Audi Q3 and Evoque

Beasts’ beauty makeover

Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque are good-looking additions to the upmarket SUV range.

While SUVs in general are popular due to their all-round family practicality, they don’t have to be utilitarian beasts. Compact premium models have changed the way we view SUVs, and for those able to own something a little more upmarket there is now greater choice. Range Rover changed the game for compact prestige SUVs in 2011 with the launch of the Evoque, bringing its unique brand image, road and track capability, and individuality to a market that was dominated by BMW’s X3 and X1. Audi responded this year with the Q3, a smaller version of its appealing Q5 and Q7 models. Others to consider among prestige marques are Volvo’s XC70, Lexus RX-350 – or, if AWD is not a priority, the new Mercedes B-class. Buyers may be drawn to Evoque or Q3 purely on the basis of their distinctive styling and car-like look and feel, but practicality remains important and we chose the diesel AWD models for a direct comparison.

Audi launched its single body style Q3 with a choice of two exterior trim packages: S-line featuring classic aerodynamic bumpers with fog lights and additional chrome trim or Off-road with stone grey trim, stainless steel under-body guard and exclusive 18” or 19” wheels. There are four engines, two turbo petrol and two turbo diesels, all 2.0L 4cyl with Quattro permanent all wheel drive, apart from an entry front wheel drive 103kW 6spd manual diesel, whose claim to fame is 5.2L/100km in (GVG) government testing for a theoretical range over 1000km.

Our 130kW diesel comes with the 7spd S tronic or dual clutch auto for $54,500, while the 125kW petrol version can be selected in manual, $47,000, or auto, $48,950. This is $5500 less than the equivalent diesel. Q3 also has a range-topping 155kW Quattro/manual at $56,000 for those after even higher performance.

Range Rover’s Evoque line-up features three engine options, predominantly diesel and four models, each with three distinct design themes, Pure, Prestige and Dynamic, as well as a 3dr coupe version for an additional $1500. For the first time in a Range Rover a two wheel drive, 2.2L 110kW turbo-diesel in manual only, designated eD4 is now available, where entry price and fuel economy is again the objective. GVG 5.0L/100km shades the Q3, but only in this configuration. Our all wheel drive TD4 Pure has the same engine and is available in 6spd manual from $53,395, or conventional 6spd auto for an additional $2480. Stepping up to the Dynamic, which majors in luxury items such as full leather, wood finishes and tailored carpets plus 19” wheels and Xenon headlamps, adds a hefty $13,500, with a further $2000 for the Prestige. The higher output 140kW SD4 is also available in manual and auto, starting at $57,395, with the only petrol model, the 2.0L, auto, AWD Si4, from $60,395.

Adding to the standard features list in these cars and working your way through a matrix of stand-alone options or equipment packages can be confusing and potentially expensive. For example, our test Evoque came with $10,280 worth of extras and the Q3 $12,150. It’s disappointing in this league to note a lack of standard features, found on even entry level cars, such as Audi’s proprietary USB or auxiliary input, which requires buying a connector cable.

Fortunately, neither is lacking any fundamental safety feature. Both provide stability control, ABS braking and front, side and curtain airbags. Evoque offers an extra driver knee airbag.

Evoque brings a slightly different and more modern approach to cabin design and interior presentation. Where the Audi is classic elegance in traditional black with brushed alloy trim and chrome-rimmed dials, the Evoque is refreshingly sculptured, light and contemporary. The Q3 has typically good seat support up front with manual controls, electric adds $1700, where Evoque seats are larger, the cushions are longer and electric adjustment is standard. Both have plenty of space up front with seat height control and steering reach and tilt. Audi’s dash is instantly familiar and easy to use apart from the air controls buried low in the centre console.

Some Evoque items take a little getting used to, such as the rotary gear selector, yet we struggled to fault its fundamental design and function. Each provides well designed steering wheel controls. Sloping roof lines on both cars limits rear visibility to varying degrees, but in this respect the Evoque is far worse and massive rear view mirrors are provided as an appeasement. Rear cameras are optional, $670 on Evoque and $1350 on Q3.

We found the Evoque offered a nicer overall cabin presentation, principally in design, but the Q3 has a little more room in rear seat and load space. Both have 60/40 split-fold rear seats that don’t go quite flat, convenient child seat anchorages on the seat back, lighting over the seat and auxiliary power outlets. The Evoque lacks rear ventilation outlets and the Q3 lacks seat back pockets. In a practical sense, Q3 has 130mm more overall load length with the seat folded, while both have a 75kg roof rack loading and carry space saver spare wheels. Towing limits are reasonable at 1800kg for Evoque and 2000kg for Q3, with ball load limitations.

Audi’s highly tuned 2.0L diesel engine produces more power from its smaller capacity and delivered clearly better fuel economy, in combination with a 7spd dual clutch auto and engine stop/start function. The Evoque has more low-speed pulling torque and with its conventional 6spd auto feels more linear in its performance delivery and is a nicer drive. The Evoque seems stronger in performance, particularly in town where the Q3 suffers from an annoying hesitation on initial acceleration. Both diesels perform well on the open road. Fuel economy favours the Audi by around 1.0L/100km, regardless of driving conditions, with our two-week reading showing 7.9L/100km, against the Evoque’s 8.9L/100km.

Evoque’s AWD ride and handling package also includes a standard selectable terrain response, just like its big brother the Discovery, allowing drivers to change suspension and driveline characteristics to suit road conditions. This ability to deal with all manner of roads and tracks, places it head and shoulders above the Audi for those with more demanding needs or adventurous nature. The Q3 is clearly oriented to tarmac roads, its crisp steering and surefooted grip from lower profile tyres ensuring ride and handling characteristics more in keeping with a sports-oriented model. Audi offers optional Drive Select, $2050, which electronically changes ride damper control, throttle and steering response to suit driver preference. While the Audi coped with a corrugated dirt road, it never felt as relaxed as the Evoque.

The verdict

Conveniently sized, easy to use, comfortable and stylish, these SUVs will appeal to executive mums and dads. The Range Rover Evoque is our choice based on its refined driving performance, superior all-road capability, ride comfort, functional qualities and individuality. Audi’s Q3 is not far behind, blending traditional Audi style, build quality and sporting drive with better load space, visibility and fuel economy. Just don’t expect to pay listed drive-away pricing for either of them.

Written by Ernest Litera
September 09, 2012