 grams/km.

The rest of the Q3 range use a seven-speed S tronic transmission, as well as a revised version of the Haldex 5.0 all-wheel drive system that shuffles nearly 100 per cent of drive from the front to the rear wheels as traction requirements dictate.

Saddled with 200kg more weight, the 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel pumps out 110kW from 3500-4000rpm and 340Nm from 1750-2800rpm, dispatching it to 100km/h in 9.3s on the way to a 204km/h v-max. It averages 5.1L/100km and 132g/km of CO2 emissions.

Meanwhile, stepping into the upmarket versions, the 1625kg 2.0 TDI S tronic quattro Sport employs a tuned version of the above engine to up the power to 135kW and torque to 380Nm from 1800-3250rpm. This one lops 1.4s off the dash to 100km/h, adds 15km/h to the top speed, and yet matches the consumption amount while adding just 2g/km more CO2 pollution.

Finally, there is the 1540kg 2.0 TFSI S tronic quattro Sport’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, offering 132kW between 4000-6200rpm and 320Nm from 1400-3900rpm, for a 0-100km/h result of 7.6s on the way to 217km/h. It returns 6.5L/100km and 149g/km.

With the RS Q3 being the performance flagship, Audi Australia is unlikely to bring in the 162kW 2.0 TFSI S-tronic quattro Sport intermediary offered elsewhere.

In terms of safety, the Q3 gains assistance tech such as Audi Side Assist, Active Lane Assist, High-beam Assist, and Hill Descent Control. All are bundled in a $2490 Assistance package.

Other packages include the $2990 Technik (upgraded navigation, 20GB storage and two SHDC readers, automatic parking with surround view and upgraded audio), $2990 Comfort (including electric/heated front seats, Convenience Key, electric tailgate), and the $5600 S Line (body kit and ritzier cabin trim, 18-inch alloys, sports seats).

Launched in 2012, the Q3’s success has helped drive Audi to within snapping distance of BMW sales in Australia.

The Q3 is built on the current Volkswagen Tiguan’s PQ35 platform – itself derived from the Mk5 Golf of 2003 – and so predates the existing A3.

Featuring 170mm of ground clearance (against the Tiguan’s 195mm), the Q3 uses MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear, as well as electromechanical rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes.

Luggage capacity spans from 460 litres with all seats up to 1365 litres with the backrests folded.

Volkswagen Group brand Seat builds the Q3 for Audi at its plant in Martorell, Spain.

Audi Q3 pricing*
1.4 TFSI (a) $42,900
2.0 TDI quattro (a) $47,900
2.0 TFSI quattro Sport (a) $52,300
2.0 TDI quattro Sport (a) $56,900
*Excludes on-road costs.

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