SEATTLE, Feb. 10, 2016 — Audi’s success with its Q-series SUV line has been tremendous, and the Q3 looks to build on that for the compact SUV market. Built on the same platform as the Volkswagen Tiguan, this small and capable compact SUV has quite a bit going for it but a few caveats as well.
For starters, it simply “looks Audi” and that’s a great thing, as the current generation of Audi products have stellar body lines, a well-stated front grill and an overall fit and finish that is world class. With a starting price of $33,700, it’s Audi’s most affordable SUV but can quickly escalate into the low $40K territory with the Prestige package.
The proven, 2.0-liter turbo engine dishes out 200 horsepower at 6,000 rpms with 207 lb-ft. of torque at 5,000 rpm, which means you’re not really hitting the bulk of the power without keeping the turbo spooled-up. However, the six-speed automatic transmission shifts very quickly through the gears and feels right at home with this engine. Look for 0-60 times in just over 8-seconds which isn’t fast per se but still not a dud, either.
The interior of this S-line model we looked at feels like a somewhat-upgraded Volkswagen Tiguan inside. Sure, there were the Audi touches; however, it wasn’t as top-notch as we’ve come to expect from this great German automaker. Audi has been known for quite some time for how well it does on its interiors and this one just left us wanting a bit more than the somewhat pedestrian feel it had given the Audi moniker.
Audi does incorporate Wi-Fi connectivity which is great for those long road trips – just toss in a couple tablet PCs or a laptop and the passengers can be online in no time; but you do have to subscribe to a data plan.
The infotainment system still continues with Audi’s industry-leading integration of Google Maps for its built-in navigation. It looks so good and is so easy to use, you’ll wonder how other auto makers aren’t embarrassed by their ’80s-arcade-looking map graphics.
Audio quality of the sound system is good but not great. Not nearly as good as the Infinity system we see in the likes of certain KIA models or as good as some of the higher-end Bose found in Mazda and certain GM products.
Front seat comfort is among the best you’ll find in any compact SUV and rear seating leg room is ample as well. Teenagers and even adults have ample room in the rear seats for treks up to a couple of hours. There’s plenty of cargo room in the back, even with the back seat fully upright for those shopping excursions to Costco as well. Fold the seat down and you can pretty much get an entire Costco shopping cart’s worth of goods in the back.
In the handling department, the Q3 handles itself rather well, both on and off-road. During our limited off-road experience with dirt, gravel and mud, we found it’ll do just fine on most easy to slightly moderate trail conditions.
In a crowded marketplace for the compact SUV market, the Q3 seems to this reviewer to simply not be “Audi-enough” for the price range it sells for. There’s nothing overly compelling to select it over a Volkswagen Tiguan unless you’re really after the Audi brand. If that’s the case, then the Q3 may be the perfect compact SUV for you. It has the legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which makes trips over the mountain passes in the winter time a breeze (with the right tires, of course), and it has some great styling to boot.
For future models, we’d love to see Audi really do more to make the Q3 feel special among its peers. Give us a larger LCD screen, a better-sounding audio system, even more upscale materials inside the cabin area.
If you’re in the market for a new compact SUV and appreciate the pedigree of Audi, then you should at least set up a test drive and see if it’s right for you.