THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Exterior styling, interior materials, Quattro grip
- What’s Bad: A couple of ergonomic missteps, gonzo pricing
There’s something to be said for coming from good stock. Sure, plenty of vehicles in this world forged their own path and found success despite the styling decisions with which they were saddled (*ahem—Bangle-era BMWs—ahem*) but it’s hard to deny the leg up provided to the ones who don’t have a face for radio.
Audi’s been singing from this hymnbook for years, cranking different lengths of sausage out of their German factories to wide acclaim. Applying a corporate face and body to machines of varying shapes and sizes doesn’t always result in a pleasant sight (witness the current Lexus LX570). Stylists in Ingolstadt seem to have it figured out.
For the 2019 model year, the rejuvenated Q3 looks fresh and athletic, wearing the brand’s SUV design language introduced on the almighty Q8. Standing 38mm taller, 96mm longer, and nearly 25mm wider than its predecessor, this new Q has a more assertive road presence compared to the old model. Audi’s now-familiar octagonal Singleframe grille features vertical chrome slats in this translation, said to emphasize the rig’s increased size and larger snout. Those natty LED headlights are standard equipment, accompanied by LED taillights with sequential rear turn signals. It all adds up to a tasty package, especially when slathered in the eye-popping Turbo Blue paint as seen here.
The extra size translates into additional useable passenger and cargo space. In fact, rear seat riders now enjoy an extra five inches of legroom, underscoring the elfin accommodations of the old car. If your brood includes future NBA superstars, one would be well advised to consider the more spacious Q5; however, the Q3’s back seat is more than habitable for two normal-sized humans, a statement which could not truthfully be made about the old car. There’s 55L worth of bonus area compared to last year for family detritus behind the rear seat, as well. In the real world, this translates into more usable cargo space than the BMW X1 or Volvo XC40.
As is Audi’s wont, the interior is a very nice place in which to spend time. Gone is the tablet-style infotainment screen perched atop the dashboard, swapped for a stellar touchscreen that looks as if it was the central point around which the rest of the car was designed. Entry-level models get an 8.8-inch unit, while snazzier trims like our Technik-grade tester are lavished with a 10.1-inch screen. The latter is paired with a dandy 12.3-inch version of the brand’s Virtual Cockpit, a jumbotron that can be configured in precisely eleventy-billion different ways depending on which information the driver wishes to gaze upon. Luddites in the audience should know it can all be set to a simulation of simple traditional gauges.
Heating and ventilation get their own set of physical dials, a trio which emit a terrific tactile ‘click’ when adjusting cabin temperature or fan speed. A tremendous strip of Alcantara is a $200 option and stretches the width of the Q3’s upper dash panel, providing a superb perch on which to rest one’s fingers thumbing through the infotainment menus.
Despite all these plaudits, not everything is perfect. An unlovely black plastic plate is positioned below the ventilations controls, containing only the starter button and infotainment volume control. The latter is especially vexing, angled incorrectly for driver use. At least there are pleasant steering wheel controls for the same. Armrests located on the door panels were too low for this long-of-torso driver though they may be spot-on for those of us measuring less than six feet in height. Take an extended test drive to be sure.
Under the hood, one will find a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four making 228 horsepower and 258lb.-ft of torque. If all this sounds familiar, that’s because this mill is also offered in the delightful Volkswagen GTI. The Q3 does have an extra cog in its Tiptronic gearbox compared to the fast VW, bringing the total to eight. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard and operates silently in the background like a dutiful butler.
With a curb weight sneaking in under 4000lbs (1800kg), the Q3 is capable of hustling itself when the driver calls down to the engine room for more power. To call it engaging would be a bridge too far but that is a statement which holds true for the vast majority of crossover vehicles on the market today. After all, gravity is a cruel but predictable mistress and tall wagons are more susceptible to her laws than a low-slung hatchback.
Electric steering systems are a fact of life these days as manufacturers chase refinement and fuel economy. The new Q3 is no different, deploying a setup that neuters much road feedback but provides a smooth experience. Such is the trade-off when the majority of these vehicles will be sold to drivers who prioritize comfort and convenience over corner carving. In other words, Audi has tuned this thing to the preferences of people who buy compact crossovers. This is a smart business decision.
Audi has never been shy about charging a premium for their products, a trait which doesn’t change with this new Q3. This top-spec Technik model, complete with topview cameras and a concert-like Bang & Olufsen audio system, sets an opening bid of $45,900. The S-Line sport package is a reasonable $800 and includes 19-inch wheels, a raft of aluminum trim, D-shaped steering wheel, and snazzy front buckets. It also unlocks the paint colour shown here. The $1150 Advanced Driver Assistance package (adaptive cruise and park assist) should be standard but isn’t, as are a couple of nickel-and-dime connectivity tools. With an as-tested price cresting fifty grand, larger (but less prestigious) options begin to beckon.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to argue with this car’s handsome face, stellar interior, and buttery drivetrain. Good stock, indeed.