- The 2019 Audi Q3 has been revamped from the previous, ageing model, which I enjoyed but was also confused by.
- The new Audi Q3 has the BMW X1 in its sights.
- Our test vehicle had a base price of $US36,000, but options took the sticker up to almost $US50,000.
- The Q3 has but one engine option: a 2.0-litre, turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine, making 228 horsepower with 258 pound-feet of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with standard all-wheel-drive.
- I wasn’t confused by the larger, snappier Audi Q3, which turned in a more Porsche-like performance than its predecessor.
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The Audi Q3 crossover used to be a vehicle that confused me.
“The Q3 can come off as a larger luxury vehicle placed under a shrink ray,” I wrote when I sampled the previous generation in 2015.
“Consequently, I vacillated between feeling like I was driving a full-on Audi and feeling like I was driving a squooshed-down Q5 or Q7. That’s not exactly a novel observation. But my point is that I couldn’t find a pleasing compromise with the Q3. One minute I felt great. The next, I felt as if I were encased in a well-executed example of wee luxe.”
Given that reaction four years ago, I was looking forward to some seat time in the new Q3. I was also mindful that this is going to be, for many customers, the entry-level Audi. The world in which first-time buyers began their journey with the four-ringed marque with an A3 sedan has been vanquished by the advent of the SUV as the market’s dominant vehicle type.
I wound up changing my tune, and quick. Here’s how it went:
My 2019 Audi Q3 S-Line with “Quattro” all-wheel-drive landed in the environs of our suburban New Jersey test centre wearing a “Chronos Grey Metallic” paint job.
The base price was $US36,000, but thousands of bucks in options raised the sticker to $US44,990.
The new Audi Q3 was rolled out in 2018 and is built on the VW Group’s MQB platform. The compact/subcompact crossover used to look like a turtle, to my eye. Now it looks like a turtle with better tailoring.
Those 20-inch, five-spokes are quite fetching, and they added $US800 to price tag.
The Q3 isn’t radically different from its predecessor, but overall it’s taken on a sleeker and more aggressive appearance.
The LED headlights have an automatic high-beam assist feature, as well as LED daytime running lights. Yes, the quartet of linked rings form an unmistakable badge.
Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system is among the best in the world, developed in rally racing. The Q3 has what we might call “Quattro Lite,” aimed less at off-roading and more at negotiating suburban snowstorms.
My Audi Q3 tester was at the Premium Plus S-Line trim, which combined luxury with sportiness.
My previous complaint about the Q3 was that Audi’s vaunted design language didn’t scale down very well. But the new Q3 changed my mind. I thought it presented itself as a proper Audi.
My change of heart might have something to do with the upsizing of the Q3 — it’s now larger than the outgoing Q3, making the new SUV a bit of a compact/subcompact tweener, whereas the previous Q3 came off as a rather downsized Q5.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and most folks don’t think the rear ends of SUVs are very beautiful. But the Q3 presents one of the better hatch configurations in the industry. The dual exhaust pipes and the dagger-like tail lights certainly help.
Cargo space is nearly 19 cubic feet, expandable to 23 with the rear seats folded down. My tester came with a useful cargo net …
… Which I used to secure a candidate …
… For Halloween jack-o-lantern treatment.
Let’s see what’s under the hood.
It’s a 2.0-litre, turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine, making 228 horsepower with 258 pound-feet of torque. That powerplant is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is respectable at 19 mpg city/27 highway/22 combined (one gives up some MPGs for AWD and performance).
The 0-60 mph sprint passes in the seven-seconds ballpark, which is quick without being alarmingly speedy. If Audi serves up an SQ3, then anyone who craves a bit more velocity should be placated.
The Q3 has a auto stop-start feature, intended to improve fuel-economy and cut down on emissions. It isn’t seamless, however, and it can be sort of annoying.
The interior of my tester was a very Audi-esque, minimalist black. Front seats were heated, and the Q3 has dual-zone climate controls for driver and passenger.
Well, not completely minimalist. The S Line trim brought with it a $US500 Sport interior package and $US150 worth of orange Alcantara.
The back seat wasn’t roomy by any stretch, but it could handle adults for short journeys.
The dual-pane panoramic moonroof was a welcome feature, as it filled the snug cabin with natural light.
The stitched, leather-wrapped steering wheel sported the usual array of multifunction buttons and thumbwheels, with paddle-shifters for spirited motoring.
But the real showstopper was the addition of Audi’s MMI “Virtual Cockpit” infotainment system, which allows for customisation of the digital instrument cluster.
The MMI system with Navigation Plus added $US2,000, but it was worth it. The 10.1-inch central touchscreen is responsive and no aspect of the Q3’s infotainment is difficult to use.
Bluetooth device-pairing was easy, as was USB-port integration. New owners get a three-month SiriusXM subscription, and the $US850 Bang & Olufsen premium 3D audio setup sounded fantastic in the Q3’s modest confines.
There was also wireless charging.
I could toggle through the Q3’s drive modes — comfort, auto, dynamic, offroad, and individual — using the select button. I favoured dynamic, but individual is also useful in that it allows the driver to mix settings.
The eight-speed was a brisk little mill in my testing — lots of fun between second and fifth gears, but with overdrive gears to assist with fuel economy
So what’s the verdict?
In my hands, the new Q3 was much more Porsche-like than I expected (Porsche is an Audi stablemate in the VW Group). I don’t know if that was intentional, but the sort of afterthought old Q3 now seems to have a new identity.
The performance isn’t mind-boggling, but the 228 ponies under the hood get along quite well with the eight-speed transmission, and the Quattro-lite AWD system makes the Q3 feel planted to stable despite its size.
The electric steering is vague at times, and the brakes aren’t really racetrack ready, but for splitting your attention between grocery store runs and weaving in and out of traffic on suburban beltways, the Q3 is an appealing package.
The previous-generation struck me as being rather Euro in personality – more hatchback than SUV – and I thought it made sense mainly for urbanites in need of a nice, premium ride from a suitably premium brand.
The new Q3, by contrast, seems as though it could make a go of it outside the metropolis, perhaps as a second car for a family that already has a Q5 or a Q7 – an alternative to the familiar Audi sedan-Audi SUV tandem in many driveways. But the Q3 also functions as a new entry point to the brand, and as such, its refreshed identity means that it provides an improved alternative to an A3 or A4.
The bottom line is that, like the last Q3 I drove, I enjoyed this vehicle. But this time around, I wasn’t confused at all.
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