A case for slowing down and enjoying the ride

 14 Oct 2015 - 0:00

A case for slowing down and enjoying the ride

 

By Warren Brown

I put it in “Sport” and left it there. It felt all-around better in that mode, although “Normal” was in no way offensive. It’s just that “Sport” appeared to move with more authority, especially on westbound Interstate 66 near the evening rush hour, when some authority is needed.
The Audi Q3 Prestige for 2016, the second model year in which the subcompact crossover-utility vehicle has been on sale in the United States, behaved well. It was responsive, steering easily around less-polite traffic - motorists cutting in, hogging the passing lane, wandering aimlessly into adjoining lanes - with little or no drama.
I liked this one and found myself wondering why colleagues in the automotive media played down its performance, saying that it was neither as fast nor as agile as competitive crossovers such as the Lexus NX 200t, the larger Audi Q5 or the 2016 BMW X1.
Perception is in the eyes and attitude of the beholder, I guess.
I’ve long ago jettisoned my view of public roads, often congested with other people and their families, nearly all of whom expect to get to where they are going alive and without injury, as my personal racetracks. I want a vehicle that moves with authority when it has to move. But let’s face it: Egregious speeding has never gotten me anywhere except into trouble.
I can slow down, especially in a nice vehicle. And the Audi Q3 Prestige, on sale overseas since 2011, is nice.
Fit and finish are excellent. The seats are covered with supple leather. The car is well outfitted with options and standard equipment - blind-side warning, rearview backup camera, parking-assistance technology, onboard navigation featuring Google map technology, and one of the best sound systems available in any automobile at any price - a Bose surround- sound stereo (465 watts, 10 channels, 14 speakers).
The Q3 Prestige reflects the reality of governmental pressures worldwide - the push for safer, cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles. I would have thought, in as much as it has been around since 2011, during which time the global automotive market has been flooded with compact crossover-utility models, that Audi would have boosted the Q3’s power a bit. It hasn’t.
Those familiar with Audi will find the same reasonably fuel-efficient, reliable turbocharged (forced air) 2-litre in-line four-cylinder gasoline engine (200 horsepower, 207 pound-feet of torque) that motivates many Audi products designed more for affordability than they are for earth-scorching road performance. And the 2016 Q3 is affordable, in the entry-level luxury sense, although it carries a base price $1,200 higher than last year’s model.
Audi’s argument is that it has loaded more standard equipment into the 2016 Q3, which also has undergone a modest facelift for the new year. Assuming that Audi keeps the model around for another season or two, as it is likely to do, look for a few more changes. For example, rare is the premium vehicle nowadays that isn’t fully plug-in ready - USB ports, that sort of thing. The Q3 is noticeably and disappointingly lacking in such goodies.
But here, admittedly, I am looking for something to complain about. The truth is that the Q3 is a good car, one that will serve the daily transportation needs of most small families quite well. It fits easily into the city without holding you hostage at the fuel tank (20 miles per gallon in the city, 29 on the highway.)
But, yes, it does require premium fuel.
Still, I like it. It makes sense. And even fully optioned - all-wheel drive and advanced electronic safety equipment - it is enjoyable at a price - $42,625 in US - that does not leave me totally gasping for breath.

Nuts & bolts
Bottom line: The Audi Q3 remains an excellent choice for small middle-income families interested in transportation safety, style and reasonable fuel efficiency. If the $40,000-plus price of the fully equipped Q3 Prestige bothers you, consider the Q3 Premium Plus, or choose front-wheel instead of all-wheel drive.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The all-wheel-drive Q3 Prestige gets good marks in all three.
Head-turning quotient: It’s pretty inside and out. Hints at class.
Body style/layout: The Audi Q3 is a front-engine, subcompact crossover-utility vehicle with four side doors and a rear hatch. It is available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. There are two trim levels: Premium Plus and Prestige.
Engine/transmission: The Q3 comes standard with a turbocharged, 16-valve 2-litre in-line four-cylinder gasoline engine with variable valve timing (200 horsepower, 207 pound-feet of torque). The engine is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission that, via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, can also be operated manually.
Capacities: Seating is for five people, with smaller folks recommended for the rather cramped ear quarters. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 16.7 cubic feet. Maximum cargo capacity is 48.2 cubic feet. Fuel capacity is 16.9 gallons (premium-grade gasoline is required).
Mileage: My actual highway mileage was 27 miles per gallon.
Safety: Standard equipment includes ventilated front disc brakes and solid discs in the rear; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; stability and traction control; height-adjustable rear headrests; Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlamps; and front, rear and side air bags.
Pricing in US: 2016 Q3 pricing starts at $33,700. Price as tested is $42,625, including $8,025 in options (Bose premium sound system, panoramic glass roof and other items).

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