The Audi Q3S is in a way a risky move by the German carmaker. Selling a luxury car with a manual gearbox would have been considered a taboo in India a few years ago, but Audi has proved that it can do just that. More so, the Q3S is seen with plenty of feature deletions. This is how it fares in our review -
On the outside, the Q3S gets regular Halogen headlights as compared to the Q3 which comes with Xenon lights and LED daytime running lights. The taillights of the Q3S also feature regular halogen bulbs, as compared to the Q3‘s LED strips. Though our test car was kitted with black alloy wheels, the Q3S comes with silver-colored wheels of a different design as standard. Apart from these changes, there are no badges to suggest to the outside world that you’re driving Audi India’s most basic product.
While the Q3S retains the cabin layout of the regular Q3, Audi has made several changes to ensure a competitive pricetag. Firstly, the cabin is finished in an all-black color, which looks a bit dull and boring. The next shocker comes when you glance at the center console, as there is no automatic climate control. Instead, the Q3S gets manual AC, controls of which resemble that of sub-10 lakh Volkswagen product.
A music system and a central 6.5-inch screen come standard on the Q3S. The display of our test car did not feature navigation, and Audi will not provide a reverse camera or even a display readout of the parking sensors. The music system is capable of playing CDs/FM/AM/SD Card and Bluetooth. An AUX or USB port is not offered, instead you have to buy additional converter cables to wire your phone/audio device with Audi’s Multimedia entertainment socket.
The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable, but the front passenger’s seat gets electric controls only for lumbar adjustment. At the rear, the Q3S is devoid of an AC vent, the space for which is left open for storing small items.
Overall, the cabin of the Q3S does not look luxurious in any way. The upside is that Audi has not compromised on the build quality.
The Q3S comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox, hill-hold assist, manual AC, power folding and adjustable wing mirrors, cruise control, electric driver’s seat, music system with a central screen, rear parking sensors and automatic headlights. Safety features come in the form of ESC and 6 airbags.
Engine and Gearbox:
Power for the Q3S comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine, the same engine block used on the regular Q3 TDI, but in a lower state of tune. While this engine produces 174 hp and 380 Nm of torque on the regular Q3, engineers have detuned it to 140 hp and 320 Nm of torque on the S.
This is transmitted to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox. The upshot to 2WD is that the Q3S has lost 140 kg of weight. Audi claims the crossover will run from 0-100 km/h in 9.9 seconds and hit a top-speed of 202 km/h.
First things first, the engine performance of the Q3S does justice to the ‘S’ moniker (where S is supposed to stand for sporty). There is swiftness to the way this motor pulls the car forward. Since peak torque arrives at an early 1,750 rpm, turbolag is very brief. The 2.0-liter TDI pulls cleanly till the redline, though gearchanges are best done at 3,000-3,500 rpm. Overall, the engine scores well on power and will certainly put a smile on the enthusiast’s face.
Coming to the manual gearbox, this unit works well for most of the time. Though it may be a bit like comparing apples and oranges, the gearlever of the Polo has a better and smoother action than the gearlever of the Q3S. The clutch is reasonably light.
Ride and Handling:
The Q3S rides well for most of the terrain thrown at it. However, thanks to the lighter weight, there is a bit of bouncy-ness to the suspension of the car.
The steering of the Q3S is super light and works in its favor in city driving conditions. On highways, the light steering is not confidence inspiring, and you’re left wanting for more feedback while taking sharp bends. Overall, while the engine of the Q3S urges you to drive in a sporty manner, the steering plays spoilsport.
Audi claims the Q3S will do 17.71 km/l. Our tests saw the vehicle returning about 12.5 km/l.
The Q3S is the most affordable Audi in India at INR 24.99 lakhs ex-Showroom.
Take away the 4WD system and the fancy LED daytime running lights and xenon headlamps and you’ve saved quite a lot already. Audi chose to go a step further by ditching the 7-speed DSG for this 6-speed manual, which at the end of the day makes sense if your chauffeur is driving the car more than you. Instead of stopping there, the product planners decided to ditch features like climate control as well, which is a step too far.
If you’re at a traffic light in your Q3S and a Volkswagen pulls up next to you, you’re going to be a bit embarrassed to learn that a car sold by the VW Group in India for less than half the price has a few features not present in your ‘luxurious’ Audi. And this is the Q3S’s biggest problem: While the badge may suggest it to be a premium product, there is nothing premium about it technically, or feature-wise.
The regular Q3 is a brilliant car and gets our recommendation letter. Go for the Q3S only if you cannot afford the regular Q3, or if you live in a neighbourhood where gates open only for a luxury car. Alternatively, if you must have a feature-packed car under INR 25 lakhs, opt for the top-end Skoda Octavia or the base Skoda Superb instead.