By: Dave Abrahams
Johannesburg - There's no mistaking Audi's updated-for-2015 Q3 compact SUV for its predecessor.
There's a new, chrome-trimmed grille that makes much more of a statement than before - which will be rolled out to future Q-cars as well, says Audi - new bumpers at both ends and new light clusters all round.
For the first time on a Q3 you can now get full LED headlights, together with 'dynamic' LED rear indicators that sweep sequentially outwards, making them very difficult to ignore.
But the important stuff is under the bonnet, with a new 1.4-litre turbopetrol entry-level engine (front-wheel drive only, Audi is realistic about what its SUVs are used for) rated at 110kW and 250Nm. It'll be available with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed S tronic transmission
The existing two-litre petrol and diesel engines have been uprated for more power and less emissions; the 2.0T FSI turbopetrol is now good for a claimed 132kW and 320Nm, delivered through an S tronic 'box and quattro all-wheel drive.
The 2.0 TDI turbodiesel is now rated at 135kW and 380Nm; it's coming in July 2015, propelled by an S tronic 'box and quattro all-wheel drive, and will be followed in 2016 by front-wheel-drive-only 110kW 2.0 TDI, also with S tronic transmission.
The flagship's 2.5-litre, five-cylinder petrol power plant gets a 22kW boost - up to 250kW and 450Nm - taking it from standstill to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds and on to an electronically limited 250km/h.
Its seven-speed S tronic transmission has been tweaked for quicker shifts, with its lower gears closer together for better acceleration and a longer top gear for more economical cruising.
It also gets RS exhaust plumbing with a switchable flap so you can enjoy that five-cylinder song, where appropriate, without inflicting it on your neighbours late at night.
There are distinctive new bumpers front and rear, new instruments with red needles on grey dials and a special RS menu for the driver information panel with lap timer and displays for oil temperature and boost pressure.
Optional for 2015 is new nappa leather upholstery with diamond quilting - or it will be when the uprated RS Q3 gets here in August 2015.
1.4T FSI 110kW - R402 500
1.4T FSI 110 kW S tronic - R419 500
2.0T FSI 132 kW quattro S tronic - R499 000
2.0 TDI 135 kW quattro S tronic - R515 000
RSQ3 2.5T FSI 250kW quattro S tronic - R 769,500 (August 2015, indicative price)
Prices include a five-year or 100 000km maintenance plan.