At last Audi is moving on from dual-clutch transmissions in its daily-drivers.
My favorite part of the new 2016 Audi Q3 is the transmission. The Tiptronic automatic isn’t that special. I just love it because it is not an Audi/VW dual-clutch transmission (DCT). You see, I am one of those autowriters who believes that not every vehicle should behave like a racecar. I love racecars, don’t get me wrong, but they make terrible daily-drivers. Based on my testing on real streets and in the manner the vehicles will actually be driven, DCTs are a pain in the neck. They make starting off a hassle and unpredictable, and they exaggerate turbo-lag. On a racetrack, or in a serious sports car, those DCT drawbacks are offset by benefits. None of which are any good in the car you drive to work in. Don’t take my word for it, Audi says of its Tiptronic (normal) automatic “The great strength of this classic torque-converter transmission lies in its remarkably smooth shift action and starting performance.” Think about it. In your normal passenger vehicle what more do you want from a transmission?
There is much more to like about the Q3 than just its hassle-free transmission. The 2.0-liter turbo teams up with the six speed to offer smooth, linear power with no noticeable turbo lag unless you try to race the Q3 around. Drive it normally and it behaves quite civilly. When you want more from it, simply pull the gear selector back one notch from “D” to “S.” This engages sport mode, and the engine comes alive. The transmission holds its shifts longer eliminating lag, and the Q3 feels very sporty. The 200 hp from the small turbo four is good enough to hustle the Q3 to 60 MPH from a stop in about 8.2 seconds according to Audi. Plenty quick for a family car, but unusually sedate for a $40K premium German car. If you race a Mazda CX-3 from a stoplight you just might lose to a vehicle looking a lot like the Q3 and costing about 15-grand less.
The Q3 handles well, and the ride is not overly-firm. One thing we did notice, and we felt this on the A3 we have tested as well, is that the rear end of the Q3 seems to hop to the side a bit over rough road patches. It is not a big deal, but it makes you wonder what this thing might do if you were pushing it hard into a corner (say an off ramp) and then the road turned bumpy.
Inside, the important take-away is that the Q3 is big enough. I’m 6-feet tall, and I was very comfortable in the Audi Q3 up front and also when I sat behind the driver’s seat adjusted to my preferred spot. There is not much room to spare, but you are comfortable. The driver’s seat was perfect. It felt like it was made just for me. Power controls, heat that stays on and lumbar that made my back feel great. The cargo area was also spacious (for the class) and under the cargo floor is a compact spare tire (which we applaud).
Audi opts to use an MMI rotary knob to control the infotainment. I found it to be frustrating to use. The Audi system need not be a mouse controlled system. The dash is right at one’s fingertips. Audi could easily have integrated the screen and went with a touch-based system but opted to be fancy. It is a shame. The premium automakers are all making this mistake. The touch screen in the VW GTI I recently tested was better in every way.
I found the EPA-rated fuel economy to be shockingly low on the 2016 Q3 Quattro. 23 MPG combined and just 20 MPG city? The Mazda CX-3 by comparison is rated at 29 MPG combined and 27 city. Worse, the Q3 wants premium fuel. A much larger Subaru Outback gets 28 MPG combined and feels just as perky in normal driving. Safety is another area of concern. No forward collision prevention system on the Q3 means this vehicle is not even eligible for the top safety rating given by IIHS (called TSP+). This car screams “young family.” Why not equip it with the best safety equipment available?
The Audi Q3 is a fun to drive crossover with just enough room to be used as a family car. It is comfortable, feels expensive, and looks great. What cannot be ignored though is that the cars in this class from Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota also have these positive attributes, but come with more modern safety systems and a much lower cost per mile for fuel.
2016 Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI Quattro
Base Price: $35,800
Price As Tested: $40,300 (including destination charge)
- Just Large Enough
- Transmission is Not a DCT
- A Rearview Camera in an Audi/VW – Finally!
- Rear Suspension Less Than Confidence Inspiring
- Poor Fuel Economy and Premium Fuel
- Important Safety Systems Missing