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2019 Audi Q3 Test Drive Review
The new Audi Q3 delivers composed handling and an upscale interior, and it continues to raise the bar for technology.
If you’ve spent any time on our site or you follow the car industry in general, you’ll know that small SUVs and crossovers are kings right now, and it’s easy to see why. Consider vehicles like the Volvo XC40, BMW X1, or Land Rover Range Rover Evoque (if you’re not into the whole brevity thing). While these vehicles might excel at different things, nearly every vehicle in the subcompact luxury SUV market aims for the same balance of comfortable interiors, composed handling, and the latest infotainment and safety technologies.
But these vehicles all typically suffer in the same areas: a lack of cargo and backseat space, and less-than-thrilling performance. While they won’t be as spacious as a larger SUV or even some station wagons, they all have enough space for some weekend bags, groceries, or all the kid’s gear for school or practice.
The all-new Audi Q3 feels larger than before. It also feels like Audi made fewer compromises than it did with the last Q3. As a result, the 2019 Q3 is one of the most compelling entries in the subcompact SUV market.
Look and Feel
Audi bestowed the Q3 with a large octagonal grille flanked by conventional styling elements like its signature headlights. Moving to the side, the lift in the character line above each wheel well is a nod to the A5 and Q5. Buyers have two exterior styling packages from which to choose: the standard Quattro equipment or the Quattro S Line, which our test model has. The standard setup includes 18-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in all-season tires, while the S Line ups the ante with unique front and rear bumper designs, badging, and 19-inch five-spoke wheels. Buyers can also select 20-inch wheels, wrapped in summer performance tires.
Moving inside, the cabin strikes a blend of futurism and conventional design, with easy-to-use controls framed up by sharp angles and shapes. The Q3 is available in three trims: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. S Line trim is available on the Premium and Premium Plus for an additional $1,300. Meanwhile, the Prestige trim comes standard as an S Line variant.
The Premium comes well-equipped with a fully digital instrument panel, a massive panoramic moonroof, and Audi’s MMI infotainment system. Other standard equipment includes aluminum roof rails, dual-zone automatic climate controls, Bluetooth connectivity, and a power-adjustable driver’s seat (the front passenger seat is manually adjusted). The Q3 also comes standard with full leather upholstery and heated front seats. This is notable, as some rivals tend to offer synthetic leather or leatherette in the base model.
Moving to the Premium Plus adds full LED automatic headlights, a frameless, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, eight-way power seat adjustment for both front seats, wireless charging, satellite radio, and remote keyless entry.
The range-topping Prestige trim we drove adds power-adjustable, auto-dimming, and power-folding side mirrors. It also provides a host of tech features (more on that later), as well as a navigation system, Audi’s virtual cockpit, additional parking-camera views, and an upgraded version of the MMI infotainment system.
This trim also adds the “LED interior lighting package plus.” Not only are the LED strips completely adjustable with seemingly endless color combinations, but the “Quattro” logo in the dash is backlit with the same color selection. I may be easily impressed, but it was still a nice feature.
A 2-liter turbocharged I4 engine making 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque powers all trims of the Audi Q3. Power gets sent through an 8-speed automatic transmission to Audi’s famed Quattro all-wheel drive (AWD). The Q3 offers steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a manual tap-shift mode on the shifter. When in Drive, you can also pull back on the shifter to engage sport-shifting mode.
The horsepower numbers are good, but the torque is great. As a result, you’re never wanting for power in the Q3. In normal driving, it provides solid acceleration. It’s also capable of a little more excitement when you want to break away from the monotony of the daily commute.
The Q3’s multiple personalities are managed via the Audi Drive Select button, located down in the middle of the center stack. The driver can scroll through Auto, Dynamic, Individual, Off-Road, and Comfort drive modes. Dynamic is Audi’s word for “Sport” or “Performance” mode, and it tightens up the steering and suspension, while also adding sport-shifting mode. “Individual” lets you customize all the drive-mode elements—from throttle response and shift mapping to steering response and chassis control. Off-Road will optimize Quattro’s differentials and power delivery for trail use, while Comfort is the ideal setting for a long highway haul or a traffic-laden commute. Meanwhile, Auto will cycle through all of these based on what it thinks the driver needs at any given moment.
The Q3's suspension provides solid composure in daily driving. It soaks up bumps in the road and provides responsive cornering. In Dynamic, the pace quickens, though I wish the steering was a bit heavier, like a sports car's. Still, it has a natural, organic feel, which will be more rewarding in many driving situations. If you really want a more taut performance driving experience, look to the Volvo XC40 or BMW X1. Both have livelier engines and more precise cornering abilities. But in most situations, the Q3 has enough on tap to make the commute just a bit more interesting.
The EPA rates fuel economy for the 2019 Audi Q3 at 19 mpg city, 27 highway, 22 combined. As this is the only drivetrain setup, these are its only fuel-economy estimates. In a week of combined city and highway driving, we managed fuel economy of 23.3 mpg.
Form and Function
The Q3 has a spacious cabin. Its total cargo space remains unchanged at 48 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, but you’re not always moving things with the rear seats folded. You’re often loading up the rear cargo area and occupying most of the available five-passenger seating with friends and family. In that case, the space behind the rear seat has jumped from 16.7 cubic feet to 23.7—a bump of nearly 50%. But while the trunk's cargo capacity has increased, the overall number isn’t exactly a standout for the class. The BMW X1, for example, has 58.7 cubic feet of total cargo space—that’s probably the best in the class.
In subcompact luxury SUVs, sitting in the backseat is typically a cramped experience. But Audi has made efforts to ensure this space is actually habitable for full-size adults. In addition to the rear seatback cutouts, which have become common, the ceiling of the Q3 utilizes two scalloped panels, one above each passenger. This concept is popular in race cars, where extra space needs to be made for the driver’s helmet. In the Q3, it provides backseat passengers with adequate headroom.
Up front, the driver and front passenger have plenty of room. At 6-foot-3, I typically have to slide the seat all the way back. But I could actually move it forward several inches for my ideal seating position in the Q3. Plenty of helpful cubbies should hold all your stuff. The center console bin is not that large, but the in-door storage is impressive for a vehicle this size.
Finally, we have to talk about the MMI touchscreen system as a matter of form and function before we can talk about it as a technological feature. Other new Audis, such as the A8, have dual touchscreens in the center console. As we’ve established in other reviews, the dual-screen setup is inherently clunky. For those larger vehicles, Audi is replacing conventional controls with something that has a learning curve.
The Q3 has only one screen, like most non-luxury cars, and it’s better off that way. Climate controls are physical buttons and dials, which keeps things simple. Strangely, it actually took me a bit to find the volume knob, which is located on the right side of the lower half of the center stack. But since the driver can control the volume via a roller on the steering wheel, the knob being down there makes it easily accessible for the front passenger.
The Q3 comes standard with an 8.8-inch touchscreen. Our top-of-the-line test car has a 10.1-inch touchscreen. The latest version of MMI has large, easy-to-use icons, several different home screens you can swipe through, and a helpful dock of buttons along the left side of the screen, including Home, Radio, Media, Phone, and Navigation.
This is a big move for Audi, which—with BMW and its iDrive system—pioneered the joystick controller long ago. But the new Q3 system is far from revolutionary. In fact, it’s now just like everyone else's. Sure, the graphics are impressive and the response time is great, but look at any Hyundai or Chevy in the last several years, and their touchscreen systems all have a similar layout. The rumor is that Europeans hate the smudges on the screen, but luckily Audi provides a microfiber wipe to help with that.
The Q3 comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the Premium Plus adds wireless device charging. Our range-topping Prestige trim added wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay, which is great—no more USB cords. When you combine it with the wireless device charging, it truly is the future of the car/phone/human interface, and it’s only going to become more seamless.
Our test model included a Bang & Olufsen sound system for an additional $850. It also included the more advanced Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument panel. If you’re a technophile, CarGurus recommends the Prestige trim. Thanks to its impressive set of features, it’s worth the added cost over a less-expensive Premium or Premium Plus trim. You can also get the combination of the Virtual Cockpit and a larger touchscreen by choosing the Navigation Package on the Premium Plus for an additional $2,000.
Standard safety equipment includes the full array of front- and side-impact airbags, traction control, and a reversing camera. The Q3 also comes standard with some driver-assistance systems, including forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning. Audi calls these systems Pre Sense City and Pre Sense Basic.
Our Prestige trim came with a full complement of additional driver-assistance features. It also included some quasi-self-driving modes for highway cruising. These systems are incredibly precise and can provide a distance warning and an estimate of how close a vehicle in front of you is. As for the lane-keeping assist, it provides a slight nudge, but it never forces your direction of travel.
It seems like nearly all new cars—especially luxury cars—offer these systems, but not all driver-assistance suites are created equal. Sometimes a car has the right sensors, but the wrong computer logic. Luckily, Audi has it dialed right.
Take the full surround-view camera system on our Prestige test model, for example. It’s one of the more vivid systems we’ve encountered, but more importantly, its computer power means the refresh rate feels instantaneous. That can mean the difference between seeing someone darting into the Q3's path in time to stop and not.
Base MSRP for the 2019 Audi Q3 is $34,700 for the Premium or $36,000 for the Premium S Line. The Premium Plus trim starts at $37,800, with the S Line at $39,100. Our Prestige S Line starts at $42,900, and its only real option is the Sport Seats, which add $500. All these prices are before destination and handling fees.
This pricing range puts the Q3 in line with the BMW X1, which is the Q3's chief rival. The Volvo XC40 and Range Rover Evoque are the Q3’s biggest competition in the style department, but the Volvo infotainment and shifter systems are complicated, and the Evoque is just a bit pricey for the class.
It’s a shame that Mercedes-Benz doesn’t have a real competitor in its GLA-Class, but word is a GLB-Class is on the way in the near future, boasting three rows. This seems like an impossible feat for the class, but we welcome the competition.
The 2019 Audi Q3 has all the fantastic technology we’ve come to expect from this brand. Sure, Audi has ditched its own proprietary controller setup in favor of a conventional touchscreen, but the Q3 is better for it. This car blends that tech into an upscale daily driver with composed handling and acceleration. From the infotainment system to the driver assistance to even the way you sit in the Q3…. When these things give you confidence behind the wheel, the car is worth every penny.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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