Car Review: 2018 Audi S5

It’s always a pleasure to have a luxury car in the driveway. It’s always a pleasure to have a sports oriented car in the driveaway. When the two mix, it’s double the pleasure. The 2018 Audi S5, with “Quattro” all wheel drive and turbo V6 packed into a lithe and sinuous body, takes that a notch or two further. With a list price of $96,200 and a final drive-away figure of $116,500, does the S5 offer luxury supercar performance at a reasonable price?The keys to the S5 are the 3.0 litre V6, eight speed tiptronic which has been updated from the previously available seven speed, and all wheel drive. Peak power is 260 kilowatts between 5400 and 6400 rpm and maximum torque of 500 Nm on tap at a billiard table flat 1370 – 4500 rev band. Helped by 255/35/19 rubber from Continental and a dry weight of 1690 kilos it’s good enough to see a 0 – 100 kph time of 4.5 seconds, with a seat of the pants feeling that’s a conservative figure. Economy will vary depending on how heavy the right foot is employed. Audi quotes 7.5L/100 km of 98RON for the combined cycle and an average of just 10.0L/100 km for the urban cycle. A worst of over 15.0L/100 km was seen and that was when testing acceleration times.It doesn’t hurt that the S5’s aerodynamics add to the rapidity of the S5. At just 0.25cD it’s one of the slipperier cars of its type. Part of this comes from a redesign to the front, with a lower and more pedestrian friendly nose that houses the signature Audi Singleframe grille. Smooth sine wave lines join the LED headlight front via the two door coupe’s subtly larger flanks to the short tail that gives up a deep if not vertically capacious 455 litres. Fold the rear seats and that’s up to 829 litres. Step inside and there’s a combination of high tech with the Heads Up Display,  12.3 inch TFT “Virtual Cockpit” dash display and variable drive modes against a stunning business club feel thanks to the sumptuously appointed diamond quilted leather seats. That’s front and rear, with the back seat occupants not forgotten in the search for comfort as Audi provides a three zone climate control system.There’s an impressively modern feel and look to the plastics, with a mostly ergonomic approach to the layout of the dash and console mounted buttons and switches. There’s a broad swathe of venting to the view of the front seat passengers which looks slightly unusual given the accepted 2 + 2 vent look everywhere else.

Although the S5 is a decent 4692mm in length and has a longish 2765mm wheelbase, interior room isn’t as spacious as one would suspect. Yes, you have to duck your head to get in, and yes, rear seat leg room and head room is tight for an Oompaloompa, you can almost forgive that given the outright driveability and the comfort levels the S5 provides.

The LCD screen in front of the driver is the latest word in how to do something pretty damned well. With a changeable look that gives a number of different display looks, such as full screen map, speedo and rev counter along with long and short term driving stats, it’s intuitive and easy on the eye. What isn’t is Audi’s decision to stay with a centre dash mounted screen that looks plugged into a cut-out slot. Nor does the DAB/FM/AM display show anything other than the station you’re listening to with RDS (Radio Data Service) info seemingly locked into a separate screen.Road manners come as no surprise in being benign when driven gently, tenacious when driven moderately, and superb at maximum attack. The drive modes, being Comfort, Dynamic, Individual, either sharpen or soften chassis and throttle response and, unusually, it really dos work. Too often (you hear us, Kia and Hyundai?) these electronic changes are added and seem to add nought. In the case of the Audi S5, m’lud, they do.The transmission really does offer quicker changes and using the paddle shifts there’s a blip blip blip on upshifts. Downshifts are fractionally slower…fractionally. It’s a hugely enjoyable experience and using Dynamic is great for quiet roads or track days, Comfort for cruising, and really that’s all you need. There’s also the 1587mm/1568mm front and rear track to aid in high speed and around town stability plus a tight turning circle (11.4 metres) with the steering itself a natural feeling setup lock to lock.  Recalibrated suspension components in the front lend their aid to the ride quality too. The S5 brakes are just what you need and expect from the package, with a sensitive pedal telling the driver just how much retardation is happening at any given time.

On board are six airbags with the S5 missing a driver’s knee ‘bag, accident pre-sensing which did throw up some false positives, Blind Spot Warning, pre-tensioning seatbelts (which caught Mrs AWT unawares more than once), and the usual driver aids. There’s also autonomous braking on board.

To back up the S5 should anything go awry is a three year road side assistance program, three year unlimited kilometre warranty with twelve year anti-corrosion, and the option of extended warranty as well.

At The End Of The Drive.
The question was: “…does the S5 offer luxury supercar performance at a reasonable price?” Quite simply that answer is yes. 2018 Audi A5/S5 is the place to go to enquire further.


ŠKODA Kodiaq Ready To Bear Arms

Czech brand Skoda is preparing to launch a raft of new vehicles including a large SUV. Based on the Audi and VW versions of the same car, the Kodiaq as it will be called, will be a compact big car and will start at a decent $42990 plus ORC. When I say it’s a compact big car, overall length will be 4697 mm, and will roll on a 2791 mm wheelbase. That’s still shorter than the Audi Q5 at 2807 mm. Height is 1676 mm, including roof rails, which makes it the same height.

At the entry level, Skoda have specified their 1.4L TSFI engine, which is an interesting choice, until you read that the dry weight is under 1500 kilos. The Skoda Octavia AWD wagon is just 1250 kg or so, so there will be a noticeable if not huge difference between the two in performance. There will be five engines on offer; two 1.4L petrol, one 2.0L petrol, and two diesels with differing power and torque at 110 kW/340 Nm and 140 kW/400 Nm.

At the Australian launch we’ll see just one variant, being the 132TSI 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine as standard, developing 132kW of power (as its name suggests) plus 320Nm of torque. The 140 kW diesel will arrive later in 2017. There’ll be three option packs available: Tech ($2500), Luxury ($4900), and Launch, with the first offering Adaptable Chassis Control, auto park assist, an extra off road mode plus more. Luxury gives up ventilated electrically adjustable seats at the front, leather, surround camera system and more. A limited-run Launch Pack will be available for $5900, including all features of the Tech Pack plus blind spot and lane assist, reverse camera, traffic jam and emergency assist, side mirrors with auto dim, plus rear cross traffic alert. Additionally, the Launch Pack adds Triglav alloys at 19 inch diameter.

Outside it’s a set of updated Skoda design cues, with narrower and edgier headlights reflected in a similar design at the rear, said to be inspired by traditional Czech crystal glass art. There’s an improved grille design that flows equally as well with the headlights and the whole body is based on the family group’s modular transverse matrix which builds in hot stamped metal sheeting for a high rigidity factor with improved safety implications.

Check out and register your interest there.

2017 Audi Q2 TDi: A Wheel Thing Car Review

With SUVs being so popular, it’s no surprise that the next chapter in the SUV story is the lifestyle SUV. Think the original SUV, the Toyota RAV4, bring it into the latter half of the second decade of the 21st century, and that’s the market.
Not surprisingly, Audi, known for their quick response to market change, have done so and enter, stage left, the Audi Q2, with a choice of 1.4L TFSI petrol or 2.0L diesel quattro.Audi says that their designers have: “created a unique polygonal design for the Q2 using sculpted geometric shapes for a stunning interplay of lines. The octagonal Singleframe grille, the three-dimensional taillights, and the polygonal side profile work in harmony to define its powerful character. With a higher-ground clearance, the Q2 is undeniably an SUV, from the elevated driving position to everyday versatility.”Ok. That means it’s a funky new design for an SUV. But what does that mean for passengers? Well, let’s take a step back and consider the exterior. The test car came clad in a “won’t lose me in the car park” yellow. Vegas Yellow, to be precise. If there’s a colour other than silver that will highlight those edges, it’s yellow. There’s a solid plastic C panel in a light gunmetal grey which can be be swapped for other colours, with that choice dependent on engine spec. With eleven exterior colours to pick from the Q2 allows the savvy buyer some choice, to say the least.In fact, the Q2 offers a list of optionable equipment that will give any indecisive person the jitters. There’s the punchy B&O audio system, wireless mobile phone charging, Head Up Display, a storage and luggage compartment package, and a cool looking LED interior light system in the console and dash. You can also include the Technik Package, which has an 8.3 inch touchscreen, two card readers and 10 GB hard drive storage plus more. The driver gets the “Virtual Cockpit” LCD screen, at just over 12 inches in width.It’s a surprisingly compact unit, with an overall length under 4.2 metres, at 4191 mm, yet rides on a 2601 mm wheelbase, meaning there’s a reasonable, if cozy, amount of interior space. That also means that front and rear overhang is minimal, with 828 mm and 762 mm respectively. It’s almost square in a front/rear look, with 1509 mm in height, 1794 mm total with, and with front and rear track just millimetres apart at 1547 mm and 1541 mm respectively. Rubber was Michelin 215/50, on the optionable 18 inch alloys fitted.Interior space has 1091 mm from the front seat squab to the roof and just 966 mm in the rear, meaning taller passengers may find themselves getting intimate with the upholstery, both above and to the back of the seats ahead. The interior itself is a mix of flat charcoal plastic; textured, almost carbon fibre along the dash and hides the LED mood lighting; to the flat bottomed steerer and the screen in the upper dash standing monolithically, almost like The Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.Cargo space is smallish at 450 litres, plus it’s a highish boot floor, making both loading height and outright useability a compromise.It’ll motorvate along nicely, however, with the 2.0L diesel (in the test vehicle) providing a linear deliver of torques, 340 of them, between 1750 and 3000 rpm, rolling off nicely into the peak power figure of 110 kilowatts from 3500 to 4000 revs. The TSFI delivers the same power albeit at 5000 to 6000 rpm, with peak torque a not indecent 250 Nm across a slightly broader rev range, being 1500 to 3500. The diesel’s quattro system has drive predominantly at the front, as is common in these sorts of vehicles, sending torque rearward as the sensor system dictates. It’s seamless and invisible to the senses.Both will roll along quietly with the merest flex of the right ankle, and with both having such a linear delivery of torque, will see each of the seven ratios nicely used, especially when at speed and needing a good overtaking move. The diesel is muted but will transmit a warm thrum through to the cabin when under load.  Stopping power is confident, with the brakes providing instant information, rather than feeling as if there’s travel before bite. The steering weights well in the hand, with it feeling as if there’s a variable ratio the further left or right you turn.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Audi Q2 starts at $41100 plus on roads for the 1.4 TSFI, with the diesel quattro a whopping $6800 more, with a driveaway price of a gnat’s nasty under $53500. However you will get the standard three year or unlimited kilometre warranty and twelve year warranty for body perforation protection. The diesel is a good enough drive but the Q2 suffers from a lack of interior room overall. At that, one would suspect that it would be bought by singles or couples and would rarely see a need to employ the rear seat for anything other than extra space for shopping, or a small dog.
2017 Audi Q2 is the place to go for more info.

Audi Q2 Unveiled At Sydney’s Barangaroo.

Audi’s stable of Q cars will see another addition in early 2017, with the Q2 being added to the lineup. In a low key event, prior to its official launch, in the centre of Sydney’s redeveloped Barangaroo district, a version of the new Q2 was

Here’s how the range, with a starting price of $41100, shakes down:
There’s three engines, with a 1.4L TSFI petrol and 110 kW/250 Nm, 2.0L turbo diesel with 110 kW and 340 Nm and a forthcoming 2.0L TSFI powerplant 140 kW/320

There’s a solid feature list which includes Autonomous Emergency Braking, MultiMedia Interface Navigation, smartphone interface with voice interface or natural language control. The system offers a data sim card wifi hotspot and incorporates Google Earth maps and Google Search functionality. For the drivers there’s a virtual cockpit, added safety for all in the Audi Presense Plus crash avoidance system, which will recognise objects in front of the vehicle and emergency brake the car from speeds of 85 kmh. This backs up the adaptive cruise control with Stop and Go, lane departure warning and rear cross

A highlight of the Q2 is the exterior design; it’s compact yet assertive, with a low profile accentuated by width, a sloping roofline with spoiler and an expansive C pillar. At the front os a reinterpretation of Audi’s signature grille, with a polygonal design setting the theme. The flanks have an angular form, almost as if a swathe has been shaved and drings a further distinctiveness to the look, terminating in T shaped LED lit tail

Inside there’s adaptive LED mood lighting, shining through cleverly designed cut throughs in the dash plastic, providing a unique ambience for the Q2. Belying the size of the Q2 is a 405 litre cargo space, going to 1050 litres when the rear seats are

Orders for delivery in February 2017 are now being taken (late September 2016) via

Audi A4 Avant Quattro S-Line: Car Review

Long seen as a pioneer of all wheel drive vehicles, Audi’s Quattro system is possibly one of the best of its kind available. Couple it with a torquey turbocharged four, a mostly user friendly DSG transmission, and with Audi’s S-Line trim inside the wagon or Avant body, it’s an iron fist in a velvet glove. All up, it’s the Audi A4 Avant Quattro S-Line.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-profileUp front, behind the LED lit headlights, lies a 2.0L four cylinder turbocharged engine in an in-line configuration, fed on a diet of 95RON petrol. When prodded with the angry stick, the 1615 kilogram machine (thanks to a weight reducing aluminuiom chassis) will be hauled away to 100 kilometres per hour in just six seconds to a limited top speed of 250 kmh, seeing maximum torque of 370 nm (1600 to 4500 rpm) being applied via the seven speed dual clutch auto to all four wheels. Keep the foot buried and the tachometer on the full LCD dash screen will swing around to over 6000 rpm, delivering peak power of 185 kilowatts between 5000 to 6000 revs.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-engineBeing the beast it can be, it’ll drink and drink hard when continually pushed. Consumption of the good fluid can be over 12.0 litres for every one hundred kilometres covered. However, it can also be docile, averaging around 7.0L per 100 km for normal around town work. Audi’s figures are 6.6L/100 km on the combined cycle for the Avant from a 58 litre tank.

Drivewise, punch the accelerator whilst on the freeway and the torque spread shrugs aside any opposition, watching the numbers change with alacrity. It’s a situation that well trained drivers will appreciate and understand.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-dashShould one wish to drive with a touch more verve and a little more zing, Audi has a drive mode selector, offering four options including Dynamic. This holds the gear shift point for longer, changes the engine’s ignition mapping to suit and provides the driver a more assertive driving experience. This would be ideal for an owner to take to a track day and find out the true limits of what this very capable machine can see. The downside to this is a lack of anything welcome stroking the ears. Although you can hear the engine working, it’s muted, lacking a real sense of buzz and excitement, whilst at the rear there’s a faint “phut, phut” as the transmission changes up.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-front-quarterIt’s a little too easy to confuse it at times; it’s not a fan of very low throttle applications such as those coming out from your driveaway, or in city traffic. The engine takes a moment too long to telegraph what it’s doing and the transmission furthers that lag. It’ll all too easily change down to an unwanted ratio on some downhill runs, especially at lower speeds required due to the road itself or traffic ahead, necessitating a flick of the paddle shift to get it to a more appropriate ratio. There was the occasional indecision in traffic and a clunk as the gearbox and AWD system talked to each other momentarily before reaching a decision on what to do.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-lower-dashHowever, it’s as easy as breathing in regards to engaging the system. A rocker style gear selector is what Audi uses; foot on brake, press the Start/Stop button, pull lightly back for Drive or push forward for Reverse. Park is engaged by a push button at the top right and it couldn’t be more simple to use. Manual mode is simple tip to the right and rocking forward or back or using the paddle shifters.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-wheelBeing all wheel drive is one thing, but if the tyres aren’t up to the game, you’ll be hard pressed to fully appreciate what it does. Thankfully Audi has wrapped all four 19 inch wheels with rubber from Pirelli in a 245/35 profile. On the curvy, winding, roads A Wheel Thing uses every day, the Avant simply hunkers down, hands the driver a note saying “I’ve got this” and powers through as if Velcro, superglue and liquid nails have held the chassis to the rails it’s on. In one of the roundabouts near home, which to access the desired road requires a change of direction of over 180 degrees, there was no under or oversteer at all.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-front-seatsThe well weighted and pin sharp responsive steering had the Avant planted firmly, squarely, confidently, in this kind of situation and worked hand in glove with the sports suspension. Think of one of the hard erasers you had a school; squeeze it and there’s a touch of compression before it shops the squeeze. Close your eyes and imagine that’s the ride quality of the A4 Avant Quattro; firm but not hard, compliant enough to not dislodge the teeth but solid enough to let you know it’s just eaten a ripple in the road for breakfast. Helping with front end and overall chassis stability is the alloy strut tower brace.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-rear-seatsIf there was a design quibble, it was something constantly mentioned by the junior members of A Wheel Thing: Daddy, why do the door handles open upwards? I don’t like it.

The test vehicle came clad in a delicious metallic blue paint, wrapping the slinky Avant and showing off its subtle curvature, and was complemented by a power blue colour for the seats. Yes, they were electrically operated. Yes, they were comfortable. Yes, they were a sports bucket style. Yes, they came with two tablet devices attached for the rear seat passengers. No, this car did not come fitted with the data enabled SIM card allowing certain usage options such as in-car wifi hotspot. No, it did not come with switches in the cargo area to release the 40/20/40 split fold seats.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-dash-screenWhat the test car did come with was some of the vast array of options Audi has for the A4, both as options and fitted as standard for the Quattro. The folding and heated external mirrors for example, the sports suspension which drops ride height by 20 mm, Audi’s virtual cockpit including HUD, and parking assistance ($2735 and $1255), with the S-Line package covering the 19 inch wheels with V spokes/stainless steel pedals/matt brushed aluminuim inlays and more for $4160.

The Drive Select, Side Assist Blind Spot Warning, Cruise Control, Rear Cross Traffic Assist, and space saver spare are standard fitment, as are the LED headlights with self levelling and dynamic (inside to out in motion) indicators. Heating and venting, however, are optionable and are a questionable cost at $2600. And although Bluetooth streaming and digital radio are standard, the Bang and Olufson sound system is a $1950 option.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-rear-seat-tabletIn the upper centre of the dash is an 8.3 inch multimedia screen, operated via a control dial ahead of the gear selector. It’s not a retractable screen either, making it look oddly out of place. The system displays a hi-res map, the fact you’re listening to a radio station but won’t simultaneously show the RDS (Radio Data Service) information. The twin screens on th erear of the seats are a $4680 option in the Avant Quattro yet are a thousand dollars cheaper in the sedan version…2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-space-saverAt the stern is a powered tail gate, with plenty of LED lighting (a nice touch to have one directly overhead when open), with a rear camera that’s part of the 360 degree system. It’s 1025 mm from the rear of the car to the rear axle line, with the lip of the gate just 630 mm above the ground in normal trim. Overall length is 4725 mm with a wheelbase of 2820 mm, track is 1575 mm/1550 mm front and rear.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-rear-quarterInterior room benefits from good packaging: 1476 and 1446 mm are the numbers for hip room front and rear yet there’s a massive 505L for the cargo section (once you remove the cargo blind) with the rear seats up. Fold them, they don’t go completely flat, but you’ll still get 1500 or so litres.2016-audi-a4-avant-quattro-s-line-cargoSafety wraps the A4 Avant Quattro in eight airbags, including full length curtain airbags, pre-tensioning seatbelts (which provide a somewhat eerie feeling as they slide up your shoulder by themselves), the excellent presense crash avoidance system and pedestrian friendly active bonnet. Peace of mind comes with a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

At The End Of The Drive.
It’s testament to Audi that, although they make a range of SUVs, they recognise that the station wagon still has a measure of appeal. With a starting driveaway price of just over $70K, it’s also priced reasonably fairly for the huge amount of standard kit, although Aussies used to the humble Kingswood or Falcom wagon might snort in their coffee.
It offers up a wonderful ride and handling package, a comfortable and well appointed interior, a plentiful tange of options however with some question marks over price and value for some.
Head over to Audi Australia and follow the links for information on the A4 range including the A4 Avant Quattro S-Line.

Car Review: 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription vs Audi Q7 Quattro.

A Wheel Thing was fortunate enough to have the stars align and be given the keys to two new range toppers: from Sweden comes the 2016 spec Volvo XC90 Inscription and from Germany the 2016 Audi Q7 Quattro. Similarly priced, similarly sized and similarly specced, it’ll come down to personal preference for a potential buyer and certainly the end decision as to which A Wheel Thing would keep is a personal choice.2016 Audi Q7 diesel profile2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription profileWhat’s on offer are two very well kitted out SUV’s, ostensibly with off road ability, luxury trimmings and plenty of room. Yet, at their heart, two totally different approaches on how some basics are delivered…

Up front is how these two get their get up and go. The Volvo goes slimline with a turbocharged four cylinder petrol whilst the Audi squares its shoulders with a brawny V6 diesel. Capacities are different; two litres vs three and the end power/torque numbers tell the story. Volvo offers up 235 kilowatts at 5700 revs, with 400 torques on tap across a plateau flat 2200 to 5400 rpm.2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription engine2016 Audi Q7 diesel engine

Being a one litre bigger, naturally torquey V6, Audi says you can have 200 kW from 3250 to 4250 revs but if you insist on out twisting a tornado, Sir says thank you for 600 Nm from 1500 to 3000 revs. Both get self shifters with eight ratios; Audi’s gear selector is a super easy to use rocker lever style with Park selected by pressing a button embedded in the back of the lever.

Consumption from the oiler? Audi says around six litres per one hundred klicks on a combined cycle. The big Swede drinks a little more heavily, at 8.5L/100 km. Even the dirty stuff has the Audi cleaner, with 163 grams of CO2 per kilometre versus the petrol’s 199.

2016 Audi Q7 diesel front2016 Audi Q7 diesel rearStood side by side, there’s bugger all between them. Volvo: 4950 mm in length whilst the the German heavyweight goes 5052. Width? Sir can choose 2140 mm (including mirrors) for the blue and yellow flagged entrant or 2212 mm for the Audi. Height wise it’s 1776 mm for the Volvo vs 1740 mm. Interior room, as a result, is within cooee; Volvo says 1465 mm for front shoulder room, Audi 1512 mm. Wheelbase comes into play as well, with the Q7 just under 3 metres at 2994 mm whilst the XC90 is almost lineball at 2984 mm.2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription profile dealershipIn profile they’re almost identical, with the Volvo having a slightly larger area for the rearmost window and a touch more upright in the nose. It’s at the front that the XC90’s dramatic makeover gets shown off. Think two pick axe shaped LED inserts, laid T outwards in the headlights. Sun bright when looked at head on, they provide a high level of safety during the day by providing oncoming drivers a clear signal the Volvo is on its way. Hidden away at the bottom corners of the front bar are normal globe lit lights, almost redundant they are.

Audi have LED lit headlights and a similar but less intense design philosophy for the driving lights. The massive hexagonal grille dominates the front and both, leaving the Volvo’s grille feeling diminutive in comparison. Both cars come with forward collision alert and cameras hidden within the front ends, with rear reverse parking and sensors an/or cameras for lane avoidance, blind spot alert and cross traffic.The all-new Volvo XC90 R-Design The all-new Volvo XC90 R-Design

There’s power tail gates, folding third row seats and LED lighting for both at the rear, with both exhibiting an evolution of the previous design in regards to looks and lights, with the Volvo’s looking more streamline and lithe than before. Inside, mid and rear seat passengers get aircon controls, with Audi allowing four zones of climate control, controlled from the front.2016 Audi Q7 diesel rear aircon controls 22016 Volvo XC90 Inscription third row seats 2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription sliding rear seats 2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription rear seats

Staying inside, there’s two noticeable things: both have classy looking trim, featuring wood, carpet, slide and folding mid row seats, easy to flip & fold rears and high end audio with Bose for Audi and B&W (Bowers and Wilkins) for the Volvo. For the front seat passengers, here’s the divergence: Volvo’s gone with a large, almost laptop sized touch screen for the control system, whilst Audi has eschewed that tech, staying with touch sensitive flip buttons for the aircon and their proprietary push button/jog dial system for car/audio/drive settings.2016 Audi Q7 diesel rear seats 2016 Audi Q7 diesel rear cabin2016 Audi Q7 diesel folding rear seats

The Volvo system immediately presented a conundrum: at the top of the screen was a warning note about one of the parking system options. This note covered a little touch tab which allows the driver to access the Settings tab….but without clearing that warning and not knowing it hid the tab, access to items such as changing the driver’s display screen was blocked. By staying with their system, Audi’s was straight up easier to use. A simple thing, yes, but for people that may not be of a technological bent, it’s a speed hump.2016 Audi Q7 diesel dash 2016 Audi Q7 diesel cabin2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription front seats

The multi-function display or MFD isn’t as intuitive as other Volvos but info on how to use it can be found here: Volvo XC90 user manual
The issue A Wheel Thing found wasn’t huge, in the greater scheme of things, but hints at the needless complication of what’s intended to be simple. The centre console screen is now the main home for things such as changing the look of the driver’s dash screen.

So a whole wealth of information hidden by an ultimately unneccessary warning message which could have been fixed by simply including the Settings and manual on the Applications section of the appropriate screen….Simplicity, overlooked. The Audi’s system, although not perfect, is simpler to use in its “click, twirl, push to select”.2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription folding rear seats2016 Audi Q7 diesel rear aircon controls

Also, in the Volvo, the electrically assisted steering does feel too light and the lane keeping assistance is perhaps a little too violent in its helping for the more dour driver in one setting. It tugs, not gently, to tell you you’re off line. Audi’s system had the driver feeling almost as if autonomous steering was on board; there’s four external cameras on the side of the car, tracking the white lines and was mostly bang on, with the occasional exception of when the cameras lost sight of the lines of the lines faded. Couple that with the forward collision avoidance system (which both have and sometimes set off false positives) when cruise control is engaged, and it’s almost drive by itself ready.

Speaking of driving; there’s a substantial difference in how they get under way, with the diesel’s low end thump matched nicely by the turbo four once under way. Getting under way is the difference, with the turbo suddenly coming on song versus the diesel’s more linear delivery. Although the Volvo offers less torque, it’s across a more useable, in real terms, rev range. Acceleration, once the throttle has been feathered to avoid the lightswitch, is decently rapid as to be almost frightening in its pace. On road manners, regardless, were impeccable for both.

The Audi, with more torque but a slightly lesser range, does feel as if it runs out of serious urge whilst the Volvo is still ready to strap on the gloves. When the torque rolls off from the Volvo, it runs straight into the peak power and lends the Volvo a feeling of near unstoppability. The diesel’s rev range simply doesn’t allow it to continue the wave to the extent the Volvo does. Having said that, the Volvo feels almost dainty in its presence, ladylike, compared to the Audi’s broad shouldered, axe swinging assertiveness.

Both cars were taken onto some flat, compacted, gravel roads to test their off road traction, acceleration and braking. The Q7 had Pirelli Scorpion rubber, at a relatively low 255/55/19 size. Volvo went bigger at 20 inch wheels, with massive 275/45 Michelin rubber. For both, on road grip was stupendous, as expected and offroad, in the situation used, held on nicely, with the Volvo perhaps a touch, a touch, skatier. Braking pulled both of the cars up in similar distances, with the ABS and traction systems audible as they did so.

The Audi’s variable drive system also involves airbag suspension, so to select the off road mode you can feel and see the car rising and lowering itself. Volvo also offers variable drive modes such as Comfort and Eco. Air suspension is available as an option. One thing the Volvo had and, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion, should be more widespread, is a HUD, a Head Up Display.

Volvo YouTube interior of XC90

Looking through and ahead from the driver’s position, the display is intuitive but, more importantly, utterly non distracting. It’s adjustable for info, height and brightness, via the central touchscreen. It’s surprising just how unobtrusive a HUD is yet how useful it becomes without realising.

Soundwise, there’s little between the B&W system versus the Bose, with perhaps the Volvo’s system displaying a touch more separation in the notes, a sense of airiness and clarity to the ears.

The Wrap.
Buying a car has, largely, been a matter of preference, allegiance too, such as a dedicated Holden or Ford supporter. This pair comes down, in this case, to personal preference and the Audi takes the chequered flag.
In A Wheel Thing’s opinion, touchscreen technology has its place in cars. Some minor layout tweaks and refinement for the Volvo’s would make it more user friendly and, with the presumption that the majority of buyers will have a measure of tech savvy that won’t reach the Volvo’s level of sophistication, may broaden the appeal somewhat.
The Audi’s tried and proven interface isn’t perfect, but for A Wheel Thing, it’s better.
The Audi drive modes, the feeling it’s a more capable soft roader and that torque, which in a real world driving scenario felt easier to live with, and offered to A Wheel Thing a more blokey handshake, wins the election on preference votes.
For info on the Audi Q7, click here: 2016 Audi Q7 Quattro
And for the Volvo: 2016 Volvo XC90 range
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Car Review: 2016 Audi Q3 1.4L TSFI

2016 Audi Q3 frontA Wheel Thing continues its run of SUV style vehicles, with the addition of the 2016 Audi Q3, complete with grunty 1.4L TSFI engine and six speed “S Tronic” auto. Oh, TFSI is shorthand for turbo fuel stratified injection, a fancy pants way of saying it’s direct cylinder injection with better atomisation of the fuel and turbo or supercharged….
(TFSI meaning)

It’s a cracker powerplant, with oodles of torque for a small engine when on boost (250 Nm from 1500 to 3500) but if it’s not, it hesitates and leaves the driver wondering. Peak power is a surprisingly low 110 kW between 5000-6000 revs. To be honest, in day to day driving, with the tractability of the engine, there’s no real need to see those revs.2016 Audi Q3 engine

Audi’s fuel consumption figure quotes 5.9L per 100 km (combined), from the 64 litre tank filled with 95 RON. A Wheel Thing saw an average of 6.7L in predominantly city style traffic with some thirty kilometre freeway runs to add to the mix. It’s 5.1L/100 for the highway and 7.1L/100 for a city cycle.

When in just the right part of the rev range, the acceleration of the Q3 is startling, it certainly feels quicker than the 8.9 (auto, 9.2,manual) seconds to 100 klicks that Audi quotes, and it’s quite easy to trip the traction control on a damp surface. It’s a good long, linear feel as well, but once over 3500 seems to run out of steam somewhat. But given that the smallish looking Q3 has a starting weight of 1480 kg (petrol auto variant), it’s more than decent.2016 Audi Q3 rearI say smallish, as it’s a compact 4388 mm in length, has a 2603 mm wheelbase and is a wide 1831 mm wide. In true SUV style for a height adjusted hatch, it’s 1603 mm tall and rolled on 235/50 rubber, wrapping ten spoke alloys. It’s not unhandsome, with laser white LED lit strips bisecting the headlight cluster, fitted with xenon lights or LED’s as an option.2016 Audi Q3 rear cargoIn profile it’s much the same as the A3 five door, full of curves, gentle slopes, Audi’s signature grille and an easy to lift rear gate. Access and exit are easy thanks to wide opening doors and the cabin’s ambience…..this is where ergonomics stopped at the door, it would seem. Aircon controls are down low, low that you can NOT but help but take your eyes off the road.2016 Audi Q3 consoleThink lower or level with the top of the gear selector. Above them is the buttons for items such as Parking Assistance and Hill Descent Assist, with the traditional buttons and twirl knob for Audio, Navigation and more visible on the screen that folds into the dash. The twirl knob is multipurpose; spin to select which first menu item, then push and follow the prompts from there.2016 Audi Q3 dashThe driver faces a simple dashboard; two dials for speed and rev counter with fuel and temperature inside, bisected by a monochrome information screen, common throughout the family. There’s also a comfortable look to the tiller as well, with the buttons for Bluetooth and audio and the thickness of the wheel itself all feeling familiar to the hands. Plastics are of good quality and reasonably non reflective in the windscreen.2016 Audi Q3 cabin

Seats were, as expected, comfy, although manually adjusted. The starting procedure was old school twist key, with both of those options, as a result, out of place in a world where a Hyundai Tucson Elite has electric seats and push start. At least the back of the front seats had netting for storage, rather than nothing or a somewhat restrictive pocket.2016 Audi Q3 rear cabin

Back out on the road, it’s well damped in the suspension, absorbing freeway ripples with ease. The steering ratio is quick enough to give instant response and makes parking easy. But, being electrically assisted, like so many it seems over assisted and could be seen to be perhaps too much so for certain buyers.2016 Audi Q3 wheel
In the roundabout test, it held on well with no push understeer and minimal tyre squawk. Under brakes (great brakes, too) dive is minimal and car control is easily handled. The drive system is predominantly front wheel drive, with a multiplate clutch that sends drive to the rear on demand.

There’s plenty of tech onboard, as you can imagine. Blind spot monitoring, lane assist, parking assist, reverse camera and airbags aplenty. It’s all integrated and easy to use when needed and there when you need it and hopefully never do.

The Wrap.
At a starting price of $42900 plus ORCs (just over $48K driveaway in NSW), it could be said the Q3 is good value. It is. Economy is better than good, ride quality is fine enough and it’s not unattractive to look at. However, that centre console ergonomic is not quite at a level that feels comfortable nor safe. Compared to some of its opposition, they’d be a safer bet. In that $48K you get Audi’s 3 year/unlimited kilometre warranty and the option of Audi’s service plan.
For information and pricing on the range: Audi Q3