If you haven’t noticed this already, the smaller car models of the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes have gradually been eating into the sales of bigger luxury saloons such as the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry (all these cars cost around Rs 20-35 lakh). Agreed, you are likely to be shopping for the latter if you want to be chauffeured around. But with the average age of the luxury car buyers falling, more and more owners are now increasingly driving their cars, and then there is something called brand value also—a young CXO, more often than not, would like to be seen driving a small Audi than a big Honda!
Now, the Q3 has been among Audi’s most popular cars in India. Depending on the model, its on-road price starts from upwards of Rs 28 lakh and goes up to Rs 35 lakh or so—crossing the Rs 30 lakh psychological mark. What to do? Take some goodies off the Q3 and call it Sport! And that’s what Audi has done with the Q3 S, which the company recently launched with a price tag of Rs 24.99 lakh—making it India’s most affordable luxury SUV. With the Q3 S, Audi has taken another new step—it has brought in a six-speed manual gearbox and the SUV now comes only with a front-wheel drive mechanism. But the good news is that even with these minuses, the Q3 S doesn’t feel pared down.
And that is because despite the Q3 S being a lot cheaper than the other Q3s, it retains features such as six airbags, hill-start assist, cruise control, rear parking assistance, electronic stability control, leather seats, climate control and Audi multimedia interface.
The Q3 S is powered by the 2.0 TDI engine that produces a maximum output of 140 bhp. And a manual transmission means the driver has the freedom to extract the maximum power from any particular gear. Then, the clutch is also quite light and the gearbox is slick, which makes driving a fun experience—in fact, so smooth is the gearshift that, while driving, I kept changing gears just to enjoy the action! A front-wheel drive mechanism also means the Q3 S, at 1,445 kg, weighs less than the Q3, and that is partly the reason the Q3 S never feels sluggish on the road—the Q3 S breaks the 10-second barrier to 100 kmpl and its highway manners are superlative. The company-claimed top speed is 202 kmpl. On the upside, you don’t really miss the Quattro all-wheel drive system—we drove it on different terrains, at different speeds, and once even in the rain, and didn’t feel any loss of traction. In fact, we also took the Q3 S to some rural, unmetalled roads and found that the suspension handles broken surfaces very well. On the downside, people who are used to automatic transmission might miss the same, especially while driving within city limits.
The Audi Q3 S offers ample room for five passengers and has an extra-large luggage compartment—a minimum of 460 litres that can be increased to 1,365 litres by folding down the rear split seats. The 2.0 TDI engine is frugal and makes the car run close to 18-20 km to a litre of diesel. And a 64-litre fuel tank means a range upwards of 1,000 km. Okay, it doesn’t come with a sunroof as standard and misses out on Audi’s new daytime running lights, but then everywhere else it is an Audi.