Not too long ago, there was a direct correlation between the size of a car and the level of actual luxury contained within. But as luxury-car brands started offering smaller products to woo a younger and more diverse audience, they soon realized that little cars and SUVs can be premium, too. Now we seem to be at a point where some of these smaller vehicles not only match but in some ways even surpass their larger brethren in design, functionality, and appeal.
Case in point is this small SUV: the 2019 Audi Q3. When the subcompact Q3 first arrived here for the 2015 model year (it had been on sale elsewhere for some time) it felt a bit like a cut-rate Q5, but the all-new second generation debuts with features we haven’t seen yet on the Q5—or the Q7, for that matter. Indeed, with its slew of new technology features, bold exterior design, and chic interiors, the Q3 appears more closely tied to Audi’s fashionable Q8 flagship SUV than the more mundane Q5 or Q7.
Using the Volkswagen Group’s MQB transverse-engine architecture as its foundation, the 2019 Q3 is larger than before; Audi says the model has graduated into the compact-SUV segment. The growth spurt gives Audi’s subcompact Q2, which was introduced for 2017 elsewhere in the world but isn’t available here, a bit more breathing space in the global lineup. The new Q3 is 176.6 inches long and 72.8 inches wide, making it 3.8 inches longer and 0.7 inch wider than its predecessor. Next to its MQB-platform sibling, the Volkswagen Tiguan (which we get only in long-wheelbase form), it is almost nine inches shorter but nearly an inch wider. The new Q3’s roof has dropped about 0.2 inch, while the wheelbase has grown by 3.1 inches to 105.6 inches.
As with the Q8, there’s less subtlety to the design than we’ve seen lately from Audi; some of the brand’s recent vehicles barely moved the stylistic needle compared with their predecessors. Not this time. The Q3’s edgy new body is quite a departure from the outgoing model’s soft curves. The eight-sided, eight-bar grille is a virtual clone of the Q8’s, and the pronounced fender flares give it a muscularity that the outgoing model never had. The Q3’s lower bumpers, diffuser trim, and side sills can be ordered in a contrasting color, while an S line package tweaks each of those elements a bit. Three different headlamp units will be offered, all of which utilize LED technology. Among them are Audi’s Matrix LED lamps with intelligent high-beams that use shutters to block individual lighting elements to prevent glare for oncoming motorists. Sadly, we’re not likely to get that functionality in the States.
The Q3 will be offered with three interior themes—base, S line, and “Audi design selection”—any of which can be combined with the S line exterior treatment. The latter two packages feature sport seats that can be upholstered in leather or artificial leather and microsuede, with swaths of microsuede trim also on the dashboard and armrests.
The dashboard design represents a radical departure from that of the outgoing Q3, with repositioned infotainment controls located within the wide, octagonal, black-paneled element that occupies the left two-thirds of the dashboard. Gone is the console-mounted MMI controller, replaced by touchscreens as in the Q8. The standard instrument cluster is a 10.3-inch screen-based display, while Audi’s trick 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit can be had on all but the base trim level. And ambient lighting adjustable with your choice of 30 colors is available.
The 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat can slide through 5.9 inches of travel and also reclines. The load floor can be positioned three different ways, and the parcel shelf stows beneath the floor when not needed. An option package adds storage nets behind the front seats, a cargo net, and LED spotlighting in the cargo area, as well as a power tailgate with kick-motion activation.
Connections and Assistants
The 2019 Q3’s connectivity features are next level—a good thing, given its tech-savvy target demographic. The navigation system recognizes freely structured voice commands, learns your favorite ways to get to certain destinations and factors that into future route planning, and uses swarm technology to provide real-time traffic and road-condition information gathered from other cars on the planned route. The top-spec system is the same one that was introduced in the 2019 A8. It features Google Earth satellite imagery and gathers detailed destination information from the cloud, including photos and visitor ratings. Additional tech features include inductive phone charging and tethering of a connected phone to the vehicle’s antenna for improved reception. The myAudi app adds a navigation function that seamlessly transfers a destination from a device to the car’s navigation screen and back to the device when you exit the vehicle.
Active-safety systems now include Audi’s adaptive cruise assist, which combines radar cruise control, traffic jam assist, active lane-keeping assist, and lane-change warning. It also can be equipped with lane-departure warning with mitigation, collision mitigation, and park assist for both parallel and perpendicular spots. Parking is also facilitated by surround-view cameras that provide multiple viewing options such as an overhead view, front and rear 180-degree views, and detailed wheel views to help wary drivers prevent curb rash.
1.5 and 2.0
At launch, the Q3 in Europe will offer three turbocharged gasoline engines and one turbo-diesel engine with a second, more powerful diesel arriving later. The entry-level gasoline engine is a 1.5-liter inline-four that produces 148 horsepower and a stout 184 lb-ft of torque. Each of the other engines displaces 2.0 liters. We’re not sure which of the Q3’s engines will land on our shores but we’re unlikely to see either of the diesels. We’re certain to get at least one of the two 2.0-liter gas-fed mills, the lesser of which is the 188-hp unit, which produces 236 lb-ft of torque. The other 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes 227 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. In Europe, both of those engines will come with Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, and we expect that U.S.-bound Q3s will be equipped the same way.
All 2019 Q3s use a strut front suspension and a multilink setup at the rear. Adaptive dampers are optional. Audi says that it has retained the previous model’s sportiness (which was debatable) while adding “a clear dose” of comfort. The S line package brings tauter spring and damper tunings and a variable-ratio steering rack that quickens the more the wheel is turned. Speaking of wheels, the ones connecting the new Q3 to the road will range in size from 17 to 20 inches.
Unfortunately, we’ve been told we will have to wait until closer to the 2019 Q3’s U.S. launch early next year for final pricing and to learn which features and powertrains will make their way to U.S. showrooms. We also will be keen to learn whether Audi plans to bring back the awesome RS Q3 Performance, which never made it to the United States but did show what fun a Q3 with 367 horsepower and a slew of other performance upgrades could be.