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2019 Audi Q3 first drive review

Audi tries hard, and gets the all-new Q3 SUV mostly right

2019 Audi Q3
2019 Audi Q3 first drive
MSRP $35,695.00
“The 2019 Audi Q3 is a slightly flawed gem”
Pros
  • Comfortable and spacious interior
  • Good looking design
  • Standard quattro AWD
  • Good tech package
  • Good suspension
Cons
  • Clunky shifting
  • Drivetrain not well-suited to the vehicle

The 2019 Audi Q3 is an entirely new generation of Audi’s smallest crossover. Like all new SUVs, the new Q3 is bigger than the model it replaces. Size matters, and the American SUV buyer isn’t really looking for a small SUV even when they show up to buy a small SUV.

Besides being bigger, the new Q3 is designed to claim a bigger share of the growing “entry premium” small SUV segment. These crossovers include the BMW X1 (and X2), Volvo XC40, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Lexus NX, and Infiniti QX30. Prices for this class of crossover start in the mid-30s, and generally don’t go too far above $40,000.

Staying well within that box, Audi has two general Q3 offerings: the basic Q3 and the S Line. The S Line is a $1300 appearance package that includes 19-inch wheels, special bumpers, side sills, and badging. You can also get an upgraded interior with leather sport seats and paddle shifters as a $500 option if you buy the S Line, so it’s not ruinously expensive.

2019 Audi Q3
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

The basic Q3 comes in Premium and Premium Plus trim levels, and the S Line comes in the same trims plus a top Prestige level. The base price is $35,695 with destination fee included. If you get the top S Line Prestige, it’s $43,895. Everything else falls in between.

Overall, the 2019 Q3 is about what you would expect from an Audi SUV, but there is one key issue that might influence your decision.

The new Q3 is designed to claim a bigger share of the growing “entry premium” small SUV segment

We won’t keep you in suspense: the issue with the new Q3 is the driveline. Like all automakers, Audi is forced to pull ever more power out of small displacement engines while simultaneously trying to keep fuel economy under control. That’s means turning up the wick on the turbo while also trying to keep the engine out of fuel-sucking high-boost acceleration, except when you ask for it. That’s a tough balancing act, and no one has really gotten it just right.

The new Q3 comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine rated at 228 peak horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That’s a 20 horsepower boost from the outgoing model, and a whopping 51 pound-feet more. The engine is mated to an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with full-time quattro all-wheel-drive.

2019 Audi Q3
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

We noticed two things about this package. The first is that it takes the engine a moment to “wake up” from cruising mode when you step on the gas. The transmission contributes to this by trying to get into the highest possible gear when you’re not actively accelerating. When you step on the gas, the Q3 needs to drop a couple gears and wake up the engine. That takes a noticeable amount of time, but then the little Q3 really gets up on its legs and runs.

Pro Tip:  If you use manual shifting with the optional paddles, you can take control of gear selection. With a bit of practice you can get instant throttle response.

The other thing is that the transmission delivers rougher shifts than you might expect. Here again, lots of automakers have this issue, so don’t take this as a disqualifier for the Q3; just something to compare in your test drives.

One area where Audi really deserves praise is the decision to put quattro AWD into every Q3. The quattro system is one of the best on the market. Even if you live in Phoenix, it’s no bad thing to have all-wheel-drive for the occasional dirt road or rain storm.

Moving to the outside, the new Q3 looks great. It’s got Audi’s latest styling cues, and tasteful box flares that Audi calls “quattro blisters” around the wheels for a sporty look. You’ll definitely be proud to roll up in the new Q3. It’s 3.8 inches longer overall, and three inches more in the wheelbase. It’s 0.7 inches wider, and 1.5 inches taller than the outgoing Q3.

All that extra space went right into the passenger cabin. The Q3 is roomier than you expect, and the interior is super comfortable. The back seat slides fore-and-aft up to 5.9 inches, and offers 7 positions of recline. Based on the rear seat position you have 18.7 to 23.7 cubic feet of cargo area, or 48 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.

Audi gets top marks for its matte trim and overall layout

In the front seat area, Audi gets top marks for its matte trim and overall layout. It’s luxurious but not conspicuously opulent, focused on function and quality, and there’s no “tech for tech’s sake” overload.

Audi’s virtual cockpit is the standout tech feature. This is a wide screen that replaces the entire driver information display. You can display the navigation map there, or customize the display to your liking. Even if you don’t spring for virtual cockpit, you still get an all-digital display. The center 8.8-inch touchscreen uses handwriting recognition, which is great for the passenger but could be distracting for the driver to use.

2019 Audi Q3
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

Another cool tech feature is that the Q3 boosts your cell phone signal using the vehicle’s antenna. That’s nice if you’re going through areas of marginal reception. The Q3 supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – and you can use CarPlay wirelessly. Finally, a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system is available.

So, what’s the bottom line? The 2019 Audi Q3 isn’t perfect, but it’s very good. This is a small SUV that you can use and enjoy every day. It’s small enough to take into the city without a worry, and big enough to haul your stuff and be comfortable. It’s fast enough to be fun, unless you’re a track day enthusiast who really ought to be driving a TT RS. Most of all, it’s affordable. The Q3 really covers all the bases very well.

How DT would configure this car

If we were buying a Q3, we’d tend towards the basic. After all, you get the same driveline with AWD at every trim level. For the base price of $35,695, you get everything that’s important about this vehicle. On the other hand, you can go all-in for $43,895. With the top trim you get the B&O stereo, adaptive cruise, birds-eye camera, and LED interior lights with 30 customizable colors. It’s not like you have to double the price to get all the goodies.

Should you buy one?

The last question is, should you buy a Q3? Given everything we experienced, we think it’s a good deal for most of the market. There is only a rumor of an upcoming SQ3, much less an RS Q3, so if you really want a performance model, you’ll have to move up to the SQ5. The only way you’re going to know for sure is to take a test drive, and we’ll tell you confidently that the 2019 Audi Q3 is worth your time and consideration.

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