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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
Audi Q3 35 TDI 150PS quattro Sport

Click to view picture gallery“Back in the good old, bad old days,
  gentlemen are said to have preferred
  blondes. Fast forward to our current
  hashtag-reactive society and most
  drivers — of whatever gender

  love driving an SUV...”


WHICH IS GREAT NEWS for carmakers such as Audi, whose extensive SUV line-up covers the whole gamut from supermini-sized to full-blown seven-seater. And smack-bang in the centre of their prestige offerings you'll find the Q3, recently reborn in a new generation identified by fresh badging: '35', '40' and '45'.

The new numeric classifications relate to power: for the petrol-fuelled TFSI models '35' denotes a 148bhp powerplant, '40' 187bhp and '45' 227bhp. While demand for unleaded continues to grow, drivers still like diesels enough for Audi to field some oil-burners: choose between a 2.0-litre 148bhp 35 TDI turbodiesel and a 187bhp 40 TDI. Being Audis, both two-wheel drive and quattro all-wheel drive are available, as too are manual and automatic transmissions: a six-speed stick-shift or seven-speed S tronic auto.

The impressively
tech-rich interior plays
a significant part in
defining the Q3 cabin,
notably Audi’s superb
Virtual Cockpit
instrument panel which
replaces traditional
dials with a twelve-inch-
wide feature-packed
TFT screen.
This can be instantly
reconfigured to show
your chosen mix
of driving, navigation
and infotainment
content...”
These wider and longer second-generation Q3 models are not only noticeably more substantial in the metal but they're rakishly attractive. This pronounced dose of flamboyance is most noticeable in the Q3's side profile which melds crossover cues with sophisticatedly 'boxy' wheel arches and strong body sculpting to create a chiselled upmarket look that's also unapologetically premium 'big' Audi — the angular 'never back down' eight-sided radiator grille framed by a deliciously 'fat' chrome edging says it all.

Today's mid-size SUV buyers are utterly spoilt for choice; even restricting your list on a 'premium' basis will still see a clutch of contenders that includes Audi's Q3 (naturally!), Volvo's XC40, the latest-generation Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes' GLA, and the DS 7 Crossback. As with all car-buying decisions, the final choice will, for some, be purely an issue for the 'heart' while for others it will come down to 'head'-appeal.

But whatever your pre-test drive favourites, you'll be seriously short-changing yourself if there's not a Q3 on your shortlist. And for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the Audi's wonderfully indulgent cabin. Swing open a door and the Q3's flawless build quality showcases a cabin that's as inviting as it is roomy. Everything you touch or come into contact with, from upholstery to switchgear, feels grand. You shouldn't be surprised — Audi cabins have justifiably become a byword for excellence and the Q3's classy ambiance lives up to the rep.

Overall it's the upscale trim and upholstery that highlights the luxurious look of the cabin. One very appealing trim option (fitted to our test Q3 at a cost of £1,075) is the steel grey Alcantara interior — also available in Amber Brown and, unexpectedly, Orange. The sporty front seats are well bolstered with extending front cushions to boost under-knee comfort and plenty of adjustment in all directions for a tailored 'fit' that ensures real support and comfort however long or short the journey. There's also decent legroom and generous 'hat-wearing' headroom.

The driving position is as commanding as you could hope for and made even better by a great-to-use leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel. Visibility is first-class in all directions and the uninterrupted view down the bonnet makes the Q3 relaxing to place in traffic as well as confidence-inspiring roughing it off-road.

The driving position
is as commanding as you
could hope for and made
even better by a
great-to-use, leather-
wrapped multifunction
steering wheel.
Visibility is first-class in
all directions and the
uninterrupted view down the bonnet makes the
Q3 relaxing to place
in traffic as well as
confidence-inspiring
when roughing it
off-road...”
The impressively tech-rich interior plays a significant part in defining the Q3 cabin, notably Audi's superb Virtual Cockpit instrument panel which replaces traditional dials with a twelve-inch-wide, feature-packed TFT screen. This can be instantly reconfigured to show your chosen mix of driving, navigation and infotainment content. Naturally there's an unmissable digital speed readout with posted speed limits shown on the active mapping with easy zooming using a thumbwheel on the steering wheel.

To the left, in the centre of the fascia, sits the main (ten-inch wide) touchscreen infotainment display and it's via this that just about all vehicle functions are controlled — fortunately it's as intuitive to use as touching your nose with your eyes shut!

The dual-screen arrangement looks fab and is well served by Audi's idiot-proof MMI interface. Navigation, too, is quick to initiate with full-colour Google and 3D mapping made better by pin-sharp graphics. The standard audio system is a six-speaker set-up with DAB, Bluetooth, a smartphone interface, and comprehensive Audi Connect services. For upgraders, Bang & Olufsen's 15-speaker 680-watt sound system is a tempting option, as too is wireless smartphone charging.

For a family-favouring SUV the Q3 fully delivers when it comes to in-cabin storage with long, accommodating (and bottle-holding) door bins, a large glovebox, grande-sized dual-usage siamesed cupholders, a useful 'cave' at the base of the dash plus a spacious box built-in beneath the driver's seat.

Real-world drivers (and their passengers) simply don't want a track-grade drive whatever the marketing boys say. The good news about the Q3 is that its damping delivers a supple ride, one that deals diplomatically with imperfect blacktop; its ability to cushion bumps makes it one of the most comfortable rides in its class.

At the same time there's sufficient firmness and steering precision to facilitate chuckable handling on more demanding B-roads — the quattro-equipped models are rewardingly accomplished with terrific grip when flicking through twisties and around corners where its polished composure and well-managed body control shines. Motorways, incidentally, can be cruised with the sense of relaxed and well-planted security you'd expect from a well fettled SUV.

It’s likely many owners
will indulge in some
soft-roading (such as
towing a trailer or
caravan across a muddy
field or up rutted tracks)
but the Q3, equipped
as it is with the latest
quattro system plus a
dedicated Off-Road
Drive Select mode, has
the ability and capability
to venture much further
afield wherever and
whenever you desire...”
Top-tier versions come with adaptive suspension (a £950 option for the 'entry level' Sport trim) that makes the Q3 even more liveable. For the record, standard-fit alloy wheels for the Sport measure eighteen inches and come wrapped in 235/55 Michelin rubber. You can go bigger of course, but the 18-inchers serve both masters (grip and comfort) notably well.

Even manual transmission cars get Audi's Drive Select. This offers a number of driving configurations each tailored for different driving styles and road conditions; on the Drive Select menu you'll find Auto, Efficiency, Dynamic, Off-Road, and Comfort.

So, if the family's all aboard and you're off on your annual staycation then Comfort (boosted by the adaptive suspension) will be your preferred choice; however, when 'press-on regardless' is the preference simply up the whole spectrum of the Q3's handling dynamism by going for Dynamic — it's your driving experience, you choose!

It's likely many owners will indulge in some soft-roading (such as towing a trailer or caravan across a muddy field or up rutted tracks) but the Q3, equipped as it is with the latest quattro system plus a dedicated Off-Road Drive Select mode, has the ability and capability to venture much further afield wherever and whenever you desire.

While Audi's 148bhp 1.5-litre TFSI petrol engine has much to recommend it, the power-matching 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel will, for many SUV drivers — in particular those with a predilection for hauling a horsebox, boat, or Airstream — be their first choice. Trumping the petrol-drinking 148bhp petrol's 184lb ft torque with its 250lb ft, the muscular turbodiesel will haul a braked 2,200kg.

The turboed TDI's character is also better suited to an off-road-capable SUV, especially one with quattro all-wheel drive. In everyday use, for a broad range of real-world duties, it's reassuringly gutsy but not intrusive, and the performance is more than sufficient for tackling imperfect urban blacktop and country lanes driving solo or fully laden so that you rarely need go anywhere near the red line to enjoy a slug of willing 'grunt'. Motorways are something the refined TDI loves to lope along; all day long if that's your call.

Helping the Q3
to out-boot its rivals are
its sliding rear seats —
pushing them fore or aft
through their 150mm
range enables you to
expand the luggage
space from 530 up to 675
litres without dropping
the rear backrests. However, if it
s a large
flat-floored loadbay you
need then just fold down
the rear seats and cargo
volume jumps to
1,525 litres...”
Throw in a slick-changing manual 'box and you can drive as lazily (well, almost) as you would hooked up to an autobox. Plus, and for some this will be the deal-maker, it's satisfyingly economical — we recorded a very respectable 45.8mpg. Economy-minded drivers take note that our test mpg was achieved mostly running in the Drive Select's harder-charging Dynamic mode, and that while the Efficiency programme will further improve on this there's no significant performance penalty. Top speed is 131mph and passing the 62mph post from standstill takes a lively 9.3 seconds.

Measuring 4.5 metres nose-to-tail this longer and wider Q3 boasts an extended 2.7-metre wheelbase. The three-person rear cabin's seating is über-practical with 60:40-split seats that slide independently backwards and forwards with individually-adjustable seatback angles (the backrests are split 40:20:40 for extra versatility), and plenty of foot, knee and leg room so that even taller passengers own plenty of wriggle room for lenient lounging; in short, a six-footer can happily travel behind another six-footer without trading insults.

Catering to passengers' other needs are real-world bottle-holding door bins, handy trays sited at the seat's outer edges, large mesh seatback pouches, and central climate control air-vents. Windows are large for plenty of light entering and wide views out, aided by a seating height that's six inches up on those in front but which still allows a full fist of headroom. With its combination of well-upholstered roominess, quietly restful ambiance and supple suspension, our actively-damped Q3 proved extremely comfortable covering long distances.

Helping the Q3 to out-boot its rivals are those sliding rear seats — pushing them fore or aft through their 150mm range enables you to expand the luggage space from 530 up to 675 litres without dropping the rear backrests. However, if it's a large, flat-floored loadbay you need then just fold down the rear seats and cargo volume jumps to 1,525 litres.

Instead of a roller-blind luggage cover there's a parcel shelf that lifts with the tailgate — an arrangement that actually works smoother — plus power opening and closing of the 'fifth' door is both standard and fast!

In addition to a hill of cargo space aft of the rear seatbacks you also get a selection of underfloor storage bins, long item load-through courtesy of the drop-down-flat centre rear seatback section, and a 2,200kg braked towing capability along with an extra 75kg load capacity should you favour a roofbox.

You won't need much of a test drive to appreciate the rakishly attractive Q3's premium integrity and style. Add in confidence-inspiring handling, a decent ride and a roomy and cosseting cabin plus all the latest Tech and Comms and you'll find that Audi's oh-so-practical mid-size SUV delivers in spades. ~ MotorBar
.
Audi Q3 35 TDI 150PS quattro Sport | £32,910
Maximum speed: 131mph | 0-62mph: 9.3 seconds | Test Average: 45.8mpg
Power: 148bhp | Torque: 250lb ft | CO2: 145g/km

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