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2019 Audi Q3: Get inside and experience the difference

2019 Audi Q3 2.JPG
2019 Audi Q3 (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

It’s been a while since I’ve driven the Audi Q3, and for 2019 it gets a complete redesign.

While the exterior lines are austere and distinctly Audi, it’s the interior that receives a major upgrade with a new multi-media interface (MMI) touch response system, upgraded materials and driver-focused cockpit.

With a week and 150 miles under my belt, what I want to say is: You’ve come a long way, baby.

Design

Every Audi has very distinct design cues from the wide-mouthed grille to the long horizontal exterior lines. From the taillights to the headlights, you know you’re looking at an Audi at first glance.

The interior echoes those same distinct horizontal lines, and the redesign takes the Q3 back to basics with large, easy-to-read hard-button HVAC controls and the absence of any kind of touch controller that manipulates the infotainment screen.



Hallelujah.

The Q3 also adds more standard lux-level amenities such as a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats and dual-zone automatic climate control.

The test vehicle, which was an S-line model, also added color and texture with the Alcantara interior package in orange ($150).

The test vehicle was also equipped with the Navigation Package ($2,000), which adds the stunning virtual cockpit with a 12.3-inch four-color display to replace the behind-the-wheel gauges. I set it up to display the navigation map, so I could keep my audio controls on the info screen on the center stack.

One word of caution, however: If you use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the virtual cockpit map switches to a compass, and the only navigation available is through the phone’s maps or Waze. Not a big deal, just not as visually appealing.



Ride & Handling

As a part of the redesign, Q3 gets an upgraded powertrain that includes standard quattro all-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that delivers 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

During the test week, I had a couple of long highway jaunts as well as plenty of urban driving, and I absolutely loved how the Q3 handled. It has a much more car-like ride with easy maneuverability and a tight turning radius.

Whether I was dealing with cramped parking lots or my tiny city garage, the Q3 fit like a glove.

And because of the higher ride height, it added better visibility than a sedan.

Q3 comes with five different drive modes – comfort, auto, dynamic, off-road and individual – and for the most part I left it in auto mode. But comfort helps to deal with some of the rough-hewn city street surfaces, and dynamic mode helps add a little more pep. Bonus: It also disengages the auto stop/start engine.

In comfort and auto modes, I did notice a slight amount of turbo lag, but it wasn’t annoying or disruptive. Tapping into dynamic mode takes care of the lag and creates a sportier experience.



Fuel economy

EPA estimates that you should get about 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

I averaged about 20.5 mpg in combined driving, and I’m not displeased with that. It falls below the combined EPA estimate of 22 mpg, but since it’s still better than the straight 19 mpg, I’ll consider that a win.

Tech & gadgets

Other than BMW (and the BMW partnered Toyota Supra), Audi is one of the only other automakers that offers wireless Apple CarPlay. This is a nice feature if you pair it with the wireless charging, which altogether eliminates messy cord carnage.

However, even though the Q3 offers both CarPlay and Android Auto, only CarPlay can be wireless. You must wire in your phone for Auto.

One of my favorite available features is the virtual cockpit. This creates a larger display behind the steering wheel and allows you to bring the navigation map to that display for a stunning bit of eye candy.

One of the big changes for 2019 includes the conversion of the MMI to a standard “touch response” system, and with big on-screen buttons, this new system is both intuitive and easy to read.



Another huge tech bonus: There are USB-C and USB-A charge ports in the front, with two USB-A charge ports in the rear. Standard.

Other tech features of note include available Bang & Olufsen premium 3D sound system, a “phone box” that connects smartphones with the vehicles antennae for a boosted signal, wireless charging and a park steering assist system that will aid a driver with parallel and perpendicular parking.

Trims

The Audi Q3 has three trims with the bottom two trims having the S-line appearance package (+$1,300) available and the top trim only being available with the S-line packaging.

  • Premium ($35,695): This trim comes equipped with features such as the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, MMI touch response system with the 8.8-inch center display, Audi pre sense, panoramic sunroof and three-zone automatic climate control.
  • Premium Plus ($38,795): This trim adds features such as full LED headlights, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane depature warning, passive entry, push-button start, hands-free power tailgate and wireless charger.
  • Prestige ($43,895): This top-tier trim adds features such as the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit, a 10.1-inch center display, Bang & Olufsen 3D premium sound system, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera system and power-folding side mirrors.

The test vehicle was a Premium Plus S-line model that added premium paint, Navigation package, Bang & Olufsen sound system, 20-inch wheel package, sport interior package and Alcantara interior orange package for an as-tested price of $44,990.

When you consider the average transaction price of all new vehicles is around $37K these days, $45K for a nicely equipped luxury vehicle doesn’t seem exorbitant.



Safety

The Q3 includes standard safety equipment such as rear backup camera, a pre-sense system that will prepare the vehicle for impact and a front camera that monitors for potentially hazardous situations.

All other high-tech safety equipment is available as well. This includes things such as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors and a 360-degree camera.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t rated the 2019 Q3, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives it “Good” ratings across the board – depending on trim because of the headlight rating.

IIHS even bestows the coveted Top Safety Pick + award on the Q3, but only with the Premium Plus and Prestige trims that have the LED projector beam headlights.

It’s worth noting that the base Premium trim LED reflector headlights get an overall Poor rating – which is what keeps this trim from being a TSP+ winner as well.

Not sure what the safety ratings mean? We break it down for you here.



New for 2019

The Q3 is all-new for 2019, but highlights include a driver-focused cockpit, refreshed exterior design, boosted engine power, standard all-wheel drive and a touch-screen MMI.

A few of my favorite things

I’m a sucker for large digital displays, and the available virtual cockpit from Audi is on the top of my list for its incredible detail and adjustability.

I also loved the orange Alcantara interior inserts. Orange interiors seem to be the trend these days, and this one is subtle with accent pieces rather than a full-on display of vibrant orange. I liked the pop of color, and the fact it doesn’t cover every surface means it’ll be livable long after the fad has faded.

Ride and handling are sporty, and the overall ride is much more car-like than SUV-like.

However, even though the Q3 drives more like a car, it doesn’t sacrifice utility and cargo volume. The cargo area is large for a vehicle of this size, offering 23.7 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second-row seats and 48 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seats folded flat.



What I can leave

I can always leave the auto stop/start engine. But as these systems go, this one isn’t egregious. And it has an off switch to disengage.

The bottom line

It’s been several years since I’ve driven a Q3, and my vague memory included things like plastic accents and miserable turbo lag – which means it never made my list of recommended vehicles.

However, with the 2019 redesign, the Audi Q3 proves to be peppy, sporty, functional and much more high-end. And that’s exactly what you’d expect from a luxury German automaker.

So, if you’re looking for a small SUV such as the Cadillac XT4 or Lexus UX, add the 2019 Q3 to your must-test list.