The tide may be turning against SUVs, but Audi is piling in to the 4x4 market with another new soft-roader: the Q3. The new model is a 4x4 lite – think family hatchback that's been to Audi’s country retreat and donned wellington boots for that tougher, mud-spattered wannabe look. CAR has the full lowdown on the new Q3 in this exclusive report.
It’s worth casting aside, for a moment, our cynicism about SUVs. In the UK they have become social pariahs, knocked by politicians, abused by cardigan-toting campaigners and increasingly shunned by buyers worried about crippling taxes and fuel bills. But it’s not like that everywhere.
So Audi’s SUVs are selling like hot cakes?
Audi’s Q7 has sold so well that the diesel model has attracted long waiting lists in some territories. So Audi now hopes to repeat this success with the new Q5 (read our review here) and its forthcoming, smaller siblings: the secret new Q1 and Q3.
By the time all four 4x4s are on sale, Audi hopes to sell between 300,000 and 350,000 sport utility vehicles annually. BMW and Mercedes may narrowly top that tally, but the gap is shrinking fast.
Audi Q3: the lowdown
Audi has operated a top-down strategy with its Q-badged SUVs. First we had the Q7, it’s just launched the Q5 and next up is the Q3. It’s a crossover based on the VW Tiguan but with a more stylish, sportier and upmarket positioning (read pricier and posher).
Your main image of the Audi Q3 looks familiar…
The Q3 is loosely based on the Cross Coupé concept shown in Shanghai in 2007 – and our artist’s impression is based on that concept car, exchanging the more outlandish show-car flourishes for more realistic details.
The Q3 uses the basic floorpan architecture of the VW Tiguan – and therefore Golf family – and we’ll first see Audi's new crossover in summer 2010. Quattro four-wheel drive will, of course, be available although more sensitive souls can pick a mildly more eco-friendly front-drive version, we hear.
Audi Q3: the engine room
Petrol models will be powered by a pair of transversely mounted 2.0-litre TFSI engines, producing around 170 and 200bhp. But the bulk of Q3 sales will still be of the diesel models; pick between the 140 and 170bhp 2.0 TDI models.
Naturally, you’ll be able to spend hours deciphering the exact combo of engine, transmission (manuals, autos or DSG twin-clutch affairs) and bodykits. Just don’t expect a slew of Sahara-battling 4x4 hardware. This is one Audi 4x4 that will do without air suspension, locking diffs or skid plates – in a nod to its undoubted habitat of the local high street.
It’s all in the name
Will the car actually be called Q3? There have been legal tussles in America, where Infiniti complained about the names of the Q7 and Q5, as the Japanese upmarket firm claimed they were too similar to its range of trademarked SUV names (including Q45, QX56 and QX4).
We wouldn’t rule out a name inspired by the concept’s. The Audi Cross Coupe Quattro might be a bit of a mouthful, but it’d keep the lawyers happy…