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Redesigned 2018 Audi Q3 promises more room and a better all-around driving experience

2018 Audi Q3

2018 Audi Q3

What changes will make the 2018 Audi Q3 different?

Everything. A restyled body on a new platform, revised powertrains, and updated safety and convenience features mark the debut of an all-new Q3. Launching the second-generation of this premium subcompact crossover, the ’18 Q3 will be roomier, better performing, and more fuel efficient than its predecessor.

The outgoing Q3 is the oldest vehicle in Audi’s lineup, having gone on sale in Europe for model-year 2011 and coming to America for model-year ‘14. The redesigned 2018 Q3 will adopt the critically acclaimed “MQB” architecture that underpins several models from parent-company Volkswagen, including the latest Golf family of compact cars, the redesigned 2018 Tiguan compact crossover, and Audi’s own A3 subcompact car. The Q3 will again slot into Audi’s lineup below the compact-class Q5 crossover, although some reports say the automaker is considering filling even that gap with a sporty, coupe-like crossover tentatively called the Q4.

The Q3’s competitive set isn’t enormous but it is interesting. It reveals premium brands in pursuit of buyers who want prestige badges but not large, expensive SUVs. Indeed, every entry in the class represents its maker’s smallest crossover and in some cases, its least expensive vehicle. Q3’s direct rivals are the BMW X1, Lexus NX, Volvo XC40, and the Infiniti QX30 and its mechanically similar crossover from Mercedes-Benz, the GLA. The NX is the volume leader but none is a big seller, with the first-generation Q3 languishing near the bottom.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

To see how the all-new Q3 stacks up against its rivals and whether it suits you better than the original. Compared with the outgoing model, the redesigned Q3 will be about 2 inches longer overall and in wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles), as well as about 2 inches wider. That should translate to a more comfortable ride, more stable handling, and increased passenger and cargo volume. The MQB platform also accommodates conventional hybrid and plug-in hybrid systems, but don’t expect such variants until at least 2019.

All 2018 Q3s will retain a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, though it’ll be a newer design than the outgoing one. Front-wheel drive will remain standard, with Audi’s excellent quattro all-wheel drive (AWD) system optional. Expect a repeat of the 2017 three-tier lineup consisting of base Premium, volume-selling Premium Plus, and flagship Prestige models.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

It’s worth considering, if you can get a great price as dealers begin to clear inventories ahead of the ’18’s arrival. Base prices start at $32,750 and top out at $42,250 for the AWD Prestige. The ‘17 Q3 is a pleasant, refined small crossover with arguably the most upscale interior décor in the class. That cabin isn’t very big, though; VW’s Golf hatchback has more passenger space and cargo volume. At 23 mpg city-highway combined with both front-drive and AWD, fuel economy is at the back of the premium compact-crossover pack. And more modern entries from BMW and Lexus ride and handle better.

Will the styling be different?

Yes, but not dramatically. Expect the new Q3 to adopt the design language of other recently introduced Audis, including the Q5 and A4 sedan, bringing more sharply cut lines and a more angular grille. Full LED exterior lighting should be standard across the board.

The interior is where you’ll see the lion’s share of updates. The outgoing model’s somewhat scattershot arrangement of controls will be revamped in favor of the slicker, more ergonomic layout of the A4 and Q5. Expect Audi’s virtual cockpit instrument display to be available on the Prestige. It replaces a traditional gauge cluster with a 12.3-inch LCD display that can be driver-configured to show a variety of driving data. On paper, it’s an interesting piece of “gee-whiz” technology. In practice, though, it comes off as more of a gimmick, and we worry about what could happen in the event that the display suffers a catastrophic failure. One thing that shouldn’t change is the quality of interior materials. Despite Q3 being one of Audi’s entry-level models, its generous application of textured, soft-touch plastics would feel right at home in a vehicle costing twice as much.

The redesigned Q3’s extra length and width should translate into much improved passenger and cargo room. The back seat in the outgoing model is rather tight, even for average-size adults. While it likely won’t match the class-leading X1 for overall cargo capacity, expect the new Q3 to improve on the old models’ rather modest 48.2 cubic feet of space with the rear seatbacks folded.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes. Replacing a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque would be the turbo 2.0-liter four from Audi’s A3 subcompact car. Expect about 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Combined with the redesigned 2018 Q3’s lighter curb weight, acceleration should easily beat the outgoing model’s middling 0-60-mph times of 7.8 seconds with front-drive and 8.2 with AWD. And if our experience with a variety of other VW and Audi vehicles on the MQB platform, overall road manners are almost certain to improve, as well.

Replacing a six-speed automatic as the sole transmission would likely be a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Front-wheel drive would return as standard, with AWD again a highly recommend option, at around $2,100. Audi’s quattro system isn’t intended for off-road use but does provide a noticeable improvement in both dry- and wet-road handling.

Will fuel economy improve?

Undoubtedly. Despite being one of the smaller entries in the competitive set, the outgoing Q3 is the least fuel efficient. Even with additional power, the ’18 Q3 should exceed its EPA ratings. Expect something like 22/31/25 mpg city/highway/combined for both front- and all-wheel drive. Also expect Audi to continue to recommend, though not require, premium-grade 91-octane gasoline for the Q3.

Will it have new features?

Yes. Audi will bring the redesigned Q3 fully up to date in terms of luxury, convenience, and, most important, safety features. The outgoing model lacks both the active and passive driver aids that are either standard or optional on all rivals. While it scored well in crash tests done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning top “Good” marks across the board, the ’17 Q3 is not eligible for the coveted Top Safety Pick award because is isn’t available with autonomous emergency braking, automatic steering correction, radar cruise control, or forward-collision warning. Expect Audi to rectify this on the ’18 – and we hope it’ll make them available – or standard – on all models, not just the costliest.

Expect the brand’s cabin-décor superiority to continue, with all ’18 Q3s including leather upholstery and 12-way power front seats. Almost certain to be available for the first time will be the stunning Audi virtual cockpit, a 12.3-inch hi-def display the projects in the main instrument pod detailed navigation mapping and a host of other vehicle and infotainment data. Also aboard for ’18 will be a programmable power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, front- and rear-obstacle detection, rain-sensing windshield wipers, ambient LED interior lighting, and a panoramic moonroof.

Expect the ’18 Premium Plus to again add power-folding exterior mirrors and keyless access with pushbutton ignition. Prestige versions would have Audi connect infotainment with support for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto; in-dash GPS navigation with Google Maps; blind-spot alert, and a Bose-brand audio system.

How will 2018 prices be different?

They’ll likely rise, but what pricing strategy Audi will follow only its bean counters know. The automaker stands to reduce the cost of Q3 production because assembly of the redesigned model will move from Europe to the automaker’s plant in Mexico. Will it pass the savings along by holding price increases to a minimum? That would surely be a compelling competitive move. Or will it pocket the savings and boost profitability by increasing prices?

As a baseline, here are the starting prices for the 2017 Q3 line, including Audi’s $950 destination fee: with front-wheel drive, the Premium model begins at $32,750, the Premium Plus starts at $35,450, and the Prestige at $40,150. Quattro adds another $2,100 to all.

Audi could expand standard features on the ’18, making keyless entry with pushbutton ignition standard across the board rather than charging Premium-trim buyers $850 for it. As another baseline, this time for an idea of options prices, are a selection of the 2017 extra-cost features. On the Premium model, $500 for heated front seats and $2,100 for GPS navigation with Audi’s MMI control interface. The navigation system costs $2,600 on the Premium Plus but includes blind-spot alert as well (Audi could make it standard on the ’18).

The Premium Plus’s $550 Sport Interior Package adds sport bucket seats, driver adjustable suspension and throttle settings, a black cloth headliner, and steering-wheel paddle shifters. The Prestige’s standard 19-inch wheels are available as an $800 standalone option on the Premium Plus. And $350 replaces the Premium Plus’ standard aluminum interior trim with woodgrain.

The items in the Premium Plus’ Sport Interior Package are also available on the Prestige, along with piano-black interior trim and unique wheels as part of a $950 Sport Plus Package. For 2018, the virtual cockpit and other high-tech goodies would probably be bundled into some kind of Technology Package for the Prestige that could cost anywhere from $2,000-$4,000. On all models, paint colors other than black or white are $575; for $3,900, you can ask Audi to match a Q3 to any color you choose (within reason).

Even at these prices, it might be a bit difficult to make a compelling case for the Q3. That’s because for similar money or not much more, you can get into a larger, more powerful compact-class premium crossover, such as the Acura RDX.

When will it come out?

Expect a fall 2017 release date for the 2018 Audi Q3.

Best competitors

BMW X1, Infiniti QX30, Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

What change would make it better?

Q3’s 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 class-leading Lexus NX.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]