Baby of the Audi prestige family comes of age
The legendary heavyweight boxing champion of the world Muhammad Ali once said: "The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life."
For Audi, they didn't require three decades to take a new perspective on the all-conquering Q3.
The baby SUV was one the most successful in Audi's range during its first seven years, and now the second generation has arrived distinctly more mature.
Growing in every direction, the latest Q3 is nudging the mid-size SUV realm combined with muscular new external lines.
Last year there was a sizeable gap in Audi's sales after stock of the previous Q3 sold ahead of the replacement's arrival. Already 2020 has seen a dramatic sales surge, which is set to be further bolstered by the fashion-focused Sportback sibling that has only just landed in showrooms.
While there is currently a base variant available for just above $51,000 drive-away, our experience was behind the wheel of a special Launch Edition which gains a range of upgrades for $57,880 on the road.
Prices have risen to get into a Q3, but it now comes with a heap of extra kit. Audi says it equates to more than $12k of additional value.
Leading the tech upgrades are a central 10.1-inch touchscreen and a 10.25-inch digital instrument dashboard for the driver, Google maps, Wi-Fi hotspot to keep all occupants connected, wireless Apple CarPlay (Android Auto also works but via USB) and smartphone charging. Add to the mix dual-zone climate control, ambient cabin lighting with an array of hue options to suit your personality, keyless entry and an electric tailgate function which can raise the tailgate with a wave of your foot under the boot.
The Launch Edition adds bigger 19-inch alloys (up from 18s), metallic paint, tinted glass, folding exterior mirrors, high-output sound system, electric adjustable front seats with lumbar support also have a heating function.
Basic colour options are white or orange, while the metallic range includes two grey hues, silver, red, black, white and blue.
Opt into the service plan for three years and the cost is $1610, extend to five years and the cost rises to $2630 with 15,000km or annual maintenance intervals.
Warranty coverage remains at three years. Most of mainstream has shifted to five, including vehicles from parent company Volkswagen and key prestige rival Mercedes-Benz.
Laying claim to being one of the safest cars in its class, the Q3 has autonomous emergency braking which can dramatically slow the car if the driver fails to act quickly enough - one pivotal Audi difference is its ability to identify cyclists and pedestrians, not just vehicles.
Also on the inclusions list is lane departure and change warning to avoid sideswiping other vehicles, rear cross-traffic assist, tyre pressure monitors, LED headlights and tail-lights, along with a rear view camera and parking sensors. The Launch Edition has radar cruise control with emergency assist, 360-degree parking camera - all which should be standard anyway for this kind of investment.
Having to straddle target markets, extra interior space means that the Q3 can tug at the heart strings of professionals, young families and retirees.
Among the benefits of the conventional SUV shape is reasonable headroom in both rows, while the back seat slides to improve legroom or to enhance cargo space. More than 500 litres of load area is available in the boot, improving to 675 when the pew is pushed forward, or to 1525 with the seats dropped flat.
There are also USB outlets and air vents in the front and back.
Improved insulation and a quiet petrol engine deliver an impressive ride.
The cabin feels classy with quality finishes throughout. Glossy black features are broken up with aluminium features.
Audi's crystal-clear touchscreen is the masterpiece in the middle of the dash, and it's easy to find your way through the various functions. Part of the new Audi Connect functionality enables the system to advise of the least expensive fuel prices nearby, weather in the area, parking information and access to Google services - like asking where the best local restaurants are located.
Accessing the climate control is fast with dials and buttons just below the touchscreen.
Audi led the way with its "virtual cockpit" for the driver, and steering wheel buttons enable the driver to quickly find their preferred set-up between maps and driving information.
With diesel remaining a dirty word, there is currently only the one turbocharged petrol engine powering the front wheels only. Another more powerful 40 TFSI engine with all-wheel drive is arriving this month for those who want more straight line speed.
Around town and in the city the four-potter feels crisp and the six-speed dual-clutch automatic is well calibrated. Don't expect firecracker performance. It's geared for easy driving and using the stopwatch it takes just less than 10 seconds to reach 100km/h.
Carry too much speed into a bend and the SUV body roll is evident, and ground clearance of just 173mm means gravel roads would be the Q3's limit.
The longer wheelbase has resulted in a greater turning circle and at 11.8m it rivals some dual cab utes - that means what you would expect to be a U-bolt becomes an arm-twirling three-point turn.
Throughout varying conditions, including highway, rural twisties and in traffic, the Q3 feels polished with accurate steering and possesses general overall confidence.
Having worked hard I'm deserving of life's luxuries. The badge, features and greater road presence get the prestige blood pumping.
The improved space and technology means I don't need to step up in a more expensive Q5.
VOLVO XC40 INSCRIPTION $57,300 D/A
The style, materials, build quality, drive, packaging and X-factor make this one of the best compact SUVs on the market. Powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol good for 140kW/300Nm. Has a smaller boot that the Q3 and more expensive servicing, and packs can add to a much greater bottom line.
MERCEDES-BENZ GLA250 4MATIC $68,400 D/A
Massive jump in price, but a classy offering with refined looks inside and out. The skin blurs the line between hatchback and SUV. One of the best handlers courtesy of a 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo/seven-speed dual-clutch auto/all-wheel drive.
Classy and deserving of prestige status, the bigger and more robust Q3 no longer feels like an entree to the brand. There's more meat on the bone, but if you want more punch best to wait for the more powerful variant coming this month.
AUDI Q3 LAUNCH EDITION
PRICE $57,880 drive-away (about right for prestige)
WARRANTY/SERVICE 3 years/u'ltd km (short), $2630 for 5 years (OK)
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist, rear cross traffic, 360 degree camera (good)
ENGINE 1.4-litre 4-cyl turbo, 110kW/250Nm (modest)
THIRST 7.3L/100km (7.1 on test)
SPARE Space-saver (pretty standard)
BOOT 530-1525L (good space)