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Long-term tests

Audi Q3: Third report

A trip to the Alps in some wild winter weather saw our SUV show its class

What's the point in having a four-wheel-drive Audi Q3 with winter tyres if you’re not going to put it to the test? At the start of February, there had been no sign of snow and icy weather in the UK, so I borrowed our SUV to transport me and my girlfriend Giulia to Val Thorens in the French Alps for a week’s skiing.

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It just happened to be the very same week that blizzards hit the UK and some of the coldest temperatures of the past decade were recorded. So I left the Q3’s regular driver, staff photographer Pete Gibson, without his trusty 4WD at the worst possible time... sorry Pete! Mind you, it’s not as if I had an easy run to the Alps, either.

A light dusting of snow in Folkestone, before we got into the Channel Tunnel, had turned into a blanket up to 10cm deep on the autoroute in Calais, as temperatures plummeted to -15oC.

A long line of cautious Brits jammed up the one snow-free lane, but the Q3 was about to have its finest hour. I carefully pulled out on to the other, snow-covered lane and began a cautious 30mph drive up the autoroute, passing hundreds of cars and covering countless miles while others just sat and waited.

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Having blazed a trail, we began to see much larger, more capable off-roaders join us, too, including a G4 Challenge Land Rover Discovery 3. Most amazing of all was that the Q3 felt as though it could have ploughed through the deep snow all day and – if I’d been braver – at far higher speeds, too.

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The only thing that could slow us down was the salt that kept obscuring the view through the windscreen. We’d topped up the washer fluid with anti-freeze but it obviously wasn’t concentrated enough, as the washers stopped working almost as soon as the temperature dropped below -10oC.

Still, a couple of hours into the journey and a few hundred miles down the road, the weather was much milder, the roads were clear and the sun was out. That meant it was the perfect time to stretch the Q3’s legs.

On a clear motorway, the 2.0-litre TDI engine was happy to cruise at 80mph for hour after hour, while the beautifully trimmed cabin not only keeps out the cold, but wind and road noise, too.

For most of the time, we were averaging about 40mpg and had a range of 500 miles , which saw us through most of the 600-mile journey. We didn’t manage to get anywhere near the official 47.9mpg figure of this particular Q3, though, which meant the fuel bill was a little higher than I was expecting.

As we neared our destination, temperatures dropped again and heavy snow was falling as we climbed the last few thousand feet. The external temperature gauge read as low as -28oC at one point and we could barely see a thing through the downfall, but the Q3 had transported us 600 miles in just over 12 hours of driving in the most relaxing way possible.

And the best thing is, despite sitting unused for a week at -30oC, it started first time at the beginning of our return leg.

Extra Info

“The Audi isn’t the most exciting car to drive, but when there’s snow outside, who cares? It excels in winter weather, which is what buyers will want.”
Ross Pinnock, Road test editor

“Another Audi that dealers won’t have to try too hard to sell, but the styling is, shall we say, predictable? Still, it’s another niche plugged.”
ukmike2000, via www.autoexpress.co.uk

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