Beware the next car you buy.
If you like it enough, it’ll make you do weird things. Things such as offering to pick up co-workers who live in far-flung places on a Monday-morning commute. Things like fetching a friend from JFK Airport, even though he doesn’t land until 10 p.m. on a Thursday. Such things as agreeing to a Sunday drive through touristy Brooklyn, despite the wobbly brunch crowds.
If it has a sunroof that spans the length of the car, that won’t help matters—especially on that Sunday drive.
And if it happens to be the 2015 Audi Q3 Quattro—well, you're done. It has that sunroof. It also has a fresh, modern body and a spacious interior made with the same thoughtful design as a pair of Nike trainers. It’s neither too big to park in the city nor too small to fit several friends for an impromptu road trip.
This is a car that could foist unexpected life changes upon you.
Worth Every Penny
The Q3 is Audi’s smallest crossover—shorter than the Q5 but taller than the A3 Sportback. It comes with a 200-horsepower turbocharged engine, a six-speed transmission, and Audi’s trademark “Quattro” all-wheel drive. Speed-sensitive power steering and an off-road mode come standard.
Driving the Q3 feels like a holiday from the mundane crossovers that litter suburban parking lots nationwide. (Lexus and Infiniti, I’m looking at you.) It handles corners with the grace of a Balanchine dancer, and it's as polite as a five-star hotel concierge when you brake. Its steering is smooth and responsive, engaging drivers rather than lulling them into over-teched stupor, as some luxury vehicles are wont to do.
The Q3 surges to 60 miles per hour in just over seven seconds, with a highway efficiency of 29 miles per gallon. Those are not the best numbers in its segment, but they are commensurate with the size and price of this vehicle. (The much-more-expensive Porsche Macan Turbo gets to 60mph in 4.6 seconds, but it costs $73,900; the $31,200 BMW X1 gets 34mpg on the highway.
In short, the Q3 should land high on your list when you're considering something spacious enough to fulfill family needs, quick enough to challenge sport sedans on the highway, and stylish enough to complement your cosmopolitan lifestyle. The $32,500 price tag and German-marque cachet add to its appeal.
Which German for You?
In fact, the real question here isn’t whether or not the Q3 is a good car—it is—but whether it fits your personality. More specifically, whether it fits your personality better than its competitors: the $31,300 Mercedes GLA Class, the $34,480 Lexus NX, the $41,100 Range Rover Evoque, and the $31,200 BMW X1.
This is indicative of the luxury market today. Barring a few entries whose lackluster interior appointments and performance demonstrate their inferiority (ahem, Acura), nearly every small luxury crossover in this segment deserves thoughtful attention from those considering a purchase. They’re good cars—levels ahead of what we saw in this price segment 10 years ago, just one generation in automotive aging.
So do you want the supremely precise steering and strict German drivetrain of the X1 or the superior technological advancements and cush feel of the GLA? Do you like the fresh athleticism and young creative image of the Q3 or the British heritage and off-roading bloodline of the Evoque?
For most people, choosing the Audi—over, say, the Merc—comes down to brand loyalty and image more than anything else.
Here’s what the Q3 offers: bold xenon headlights, sharp iridescent wedge taillights, and 19-inch, 5-double-spoke, off-road-ready wheels. This feat of design—which feels elevated well past the height of a car when you're behind the wheel, but looks sedan-sized from afar—took me a minute to find one morning as my gaze swept the street for an SUV-sized rig.
The Q3 has front and rear fog lights, power-heated side mirrors, rear privacy glass, aluminum roof rails, and a tailgate spoiler. And the large lateral grill that's unmistakable on every modern Audi.
Along its sides, a straight body line runs from the front lights to the high rear hips. It creates a crisp and strong profile. Each wheel, too, looks sharp and bold, placed evenly from each end of the car.
Inside, the unfettered elbow room was a boon for my long limbs, and the black leather, heated seats supported my long back admirably. (All right, I may have fallen deep asleep one afternoon while waiting for a friend.) The dashboard is minimal, without feeling bare, and the entertainment system is intuitive and ergonomically designed. Ambient LED lights throughout add to the luxe effect.
Audi's message here is that its driver is educated, young, and thoughtful, with an eye toward modest design.
If you do buy this car, I urge you to choose the Prestige version (just about $4,000 more, starting at $36,400), where you’ll find such necessary extras as the park assist system, power tailgate, and 14-speaker BOSE surround sound. You’ll forget the minimal additional cost in no time.
And yes, to some degree or another, you can also find all these nice things in the BMW X1 or the Mercedes GLA Class. It means you’re going to have to decide what, specifically, you want to feel the most when you drive—and what you want your car to say about you.
Better get started on those test drives.