The Q3 SUV has remained both a successful and lucrative product for Audi in Australia. It claims that the first-generation Q3 was the most successful small premium SUV in our market, with more finding homes than the alternatives from both BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
That gives the newly debuting second-generation car a big void to fill. It was initially launched in Australia with just a rather un-Audi-like front-wheel-drive variant, powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, called the 35 TFSI.
This was never going to be forever. It has just launched another powertrain into the mix – a 2.0-litre, quattro all-wheel-drive-equipped version called the 2020 Audi Q3 40 TFSI. This new version comes in two formats – a regular version that we have on test today, or the more expensive range-topping S line.
The run-of-the-mill 40 TFSI is the pick of the two new cars, and the wider pick of the now three-car range, too. It kicks off from $53,990 before on-roads and sits squarely in the middle of the range.
Beneath it is the 35 TFSI front driver at $46,400, or $7590 more affordable, and above it the 40 TFSI S line at $59,400, or $5410 more expensive.
You’ll instantly notice a heightened sense of quality upon first inspecting the 40 TFSI. There’s no black plastic cladding anywhere to be seen, as it's all been treated to body colour-coding as standard. There’s also a pretty set of 19-inch alloy silver wheels, too, up from 18 inches.
If you want this treatment for your 35 TFSI, you have to pay for it accordingly, as you must opt for the $1900 style package to receive both colour-coding and upgraded wheels.
Consider this for a second: it costs $7500 to upgrade from the 35 TFSI for the 40 TFSI.
Taking into account the style pack, which costs $1900 on an entry-model car, but comes for free on the middle-of-the-range model, means that Audi is valuing the larger engine, more performance, upgraded seven-speed gearbox and quattro all-wheel drive at just $5600.
For an extra 12 per cent cash outlay, you get miles more value with just the driveline alone. This is before we begin to analyse the spec differences, too, as the 40 TFSI comes with more equipment than the 35 TFSI.
The headline with the new 40 TFSI model is that 2.0-litre engine alongside Audi’s signature quattro all-wheel drive. It makes 22kW more than the entry, bringing its total power output to 132kW. The devil remains in the details, however. The entry model makes do with 250Nm, whereas the proverbial ‘big block’ 2.0-litre version cops 320Nm, which has wider breadth of availability, too.
This solid up-tick in power is instantly noticeable when compared to the 35 TFSI model. There’s added tractability from the increased displacement, as well as a more usable torque band. On test it returned 8.5 litres of fuel use per 100km, which is close to Audi's stated combined figure of 8.0L/100km.
If you’ve driven the entry model and were put off, or didn’t even make it into the showroom based on specs alone, then it might be worth reconsidering your options. This 40 TFSI version will likely alleviate concerns you may have had, or presumed to have, in some cases.
Interestingly, it does lack the sparkle and fizz that we’ve come to love and enjoy from the Volkswagen-Audi group EA8-series engine. Even in a more modest tune, as we have here with the 40 TFSI, this engine usually sports a bright, revvy nature that helps to instantly build rapport with the driver.
However, it now comes across slightly too linear, or blunted, in the way it develops its power. It strikes this reviewer that the particular engine calibration used here has been more aligned to efficiency and smoothness rather than driver engagement.
Being packaged up with quattro all-wheel drive does wonders to lift the overall feeling. When the situation does get trickily damp, or when you just want to put the power down irrespective of exterior conditions, it’ll work its magic to cover up your indiscretions.
Despite the solid footwork, the Q3’s ride remains overly firm. This is not an S line version, so plushness and compliance were expected to be the order of the day. However, what was delivered in lieu was a still pleasant but sometimes fidgety and busy ride.
By sometimes, I mean that on roads with small imperfections, at a high frequency and over a long duration, the ride becomes unsettled. I’m talking about the stuff you struggle to discern while driving, be it slightly peppered or wavy surfaces, and not large, singular or grouped potholes or level changes.
Over bumps and divots that are clearly visible on the road, and usually found singly or in pairs, the car remains stable and fine. The car does clearly communicate with a sense of firmness that you have traversed something not flat, but it isn’t intrusive in a way that’s irritating.
What can be slightly annoying is how jittery the car suddenly appears over a short stretch of poorly maintained road. This version has fixed dampers, too, so you’re unable to adjust this trait out.
Given Audi is a brand that sells itself on dynamism and driver engagement, I can somewhat understand the targeted feel with regard to the ride. However, given that there is an S line version sitting above, which includes the option of adaptive dampers, I can’t help but feel that Audi has missed an opportunity to calm things down, possibly at the cost of some body control, with this regular version.
This point does remain a small blip on the radar, however, as the rest of the car remains remarkably improved when compared to the outgoing car.
Firstly, the Q3 has finally been blessed with decent dimensions, namely a 77mm increase to its wheelbase. This does wonders to elongate the frame enough for it to elegantly wear its metalwork, thus doing away with the stubby nature of the first-generation car. Topping that with a new, lowered roof line results in a much more dramatic-looking SUV.
Furthermore, I personally think it looks stunning in this traditional colour combination of Cosmos blue, with alloy silver wheels and brushed aluminium trims. Every other Audi you see these days is finished in a bright hue, with a black pack, and rolls on two-tone dark wheels.
This non-S-line car is refreshing, and quite elegant in its approach. It also signals that you don’t need to walk up to the bells-and-whistles sporty version to get a bit of kerb appeal.
The regular 40 TFSI looks great as it is. Inside is no different, either.
Everything has been milled and fitted with the utmost precision. Every gap seems millimetre perfect upon careful scrutiny, which has become the Audi hallmark. Its Virtual Cockpit comes standard, as does a 10.1-inch infotainment system. Resolution is excellent on the centre screen, as is the introduction of wireless Apple CarPlay.
This means you can actually utilise the wireless charging pad while taking advantage of the smartphone connectivity on offer. I cannot wait for this technology to proliferate through to other brands, as it does away with the need for messy, often malfunctioning cables.
Sadly, however, the infotainment system does not feature any of the clever acoustic haptics as featured in Audi’s higher-end models. Because of that very reason, too, there are no longer any physical buttons or hotkeys that operate the infotainment system.
This leaves a rather basic touchscreen operation as the sole method of interacting with the screen, outside of voice recognition. Those upgrading from a previous-generation Q3, or a BMW for instance, may initially find this system slightly unintuitive.
Thankfully, the voice-control system is great, which goes some way in alleviating the removal of physical buttons related to the touchscreen. The climate-control system remains as a set of tangible buttons, too, which makes it easy to operate while driving.
Another strong point is the decent forward and sideward visibility from the driver’s seat. Deep-set front windows on either door meet up with neat, thin A-pillars, which results in a good line of sight down the front sides of the car.
More often than not, this area remains a solid blind spot in new SUVs. The Q3 is proof that with some smarts, you can work around it to improve passive safety.
Active safety systems include high-speed AEB with both pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind-spot monitoring, an advanced lane-departure warning system, as well as front and rear parking sensors. However, at this grade, items such as adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree parking camera remain optional, forming part of the $2250 premium package.
The second row is unexpectedly very versatile, with a rear bench laid out in a 40/20/40 arrangement.
That means you can individually fold each set to suit the job at hand, be it moving skinny flatpack furniture with a few mates on board or transporting something slightly wide while still retaining a child seat. The second row is also sliding, too, so you can even extend the already class-leading boot to create a space to rival SUVs from the class above.
With the seats all in their most rearward position, enabling the greatest levels of comfort in the second row, the Q3’s boot comes in at 530L. This figure bests any other offering in the segment.
Versatility has even extended as far as the boot floor, which is adjustable, too. So, the choice remains yours to pick between a set-up catered for maximum space, or one that maximises convenience via a flat loading floor.
Overall boot dimensions are favourable to depth rather than width, however, meaning you’ll only fit a compact stroller at the most forward area of the boot, and not up against the rear seat backs, where you’d ideally like to store it.
Consider this a fault of the segment, not the car, as the overall width of all cars in this segment causes it to be a universal issue. Underneath the cargo area is always a space-saving spare wheel, regardless of the size of wheel you chose to option on your example.
This hugely versatile second row, and excellent-sized cargo area, will bowl over those who want a premium car in the garage, but just can’t justify the stretch toward something in the more-expensive medium-SUV segment.
Add in the first-rate cabin presentation and visual appeal, and it will then take out those who are considering upgrading from their mainstream SUV, but didn’t previously see and feel the value when considering the older, first-generation Q3.
Then there’s our test car, a regular 40 TFSI version. The $7500 increase versus the front-wheel-drive model is irrefutably worth it, considering the rational benefits of quattro all-wheel drive.
That’s even before you begin to assess and weigh up the other nice-to-haves that come with price, such as more power and better hardware, as well as worthwhile stylistic improvements.
Stepping up from here to an S line version would be a decision mainly centred around vanity, but the regular car doesn’t fall down in this respect. It continues to look fantastic without the S line kit, especially if you approach the colour-combination task with a discerning lens.