The Indian market’s new-found penchant for compact SUVs isn’t limited to the bottom-end of the market; it’s also in the luxury segment. The response to the recently launched Audi Q3 shows us just that. More than 500 buyers have already put money down to get their hands on one within days of its launch. So, to prove that the baby Q is as good off-road as it is on it, Audi organised the Q3 Drive experience on the outskirts of Delhi for a select few.
Among the participants were the winners of the Audi Q3 Action contest organized by Autocar India. The rules of the contest were easy – answer three simple questions and stand a chance to drive the Q3.
The winners were flown to Delhi to experience and exploit the capabilities of the small Audi. When we spoke to some of them, we found that most were keen auto enthusiasts who were more than eager to get a taste of the Baby Q.
The participants were first sat through and introduction and safety presentation. The track was then thrown wide open to these enthusiastic drivers, but under the watchful eyes of the Audi driving instructors, who were very particular about safety.
First up was the off-road track, which featured simulated obstacles that would put the Q3’s abilities to the test. A straight dip greeted the excited participants. It didn’t do much to fluster the car, but it gave the drivers a glimpse of what to expect ahead. The track then curved and reached two steeply angled slopes placed in succession, facing each other. While it looked simple to tackle, reactions from behind the steering wheel told us a different story. An angled view of the world from a car that looks like it may fall over is not easy to digest for most. It was the Q3’s low centre of gravity that kept it stable on these inclines. What made things tricky was the transition from one slope to another – at times the car was suspended on two wheels.
Yeshwanth, one of the contest winners, was initially a little wary of driving on this track, but he was all praises afterwards. “When seen from a distance, it seemed like the Q3 might topple. To tell you the truth, I was a little scared. But it wasn’t really that difficult. I especially enjoyed tackling the slopes,” he said.
The next obstacle was an artificial river bed made of small rocks. While most of the drivers breezed through this terrain, some, like participant Viraj Ghatalia, found it a little trickly to handle. “It was not easy to drive on the rocky surface, but otherwise it was smooth sailing all the way,” he said.
Audi’s famed Quattro system was not put to test till this stage, but the obstacles lined up ahead sure gave it a thorough workout. A muddy slalom course rewarded the enthusiasts, the system’s trick torque channeling kept things in check, and despite the lack of a crown central differential, the Q3 fared well.
The Quattro four-wheel-drive system is standard on the Q3 in India. A set of rollers, placed with the intention of cutting out grip to diagonally opposite wheels, helped demonstrate how the Q3 fares in low grip conditions. In normal conditions, the Haldex-sourced four-wheel-drive system behaves like a regular from-wheel drive. But in situations like this, the system reacts when it detects wheel spin and directs torque to the individual wheels that have more grip. It’s not a permanent all-wheel drive like in proper SUVs.
There were some strategically placed bumps that put the Q3’s chassis to the test as well. Both axles were twisted in opposite directions, putting a lot of strain on the chassis, but the Q3 tracked a straight line and maintained its poise. Next, traction to the front axle was cut completely and, for a moment, it seemed that it had the Quattro flummoxed. However, a little patience and a more gentle throttle application on the part of the driver was required to have the system sort out the torque split and get the car moving again.
Following the off-road course was the highway course. This gave the participants an opportunity to drive the car in real-world conditions, and speed were confined to within safe limits. Most participants were impressed by the Q3’s ride and performance here. “The car’s a complete package of looks and performance,” exclaimed Rajat Chadha.
This brought the day to a close, with the Q3 leaving a lasting impression on everyone who drove the compact SUV. The Q3 is a soft-raoder, but most people who drove it didn’t think it to be any less of an SUV. Chirag Muni from Mumbai said, “Based on the short drive I had, I think the Q3 has all the makings of a proper SUV.” And almost everyone agreed that that the Q3 is worth every bit of its asking price.