|Audi has launched a new entry-level Q3 quattro diesel that puts the luxury maker within a few thousand dollars of the highly regarded Subaru Forester AWD 2.0 D-S with both cars running 2.0 litre turbo diesel engines. The 103 kW Q3 2.0 TDI quattro S-Tronic in base form is also $3000 under the asking price of Subaru's Premium petrol AWD Forester, the 2.0 XT.
Audi and Subaru have AWD technology as a major selling, driving and safety points but the new Q3 blurs the line to some extent between the small SUV products each produce. Audi is a Euro luxury brand while Subaru is seen as a prestige Japanese badge. Both have championed the AWD cause for decades - Audi with its quattro system goes back 33 years.
The quattro system is Audi's point of difference from the other German makers, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. And, it's proving a winner. In 2004 just 26 per cent of Audi sales were made up of quattro fitted cars. Fast forward to 2013 and so far this year quattro sales have peaked at 67 per cent. The new entry level Q3 is aimed at further increasing the quattro bandwagon with a model that is `affordable' to people who may not have considered the Audi brand previously.
There is, however, a catch. The Q3 is missing some of the equipment expected of a luxury brand. The catch is there are option packs that will bring the entry-level Q3 up the luxury tree, but they will also hit the back pocket. For instance the base model does not have Sat/Nav or a rear view camera. But you can fork out $3790 for the Technik package that includes MMI Navigation plus, Audi parking system plus rear view camera and park assist and Audi sound system.
The Style package at $1050 adds Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and 18 inch alloy wheels in twin 5-spoke design. Nappa leather upholstery costs $2150 while a sports steering wheel with paddle-shifters adds $400 to the bottom line. If you total all options the 103 kW Q3 would set you back $57,740. But, the Audi pitch is simple: the Q3 entry level puts an Audi within reach of buyers that may not have been in that position previously. If you want or need more fruit, they are happy to oblige from the options menu.
The new Q3 was launched out of Albury on a variety of roads with lovely twisting high-speed tarmac to slippery gravel bush tracks that showcase the Q3 AWD abilities. In addition we were let loose for a spot of paddock bashing - improving skills in driving an AWD vehicle on a slippery surface. It's an impressive car with an even more impressive engine that licks diesel fuel at just 5.8 litres/100 km. The engine puts out 103 kW of power at 4200 rpm and 320 Nm of torque between 1750 - 2500 rpm. This is put to the wheels via a 7-speed S Tronic dual clutch transmission. While some of the luxury items may not be in the base model the Q3's handling and performance are simply spot on.
What is included are 17 inch alloy wheels, leather appointed seating, dual-zone air conditioning, Bluetooth with audio streaming, rear parking system, driver information system, light and rain sensors and front fog lamps.
The Q3 is currently the best-selling model in the Audi Australia range and easily outsells BMW's rear wheel drive only X1 by around 40 per cent. "It's the best selling SUV in it's segment," said Audi Australia managing director, Andrew Doyle. "This model is significant because it creates a more affordable entry point into quattro, making it unrivalled in this class."
MODELS AND PRICINGQ3 2.0 TDI diesel 103 kW quattro S tronic $47,500
Q3 2.0 TFSI petrol 125 kW quattro S tronic $49,450
Q3 2.0 TDI diesel 130 kW quattro S tronic $55,000
Q3 2.0 TFSI petrol 155 kW quattro S tronic $56,500
(Prices are RRP and do not include government or dealer charges. For driveaway price contact you local Audi dealer in your state.)