Audi’s smallest SUV gives the luxury brand a formidable vehicle for those seeking a bit more space than a sedan. With all the refined accoutrements Audi patrons are seeking, the Q3 delivers sharp design, adept handling and the cockpit tech that is by now expected from the German automaker. We turn the Q3 loose for a few hundred miles of highway and city, and here’s how it goes.
The Audi Q3 hits the “just right ” luxe SUV size when compared to the German automaker’s larger entries in the segment.
The Q3 is small enough to allow the four-cylinder, 228 hp turbocharged engine to behave well, and it’s large enough to give a couple of people plenty of space. Driving the Q3 to cover a few hundred miles’ journey, while not the living-room-on-wheels that is the much-larger Audi Q7, is a pleasure.
Drivers who want a taste of Audi’s engine finery on a larger frame will be pleased with the Q3. The turbo engine results in some lag when you crush the gas pedal, but the eight-speed transmission makes up for that quickly.
Some drivers are understandably hesitant to go with an SUV from a brand that is known for its precise sedan delivery, where easy cornering, rapid acceleration and smooth speed are the desired attributes. A spiffy engine can only do so much when powering a larger chassis, the thinking goes. That’s mostly nonsense until you get to the super brands – yes they make a Lamborghini SUV, but…
You’ll hear a little whining as the Q3 moves through the gears as you hit cruising speed, but once it settles in, the cabin is quiet. Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive ensures the vehicle sticks on the corners.
Audi does tech and does it well. Any phone pairs quickly, Apple Car Play comes on flawlessly, and all controls are easily managed from the steering wheel. We love the no volume knob for the excellent stereo, instead controlling it and most everything else from the steering wheel. The 8 x 8 inch touchscreen is more than large enough.
The intuitive, user-friendly tech reminds us of an embarrassing episode 15 or so years ago, when we were handed the keys to a Mercedes prototype, a real thrill until it came time to fuel it up, and it took 15 minutes to figure out how to open the newfangled gas cap.
We’re still trying, obviously unsuccessfully, to forget that misstep.
Then there’s the space of the Q3, which is a step backwards for anyone with more than a couple of people and some luggage.
The potential problem with any compact SUV is that it lacks the SUV-ness, the space that sent you to the segment. And the Audi Q3 is a leg cruncher for back seat passengers. Which is fine, perhaps, as there is little room for their luggage anyway.
The Q3’s storage space would be a challenge for more than two adults and their stuff, and anyone with such needs would want to move up to the Q5 or higher.
The Audi Q3 fits well in the limited compact luxe SUV segment, carrying a light frame and a reasonable miles per gallon rating, making it a strong player among its formidable competitors, the BMW X1, the Volvo XC40, the Mercedes GLA, and the Buick Encore.
These are the major leagues for driving, and Audi has been a starting player since a revitalization in the mid-2000s, when it relaunched itself with the advertising tagline “progress is beautiful” and a product placement purchase in the first “Iron Man” superhero flick.
Since that time, Audi quality has improved, the design has remained eye-catching, and the marketing has allowed the brand to reach beyond the 60 percent male buyer it once catered to. The Audi SUVs have been part of that expansion. The products have proven that regardless of the target audience, good is good, and the Q3 ensures Audi remains player across the luxe car lines.