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Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI 211PS quattro SE S tronic

Click to view picture gallery“It’s no exaggeration to say that
  Audi
s Q3 could be all the car youll
  ever need. A premium compact soft-
  roader, it has the ability to be almost
  all things to almost all drivers...”


WHAT'S TO LIKE? Actually, just about everything. For a start, the look: it's contemporary Audi 'Q' trademark double-depth black grille flanked by slanted headlights with distinctive LED daytime running 'strips'.

Appealing to business, pleasure and lifestyle users, the Q3 has more than enough space to satisfy all three: the boot holds a sizeable 460 litres; fold the rear seats and this grows to 1,365 litres — perfect for those secretly pursuing an active lifestyle.

Available power sources are democratic with both diesel and petrol represented. Oil-burning fans can choose between 138 and 174bhp turbodiesels while customers who prefer running on unleaded can go for either a 167 or 208bhp TFSI engine. Transmissions can be a six-speed manual or a seven-speed S tronic double-clutch auto. And all but the 138bhp TDI diesel come with Audi's renowned quattro all-wheel drive.

“There’s no economy penalty if you choose the seven-speed S tronic automatic over the six-speed manual —
our week-long,
hard-driven test average
over mixed roads, with
plenty of town driving
thrown in, came out at a
very liveable 28.7mpg
...”
More good news: there's no economy penalty if you choose the seven-speed S tronic automatic 'box over the six-speed manual — with S tronic, the official combined cycle figures for the less powerful 167bhp engine are identical to those of the 208bhp unit: 36.7mpg. And even when mated to a manual 'box, the 167bhp engine is only 2mpg better than the 208bhp, at 38.7mpg.

For the record, the full official consumption figures for the 208bhp S tronic are 27.7 (urban), 36.7 (combined), and 44.1mpg (extra-urban). Our week-long, hard-four-wheel-driven test average over mixed roads, with plenty of town driving thrown in, came out at a very liveable 28.7mpg.

Drive the Q3 a mile or so and you'll fully understand its cross-function appeal. Almost everybody appreciates comfort; and that's precisely what the Q3 gives you. Our test car was fitted with the optional Drive Select that offers the driver four driving modes: Comfort, Dynamic, Auto and Efficiency. We drove a great deal of our test miles in the Comfort mode and for one specific reason — because, and in spite of running on 18-inch alloy wheels, it makes the Q3 ride like a million dollars.

Potholes and substandard blacktop are smoothed underfoot surprisingly well, letting the Q3 keep its occupants pleasantly unruffled. But if all this is sounds too 'easy-street' for you, you can always switch to the more hard-line Dynamic mode.

Do so and you'll come face-to-face with the full force of the 208bhp — with power put down fluently through all four wheels, the Q3 TFSI serves up its accelerative oomph with gusto. Generating 221lb ft of torque between 1,800 and 4,900rpm, the punchy 2.0-litre TFSI powerplant is more than happy to rev and responds eagerly to the throttle. And it's as quick as any SUV has any right to be, posting a 143mph top speed with the benchmark 0-62mph done and dusted in just 6.9 seconds.

Select Dynamic and you'll find the Q3 a trustworthy co-conspirator to some hard driving, made better by first rate body control and the quattro system's all-wheel traction. Whatever the mode, the 208bhp Q3 is exceedingly nice to drive, steering accurately and cornering confidently — very placeable and very chuckable! The fact that it's also fast, quiet and refined just makes it even more likeable to drive.

Mated to Audi's twin-clutch S tronic auto 'box, gearshifts are über-fast and über-smooth. Wheel-mounted shift-paddles — for those who prefer to do-it-themselves — add more involvement when pressing on along challenging roads, towing or even for some well-timed engine braking.

“With power put down
fluently through all four
wheels, the Q3 TFSI
serves up its accelerative
oomph with gusto.
And it’
s as quick as any
SUV has any right to be:
a 143mph top speed
with 0-62mph
in just 6.9 seconds
...”
The latest seven-speed S tronic has an innovative little trick for some extras fuel saving: it lets the Q3 'coast'… remember driving with your Dad: he'd flick the gearlever into neutral going down hill, telling you it 'saved' fuel?

Well, the Q3's dual-clutch S tronic transmission does exactly that by disengaging the clutch and enabling the car to freewheel on the overrun to save fuel. From behind the wheel, you can't tell it's happening although it can't happen without your say-so because the driver first needs to select the Drive Select's Efficiency mode.

Of course, like the standard-fit Start-Stop system (actually very slick in operation), you don't have to use it if you don't want to.

Settle behind the Q3's smart three-spoke multifunction wheel (its hard, smooth leather rim is a comfortable diameter to grip) and you'll discover yet another fine cabin from Audi — easily every bit as good as you'd find in a car costing twice as much. Materials and trim really are top-notch, both quality-wise and with regard to fit and finish. Instrumentation — two large beautifully clear dials with white on black markings with glowing red needles — is equally good, as too are the ergonomics.

A word to the wise: the optional panoramic glass roof is definitely worth specifying (the sunblind is powered; and there's one-shot operation). Cabin storage is in good supply too, with a fair-sized glovebox (with cooling) boosted by large door pockets, hidden lockers built into the leading edges of the driver's and front passenger's seats and a front centre armrest that can be moved backwards and forwards as well as adjusted angle-wise.

The seats are first-rate for support and extremely comfortable (fitted to our press car were the excellent Chennai Brown fine Nappa leather sport seats — £1,650 well spent) and the driver, in particular, benefits from a commanding driving position while passengers will be pleased to find that there's decent headroom for all occupants.

And, regardless of its 'compact' footprint, in a Q3 tall passengers can sit comfortably behind others — those travelling in the rear enjoy good leg and foot room and a wide, comfy centre armrest. Doors, incidentally, are wide enough for easy entry and exit but not so large as to be a problem in today's narrow car park bays.

“The Q3’s cabin
is a restful place to be
on the move — at
motorway speeds there
s
hardly a whisper…
unless it’s coming from
the stereo!
Equipment is as good as you'd expect and even the basic SE trim includes four one-shot auto up/down electric windows, power-operated and heated door mirrors, dual-zone electronic climate control, rear parking sensors, acoustic glass, drive-away auto locking, auto lights and wipers, electromechanical parking brake, tyre mobility system, front and rear fog lights, coming/leaving home lighting, heated windscreen washer jets, daytime running lights, aluminium roof rails and 17-inch alloy wheels.

In addition there's a Concert radio/CD with a 6.5-inch retractable display screen (that doubles for the SatNav, if fitted, where it's position top-centre of the fascia is just right for quick glances whilst driving) and which includes two SDHC memory card readers both MP3, WMA and AAC compatible, connection to Apple iPod from 4th-gen and Apple iPhone, USB storage media and MP3 players, Bluetooth interface for hands-free mobile 'phone connectivity and Bluetooth audio streaming, and voice control for key telephone and radio functions. A Driver's Information display shows, among other things, short/long term trip info, outside temperature, range to empty and, especially useful, digital speed.

Safety is also well addressed with driver and front passenger front side and head airbag system, Isofix child seat anchor points (front passenger and rear outer seats), front passenger airbag deactivation switch, Electronic Stability Programme (includes ABS, EBD, ASR and EDL), First Aid kit, seat belt monitoring, electric child locks for the rear doors and height-adjustable front seatbelts.

Cargo-wise, loading the Q3 is easy thanks to a low bumper lip (with a smart stainless steel protection plate) and a level loadbay floor; the 60:40 split rear seats don't fold absolutely flat but flat enough for you to make good use of the full loadbay. The rigid rear parcel shelf-cum-luggage cover slides out and stows away easily when not required.

The appeal of the four-ring badge has snowballed noticeably over the past few years and Audi quality is now not only seen as class-leading but is class-leading. The Q3 continues the tradition and the cabin is a restful place to be on the move — at motorway speeds there's hardly a whisper… unless it's coming from the stereo!

Another ace up the Q3's sleeve, and particularly welcome given the UK's tiresome annual snow-show, is the quattro four-wheel drive system — combined with 6.7 inches of ground clearance, it enables the Q3 to take the white stuff easily in its stride.

Once seen as a more affordable route to owning a classy SUV, models like the Q3 are now being bought specifically for their individual style, ability, versatility and economy. The Q3 scores highly on all four counts; and to them adds premium quality. And while it's five-friendly, singles or couples who rarely carry more than two+gear will quite likely find the Q3 to be all the car they'll ever need. Or want. — MotorBar

Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI 211PS quattro SE S tronic | £28,610
Maximum speed: 143mph | 0-62mph: 6.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 28.7mpg
Power: 208bhp | Torque: 221lb ft | CO2 179g/km