Aspiration. It’s an interesting thing, and something that we, hopefully, all experience in our lives. It may come in the form of a home of your own, a certain milestone during your career, or for many, a certain brand of car. Audi, much like most German brands, falls into the aspirational category for many. When I was just out of college, I wanted a new A4. But, even though back then the average entry level German sedan had an MSRP that started with a “2”, it wasn’t happening for me and my entry-level salary. Fast forward to 2016 and we’re driving Audi’s smallest SUV, the Q3. But is it something to aspire to? And is it faster from Georgetown University to Whole Foods Market than a bike-share and a metro bus? Watch the video to find out!
[Yes, we know Top Gear did it. No, we don’t care. Consider it an homage. Also consider whether, if you had the opportunity, you and some buddies wouldn’t grab some camera gear and try to record something similar. Yes, that was the real result and it was ridiculously fun. Hope you enjoyed it!]
More Sport Than Utility
Buying an SUV, it’s something usually done because you “need” a certain sized vehicle to accomplish some sort of task. That task could be hauling stuff or tackling bad weather. If we only called upon passenger vehicles to simply carry passengers, we could all drive sporty coupes and sedans. But we all have stuff, and that ever increasing mass sometimes expands from our homes and into our vehicles. You just have to bring all of the baby’s stuff with you during your Whole Foods shopping trip, just in case, right? I actually don’t subscribe to that theory, and have been known to mutter “if we don’t have it, we’ll buy it” as we’re encouraging everyone out the door. Of course, that’s not how everyone rolls, but if you can afford a $40,000 compact SUV, you can buy a new package of Huggies while you’re away from the house.
Which brings me to the Q3; finally you say. It’s small. Quite small. I had it parked next to a Toyota Corolla this week and damn if it didn’t seem to take up just about as much visual space from an overall length and width perspective. It’s taller though, naturally, which means you have room for (some of) your things. Although, in typical “this isn’t a wagon”…”please…don’t call this a wagon” the rear hatch curves downward so severely that larger objects may not fit with the rear seats in place. Specifically, it’s not as large as the 2016 Mazda CX-5 we tested, in which Josh was able to get a full set of tires into the rear. Important stuff to us enthusiast type.
So this is likely for the 2+1 family who lives in the city and doesn’t want a big car, but likes the luxury nameplate and still need a bit more size than, say an Audi A3 brings to the table. I mention that intentionally, since it’s based on the Volkswagen Group’s venerable PQ35 platform. If you’re not a VW-phile, you’ll know it better as the basis for a bunch of Volkswagen vehicles (Golf, GTI, Tiguan, Touran, Scirocco, Jetta, Beetle, and Eos…basically anything in their lineup smaller than a Passat) and some other Audis including the TT and A3. Overseas, some SEATs and Škodas use it as well. So they make a lot of vehicles off of this little platform, suffice to say. It also gives you some context and perspective on just how small the Q3 is.
On the streets of Georgetown, as you saw in the video, the little Audi scooted in between parked cars, pedestrians, and idiots on Captial Bikeshare bikes quite well. Likely much better than its larger Q siblings, the Q5 and Q7 (we look forward bringing you road tests of those as well!). So if you need some utility, but not that much, this is your car. I mean crossover. Whatever. At 200hp and 207 ft. lbs of torque, it’s only just as powerful as that Audi A4 I first drove 15 years ago. But at around 3500lbs, it’s not incredibly heavy, especially for an SUV. The Tiptronic transmission works well, and in “S” or sport, mode it holds revs like a hoon. Seriously, I watched the tach needle hover in the 5K range much longer than I expected driving around town, something I would have been doing if it were a traditional manual. And there’s a “manual” shift mode, which, like many, you need to plan your shifts well ahead of time. Honestly, I found myself just grabbing the shift lever, which has a nice golf ball sized knob at the top, and pulling it back into sport mode for highway merges or racing against DC Metro buses.
When positioned in the driver’s seat, what’s behind you doesn’t matter. Unless they scream at a certain level or pitch, in which case it’s all you can think about. The Q3 gives you the sense that you are in an Audi, and that’s a good thing. Audi has had some of the best interiors of any car. Period. That’s saying a lot, but their selection of materials, touch surfaces, and overall ergonomics has impressed me ever since I test drove that A4 a decade and a half ago. The Q3, in no way makes you feel like you settled for anything, it’s comfortable, well appointed, and generally enjoyable to be in. Like my Wife. Up front, you get 12-way adjustable seats with that extra lumbar button that jams part of the seat into your lower back when you’re just about to give up on your commute and walk home. I really liked the panoramic sunroof, standard on the Q3, as did the kids. They got a sort “hey, I matter too” feeling, thanks Ingolstadt.
Tech Stuff Too
Know your audience, I always say. That’s not true, I say it occasionally at best. It’s true in the compact SUV market though. The average buyer of a small SUV, is unscientifically likely to be in their late 20s, early 30s (note: I surveyed no one, but I drive a lot, and that looks to be true around DC). These buyers are typically going to want their car to have some cool tech, and the Q3 does a great job at delivering said tech. At around $40K, our tester was equipped with enough technology to make you feel like you got your money’s worth. Audi xenon lights were great for flashing left lane hogs on the beltway, the infotainment system was pretty easy to use with a main menu on the screen (controlled by a rotary knob that I always swore was the volume knob,it never was). My biggest criticism was the number of buttons I had to push to accomplish certain tasks. Usually, it was low effort, turn a knob, push, done. Although, in order to use the left steering wheel bank of controls to scroll through my radio presents, I had to accomplish the following:
- Choose “radio” as the thing you want to control using the left direction button.
- Assume you’re done, but then realize the scroll button is programmed to scroll “All Channels” by default.
- Select the Menu button to modify settings.
- Find “Presets” as the thing you want to modify.
- Use the scroll/select button to select “Presets”.
- You are now ready to scroll through your Presets using the wheel.
- Repeat. Every. Damn. Time. You. Drive.
So the technology exists, and it works, but small things like that infuriate me. Perhaps a Q3, or Audi MMI Infotainment expert, can let us know in the comments if that’s something that you can set in a menu somewhere and fix that forever. An annoyance in what is otherwise a well put together tech package. And that’s saying a lot, I generally hate most infotainment systems. A myriad of sensors will help you through your day, whether it is the Audi side assist keeping you from sideswiping other drivers, or the rain and light sensors just generally monitoring whether you can see well enough, it all works well. I chose not to test the “pyrotechnical lap pretensioners” in the seat belts.
Our buddy William Clavey has been guiding RFD readers through some of the best “CUVs” on the market, including VW’s own Tiguan. He found that the small VW CUV feels a bit dated, and it’s high $30K price tag felt a bit too high in order to get all the luxury goodies. So we think that the Q3 brings much of the same driving enjoyment found in the VW and crams in a bunch of standard extras that the VW offers as optional. At $40K, it’s not cheap, but if you find yourself looking for a comfortable compact SUV to go race a mass transit bus and a doofus on a bike, it’ll get the job done.
Model Trim: 2.0T Quattro Tiptronic
Transmission: 6-Speed Auto
Engine: 200hp 2.0L TFSI, 2017 ft. lbs.
Exterior Color: Utopia Blue Metallic
Interior Color: Black
Base MSRP: 35,800
Destination Fee: $925
Packages & Options
Technology Package $2,600
- Audi MMI Navigation Plus
- Audi Connect w/online services (6 month subscription)
- Color! Driver Infotainment System
- Audi Side Assist
Power Tailgate $400
Utopia Blue Metallic Paint $575
Total MSRP: $40,300
Bonus Images (more available at RightFootDown.com)