Despite being the brand's smallest SUV, the 2017 Audi Q2 has some big shoes to fill, especially considering it costs nearly as much as its slightly bigger brother, the Q3.
However, it starts just over a grand less than a Q3, and $500 more than the second generation Mini Countryman – which the company considers its key competitor. So, is the Q2 as premium as its price tag suggests?
This week we got to drive the all-new crossover at the local launch in Melbourne, over nearly 400km of country backroads, gravel tracks and freeways – and first impressions are promising.
Our journey was spent in the higher-spec Q2 2.0 TDI Sport quattro, which kicks off at a dearer $47,900 before on-roads, though the vehicles on test were loaded with up to $15,000 worth of options.
For the extra $6500 over the base petrol, the 2.0 TDI picks up a torquier 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel (as its name suggests), developing 110kW of power and 340Nm of torque – 90Nm more than the petrol – the latter peaking from 1750 to 3000rpm.
Drive is sent to all-four wheels (as opposed to the front-wheel driven 1.4 TFSI) via a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission.
Standard equipment on all models includes MMI Navigation with a 7.0-inch display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, parking system plus with rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control, leather-appointed seats, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian protection (up to 65km/h), Audi Connect with Google Earth functionality and Wi-Fi hotspot, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Move up to the 2.0 TDI Sport quattro, and you also get larger 18-inch alloys, an electric tailgate, sports seats and blind-spot monitoring – which Audi likes to call 'Side Assist'.
Our test cars were specified to the nines with options, including Audi's Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster (part of the $2500 Technik package), adaptive cruise control with stop/go function (part of the $990 Assistance pack), along with the S Line sport ($1500) and exterior packages ($2500) – which add 10mm lower sports suspension, Alcantara/leather sports seats, an S Line flat-bottomed steering wheel with paddles, alloy pedals, exterior body kit and 'S Line' badging throughout.
It looks great in Ara blue ($1750) with the RS3-inspired 19-inch five-arm turbine alloy wheels ($2100), though the look obviously comes at a price.
Getting in the driver's seat, initial impressions of the Q2's cockpit (beyond the virtual one) are that it's a premium vehicle.
Like other models in Audi's range, the Q2 features the company's latest interior design language, with a simplified and driver-oriented dashboard with large circular air vents, along with a minimalistic approach to buttons.
However, a closer look and some feeling around reveals that there are plenty of harder plastics throughout the interior, particularly on the doors and transmission tunnel, though the upper dash and centre arm rest are both squishy, while the higher section of the door is a rubberised plastic, and the elbow pads are trimmed in soft-touch leatherette.
The optional S Line flat-bottomed steering wheel looks stunning – inspired by the R8 supercar – feels great in the hand, is trimmed in a nice leather which is perforated in some areas, while the wheel-mounted paddle-shifters are within easy reach.
Up front, the Q2 has plenty of room for taller drivers. There's also plenty of (manual, tsk tsk) adjustment in the front seats, though storage up front isn't as abundant as you might expect from an SUV.
The door bins can fit regular-sized bottles but little else, while you won't find the felt lining that you get in a number of 'less premium' Volkswagen models. Tut tut Audi...
At the rear, taller passengers are well catered for in terms of head- and legroom, though seating three adults across the rear bench would be a squeeze.
Behind the seating area, the Q2 features a 355L boot, which extends to 1000L with the second row folded. That's slightly down on the front-wheel drive petrol model's more impressive 405L/1050L capacities, though both are behind the Mercedes-Benz GLA (421L) and Mini Countryman (450L).
Oddly, no Q2 is offered with keyless start as standard (part of the $1900 comfort pack), requiring an old-fashioned turn of the key - #firstworldproblems. Once started, however, the 2.0-litre oiler doesn't really sound like a diesel at all.
It burbles rather than clatters, and is pretty quiet at idle – a credit to Audi's engineers and their noise-supressing techniques.
The diesel provides effortless shove, helped by the fact that peak torque arrives at just 1750rpm. A hint of hesitation can be detected when taking off from a standstill, likely a combination the stop/start system, turbo lag and the dual-clutch transmission, though it's still very smooth and refined.
Around town the Q2 is quiet and compliant when negotiating the many lumps and bumps of Melbourne's inner-city streets, even on the firmer S line sports suspension and low-profile tyres of our test cars. On the freeway the 2.0-litre diesel hums away at around 1750rpm in seventh gear, though tyre roar is fairly noticeable in the cabin.
Despite its compact dimensions, however, the Q2 feels planted and solid at all speeds, while wind noise is also kept to a minimum.
Over loose gravel the quattro all-wheel drive system ensures confidence on low-traction surfaces, while also being playful enough to let the tail out ever so slightly – appealing to everyone's inner rally driver.
The Q2's progressive electric power steering is light and at times can lack feedback, though it's great for navigating car parks and city streets. At higher speeds the steering weights up a little, though a little more feedback would be welcome while also adding more sporting character.
In the twisties the Q2's firmer suspension and steering-mounted paddle-shifters are put to good use, providing hot-hatch-like handling and snappy shifts, while the diesel's burbly engine note is far from agricultural.
Additionally, the all-wheel drive system ensures plenty of grip in corners, though when pushed there's a bit of understeer.
It does feel reasonably sporty, though a more powerful engine would definitely make the Q2 a lot more engaging to drive.
Fuel consumption is pretty decent too – we averaged between 6.5-7.0L/100km of diesel over a mix of city, country and highway driving – though it's still higher than Audi's 5.0L/100km claim.
According to the trip computer, the 2.0 TDI could realistically achieve a range of around 800km from its 55L tank.
In terms of ownership, all Q2 models are covered by the company's three year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Scheduled maintenance occurs every 15,000km or 12 months (whichever comes first), though Audi is yet to offer a capped-price servicing program.
To sum up, the new Audi Q2 is a pretty solid all-round package. It looks and (for the most part) feels premium, offers the company's latest infotainment and driver assist technologies, and can be personalised to a far greater extent than its stablemates thanks to the array of bright colours, contrasting body elements, and affordable option packages.
Audi has certainly met the brief of an urban runabout that is capable of grand touring, while also meeting the practicality and capability expectations of an SUV.
However, the near-$50,000 starting price for this diesel-powered quattro variant seems excessive, especially considering the petrol is far cheaper, almost as quick and almost as economical, while also offering a larger boot thanks to the lack of all-wheel drive running gear at the rear axle.
If you're smart, you can get the 1.4 TFSI with a few option packages – including the cool LED head- and tail-lights with dynamic indicators along with the awesome Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster – for around $50,000.
Prospective buyers should also consider the Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI, which offers similar levels of technology, more practicality, more performance and arguably a higher-quality cabin for similar money despite the more pedestrian badge.
Alternatively, wait a few more months for the 140kW/320Nm 2.0 TFSI quattro, which should give established hot hatches a serious run for their money.