We test the new Q3, a 2020 SUV of the Year contender
- Futuristic IP and console
- Nimble handling
- Big rear seat for its class
- Lots of interior plastic
- Bouncy ride
- Merely adequate powertrain
It’s been a long time coming. We’ve finally gotten our hands on an Audi Q3. Yes, the model has been available in America for years, but no matter how many times we asked and invited it to SUV of the Year, Audi steadfastly declined to make the previous model available. Now, though, there’s a new one Audi’s finally willing to share.
The long-delayed first impression is strong. Familiar Audi exterior styling is smartly tailored to the small package, so much so that it was often mistaken for the identically hued and decidedly more expensive E-Tron. A plus for Q3 owners if not so much for E-Tron buyers.
Similarly, the dashboard—with its standard digital instrument cluster and wide, frameless touchscreen infotainment system—will make prospective buyers feel like they’ve stepped into a much more expensive model. Our top-shelf Prestige S-Line tester was well equipped with a premium stereo, adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree camera justifying its $8,200 USD premium over a base model.
The price becomes harder to justify, however, when your eyes dip below chest level.
“Hard plastics can be found in too many places of this interior,” senior production editor Zach Gale said. “Perhaps that’s acceptable at this price point, but you could definitely see that that’s part of where the extra money goes in the more expensive (as tested) Lincoln Corsair. The Corsair’s interior wasn’t perfect, but the hard bits weren’t as in-your-face as in this Audi.”
Features editor Christian Seabaugh agreed: “Materials are all a mix, from feeling premium (infotainment, dash screen, most of the switchgear) to cheap, like the door cards and pretty much all the plastics below your beltline.” Detroit editor Alisa Priddle was more charitable, calling it “attractive … but more plastic than Audi usually delivers.”
Multiple judges called out the center console. It’s plain and stark and headed by a blank panel, where the ignition button and volume knob have been seemingly dropped into a sea of plastic with about as much thought as placeholders.
It’s not all bad news, though. The judges had universal praise for the capacious rear seat—bonus points for USB ports and separate vents—even if it comes at a cost to cargo space. Audi’s implementation of wireless Apple CarPlay is notably better than BMW’s, in that it actually worked reliably, which is more than the pricier X5s and X7s present can claim.
Opinions on driving performance were mixed, as well. Although the judges agreed that it felt light and nimble, they also agreed it wasn’t great on rough pavement. Zach Gale was diplomatic, calling it “overly compliant,” while MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina cut straight to the chase and branded it “bouncy.”
The powertrain likewise received a good but not great review across the board. “It won’t exactly light your pants on fire under the hood,” Seabaugh said. “It has a perfectly adequate transmission and engine but will likely be overmatched by four occupants and cargo.” Cortina noted it struggled particularly in accelerating from 25 mph to 60 mph (40 km/h to 96 km/h) (a typical passing maneuver), and Priddle felt some harsh shifts in the transmission’s Sport mode.
Off-road performance split the judges. Some found the standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system perfectly capable; others were concerned about it bogging down to a crawl in deep sand, our stand-in for deep snow and mud.
Because it’s based on the likable A3 sedan, we’d hoped the Q3 would bring the same charm to Audi’s crossovers. Instead of a tall A3, though, we got a smaller, cheaper Q5. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t move the needle much in its class or against our SUVOTY criteria.
|2019 Audi Q3 S-Line|
|Base Price/As Tested||$40,095/$44,745|
|Power (SAE net)||228 hp @ 5,000 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||258 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||8.5 sec|
|Quarter Mile||16.5 sec @ 85.4 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||125 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||28.4 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||19/27/22 mpg|