MH Garage: Audi Q3 Review | Men's Health Magazine Australia

MH Garage: We Review The Audi Q3

Look I’m going to level with you. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of SUVs. I’m still mentally scarred by a torrid experience many years ago in a wobbly 1980s Suzuki Vitara. The vehicle lurched all over the road and had brakes that locked up with the slightest touch. But today I’m in Byron Bay to test-drive the new Audi Q3 compact SUV and the location alone might be enough to put my prejudices aside. Byron would have to rank as one of the best places in the world to test drive a new car. Rough, winding roads criss-cross the town’s lush hinterland, taking in a range of challenging terrain and jaw dropping scenery.

It’s hard to think of a car more primed to become a favourite of families, young couples and retirees than the Q3. Audi call it a triple-threat and that’s not hyperbole – it’s an SUV with something for just about everyone. It’s bigger and sits lower to the ground than the car it replaces and has been completely redesigned inside and out. Having spent the night at the amazing Elements of Byron, I join a five-strong Q3 convoy out of town the next morning. The route has been pre-programmed into our vehicles’ Audi Connect Plus system, with five stops on the way. First, we head northwest towards Mullumbimby, then out towards Mount Burrell, down to Nimbin and back to Byron.

Along the way we encounter rainforest, open pasture and a tiny bit of freeway, the twisting route giving us ample opportunity to test out the car’s impressive roadholding dynamics. Confronting a sharp bend with a steep incline to follow, I find myself whacking the back of the steering wheel searching for paddle gear shifters that aren’t there – a disappointing omission in an otherwise impressive interior. But performance-wise it doesn’t matter. The 1.4-litre engine screams to attention as we swing around the bend and up the hill with minimal fuss. As the route unfolds, I do find the six-speed S-tronic gearbox can occasionally struggle to find the appropriate gear. But the overall handling is far more car-like than SUV. It’s certainly no ’80s Vitara. The quality of the tarmac on the roads around Byron varies greatly. Loads of bumps, potholes and loose gravel give the Q3’s suspension a thorough working over. The 18-inch wheels on the base model handle these a little more smoothly than their better looking 19-inch siblings.

Inside is where the Q3’s biggest changes have occurred. The car’s interior controls are almost all digitised across twin 10-inch screens dedicated to the infotainment and gauge cluster. The car is also the latest recipient of the aforementioned Audi Connect Plus system, which provides up-to-the-minute traffic information, can tell you where to get the cheapest petrol and even give you a heads-up on nearby carparks with available spots. Plus, the mapping information also appears on the dash (or Virtual Cockpit, as Audi calls it) right in front of the driver, with a highly customisable digital display helping to keep your eyes on the road.

Android Auto and Apple Carplay are also available – in fact Carplay can be used wirelessly – and there’s a wireless charging pad in the middle of the dash. Leather seats are standard, providing firm, comfortable support and two rear-seat passengers have plenty of room – three is possible, but would be a little too cosy on a long trip. The rear cargo area is an impressive 525 litres and you can triple that with the rear seats down – perfect for a family holiday, shopping trip or even moving small furniture. Cruising back to the finish line for lunch after our 165km lap of the hinterland, I have to admit I’m well on the way to overcoming my SUV aversion. And with the Q3 Sportback model featuring a more powerful 2.0 litre engine due in mid-2020, my conversion could well be complete.

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