Updated May 25th, 2017
What changes make the 2018 Audi Q3 different?
Revised styling touches – Audi’s sporty S line look is now standard — and a redistribution of features from the Prestige model, which has been discontinued.
Slotting below the compact Q5, the Q3 premium-subcompact crossover is Audi’s entry-level SUV and the oldest product in its North American lineup. The five-seater launched here for model-year 2014 and is being held over a little longer than anticipated. An all-new version was expected for model-year 2018, but it now looks as if it’ll arrive during 2018, as a 2019 model.
The Q3’s competitive set isn’t enormous, but it is interesting. It targets buyers who want prestige badges but not large SUVs. Indeed, every entry in this class represents its maker’s smallest crossover and in some cases, its least-expensive vehicle.
Direct rivals include the BMW X1, Lexus NX, Range Rover Evoque, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and mechanically similar Infiniti QX30, and the upcoming 2019 Volvo XC40. The Buick Encore, which helped pioneer the segment in 2013, is the class volume leader, with the Q3 ahead of only the Evoque at the bottom of the sales chart.
Why should I buy a 2018?
To take advantage of the updated equipment that Audi is making available on this vehicle. It isn’t the best of the premium subcompact crossovers, as evidenced by its modest sales.
Some blame goes to its aged design; it went on sale in overseas markets some three years before coming to the U.S. for 2014. The styling is generic-Volkswagen-family hatchback, albeit juiced this year by S line trim. The interior furnishes adequate rear-seat legroom at best and lacks Audi’s usual pizzazz, despite standard leather upholstery. Ride, handling, and overall refinement are quite impressive, but acceleration is lackadaisical and fuel economy below par for the class.
The 2018 model line returns base Premium and upscale Premium Plus trim levels. The flagship Prestige is dropped in favor of upgrades to the surviving models. All Q3s continue with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a choice of front-wheel drive or Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive (AWD) system.
Should I wait for the 2019 model instead?
We would, because it’ll be fully redesigned, better performance and more contemporary styling. The new body should sport the more rakish cut lines and angular grille found on other recently redesigned Audis, including the Q5 and flagship Q7 crossover, as well as the A4 sedan. Also expect a roomier interior with a dashboard and control layout that mimics the more ergonomic one found in the A4 and Q5.
Best of all, the next-generation Q3 will adopt the critically acclaimed “MQB” architecture that underpins Audi’s A3 subcompact car and several models from parent-company Volkswagen, including the Golf family of compact cars and the redesigned 2018 Tiguan compact crossover.
Audi is also reportedly considering filling the gap between the Q3 and Q5 with a sporty, coupe-like crossover that would be called the Q4. And it’s rolled out an even smaller crossover called the Q2, but that one doesn’t seem destined for U.S. sales.
Is the styling different?
Very slightly, thanks to S line trim as standard. Even this brings very subtle exterior tweaks, so you’d need to look at 2017 and 2018 Q3s side-by-side to see the difference. Both models continue with 18-inch alloy wheels; highly polished 19s are part of the Spot Package option. Adding the Sport Package to the Premium Plus makes it eligible to the Sport Plus Package, which adds black exterior trim, roof rack, and wheels.
The 2018 Q3’s interior boasts excellent materials quality, if a somewhat scattershot arrangement of controls. Front-seat room and comfort are fine. The back seat is a bit cramped, even for adults of average size. Maximum cargo volume of 48.2 cubic feet is near the bottom of the pack. Once again, you’ll have to wait for the next-generation model to go on sale in order to see any significant changes.
Any mechanical changes?
No. All models reprise a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. These figures are near the bottom of the competitive set. It further doesn’t help that the drivetrain has to move a vehicle with a somewhat portly curb weight of 3,494 pounds with front-wheel drive and 3,682 with AWD. As a result, 0-60-mph acceleration times are middling at best: 7.8 seconds with front-drive and 8.2 with AWD.
Despite its added heft and cost ($2,100), we would still recommend a Q3 with AWD. Though not intended for off-road use, quattro improves both dry- and wet-road handling over a similar front-drive model.
Is fuel economy improved?
Don’t count on it until the next-generation model arrives. Fuel-economy ratings for the 2018 Q3 were unavailable in time for this report but expect no change from 2017 ratings of 20/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined for both front-wheel drive and AWD models. Audi recommends, but does not require, premium-grade 91-octane gasoline for the Q3.
Does it have new features?
Yes. Newly standard across the board are heated front seats and Audi’s “S line” exterior styling package that includes a revised bumper and sporty body cladding.
These additions complement leather upholstery, 12-way power-adjustable front seats, a panoramic sunroof, rearview camera, and front- and rear-obstacle detection. Previously optional, full LED exterior lighting and blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection are now standard on the Premium Plus.
Unfortunately, advanced driver safety aids such as autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure alert, and automatic steering correction are still not available on any Q3. This means the 2018 model remains ineligible for Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. You’ll likely have to wait for the next-generation version for those key items.
How are 2018 prices different?
They’re higher on the Premium and Premium Plus due to their new standard equipment. At the same time, the Q3 line is less expensive overall because the Prestige trim level has been discontinued. With front-wheel drive, the Q3 Premium starts at $33,875, including mandatory $975 destination fee. The Premium Plus retails for $36,775. Add $2,100 to either model for AWD. Any Audi-devised paint color that is not basic black or white costs $575. For $3,900, the company will paint your Q3 in a custom color of your choosing.
The Premium’s Convenience Package ($1,350) includes keyless access with pushbutton ignition, power rear liftgate, and genuine aluminum interior trim.
Both the Premium and Premium Plus offer the Audi MMI Navigation Plus Package ($2,100) that includes imbedded GPS navigation, Audi’s MultiMedia Interface infotainment system, and Audi connect telematics.
Also available is the Sport Package ($1,000), which adds a flat-bottom steering wheel with manual gear-change paddles, front sport seats, and the 19-inch wheels. Adding the Sport Package to the Premium Plus opens up access to the $750 Sport Plus Package, which adds the shadowed exterior trim.
A Bose-brand audio system ($850) and genuine walnut wood interior trim in “Balsamic Brown” ($350) are extras exclusive to the Premium Plus.
At $37,900, an AWD Premium with extra-cost paint and Convenience Package is probably the best value in the Q3 lineup. The Sport Package isn’t a bad deal either considering upgraded aftermarket wheels and tires would set you back at least $1,000 by themselves.
When will it come out?
Release date for the 2018 Audi Q3 was mid-May 2017.
What change would make it better?
Q3’s upcoming redesign should address most of our concerns with the outgoing model, namely its back-of-the-pack fuel economy and lack of driver-assistance features. Hopefully these will come along with reduced starting prices. A $30,000 figure would make more sense, giving the new Q3 a better chance of piquing consumer interest, which Audi needs if it hopes to make headway against the top-selling Lexus NX.