2016 Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI Quattro Prestige Review
Europeans have been enjoying small luxury for decades, but the concept is relatively new for we North Americans. Our mindset has traditionally been “big is better,” and while this is still reality for the most part, there’s a shift to small occurring in the premium sector that’s likely here to stay.
The Q3 is a prime example. The Q3 falls into what we normally refer to as the subcompact category along with the BMW X1, Buick Encore, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Mini Cooper Countryman and Range Rover Evoque. (Fiat’s new 500X and Mazda’s new CX-3 deserve to be considered in this premium segment too.)
The big change this year comes to the Q3’s big bold singleframe grille that appears broader due to longer upper sides and shorter more vertical lower sides, plus last year’s simple chromed edging is now replaced with satin-silver trim. A new aluminum hood overtop plus reworked faux corner brake vents and a nominally modified lower valance help to transform the Q3’s look.
Despite the revising, the Q3 is still more cute than sexy, but at least it’s not pudgy like the VW Tiguan it shares underpinnings with. The rear D-pillar is too radically raked for that, and the five-spoke alloys could only be from Audi, although they’re so big and the Pirelli P Zeros so meaty they make the brake rotors look a tad small. Two factory-fitted wheels are available for the little ute, the base model getting twinned five-spoke 18s on 235/50 all-seasons and Prestige version upgraded to 19s on 255/40s.
The new Q3’s reworked taillights finish off its rear quarters nicely, a subtle rooftop spoiler above, new aluminum liftgate in between and racy diffuser-style bumper below pulling things neatly together. Dual chrome-tipped exhaust pipes make it appear as if this little family hauler had something truly saucy hidden under the hood.
As it is, the Q3 makes do with the same peppy and efficient direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder as used by the aforementioned VeeDub, good for 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque and ample for a vehicle that weighs 3,494 pounds in its slightest front-drive form and 3,682 pounds when equipped with Quattro all-wheel drive. Its six-speed Tiptronic automatic might not be as mathematically advanced as others in its class, but there are paddle shifters at the steering wheel when the Sport package is added and there’s something to be said for tried and tested six-speed technology. The Q3 certainly gets up and goes well enough, but in hindsight its 7.8- (FWD) and 8.2-second (AWD) sprints to 60 mph are no match for most rivals. Its EPA fuel economy rating is, however, at a claimed 20 mpg city, 29 highway and 23 combined with standard FWD or 20 city, 28 highway and 23 combined with AWD.
The Sport package-equipped Q3 Prestige comes with a Drive Select button on its center stack, which when pressed allows selection of three modes—Auto, Dynamic (sport) and Comfort—that modulate throttle response, transmission response and shift points, plus steering feel, all displayed on the infotainment screen.
The Q3’s ride is superb and its handling fabulous fun thanks to a MacPherson strut front suspension and four-link rear setup, while its speed-sensitive electromechanical power steering reacts to input quickly and gives reasonably good feedback along the way. Those aforementioned four-wheel discs might look smallish, but they scrub off speed easily enough and don’t get all mushy after repeated stomps.
The Quattro upgrade certainly helps handling, especially in the wet, but if you’re not likely to push the performance envelope the Q3’s front-drive setup should be more than adequate, and the car’s standard traction and stability control systems, the latter with off-road mode, should easily manage most winter conditions. And along with these active safety features come ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, while standard tire pressure monitoring makes sure all the rubber meets the road.
If you’re already familiar with the 2015 Q3 you’ll be hard pressed to notice any modifications. Then again, apply fingers to the four buttons surrounding the MMI infotainment system’s center-mounted rotating dial and you’ll likely notice the new Alu-optic soft keys. The finely finished aluminum quartet feels extremely nice to the touch and works as advertised, a good improvement to an ideal interface for inputting commands to the freestanding tablet-style infotainment display atop the dash.
A full soft synthetic dash-top continues halfway down the upper instrument panel, while the lower portion is surfaced in a hard and somewhat hollow matte plastic that at least looks good. The door panels are made from premium pliable surfaces from top to bottom, while padded leatherette inserts sit atop padded rubberized armrests. Other than the same aluminum surfacing used for the dash and door inlays, the entire lower console is hard plastic. And while the Q3’s switchgear fits together more tightly and is better damped than the majority of its competitors, the buttons feel unsuitably hollow when compared to others in the segment, and the HVAC dials aren’t made from the priciest of plastics.
Last but not least, Audi has added a new cargo cover to the luggage compartment, the latter of which is sizable at 16.7 cubic feet with its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks upright or 48.2 cubic feet when they’re folded forward. A standard pass-through allows you to take longer items like skis along for the ride when the two outboard seats are in use.
At $33,700, the Q3’s standard Premium Plus trim package includes incredibly comfortable heated eight-way powered front seats with four-way powered lumbar (12-way in total), auto on/off HID headlights, LED DRLs, front and rear fogs, LED taillights, aluminum trimmed window surrounds and roof rails, a rooftop spoiler, passive keyless entry with pushbutton start, LED ambient interior lighting, an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated powered side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, powered windows with auto up/down all-round, rain-sensing wipers, heated windshield washer nozzles, cruise control, a monochrome multi-information display ahead of the driver, a tilt and telescopic three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, leather upholstery, dual-zone auto HVAC, Audi’s excellent MMI infotainment system with a rearview camera featuring active guidelines, front and rear parking sonar, Audi’s music interface, 10-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, an SD card slot, a panoramic glass sunroof, rear privacy glass, an anti-theft alarm with an immobilizer, hill descent assist and more.
The Prestige trim, $38,600 with FWD or $40,700 with Quattro AWD, includes upgrades such as full LED headlights, dynamic taillight indicators, S Line styling upgrades, stainless-steel S Line-badged doorsills, power-foldable auto-dimming side mirrors, a color multi-information display, navigation, an upgraded 465-watt 14-speaker Bose audio system with AudioPilot noise compensation, Audi connect Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices with a six-month trial, SiriusXM Traffic with a four-year subscription, a powered tailgate, stainless steel trunk loading sill, and the Audi side assist blind spot warning system. Throw in the $550 Sport package and you get the Audi drive select and paddle shifters already mentioned plus a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and unique sport seats.
While all of this makes the Q3 sound like the ultimate compact sport utility, it’s extremely safe too, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) having already awarded this updated 2016 Q3 a Top Safety Pick, receiving the highest possible “Good” rating for each test.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press