A fun look by German standards
The Q3’s exterior is more visible than before, with some serious side sculpting above the wheels and some LED headlights. Sadly, Audi confirms that my tested two-tone lower panels will be body color in the US. helpless.
The compact SUV segment demands some hilarious attitude, and the Q3 2019 presents in one interesting way. Vehicles selected with a bright pulse orange paint job also receive a dash of microfiber color on the dashboard and door panel armrests. Audi of America is still outlining the packaging for US-spec models, so it may not come in the States, but I certainly hope it does. The Volvo XC40 has a full carpet in roughly the same tone, after all.
Otherwise, the cabin is very comfortable. The physical switches look expensive, the seats are soft and the shape of the dashboard is less slender than it used to be. The only thing that strikes me is the lamp switch, which is now a single on and off button instead of a dial. Though, if that keeps people from driving at night with only the lights on, I’ll keep my mouth shut.
The whole shebang appears to be slightly larger than before, being 3.8 inches longer, although the height is about the same. This extra length brings the benefits again, as cargo capacity grows by nearly 50 percent. Back seat passengers won’t forget they’re in a compact SUV, but at 6 feet, I feel surprisingly comfortable thanks to the standard sliding and reclining second row.
Powerful Powertrain, Balanced Chassis
The second-generation Q3 comes in half a dozen flavors in Europe, but in the US, we’ll get two output options from the 2.0-liter I4 gas engine. The base engine delivers 184 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, but there’s also a variant that delivers 228 hp and 258 lb-ft, which you might recognize from the VW Golf GTI. All-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission will be standard.
Sadly, my test machine is a European-spec car, so while it has the same high-output engine we’ll eventually get in the States, it’s mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. I find this transmission very reluctant to shift in time, even in the sportiest of mode, but the engine is peachy, sings with just the right size as it relies on its ample torque to propel me through the Tyrolean Alps. Based on previous experience with Audi’s eight-speeds, I expect the US-spec Q3 automatic to provide that extra power I want in its stride.
As for the chassis, the Q3 looks more configured than it used to be. Even with the adaptive suspension in its most comfortable setting, the Q3 remains virtually free of body roll as it absorbs bumps in the road. Tighten it up, and you’ll play like a GTI in designer heels. And that’s what I like most about the new Q3 – it feels less like an SUV and more like a hatchback. However, when it’s time to live the family life and stock up on kids and groceries, you’ll still be doing it too.
The only real problem I have is wind noise, which pops up when I climb toward highway speeds and can be a bit annoying when it goes on for long periods of time.
There are two gauge clusters and two infotainment screens on display. The lower display utilizes a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster with fixed digital gauges surrounding an adjustable center section and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen. Spend some money, though, which grows into a fully mobile 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a large 10.1-inch infotainment system.
My test device has a larger setup, and basically gives me all the information I could want no matter where my eyes are wandering. But I don’t even need to move my head to look at the infotainment screen, since the Virtual Cockpit grabs nearly all of the vital functions, including navigation, phone and audio, and puts them in the dashboard. And since the Virtual Cockpit controls are on the steering wheel, my hands never have to wander. It is one of, if not the most capable and usable of the range of gauges on sale.
The infotainment is the same as the MMI version that debuted on the more expensive A6, A7, A8 and Q8 models. It’s very fast, very beautiful, and while it lacks the digital climate controls of its more expensive sibling, it still feels more premium than any other offering in the segment. It’s a lot less confusing than Volvo’s Sensus Connect, that’s for sure. Of the two front USB ports, one is USB-C, which is great if you appreciate fast phone charging.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are along the way too, because it’s all but a requirement these days. An optional connectivity package will also add a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, as well as wireless phone charging that acts as a signal booster, using the car’s own antenna to (hopefully) improve your phone’s reception in the cabin. It’s smart stuff.
Right down to the copper rivets
Obviously, I’ll need time with a US-spec Q3 to give my full opinion of it, but based on my brief experience with this test, the Q3 zips up to the top of the pile in a segment full of hungry buyers. The technology and its driving dynamics seem to be superior to the Volvo XC40, and it looks a lot better than the BMW X2 (although that’s not difficult, to be fair). Eager buyers will have to wait a while to pick one up, but patience is a virtue.
Editor’s note: Roadshow accepts multi-day auto loans from manufacturers in order to provide registered editorial reviews. All car reviews that are registered are completed on our land and on our terms. However, for this feature, the manufacturer covered travel and hotel costs. This is common in the auto industry, as shipping journalists to cars is more economical than shipping cars to journalists.
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