Although it's official status and potential arrival date in the U.S. still remains the subject of speculation, we now know what to expect when the new 2012 Audi Q3 goes on sale in other world markets starting this summer. Revealed just ahead of its debut in Shanghai, Audi's smallest crossover shares platform architecture and powertrain elements with the Volkswagen Tiguan, but will roll onto the scene wearing its own unique sheetmetal and a luxuriously appointed cabin with seating for five, along with gasoline and diesel engines and the choice of front- or all-wheel drive.

Beyond obvious links to its big brother, the Audi Q5, the exterior of the production Q3 hearkens back to visual cues seen on the Cross Coupe Quattro Concept the automaker presented at the 2007 Shanghai Auto Show. A unitized structure that mixes high-strength steel and lightweight aluminum makes for an extremely rigid platform that allows the base Audi Q3 model to weigh in at just over 3,300 pounds, while stylish but purposefully contoured bodywork coupled with wind-cheating underbody fairings yields a coefficient of drag of just 0.32.

Up front, the Q3's take on Audi's signature overscaled monoform grille is flanked by elegantly proportioned headlamps that can be upgraded to xenon status with accompanying LED running lights. At the rear, the Q3's smartly raked D-pillar teams with a large wraparound liftback to tastefully resolve the look. Audi will offer both several exterior styling packages for the new Q3, including an off-road and an S-line looks. Filling its fenderwells is a selection of alloy wheels in standard 16/17-inch to available 18/19-inch diameters, all wrapped in low-rolling-resistance tires.

To effectively position the Q3 as a "premium SUV in compact form," Audi took great pains create an elegant, sophisticated and extremely well-appointed inner sanctum that offers the choice of cloth or leather upholstery and a variety of wood and metal accents. Well-formed front buckets are paired with a 60/40-split folding rear seat that increases the Q3's cargo capacity from 16.2 to 48.2 cu ft. Complementing this new Audi's lengthy roster of standards are upline options ranging from a navigation package based around a 7.0-inch 3D color display and integrated with Audi's MMI controller to a 14-speaker Bose Surround Sound audio system, Bluetooth and a WLAN "hot spot" for on-the-go Internet access, as well as electronic driver aids like Park Assist and Active Lane Assist.

At launch, the 2012 Audi Q3 will offer the choice of three 2.0-liter turbocharged/direct-injected engines with a fourth to join the party a bit later on. The two TFSI gasoline four-cylinder motivators are rated at 170 and 211 horsepower while the TDI oil-burner turns out 177 ponies. Waiting in the wings is a 140-horse TDI, a 45-mpg fuel-sipper which, like the other three, employs start/stop technology to help further boost its fuel efficiency. The lower-output gas and diesel engines will be standard in front-drive Q3 models and backed by a six-speed manual transmission. Opting for their more potent alternatives brings Quattro all-wheel drive and a seven-speed S-tronic automatic with optional paddle shifters.

Max tow rating on the new Audi Q3 is a respectable 4,400 pounds and with 6.7 inches of ground clearance, Quattro-equipped versions should be able to take on at least reasonably challenging terrain. While the stability system in AWD versions also benefits from a torque-vectoring electronic differential lock, all Q3's boast standard trailer stabilization. Audi says it will fit hill-holder circuitry upon owner request at launch and promises a downhill assist feature is on the way.

Given the expanding popularity of the compact crossover/SUV/SAV segment in America, it seems almost certain the new Audi Q3 will find its way here at some point. However, if gasoline prices continue moving upward at their current pace, that arrival date could well become sooner rather than later.

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