2017 Audi Q3 Review & Road Test: Is It the “Nimble Crossover” Audi Claims It to Be?

The Q3 is a compact crossover SUV that’s reasonably versatile, relatively affordable and moderately luxurious with just a few upscale features to remind you of the upscale brand you’re driving. Audi calls their Q3 “The Nimble Crossover.” But just how nimble is it? And, is it an upscale car? Does it live up to its Audi badge? Let’s find out! Here is my review and road test of the 2017 Audi Q3.

The Specs

-2.0 L TFSI 4cyl turbo engine
-6 speed Tiptronic automatic
-200 Horsepower, 207 ft. lb. torque
-MPG: 20 city / 28 highway
-Front-wheel drive (AWD “Quattro” also offered in 2017 model)
-Curb Weight: 3,682 lbs.
-Cargo capacity: 16.7 cu ft. (with rear seats folded, 50.3 cu ft.)
-Seats: 5

This 2017 model I tested had about 15k well seasoned miles on the clock, powered by a 2.0 liter TFSI turbo engine. The same engine found in most of Audi’s smaller sedans and entry level trims, along with some Volkswagens. Paired with a 6-speed “Tiptronic” auto transmission, the Q3’s bulkier body weight produces a modest 200 horsepower. Power was at the very least, sufficient, and under the right circumstances it was quite fun. But the 2.0 liter TFSI does go a much longer way in Audi’s smaller vehicles like the A3 & A4. The Q3 Premium I tested was the base model, with only one higher trim level offered, the Premium Plus. Our base model lacked features like satellite navigation, optional sport package and a few other minor bells and whistles. But overall it is well appointed, and you’re not really missing much by not springing for the Premium Plus. Both trims come with the same 2.0 liter engine, and both are offered with either a FWD or AWD Quattro setup. Much to my chagrin, our tester was FWD.

First Impressions

It’s an appealing car to step into. There are just enough hi-end elements around to remind you that you are indeed getting into an Audi, and not just a Volkswagen. Well designed, comfortable leather seats are fully powered and include adjustable lumbar support. A panoramic sunroof lets the sun shine down onto both rows of seats, and a colorful backlit gauge cluster and center panel are pleasing to the eye. Materials are solid enough, but when comparing to some of Audi’s higher priced vehicles, it definitely feels entry-level. With an overabundance of plastic parts, I’d be curious to see if this interior could stand the test of time and remain durable enough to prove itself as an adventurous crossover vehicle. Some other minor disappointments on the interior are the fake climate control knobs, the out-of-place LCD screen and the not-in-use satellite navigation button on the steering wheel. While Sat-nav is reserved for the Premium Plus, both trims employ the same steering wheel. So we base-level cheapskates just have to stare at a dead button as a constant reminder of how poor we are!

Yeah, but is it good looking?

Taking design cues from other members of the Audi family, there are some strikingly beautiful features on the car. This includes Audi’s signature Singleframe grill, squinty LED headlights and hawk-headed tail lights. However, I feel they got a little lazy with the shape of the body, making for a more portly Audi. It seems like they were well on their way to designing a tough and rugged looking SUV but got lost along the way. It lacks the bulky, off-road aesthetic that makes rivals like the Subaru Crosstrek so appealing, but it’s not quite elegant enough to hold its own in the luxury market. Still, it’s not the ugliest car I’ve seen, and all that can easilty be forgotten when admiring the Audi-esque details.

The Test Drive

The 2.0 liter TFSI engine has a little more work cut out for itself than it does in the A3 or A4, and by today’s standards 200 horsepower is pretty tame. That said I was pleasantly surprised. There really is no lack of sufficient power. The Q3 accelerates quite beautifully, provides a nice bit of torque and holds its own in a straight line, and highway speeds are effortlessly comfortable. I often like to try different drive modes in modern cars, and sport mode in the Q3 is the way to go. It’s not drastically different, but adds a nice subtle hint of aggression, making for faster acceleration and a bit more grip.

What lost me about the driving experience was the suspension. The Q3 is designed to appear more like an SUV than a station wagon. Other cars in this class, BMW X1, Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-3, sit lower, have a better center of gravity and drive more like a car. The added ride height of the Q3 was bouncy, a bit rough at times. I did lose some confidence here. I don’t think it’s as nimble as Audi claims it to be. This is not a canyon carving performance vehicle. Again, the model I tested was only Front-wheel drive, so it’s possible the Q3 with Audi’s Quattro AWD system is a better experience. The Premium Plus trim also offers a sport package, which perhaps might include upgraded handling. But until you have a complete understanding of this vehicle, watch your speed in the corners.

In an everyday driving environment, though, none of that matters. I much prefered this car’s everyday driving feel to that of its rivals.

Lasting Impressions

This car’s purpose in life is to be a reasonably versatile, reasonably compact crossover SUV, with some luxury amenities while its reputable badge provides pride of ownership. Unfortunately it doesn’t accel at any of this; it doesn’t do any one thing better than another. However, this car is all about averages, and it does everything OK.

It is reasonably versatile, with generous cargo space and SUV style ride height. Though I wouldn’t take it off roading. It is reasonably sporty with its turbo power and sport mode. Though I wouldn’t take it to the racetrack. It is reasonably luxurious with leather seats and a panoramic sunroof. Though it pales in comparison to an A6. And if it’s the badge you’re after, understandably so, the Q3 is a very affordable option. This car gives you a little bit of everything.

As a Used car, this 2017 model with 15k miles has just hit its stride. It drives the way it should and so far nothing is flimsy or falling apart. Again, I wish there were less plastic bits on the inside. These are the parts that will tend to dry, crack and break off over time, but we’re talking 15-20 years. Provided you are gentle and stick to your maintenance schedule, the Audi Q3 would make a good used car.

So, Had I The Money….

…and were I in the market for a compact crossover SUV with some luxury amenities, would I buy one? I might. The car is comfortable, fun to drive and affordable for an Audi. It’s a jack of all trades, master of none… and that’s okay. But I would rather have the A4 Allroad. That thing is just so badass looking. And though most of the American car buying populous disagrees with me, wagons are so much cooler than SUV’s. However, the A4 Allroad adds about $10k to my car buying budget. So yeah, I’d be pretty happy with the Q3.

What are your thoughts?