2019 Audi Q3 First Look Review: Audi Loves To Play Leapfrog

First Look

The Q3 goes from being drab and forgotten, to stylish and in-demand.

The Audi Q3 has only been on the market in the US since 2015, but the subcompact crossover has been on the market in Europe since 2012. Compared to larger Audi models and other crossovers in its segment, the Q3 was looking especially dated. Now Audi has revealed the all-new 2019 Q3, which borrows much of its styling from the recently-revealed Q8. With this new design, the Q3 has now leapfrogged most of the other vehicles in the luxury subcompact segment.

Stacking Up Against The Competition

Amongst the three German luxury automakers, Audi by far has the thinnest crossover lineup in the US. Audi is catching up with new SUVs like the Q8, but BMW and Mercedes dominate with performance and coupe versions of practically every SUV. Audi wanted to compete against the BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA, but rather than design a new model, the company decided to simply import the then-fresh European Q3 to the US market. The effort was somewhat effective for a few years, and sales continue to grow as Americans turn to small crossovers in ever-increasing numbers, but the Q3 is now looking extremely dated next to fresher rivals.

The BMW X1 and Infiniti QX30 both felt fresher than the old Q3, and newer entrants like the Jaguar E-Pace and Volvo XC40 all demolished the old Q3 in terms of performance and design. Audi's longer product cycles can sometimes leave models battling against much newer competition, but the company loves to introduce technology overhauls that leapfrog the opposition. We recently observed this same phenomenon with the new A6 and A7, which waited until after the new BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class had been unveiled to finally jump into the fray.

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A "Baby" Q8

Right off the bat, Audi threw away the styling of the previous Q3, and adopted the large vertical grille design from the new Q8. Audi models are usually conservative designs, but the Q3 is now one of the more aggressive models in the segment. We really like the styling, especially when painted in this new blue featured in the press materials. The rear is a bit bulbous for our tastes, but the front end looks menacing. There will likely be a more coupe-like Q4 later on, but for now, the 2019 Q3 is a huge improvement over the old model.

Touchscreens Are Back

The German automakers were among the first to get rid of touchscreens in cars. BMW had iDrive, Mercedes had COMAND, and Audi had MMI. Now all three automakers are backtracking by reintroducing touchscreens into their vehicles. We recently drove the BMW X2, which featured a touchscreen in addition to the iDrive controller. The Q3 does away with the controller altogether, and relies instead on a touchscreen only. An 8.8-inch touchscreen (with an option to upgrade to 10.1 inches on top trims) handles the infotainment, and pairs nicely with a massive 10.25-inch virtual cockpit display.

The infotainment system has useful features like natural-language voice control, which should make it easy to enter voice commands. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will also be available so you'll have access to generally excellent phone connectivity. We look forward to testing this new infotainment setup to see how it stacks up against other systems.

Mid-Pack Performance

Audi will offer several diesel engines in Europe, but the US models will all be powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing either 190 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque or 230 hp with 258 lb-ft. The 190 hp version would be one of the least powerful vehicles in the segment, but the 230 hp version is right on par with the X1, GLA, QX30, and XC40. Audi could surprise us with a more powerful SQ3 or RS Q3 later on, but for now, the Q3's performance will be right in the middle of the pack.

A Potential Bargain

Audi hasn't announced pricing yet, but the current Q3 starts at just under $33,000 and we don't expect that to change much. Most of the cars in this segment also start right around this price, so it really depends on standard features and options to see how good a value the Q3 will be. Some competitors like the BMW X1 and Jaguar E-Pace can nearly double in price when heavily equipped. Front-wheel drive may be offered in the US, which could help bring down the price, but the brand's Quattro all-wheel drive will no doubt be a popular choice even so, and all Q3 models will come with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The Right Recipe

The Q3 looks like a significant improvement that should sell extremely well. A new GLA is on the way soon, which could take away some steam from the Q3. We expect the Q3 to be more comfortable than the X1, but sportier than the XC40. Audi likes to build cars that slot solidly in the middle in terms of sport and luxury, so this Q3 may be the perfect "Goldilocks" combination in the subcompact luxury SUV segment.