The road to the top is long and winding, but Audi is just a few corners away from claiming the throne of the luxury car market kingdom in India. How they've got there is through patiently and meticulously building their brand image, not just through the cars they sell, but also the overall Audi ownership experience. Now Audi feels it's finally time to start raking in the high volume sales. And the new Q3 is their weapon of choice.
Surprisingly enough, the Q3 is not going to be assembled here, at least not initially. Fully built units are being brought in from the company's Martorell plant in Spain. In addition to this there's only the diesel on offer in just one trim - fully loaded. Clearly Audi is being very careful not to dilute their hard earned premium image. And it shows. The Q3 gets every feature you'd ever want in your luxury SUV, build quality is up there with the best and there are very few examples of cost cutting all around.
Immediate first impressions are that the Q3 looks rather like a grown up hatch with high ground clearance. The spec sheet confirms this - at 4385mm the Q3 is shorter than a Nissan Sunny. It's also a good six cm shorter than its big rival the X1 but interior space is much more generous, thanks to some clever engineering like the transversely mounted engine. There's ample space at the rear and a very usable 460-litre boot that can be expanded up to 1365 litres by dropping the seats.
In terms of looks nothing has changed from our earlier reports. The front, like most Audis is dominated by the LED fettled headlamps and new gen Bulgarian beard grille with those tapered edges. The rear gets the signature Q series wrap around tailgate but with a highly raked roof design to give the Q3 a very dynamic stance, again very reminiscent of a large Euro hatch. It maybe small but this is the most edgy looking Q yet.
The interiors are well appointed with a fold out 6.5-inch screen, a premium Bose sound system and a massive double panorama sunroof. It's all put together in typical Audi build quality. Besides the manual adjust for the rear view mirror and manual fold down screen there's very little to signify this is going to be Audi's most affordable car.
The Q3 currently gets the 2.0TDI diesel that makes 177PS and 380Nm. Figures that are very efficiently put down to all four wheels (yes, it gets quattro as standard) by the excellent S tronic dual clutch gearbox. Performance is very brisk, the Q3 hitting the ton in 8.7 seconds and topping off at 211kmph. And with this engine-gearbox combination you can expect very frugal efficiency figures as well. Ride quality on good roads is excellent however the stiff suspension does lead to some pitching on less than perfect surfaces. The steering despite being direct feels vague with an unusual elastic feel pulling it back towards the centre under cornering. Compact dimensions along with a wide track and quattro make for good handler with plenty of grip. However the stiff setup spoils the party on rough roads. Encounter a rough patch mid corner at speed and you can feel the car skip a little to the side. Slightly softer damping could make a big improvement in the Q3's ride and handling.
Audi are still mum on pricing but maintain that the Q3 will be more expensive than the X1. We believe the Q3 will be priced about ten per cent higher than the equivalent X1. Given the level of kit on offer, the high levels of engineering and the appeal of the Q brand expect the Q3 to sell like piping hot cakes. The time for 'The king is dead. Long live the king' might be sooner than you think.