This year, I volunteered to be the event photographer for Audi Club Northwest’s signature event, Quattrofest, for the second year. Once I got the confirmation from the club, I reached out to the two local Audi dealers requesting a loaner to be a photography support vehicle for the weekend. Audi Wilsonville immediately jumped at my request and provided me with a 2015 Audi Q3 2.0T quattro crossover. They were also generous to provide me with a Q5 2.0T for last year’s Quattrofest as well.
The 2015 Audi Q3 2.0T quattro that I got the keys to was dressed in Florett Silver and equipped with MMI Navigation plus and 19″ Offroad-design wheels. The sticker price for that particular Q3 came in at $39,125 with destination charges. The two options that I would recommend in any Q3 order would be: Sport Package (shift paddles and Audi drive select) and the Driver Assistance Package (parking sensors, backup camera and side assist).
In terms of size, the Q3 is definitely smaller than the Q5 when it comes to every dimension: 102.5 inch wheelbase vs 110.5 inches for the Q5, 172.6 inches long vs 182.6 inches for the Q5, 62.5 inches in height vs 65.2 inches for the Q5 and 72.1 / 79.5 inches wide (without and with mirrors, respectively) versus 74.7 / 82.2 inches for the Q5. The smaller package of the Q3 2.0T quattro is also reflected in its curb weight of 3,494 pounds (vs 4,090 pounds for a Q5 2.0T quattro).
Just for grins and giggle, the pre-MQB A3 Sportback had a wheelbase of 101.5 inches, length of 169.0 inches, 78.5 inches wide and 56.0 inches tall. The curb weight of the A3 Sportback with the same 2.0 TFSI and quattro came in at 3,461 pounds.
From a driver’s and passengers’s perspective, the Q3’s relative petite size is a lot more noticeable and those dimension numbers reflect. While the front half of the cabin still feels relatively roomy and airy, the rear seats aren’t quite as adult friendly as in the Q5. Cargo space in the Q3 is were you start to really notice the smaller package. Even though I carried about the same amount of camera bags and support equipment in the Q3 as I did in the Q5 (number of camera bodies and lenses differed of course), I had to move some of the cargo into the rear seats.
Having said that, I could still slide in my Nikon D300 or D800E mounted on a monopod or tripod that were extended about 50% and get it to fit into the cargo area or the backseats without trouble. I would have to fold the rear seats down in order to slide in the same kit with the tripod fully extended (same with the Q5). Speaking of the space for the rear seats, I made copious use of the 12V power outlet, along with power inverter and a surge protector to charge up my camera batteries, phones, tablets and laptop. I was able to stow the power converter and surge protector in the footwell and snake the cables throughout the cabin.
As with the Q5, the Q3 was able to get me around the outside of the track at Portland International Raceway without any problems or concerns. Although the Q3 is a bit down in power (it is powered by the same 2.0 TFSI that was found in the previous generation A3 Sportback), the lighter weight of the car made up for it when going up on to the grass and through the gravel.
The 2.0 TFSI engine is a very capable engine, at least when it is mounted in a previous generation A3 Sportback or in the Mk2 TT. In the Q3, it seems to struggle a little bit when accelerating to pass at highway speeds or going up a decent incline. I found myself keeping the gearbox in S (which has a dedicated gate vs a toggle in newer Audi models) or using manual shift mode to keep it 1 or 2 gears lower than what the computer wanted to be in. In the city, the Q3 feels right at home where the light steering makes navigating through traffic and parking spots extremely easy.
There were a couple of moments where I felt a slight hesitation from when some of the power was send from the front wheels to the rear wheels. In all occasions, I was traveling at low speeds as I was going up on an incline either on grass or gravel. I didn’t experience that with the Q5 and marked it down to the difference between the Haldex-based quattro in the Q3 and the Torsen-based quattro in the Q5. In all other driving conditions, the Q3 felt solid and quattro did its job quite well.
As mentioned earlier, the current, and recently announced refresh, Q3 is still based on the previous generation platform that had been shared with the previous generation A3 Sportback and Mk2 TT. Some of the interior design elements and technology of the Q3 reflect the look and feel of the previous generation, with a few touches of the modern.
Even with the mix of the old and new, the overall layout of the controls in the Q3 isn’t bad. The ubiquitous Audi controls on the steering wheel makes quick work of audio, nav and driver information display changes. The center-stack mounted MMI knob isn’t too different from the setup found in A4 and A5 models without MMI navigation plus. The HVAC controls felt like they were a bit too low for me when seated in a proper driving position.
My biggest gripe really has to be the MMI display on the dashboard. Although it looks like a pop-up display that is found in the new Audi A3 and the upscale A6, A7 and A8 models, the display actually is fixed in that position. In the models with the pop-up display, I prefer to have the display hidden while driving and only in the “up” position when I need to use the full MMI controls. I’m not sure if that is something that will be updated in the refreshed Q3; but, I would highly recommend Audi to include the option to make the display a proper pop-up display with a button to retract it.
Overall, I found driving the Q3 to be fairly enjoyable as a crossover and provides a new option for those looking at purchasing a smaller, premium crossover. I would still prefer to see Audi bring over an A3 Sportback with the new 2.0 TFSI and quattro drivetrain. The previous generation A3 Sportback gets essentially the same fuel economy as the Q3 and feels more responsive and jumps off of the line with a bit more gusto (just under a second faster 0-60 MPH). Also, one doesn’t need a step ladder to get thing up to and off of the roof, and the A3 is even more city friendly.
That is why my money would go towards and Audi A3 Sportback with any drivetrain (especially TDI) over Audi Q3 any day of the year. With that out of the way, the Q3 is still worth a consideration when shopping for a small and stylish premium crossover. Oh, and Audi needs to get the MQB Q3 worked out and in to production, stat!
I would like to thank Audi Wilsonville for providing me with the keys to the Q3 for Quattrofest weekend.