The Audi Q3 is quite an important vehicle in the German carmaker's Indian portfolio. The baby SUV has received tremendous success and although it is a 5-year-old SUV, timely updates have kept the Q3 relevant. This year, the Q3 received a facelift and the refreshed line-up also gets a new petrol and diesel motor. We have two of the three variants on test here. The red Q3 has the new 1.4-litre 30 TFSI petrol motor that also does duty in the new A4 and A3. The blue Q3 has the new 2-litre TDI motor that develops 184PS and gets Audi's legendary quattro all-wheel system. The third variant, the 30 TDI, has the same 2-litre diesel motor that's detuned to 150PS and is available in the front-wheel-drive format only.
The Q3 cuts a handsome figure and the silhouette remains the same in the 2017 Q3 as well. The updates include a redesigned bumper, large faux air dam and some more plastic cladding. The cladding on the doors features streaks that look distinctive and much better than featureless plastic on the sides of the door. The update also includes standard 17-inch alloy wheels as well as LED headlamps and tail lamps as standard across the range. The Q3 also gets dynamic turn indicators, which is steadily turning out to be a signature Audi feature.
The interiors remain unchanged and that's not a bad thing at all. The cabin layout is ergonomic with every switch and button falling at hand, with ease. The new Q3 also gets dual-zone climate control as standard.
The seats are firm and quite supportive, especially the ones at the front, and there is ample space for four adults. That said, the sloping roofline eats into the headroom for rear passengers.
The 35 TDI Quattro Technology's dual-tone beige and black interiors looks far more premium than the black only interior in the petrol Q3
The fit and finish is as expected in a German luxury car, and overall the cabin has a sense of premiumness, despite being an entry-level Q model.
The Q3 30 TFSI and 30 TDI are only available in the Premium trim whereas the 35 TDI can be selected in either the Premium Plus or Technology trims. The Premium variants feature an all-black interior, with dark wood finish inserts along the dashboard. The seats are electrically adjustable, and there's also a panoramic sunroof, a feature that's one of my personal favourites.
The Premium Plus model gets aluminium inserts instead of wood, which looks far better, in my books. The range-topping 35 TDI Technology also gets dual-tone beige and black interiors, paddle shifters and a reverse camera.
The screen resolution of the infotainment system-cum-MMI display is crisper too, and you also get a full-colour MIFD screen, located in between the rev and speedo dials on the instrument panel.
That said, the infotainment system does not get Android Auto or Apple CarPlay which is a downer, and the glaring omission of keyless entry and push-button start on a vehicle system is simply beyond me.
The smooth, 1.4-litre TFSI petrol motor in the Q3 develops 150PS at 5,000-6,000rpm and 250Nm between 1,500-3,500rpm. While the figures may seem paltry for the price of an SUV, it's a pleasant surprise to discover that the petrol Q3 never feels as if it's run out of breath. This is evident in the 9.5s it took to cover the 0-100kmph dash. The 6-speed, dual-clutch transmission also does a brilliant job of keeping the Q3 in the power band at all times. The Q3 gets four driving modes - Efficiency, Comfort, Auto and Dynamic, each altering the steering, acceleration and shift points. Comfort and Auto is ideal for commutes in the city, but if you are in the mood for some fun, the Dynamic mode offers quicker acceleration as the shift points moves to the redline, making full use of the engine's power.
Efficiency, as the name suggests, optimises the aforementioned parameters to deliver the best possible fuel economy. The gearbox, in this mode, shifts to the next gear just under 2,000rpm and if you lift off to coast, the revs drop to 800rpm, thereby saving every drop of fuel. Which is why there's no surprise that petrol Q3 returned 10.7kmpl in the city and 15.8kmpl on the highway, which is actually quite impressive. The figure, however, I presume, could have been even better if Audi would've not skipped the 1.4 TFSI's Cylinder On Demand feature. The system shuts off two cylinders while cruising between 90-125kmph or at low speeds (25-40kmph) and this feature is available in the 2017 A3 sedan.
While the petrol is really good, the 35 TDI engine is the one that takes the cake. What hits you first is the sheer refinement of this motor, and the way the tacho needle races to the redline.
And then there's the performance. The 184PS, 380Nm engine propels the Q3 from 0-100kmph in just 8.1 seconds, and our tests revealed that in-gear acceleration too is quicker than the petrol Q3. While performance has improved, fuel efficiency surprisingly remains pretty much the same as what the previous Q3 returned. At 12.9kmpl in the city and 18.1kmpl on the highway, the diesel Q3's efficiency is also at par with its segment rivals.
The Q3 is set up slightly on the stiffer side, hence low-speed ride is not one of its strong points. That said, ride quality improves to quite an extent as speeds rise, and bump absorption is pretty good too. The diesel Q3, again, outscores its petrol sibling when it comes to ride and handling.
While the extra weight does help at better high speed stability, the brilliant quattro system gives the diesel Q3 stupendous handling prowess. Where the petrol Q3 felt a tad twitchy when cornering hard, the diesel Q3 feels planted and holds its line. Attacking the same set of corners, I could go significantly faster than the petrol Q3.
But, while I was grinning from ear to ear in the corners, I only wished the steering offered a little more connect. The quattro system also allows for mild off-roading, but I don't really see anyone taking their prized possession off the beaten track.
The Audi Q3 is quite a well-rounded product. The refreshed styling keeps the Q3 relevant, and the new TFSI and TDI motors offer a great blend of performance and efficiency. The petrol Q3 is priced at Rs 39.5 lakh (on-road, Mumbai) which is good value for the kit it offers. However, the Q3 35 TDI technology, at Rs 53.95 lakh (on-road, Mumbai), may seem a bit pricey. That said, if you are in the market for a compact German SUV, the Q3 makes a strong case for itself.
Images by Anis Shaikh