The fresh look
Recent events have encouraged me to take a fresh look at soft-roaders and their capabilities which are often misunderstood, sometimes even by yours truly. The brand-new Audi Q3 I just tested will hopefully help us to dismiss some of the following myths:
Soft-roaders are useless off-road. Yes and no, it depends on what you need them to do. Obviously they’ll never make it up Duiwelgat Pass or something like that, but they’ll conquer enough rough stuff to get you and your family/friends/gear up a slightly beaten path.
I pointed our Q3 2.0T FSi quattro at a fairly steep mud and grass hill, expecting it to slip ‘n slide no more than halfway up with its computer in a flat spin. Much to my surprise, and despite the road-biased tyres, it clambered up the slimy obstacle without a hint of wheel slippage, traversing ruts and ditches with ease.
Off-roaders are safer in a crash than a car. Horse manure. That false sense of security stems from raised ride height, more metal, big wheels and a high centre of gravity – all of which are more likely to CAUSE an accident. Modern soft-roaders like the Q3 may be excused because their handling is very close to that of a car.
It features lots of safety equipment (ABS, ESP, hill descent control, airbags, etc.), so the compromise isn’t bad. On top of that, the bigger wheels and suspension give the Q3 a beautifully smooth ride. It also has that coveted high driving position, although very tall passengers may complain about headroom.
People respect you in a 4×4. Hogwash. That’s like saying people respect you in a suit. The clothes do not maketh the man and an hour in Namibian traffic will highlight that nobody respects anybody anymore. In my experience, the flashier the car, the less respect you actually get.
Perhaps it’s jealousy because the Audi Q3 is a seriously good-looking car. I’m not crazy about the big Audi grill but the wee 4×4 shows clean lines, lovely proportions and great detailing. Every single acquaintance confirmed this and gave the car top marks in the looks department.
Audis have the best interiors. Among the best, yes. The Q3 is another example of top-quality material arranged in a logical and tasteful fashion. The seats are comfy, the toys are brilliant (the N$22,200 MMI Nav/DVD/hdd system is superb), everything’s got crisp LED lighting and there’s a surprising amount of room.
The boot isn’t very cavernous and we found a rough edge on the inside of the front passenger door handle but it may have been the result of alarming masses of fingers prodding around our test car. Optional extras included a panoramic sunroof (N$14,900), 18-inch wheels (N$8,790) and front sports seats (N$6,000).
4×4’s are slow. Pardon the slang but ROTFLMAO. This 2.0T FSi engine is of GTi fame and its 155kW (211hp) or 300Nm will obliterate 100km/h in 6.9 seconds (our GPS recorded 6.6 with launch control). There are also two 125kW and two TDi models available, all cheaper and all capable of cracking 200km/h.
The only “slow” attribute in this mix is the DSG gearbox at low speeds. Put foot or select Sport mode to cure that. There are two manual versions available (one is a 4×2) and everyone comes loaded with goodies like auto lights and wipers, electric mirrors and windows, climate control and pop-up LCD screen.
Big cars gulp fuel. Not all of them. Although this compact SUV feels like a big car, all Q3 models have a start/stop system to combat excessive use and our top model claims average usage of 7.7L/100km. We achieved 8.5L/100km on the open road but a more probable daily average is between 9 and 10L/100km.
Audis are expensive. That depends on your definition of expensive. At N$467,000, this Q3 is priced close to its competitors and you get what you pay for. The car looks and feels expensive, is well packaged and great to drive with its nimble controls and supple suspension.
The performance, quattro setup and specs (Xenon, rear park assist, leather) of this model are impressive but I would recommend you take a firm look at the whole range, especially the entry-level, 2.0 turbo-diesel 4×2 model. At N$370,000, it should master urban tasks and leave you with a sizable amount to spec it up a bit.
Whatever your choice may be, each Q3 comes with a one-year warranty, a five-year/100,000km Freeway Plan, the choice of 11 colours, multiple trim choices and a crowd of inquisitive onlookers. It may be expensive and a bit of a softy but it’s astoundingly good at everything else.
0-100m: 5.6s / 92.5km/h
0-200m: 8.9s / 117.4km/h
0-300m: 11.7s / 133.5km/h
0-400m: 14.2s / 146.4km/h
1/4mile: 14.3s @ 91.1mph (146.6km/h)
Climate Mild, sunny
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/4