By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
For years Audi has offered desirable and good looking wagons in a few varieties, but now the selection has grown to seven choices for the 2016 model year. In addition to conventional style wagons, they also have SUVs, crossovers, a high performance model and a hybrid.
The heart of the Audi SUV/crossover line up is the Q models which first came to the United States in 2006 in the largest version, the Q7. As demand expanded, shoppers wanted different sizes for different lifestyles, the Q5 and Q3 were added to the lineup.
The 2016 Audi Q3 is the smallest of the group and after spending a week driving it recently we discovered it is a perfect size for individuals, couples or young families. In short, it was a perfect size for our aging lifestyle. The petite size enhances its agility and makes it easy and fun to drive.
A few months ago we might have talked about how much we liked the four-cylinder turbocharged diesel (TDI in Audi-speak), but until Audi/Volkswagen get their diesel situation under control, the Q3 power will be limited to the four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine. That said, we do think this 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is one of the best on the market as was proven in several appearances on the respected ?Wards 10 Best Engines? list.
The engine is a 200-hp version and it is mated with Audi?s six-speed Tiptronic? with manual shifting mode and Audi quattro? all-drive or the standard front-wheel drive. The quattro version accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds according to buff magazine figures and it has a top speed of 126 mph. There might be a blink of an eye of turbo lag, but basically you don?t notice it because the response to a floored accelerator is quick and smooth, plus it feels more powerful and faster than the numbers indicate. The EPA fuel economy is estimated at 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. We averaged 23.6 mpg during our week of testing.
The luxurious Q3 has classic Audi family styling with the new ?Q-design? grille and radiator guard. The front Foglights have been integrated into the new all-weather Xenon headlights, which also include standard LED daytime running lights. The rear of the Q3 has a horizontal look with slim new LED taillights with dynamic turn signals.
Inside, the Q3 is classic classy Audi with a clean well-organized layout. We like the navigation system screen which is mounted on the center of the dash providing an excellent line of sight without taking your eyes too far off the road ahead. Unlike most Audi systems, the Q3 navigation/audio control knob is mounted in the center of the center stack instead of on the console where it?s not quite as handy. The seats are comfortable and supportive. The interior is cozy but not overly spacious ? remember it is a more personal size than the other models. Cargo capacity behind the second row is about the same as the average mid-size sedan ?16.7 cubic feet. When the rear seatback is folded the space grows to 48.2 cubic feet.
At about 3,700 pounds, the Q3 feels substantial but not too heavy or too light. On the mountain roads it handles beautifully taking advantage of the Audi four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disk brakes and electromechanical steering. It has a tight 38.7 foot turning radius which further enhances the agility.
There is just one model available in two trim levels and with the choice of two- or four-wheel drive. The Q3 2.0 TFSI? Premium Plus starts at $34,675, including the destination charge. The quattro AWD adds $2,100. The Q3 2.0 TFSI Prestige is $39,525.
Moving up in size, performance and features, the Audi Q5 starts at about $$41,000 and the flagship SUV, the Q7 starts at about $55,000. The Q5 is also available in hybrid and performance versions.
The upper level Q3 Prestige version we drove adds features like LED headlights, power tailgate, an S line? exterior appearance enhancements, navigation with voice control, Audi side assist (blind spot warning), and Bose? Surround Sound with 14 speakers.
The 2016 Audi Q3 is a definite ?must drive? for any one shopping for a compact luxury SUV/crossover.