What is it?
Audi has just launched a new range-topping version of its Q3 SUV, which is currently the best-selling car in its segment (of two). The thing is, we quite like the Q3 as it is already – we even really like the ‘stripped down’ manual-gearbox, front-wheel-drive ‘S’ version – so what has Audi done to make this car better?
Well, there is a bit of cosmetic stuff – there’s more chrome on the grille, the bumpers have metallic inserts that mimic bash plates, and the tail-lights are now clear-lens units. Whether all this works for you is up to your tastes; some at the Autocar office felt the tail-lights looked like aftermarket replacements, while others, myself included, really liked them.
In terms of new equipment, there’s only one big change. The ‘Dynamic’ in the model name hints at Audi’s Drive Select system, earlier a feature you’d have to climb further up the carmaker’s model range for. What it gives you is three selectable drive modes – Comfort, Sport and Auto – but while this lets you adjust the steering, engine and suspension in bigger Audis, in the Q3, it affects just the suspension.
Only available in 2.0 TDI Quattro guise with the DSG gearbox, the Audi Q3 Dynamic costs Rs 38.40 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), which is Rs 90,000 more than the next variant down, the Premium Plus. Do the new tech and cosmetic tweaks make it a worthy step up, or is this just a shrewd effort by Audi to drum up more interest in the Q3 before a certain other German compact luxury SUV hits the market very soon?
What’s it like to drive?
While it’s never been the last word in edge-of-your seat driving pleasure, we’ve always quite liked the way the Q3 2.0 TDI Quattro drove. Its punchy (if slightly buzzy sounding) 174bhp engine, coupled with the seven-speed DSG gearbox, is more than enough to hurl the car’s mass forward briskly, with the Quattro giving it great traction off the line. The steering, as ever with Audis, is light and easy, but feels a bit too numb for proper enthusiastic driving. But what about that new trick suspension?
You can access Drive Select either via the MMI computer or via a button on the dashboard that toggles through the modes. Think of the Comfort mode as the default setting – it feels about the same as the standard car’s suspension setup. It rides flat, it’s able to handle small bumps and potholes pretty well (albeit with a little noise clunking through), and even through corners, you’ll be quite pleased with how little body roll there is.
Switch it over to the stiffer Dynamic mode, and at first, you won’t really notice the difference; it’s very, very subtle. However, drive over a series of small road blemishes or through a pothole, as you’ll often find in monsoon-ravaged Mumbai, and you’ll find that it’s just a little more fidgety at low to medium speeds than Comfort mode. High-speed stability seems to be unchanged across both modes, and the Q3 feels pretty solid. The real benefit of Dynamic mode, however, is meant to be sharper handling, and push the car hard into a corner and it won’t lean as much as it otherwise would have. It’s helpful, but not transformative. Auto mode, for the most part, felt just the same as Dynamic mode. All in all, the system does make a difference, albeit one not as significant as we’ve experienced in bigger Audis equipped with Drive Select.
Should I buy one?
The Q3 Dynamic is Audi announcing its presence to potential customers and reminding them of what made its compact SUV so popular in the first place. The fact that this is a fully-loaded top-spec variant rather than a base model with a knockout price shows the company’s confidence in its product. And finally, since the soon-to-be-launched Mercedes-Benz GLA-class will be front-wheel-drive only, Audi is pushing its position as the only one in the segment to offer AWD.
Drive Select is a cool feature, though its effects aren’t earth-shattering. However, at a premium of less than Rs 1 lakh on a near-Rs 40 lakh car for this and all those cosmetic updates, we could see a lot of customers shelling out the extra for the Q3 Dynamic.