A new compact Audi SUV that will be as comfortable within the confines of the city as it will be scaling hills or crossing continents makes its world debut next week at the 2011 Shanghai Motor Show (April 21-28). The Q3 wraps trademark Audi quality, 50-plus mpg efficiency and advanced technology in a rugged SUV body with dimensions that favour urban use, and underpins these with an agile chassis with increased ground clearance and the all-weather reassurance of quattro all-wheel-drive.

The most diminutive member of the Audi Q-series has been designed to be very much in tune with the times. As a new departure for an Audi SUV, the predominantly quattro-equipped range will also include a front-wheel-drive model that will give absolute priority to efficiency. This 2.0-litre TDI, 140PS version with manual transmission will weigh in at under 1,500kg – a remarkable figure by SUV standards – and will be capable of achieving in excess of 54mpg.

Numerous additional measures contribute to this exemplary efficiency, and apply right across the range. The streamlined body with its lightweight aluminium and high-tech steel content slips easily through the air thanks to an impressively low drag coefficient of 0.32, and low rolling resistance tyres, engine start-stop, energy recuperation and electromechanical power steering systems all feature as standard across the board. The optional Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system also features a fuel-saving efficiency mode, and when this option is specified the further developed S tronic twin clutch transmission can now disengage drive each time the throttle pedal is released to reduce draw on the engine.

Efficient four-cylinder engine range

Three engines will initially be available, all combining direct fuel injection with turbo charging – the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol unit in 170PS and 211PS forms and the 2.0-litre TDI with 177PS. The top ranking 2.0-litre TFSI unit powers the Q3 from rest to 62mph in 6.9 seconds and on to a 143mph top speed. Soon after launch the 140PS 2.0-litre TDI will be offered in the entry level front-drive Q3.

The 2.0 TDI 140PS and 2.0 TFSI 170PS engines will be linked to six-speed manual transmission as standard, while the 2.0 TDI 177PS and 2.0 TFSI 211PS units will feature the acclaimed seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission.

All versions will have the necessary grounding to make unruffled progress over a variety of terrains thanks to their raised 170mm ride height and robust multi-link front and rear suspension. This is bolstered by the sophisticated Electronic Stability Program with electronic differential lock, which effectively regulates torque distribution by braking individual wheels when they start to slip. The predominant configuration will of course be quattro all-wheel-drive, which via a hydraulic multi-plate clutch redistributes power at lightning speed from front to rear axles as needed, instilling exceptional grip and control in all weathers and on the most challenging of roads or the roughest of tracks.

The Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system will be available as an option to enable drivers to tailor the Q3’s driving characteristics even more precisely. The system incorporates comfort, auto, dynamic and efficiency modes which influence the responses of the throttle and steering, and also the optional adaptive light and cruise control systems where these are fitted.

Upgraded S tronic transmission

When the efficiency mode is selected, the electronic climate control and cruise control systems operate at the optimum level for minimal fuel consumption, and in models with S tronic transmission, the active clutch is disengaged each time the driver lifts off the throttle, allowing the Q3 to use the momentum already built up to ‘coast’ without the need for engine input.

The city-friendly size of the distinctive Q3 body encapsulates a deceptively roomy interior with seating for five and an accommodating load bay with a 460-litre capacity, rising to 1,365 litres if the standard split/folding rear seat is stowed. Celebrated Audi precision and attention to detail are as evident as ever in the high quality fittings and the attractive wrap-around dashboard with its clear, intuitive controls.

Two specification levels will be available for UK Q3 models – SE and S line. The SE option builds impressively strong foundations, with 17-inch alloy wheels, contrasting painted bumpers, chrome window trims, aluminium roof rails and rear parking sensors featuring externally, and dual-zone climate control, a Concert audio system with 6.5-inch manually retractable colour display screen, Bluetooth interface, Audi Music Interface iPod connection and light and rain sensors all present inside. The Q3 will also come equipped with navigation preparation, enabling customers to ‘activate’ navigation retrospectively by purchasing an SD card if required.

S line models will upgrade with 18-inch alloy wheels, S line exterior and interior styling enhancements and xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps and LED rear tail lights

Numerous high-end options attest to the excellent technological standards of the Q3. They include adaptive light technology for the xenon plus headlights, a high-beam assistant to intelligently illuminate the road ahead, the hard drive-based navigation system plus with seven-inch colour screen and 3D mapping and the side assist blind spot warning and lane assist lane departure warning driver aids.

Among the more practical options is a luggage compartment package, a front-passenger seat with a folding seat back, a reversible loadliner, a reversible mat, a load sill protector made of stainless steel, a load-through hatch in the rear seat backrest and a ski bag.

At a later date, it will become possible to link the MMI navigation plus system with the online Bluetooth car phone, which integrates a UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Standard) module. This will enable the navigation system to make use of Google Earth images, and will enable the Q3 to double as a WLAN hotspot in which passengers can enjoy unrestricted internet connectivity on the road.