In an ever-changing world – and, my, has Coronavirus not just added the QED to that statement – there is still a place for the solid, dependable, reliable and even predictable because these traits, in stoves, fridges and motor cars inspire confidence and trust.
It has been quite a long time since I have had an Audi in my road review rotation and, climbing into the second generation Q3 (launched locally in August last year), there was an immediate sense of familiarity – everything may have changed, but it changed the same!
That means, simply, although the interior, fascia and dials are all new, the overall looks, feel and touch was exactly like meeting an old friend after a long absence. Unmistakeably it was an Audi.
The test car, a Q3 35 TFSI Advanced S Tronic, was by no means a ‘standard’ package and had some R163 000 worth of added options such as metallic paint, 19-inch wheels, advanced bumpers, the Comfort Package, the Technology Package and a host of other items – all nice to have items but which do make it rather hard to extract the real essence of the baseline and to understand the actual step up the new generation Q3 has taken.
The original Q7 remains one of the ugliest cars I have ever driven and, watching the Q range morph into its current levels of considered elegance has been an essay in styling and design – the Q3 easing even further forward with a much sportier visage, leaving behind any last vestiges of frumpiness.
The single frame grille in octagon design and large side air inlets characterise the font end where eight vertical bars divide the radiator grille. The headlights are narrow and run inwards with their wedge shape and are LED technology including dynamic turn signals as standard but can be upgraded to Matrix LED headlights that intelligently illuminate the road through adaptive high beam technology.
From the side the symmetrical lighting graphics of the headlights and rear lights are connected by the shoulder line – contours drawing inspiration from Audi’s quattro DNA.
Inside the instrument panel is divided into two levels: the top part includes the air vents; the bottom section incorporates the large octagonal area with its black-panel look. The instrument panel varies the motif of the single frame and is surrounded by a wide chrome strip. The push button module for the lighting functions, which replaces the rotary control on the predecessor model, is slotted into the panel to the left of the steering wheel.
The new Audi Q3, which is based on the Volkswagen Group’s modular transverse matrix, has grown in virtually all dimensions and is positioned in the upper compact SUV segment. It is 4 484 millimetres long, making it 96 millimetres longer than its predecessor. In terms of width, it has grown 18 millimetres to 1 849 millimetres but at 1 585 millimetres without the roof aerial it is 5 millimetres flatter than the first-generation Q3. Its wheelbase, which has been stretched 77 millimetres to 2 680 millimetres adds measurably more to passenger space.
The rear seats can be moved fore/aft by 150 millimetres. Their three-way split backrests in the ratio 40:20:40 can be tilted in seven stages. Rear passengers also have the option of a centre armrest that features two cup holders as standard.
Depending on the position of the rear seats and backrests, the luggage compartment capacity totals 530 litres or 675 litres. With the backrests folded down the figure rises to 1 525 litres. The loading floor can be adjusted in up to three levels and if the parcel shelf is not needed, it can be stowed under the loading floor.
The optional extra electric tailgate provides effortless access to the luggage compartment. In conjunction with the convenience key, it can also be opened and closed with a kicking motion.
Audi has done away with the analogue instruments. The digital instrument cluster with a 10,25-inch screen is standard equipment, which the driver operates using the multifunction steering wheel. Customers can also upgrade the instrument cluster to the Audi virtual cockpit with additional functions.
The standard MMI radio plus also includes an MMI touch display with 8,8-inch screen in the centre of the instrument panel. With the top-of-the-line equipment, MMI navigation plus, this touchscreen measures 10,1-inches.
The Audi sound system, with 10 speakers including a centre speaker and subwoofer with a total output of 180 watts, ships as standard equipment for South Africa, while the optional Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System with virtual 3D sound provides three-dimensional audio.
The Q3 comes with a turbo-charge 1 395 cc petrol engine, driving through the front wheels. It has a power output of 110 kW at 5 000 r/min and produces peak torque of 250 Nm from 1 500 r/min. Also standard is a six-speed S Tronic automatic gearbox.
Despite its pavement poser looks, the Q3 has off highway abilities that make it a true all-rounder. Certainly, the longer wheelbase has improved bumpy road comfort for passengers and imbued it with a feeling of stability at speed on the highway.
The front axle of the compact SUV is based on the McPherson principle; the rear axle adopts a four-link design. The track widths are 1 584 millimetres and 1 576 millimetres respectively.
The Volkswagen Group has done an impressive job with the TFSI engine and the Q3 never feels like an oversized body struggling to cope with an underpowered engine. Rather, throttle response is instant and, despite the GVM of 2 070 kilograms, it gets off the line pretty smartly and lopes to 100 km/h in 9,0 seconds and on to a top speed around 200 km/h.
Fuel consumption is fairly frugal with just more than 7,0 l/100 km being recorded in daily use in town and an overall average of 5,9 l/100 km with mixed road (excluding gravel) use.
Easily manoeuvrable, the Q3 does a good job of slotting into shopping centre parking lots with ease (the option rearview camera making this even simpler) while maintaining similar poise and characteristics when given a bit of ‘wellie’ on the open road and through the twisty bits.
With ample space for life on the road, the Q3 swiftly swops the daily trudge to become a comfortable and cost efficient tourer.
The list of options is massive and buyers should study these carefully to select the ‘must haves’ to suit their actual driving needs.