Since sometime in the 1980s (long before I was driving) Audi revolutionised the world rally championship by introducing the four-wheel drive Quattro. It went on to win a good few trophies before anyone could come up with its equal. Quattro was something special, and it’s still going some 30 years later – not that I was intending to go rallying, but you get the idea.
In fact on a wet weekend in January, the only thing we could find to do that might entertain the kids and not leave the adults mind-numbingly bored was going for lunch. At a garden centre. I am officially old.
But the reason for our apparent madness was that the restaurant at Highfield Garden Centre is excellent, and there are loads of chickens, ducks, assorted peacocks, guinea pigs and colourful fish to entertain the kids for quite some time!
But enough about my accelerated ageing and back to the car.
The Q3 is the SUV version of Audi’s A3 – a nice car in itself, but would raising the height, giving it a semi-off road appearance, while keeping all the toys and creature comforts work? Often making a good car work somewhere or somehow else simply doesn’t work. But we’re talking about Audi here… German engineering at its finest (or certainly close to its highest) so surely they could pull that off?
I’m glad to say they did. There was little or no body roll in the corners – often an issue when you make an existing car higher – and it felt like, well, like a car, not something trying to be something it wasn’t. Space wise it was perfectly adequate; and that’s not a criticism. It looks like a relatively small car from the outside, and when you introduce a four wheel drive system, you have to put a prop shaft from the front to the back wheels and usually lose some rear cabin space. But Audi have done this well – it feels much larger on the inside… we’re not talking about a TARDIS here, but definitely an impressive feat of engineering. The boot can swallow a buggy, various bags and random stuff you end up buying at a garden centre without issue and still give the impression that it can take more. The Q3 looks considerable smaller than the Range Rover Evoque I drove back in the summer, but the boot was considerably more practical. And considering this is quite a heavy car – just over 1.5 tonnes – the gearbox really does put the power down very well when you push it and thanks to the Quattro system, it still feels really stable and gives you confidence in the corners.
The S-Line model I had was very well spec’d, and included a few extra packages such as up-rated interior fabrics, wheels and also an LED lighting pack, storage pack, technology pack, parking system and BOSE surround sound system as well as a few other random elements that are debatable in terms of value, which took this from a £31,000 car up to just under £38,000. Now I can’t comment on which of these elements are worth the cost as I hadn’t driven the version without these packages, but the technology pack which included the LED sat nav screen was definitely useful, so that would be a tick in the options list.
The LED interior lighting pack was a nice touch, but I wouldn’t have specified it if I was buying this (the equivalent pack in the Mini Clubman was something I would take) but the one thing I would heartily recommend was the BOSE system. Oh my word, the sound was stunning. On the occasions where I was alone in the car I admit I turned it up… right up to the highest setting and was singing (screaming) along to the tunes and couldn’t hear myself… and there was no distortion, no rumbling, just clear sounds right across the spectrum. It is without question the best audio system I have experienced in a car.
So the overall verdict: the Q3 is a very nice car. I would go easy on the options, and if you don’t need the Quattro version, bear in mind that the non-Quattro version will save you £1,500 that could be spent on some of those extras… the BOSE is £690, just as a marker… and that is the one extra on this that I wouldn’t be without.