2012 Audi Q3

Audi has never offered a crossover SUV in the US market that's quite as small as the coming Audi Q3, which debuted at the recent Shanghai Auto Show and will take its place in the showrooms next to the larger Q5 and Q7 models.

The small Audi Q3 is based on the same platform as the Volkswagen Tiguan. The Q3 measures 173 inches long and 72 inches wide, while the larger Q5 is based on the Audi A4 sedan platform. The Audi Q3 will be in the small crossover SUV segment, competing against the new BMW X1, Land Rover Evoque, a coming Lexus, and a new Mercedes-Benz small crossover which may be called BLX.

Audi's little Q3 shares all of its design with other Audi products, from the grille to the new swooped beltline to the forward-leaning coupe roofline and very prominent high taillamps. The headlamps and taillamps are similar to other new Audis, and there are LED lamp elements on Q3s with the optional lighting package that make the little trucklet unmistakable on the road at night.

The Audi 2.0-liter turbocharged direct injection 4-valve engine, producing 211 horsepower, will be mated to ether a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Front-wheel drive will be standard, with Audi's quattro all-wheel drive as an option. An Audi Drive Select system offers four different driving modes from sport to economy.

An automatic engine stop-start system may be included in the Q3 package for fuel economy, and there will certainly be a clean diesel version using Audi's 2.0-liter TDI engine. A smaller, less powerful diesel with the potential of 45 mpg highway may come into the lineup later.

The Audi Q3 is about 10 inches shorter overall than the Q5, and rides less than seven inches off the ground, so it's not prepared for serious off-roading, but it is ready for snow, ice, or rain. The shared chassis uses strut front suspension a four-link rear suspension, electro-mechanical power steering and standard 16-inch wheels and tires.

The hood and tailgate are aluminum-skinned, and the body shell makes use of high-strength steel. The Q3 in base trim will start at about 3300 pounds. With all five seats erected, it will hold 16 cubic feet of luggage; with the rears folded, capacity rises to 48 cubes.

The interior will be a mix of brushed metal, wood, black and chrome, with an optional pop-up navigation and controller screen at the top of the center stack area. The second seat folds down flat in a 2/3-1/3 split scheme, with 16 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 48 cubic feet with the seats folded.

The option list includes LED ambient lighting, a panoramic sunroof, sport seats, adaptive headlamps, adaptive shocks, hard-drive navigation, wheels and tires up to 19-inch, and a wide variety of electronic safety systems, including park assist, side assist, active lane assist and camera-based speed-limit display. A Bose surround-sound system with 14 speakers, Bluetooth, USB and AUX ports will be available, and there may be a mobile WiFi option.

Sources say that there will be an upmarket S-Line version of the Q3 shortly after launch, and longer range, a super-sport version with a much more powerful engine.

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