2019 Audi Q3
2019 Audi Q3 First Drive
Is Next Year Too Late for Audi's New Subcompact SUV?
The once unknown subcompact SUV class is now chock-full of practical, fuel-efficient vehicles that drive like cars. Shoppers go crazy for this segment because they enjoy the benefits of increased ride height and larger storage volume combined with nimble maneuverability.
With more vehicles entering the class, it's only natural that competition spurs improvements. Take the new 2019 Audi Q3, which differentiates itself from other models with high-end technology and premium materials and design that are familiar from the brand's more expensive offerings.
There's a New One Already?
Though the current Q3 reached U.S. dealerships in 2015, it's actually been on sale around the rest of the world since 2011. Plus, the recent introduction of competitors such as the Lexus UX and the Volvo XC40 has elevated our expectations of the category. These small SUVs all have improved driver assistance capability, smartphone connectivity, and clever storage features that enable them to do more than ever before. It's no wonder Audi has readied a replacement for the Q3.
What Makes It Different?
From the outside, the Q3 benefits from a design update that's both distinct and familiar. The hard edges on the fenders create the impression of additional width and length. The proportions are also aided by a 3-inch increase in wheelbase, which expands cargo volume from 16.7 cubic feet to 18.7 cubic feet.
The rear seating area is more functional, too, with a reclining seatback and nearly 6 inches of fore-aft sliding space. Together, this gives the Q3 a broad variety of cargo and person-carrying capacity.
Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that's available with two different outputs, either 187 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque or 227 hp and 258 lb-ft. Our test car had the more powerful engine, but it was mated to a transmission that won't be available in the U.S., so an in-depth opinion of the powertrain will have to wait until we can try the eight-speed automatic. All Q3s come standard with all-wheel drive.
On the inside, the excellent use of materials and geometry gives the cabin a spacious and premium feeling. All Q3s have a panoramic sunroof and faux suede trim on the dash. There are two digital displays, one in the dashboard and one for infotainment. Both screens are available in two sizes, depending on trim level.
The touchscreen infotainment borrows from what's in the A8, taking another step away from Audi's familiar rotary knob controller. But even though selections and searches are all done via a finger-writing recognition system, the Q3, unlike the A8, relegates climate controls to dedicated buttons and knobs.
When it comes to safety, the 2019 Audi Q3 is available with adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, front collision mitigation, and rear cross-traffic alert. A multicamera surround-view system is also available.
What Is It Like to Drive?
Aside from the lack of a panoramic sunroof and the wrong transmission, the European-spec Q3 felt peppy, quiet and competent. Rear seat room is wonderfully functional, and while Audi says the Q3 is an entry-level luxury SUV, its practicality and high-level of technology should appeal to downsizers and those who want something premium that's easy to park.
The handwriting recognition worked surprisingly well, and you can use it to search for contacts, music and destination information. A new dash display shows engine and road speeds in a graphical format that's easy to see through your peripheral vision.
The Q3 doesn't deviate much in the suspension setup. Like the current model, the Q3 rides on MacPherson struts up front and a multilink in the rear, but that doesn't mean they ride the same. The current model doesn't inspire, but the new one feels like a much more substantial vehicle.
Is It Worth the Wait?
The new 2019 Audi Q3 is nearly a year away from going on sale, and Audi has yet to disclose pricing and trim levels. The current model ranges from $33,000 to over $40,000 with options. And we anticipate the new model will cost slightly more on both ends, owing to its standard all-wheel drive and additional features.
Waiting is the hard part. If you're thinking about a premium subcompact SUV that's competent for anything the daily grind can throw at you, then this Q3 is worth a test drive when it eventually reaches dealerships. This new model features an undeniably better interior, more nimble handling, and the high-end interior and tech that buyers demand. However, if you need something today, look at the BMW X2 and the Volvo XC40. They provide a similar aesthetic, varying degrees of driving dynamics, and functional cargo space.
2019 Audi Q3 First Look
More Space, More Technology and, Just Maybe, More Power
The 2019 Audi Q3 has been redesigned, and it receives some much-needed updates to stay competitive in the hot subcompact luxury crossover segment. Hopefully it hasn't lost the things we liked about the outgoing model in the process.
USB and Other Futuristic Technologies
The outgoing Q3 includes features such as leather, front and rear parking sensors, and a panoramic sunroof as standard, but it doesn't have a USB data port. Yes, the 2018 Q3 is still saddled with Audi's proprietary media interface, which requires a special adapter to plug in an iPhone to access music functionality. (There is a charge-only USB port.)
The upcoming 2019 Q3 does away with the adapters, trading them in for not just good old-fashioned USB data ports, but a full upgrade to Audi's latest infotainment system, skipping ahead an entire hardware generation. The new Q3 will be the first vehicle after the flagship A8 sedan to receive the option of Audi's new 10.1-inch MMI touchscreen display, replacing the old knob-based interface. (An 8.8-inch touchscreen is standard.)
We were fans of Audi's knob, in part because it reduced the amount of attention you needed to pay to the screen while driving. However, it became increasingly cumbersome as more and more features were added, especially Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It's also worth noting that we found the knob's placement in the old Q3 a bit awkward. Our early impressions of the touchscreen system in the A8 have been favorable, so hopefully this infotainment interface won't just be newer, it'll also be better.
Of course, Audi's Virtual Cockpit dynamic instrument panel will be available, as will a host of high-tech features, among them app connectivity and smartphone integration (including wireless Apple CarPlay), Wi-Fi, a USB-C port, and two rear-seat USB ports. You'll find all the active safety features you expect, along with adaptive cruise control that can handle stop-and-go traffic, parking assist and a 360-degree camera.
Some people, we're told, opt for small SUVs for their versatility, not their technological innovations. To this end, the 2019 Audi Q3 has grown a bit. The wheelbase and overall length have increased by about 3 inches, and the vehicle is slightly wider. These changes should help quite a bit with another complaint we had about the outgoing model: the cramped rear seat. The rear seat in the new Q3 also slides forward and backward to accommodate longer legs or bigger cargo.
In the cargo area, the new Q3 jumps from 16.7 cubic feet of space in the outgoing model to 18.7 cubic feet with the rear seat all the way back, or 23.8 cubic feet with the rear seat in its most forward position. Those gains will help the Q3 compete against rivals such as the BMW X1, which handily tops the class with 27.1 cubic feet. Fold the seats down and the new Q3 opens up 53.9 cubic feet, which still trails the X1's 58.7 cubic feet.
The Q3 also offers a compartment under the front passenger seat for extra storage, and the electric tailgate will feature hands-free operation. All in all, the 2019 Q3 should get more looks from shoppers who value functionality.
We don't have full details about how trim levels and configurations will work in the U.S., but leather and synthetic-suede sport seats will be an option, as will synthetic-suede inserts on the dash and doors. Dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel and a panoramic sunroof will also be available. Right now, it looks like the base trim may come with slightly fewer luxury extras than the outgoing model, but it will certainly make up for that in other ways.
We were a bit disappointed with the outgoing Q3's somewhat lackluster acceleration. This segment has some heavy hitters when it comes to power output, and the 200-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine let us down. While a handful of engine options will be available overseas, we're not yet sure what the U.S.-spec car will be sporting. Our bet is on a version of Audi's current corporate four-cylinder turbo, with output in the neighborhood of 230 hp.
That's a modest bump, but for 2019 the Q3 will go from a six-speed automatic to a seven-speed unit. We expect that the extra power and extra cog will boost the Q3's performance on the road.
In addition to the powertrain upgrades, the Q3's suspension has been massaged to improve ride quality, while S Line-trimmed Q3s get a tauter setup for improved handling. Audi will also offer an adaptive suspension on the new Q3, which includes adjustable drive modes. Coupled with the longer wheelbase, these suspension changes should make for a smoother and more stable ride.
If you care about having the biggest cargo space or the best raw performance, it's probably not worth waiting until the new Q3 arrives. But if technology features are your bag, or you're just a fan of clean, upscale design and impressive overall refinement, this new Q3 will be worth a look. Recent Audis have continued the brand's tradition of excellent handling, comfort and quality, so we have high expectations.
The 2019 Audi Q3 will launch overseas in November of this year, but we don't expect it to reach American shores until early 2019. We'll have more information about pricing and specs as the on-sale date nears, so stay tuned.