Audi seem to have known that they had a winner on their hands when they introduced India to the Q3. It was extremely roomy, yet compact enough, gratifyingly high, yet car-like in movement. A few years ago it would’ve been a safe bet to call the Q3 peerless. Now however, with the new Mercedes-Benz GLA and the upcoming BMW X1 upgrade, it needs to re-emphasize its significance in the genre, which brings us to the 2015 Audi Q3.
Since the old one worked rather well, the changes to the new Q3 are minimal. Admittedly, it’s still not the most exciting form to drape a crossover, but a fresh bunch of colour schemes which includes a bright red and a silvery blue shade do help liven things up. The front looks much distinct and angular, in accordance with Audi’s new design language. The new LED strewn headlights are edgier and connect with the grille via a matt grey outline which appears to be protruding out of the bonnet. Collectively then, the front-end looks more well-defined and futuristic than the overly staid one from the outgoing model.
At the back, the changes are hard to spot, until you lock the car and see a different LED lighting pattern. This along with redesigned alloys sum up the changes made to the exterior. The insides are still a bit too gentrified to qualify as exciting but there is more chrome now, along with a pop-up MMI screen similar to the one found in the A3.
Since the 177bhp, 2.0 TDI happens to be the most efficient, that’s the one Audi has once again chosen to stick to. No changes have been made to the engine, nor any to the suspension unit, which makes sense since both worked perfectly well. All of Audi’s Quattro equipped vehicles get a dual clutch DSG gearbox (with the exception of the A3). The S-Tronic dual clutch gearbox found here is still just as seamless and just as peerless – no rival of the Audi Q3 offers a unit that’s this smooth and flexible. The car gets three driving modes – Comfort, Dynamic and Sport. Gearshifts are expectedly delayed in ‘Sport’ mode with the needle redlining while going through the initial set of gears. The new Q3 also comes with paddle shifters for an added degree of control which allows you to switch to manual with a flick of a paddle. It works much like the ‘Sport’ mode, shifting up automatically once the needle bounces off the rev limiter.
The 177 bhp engine remains sufficiently powerful even on wider roads. Across the relatively narrow and rain-washed roads of Goa, where I happened to be driving it, the Q3 seemed immensely quick, aided by dollops of torque (38.7 of it to be precise). The suspension unit never once betrayed its crossover underpinning, so car-like was the Q3 despite being pushed harder around each tight curve. The biggest ace it has up its sleeve is Audi’s patented all-wheel drive system aka Quattro. It’s the natural enemy of any hairpin or tight bend. Even if you’re sensible enough not to take a crossover around corners aggressively, the grip it offers around slush-filled patches of tarmac is stupendous. At the same time the suspension happens to be set-up very intelligently. No compromise has been made in terms of comfort, the ride is quite supple without the predictable accompaniment of body roll. The steering stiffens up at higher speeds but still feels quite light, even in ‘Sport’ mode.
As impressively put together as it is, the Q3 isn’t flawless. The interiors could have been spruced up a bit more and the cabin noise is still a bit too pronounced for an Audi. Although the prices aren’t out yet, there aren’t too many premium crossovers that offer a similar blend of comfort and performance. The cumulative effect of the Q3’s suspension, gearbox and all-wheel drive system is hard to match pound for pound.