Tom Crosby: Audi’s 2016 Q3 subcompact luxury SUV seeks market footing

Tom Crosby

Seven years ago Audi entered the luxury sport utility vehicle market with the full-size Q7, subsequently adding a Q5 in 2012 and a smaller Q3 last year.

For 2016, the Q3 has redesigned front and rear lights, grille and some side fascia changes, plus upgrades to a top fit and finish interior. The rearview camera and side sensors with wide viewing span are now standard. Audi’s timing for entering the SUV market was on target.

Today 48 percent of all premium vehicle sales in the U.S. through October have been sport utility vehicles and crossovers. The Q3 is the smallest in the German automaker’s US line-up and has to compete with its pricier sibling, the Q5 which is Audi’s bestseller in the US. If that wasn’t challenge enough, established competition includes the Lincoln MKC, Volvo XC60, Acura RDX, Lexus NX and Land Rover LR2.

Our test-drive, the Q3 2.0T quattro (all-wheel drive) Tiptronic showed the Q3 has the chops to compete due to its solid handling, smooth ride, roadside good looks and an interior with enough luxury to satisfy anyone but the most persnickety buyer. Our ride added a technology package ($2,600) that included navigation using a 7-inch screen reaching above the dashboard to make it easier to keep eyes glancing at the road. Also in the package are WiFi, a 14-speaker – audibly sharp – Bose sound system (but no USB port) and power rear liftgate. AT&T powers in-car data services which connect with Mobile share devices. Paint and power tailgate options added another $975.

Our test drive base Premium Plus also comes in a less expensive front wheel drive version and a higher Prestige trim also offers quattro or front wheel drive. The Q3 keeps its balance in tight curves, glides smoothly and quietly on 18-inch wheels with all-season tires and picks up speed quickly with the turbo-inspired engine and speed-assisted steering. (A temporary spare tire rest beneath a nicely sized cargo area.) Road grip is confident and we averaged 22 miles per gallon, with mostly city driving.

Inside, the dashboard tilts slightly towards the driver – a nice design touch – and a dashboard-mounted knob controls screen functions. Front seats are comfortable and heated, rear seats comfortable for two full-sized adults or three children. A huge panoramic sunroof with retractable sunshade, leather trim, light-rimmed speakers and subtly grained materials create a comfortable and stylish cabin.

LIKES: Mileage, ride, handling, quiet, looks, luxury
DISLIKES: Paying for paint, no USB hook-up
BOTTOM LINE: Attractive first choice for luxury SUV lovers, young family
2016 AUDI Q3 2.0T quattro Tiptronic
Base price w/destination fee $36,725 ($40,300 as tested)
Curb weight 3,494 lbs.
Wheelbase 102.5 inches
Length 172.8 inches
Width 72.2 inches
Engine specs 2.0-liter, inline 4, DOHC, turbo
Horsepower 200 hp at 5,100 rpm
Torque 207 lbs.-ft. at 1,700 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic with Tiptonic
EPA Rating 20 city, 28 highway
Range 16.9 gallons, premium recommended
Performance 0-60 in just under 8 seconds