2017 Audi Q3 Premium Rental Review - Bias Against 'Basic'

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
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2017 audi q3 premium rental review bias against basic

Confirmation bias can be a tricky thing to overcome in this business. You might not know this, but some people in this business think I have a bit of a preference for the Blue Oval. Some of my frenemies in the automotive journalism world have accused me of being pro-Honda. As for me, I’d like to think that I can objectively evaluate any car, but let’s be realistic here — we’re all humans. We have experiences and biases that rear their ugly heads even when we are doing our damnedest to shove them deep down inside ourselves.

But there’s a entire class of car I personally find reprehensible, for no other reason than I find the types of people who drive them to be, well, reprehensible. When I think “Luxury Compact CUV,” I think “ Basic Bitch.” These vehicles serve no actual purpose. In most cases, they have less space than their compact car siblings, worse gas mileage, and prices that soar at least $5-7k higher. The only reason to purchase or (more likely) lease such a Basicmobile is to fit in with the other SAHMs in your subdivision who have seamlessly transitioned from college frat mattress to PTA vice-president in only 10 years flat. When a female friend of mine texted me recently with, “What do you think about the Audi Q3?” my response was so vile that I can’t put it into print (and if you think about the things I’ve written, that’s saying something).

As a result, I was absolutely determined to hate the 2017 Audi Q3 Premium when I selected it from the Emerald Aisle at Miami International Airport. There was only one problem with drinking this particular flavor of haterade.

It’s a pretty damn good car.

Of course, it took me a little while to come to this conclusion. I hate the fact that it’s called “Premium.” The Premium is the base, no fog lamps, no navigation, smaller wheels model — so why is it called “Premium?”

For a “Premium” car, the interior is flat-out disgusting. In fact, it wouldn’t be acceptable in a $18,000 car, much less one that starts at $32,900 USD. The knobs and switches feel much more Volkswagen than Audi — and that’s being kind, considering the interior of the last VW I reviewed (the Golf AllTrack) was miles better than this. While nobody in Miami would opt for the combination of black leather interior and a panoramic sunroof in a daily driver, in my rental, it made the seating areas a “No Shorts” zone, as the leather quickly became hot enough in the middle of the day to scorch the thighs of unsuspecting passengers.

Then there was the fact I couldn’t connect my phone to the infotainment system via USB — the port was specifically marked “charging only.” In my seven years of driving over 40 different cars per year, that was a first. Luckily, connecting via Bluetooth was seamless and easy — just kidding. It was a seven-step catastrophe that the Q3 made me repeat every time I started the car, forcing me to pair my device multiple times per day.

This wouldn’t have been quite as annoying if the infotainment wasn’t a relic from the turn of the century. Of course it’s not a touchscreen, because those are available in Ford Fiestas. No, it requires a bizarre combination of knobs and buttons to use, and none of the menus make any sense whatsoever. And once you’ve managed to get your device to actually pair for the third time that morning, it treats you to an audio assault resembling nothing so much as children beating pots and pans together, as the stereo system is unlistenable.

Okay, did you make it through all the silly complaints about the interior? Good. Because here’s the good part: the car is an absolute hoot to drive.

If you can look past the terrible interior and the absent fog lights (on a $32,900 car!) and the overall poverty-spec level accoutrements of the car ($32,900!!), you realize that the Q3 is essentially a lifted Golf. And this is a very, very good thing.

The suspension is sorted well enough to make driving in Miami borderline tolerable, even with the horrible roads, relentless traffic, and army of uninsured Altima pilots surrounding you. It somehow manages to be soft enough for daily comfort but stiff enough to make taking the occasional on-ramp at speed mildly exhilarating. The base 18-inch wheels and tire combination look somewhat small and, again, poverty-spec in photos, but in daily usage they combine to provide excellent grip and lateral stability. This led to all sorts of inappropriate hooning on my part and some rather curious looks from passersby, most of whom weren’t expecting to see a middle-aged fan in Oakleys giggling his head off behind the wheel.

The 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four motor isn’t a powerhouse per se, but it’s sufficiently motivated to make the Q3 seem like you could be relatively competitive in a local autocross, should it come to that. I was mildly surprised to see that the manufacturer’s 0-60 test number was just a hair under 8 seconds — the little Audi feels much more lively than the data suggests. Highway noise and vibrations were tolerable, at best, but maybe that’s because the Q3 seems happiest when it’s revving high and dancing into open spots between cars, darting into spaces that its more portly brethren wouldn’t and couldn’t manage.

As a result, when driving the Q3 I often found myself saying out loud, to nobody in particular, “Man, I like this car.” It’s qualitatively fun to drive, it fits into just about any parking space you want it to, and it even satisfies the badge whore within.

But there’s one thing that’s entirely wrong about the Audi Q3 Premium (well, other than being called “Premium”) — the price. There’s no way in hell this thing is worth $32,900. It just isn’t. In fact, I’d have a hard time paying anything over $25k for it. The interior isn’t worth it. The motor, while suitably spry, needs another 70-80 hp to justify that price tag. The paint is of similar quality to any subcompact on the market. It doesn’t even have fog lamps. All of this is forgivable in a Golf, or even a GTI. None of it is forgivable in a car that clocks in at right around the average vehicle transaction price in America. If you’re gonna charge average money, you gotta include average content, even if you do put the four rings on the grille.

In the end, the Audi Q3 is pretty much the opposite of most of the people who buy it — a good heart, but just too cheap on the outside to make it worth the money.

[Images: © Mark “Bark M.” Baruth]

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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  • Conundrum Conundrum on Aug 23, 2017

    This Q3 thing rests on old bones, pre MQB, Mk VI Golf underneath and has the ancient Mk 1 version of the EA888 four banger - or some lash-up thereof. If it had the same engine as the current A3/GTI it would actually be able to get out of its own way. With VW/Audi it's a crapshoot which engine you get when for years they have merely referred to them as 2.0t's. For example, when the EA888 Mk III first was announced, it had dual port/direct fuel injection. But of course, VW/Audi in their wisdom decided that such a useful feature was much too expensive for the US market, so we got just direct injection, and a cheap version of the new electronic thermostat cooling system. Thanks VW. Still, it did have the integrated exhaust manifold built into the cylinder head that all Gen 3 engines got. Gen 3 engines also get a cylinder block made of compacted-graphite iron which is why the first 2015 GTI Mk VII was made in Germany, not Mexico, where they were getting ready to build the 1.8t Gen 3 CGI found in the Golf, and weren't ready to make the 2.0t version. I have wasted my time in VW and Audi dealerships peering underhood trying to see which exhaust manifold you get in things like the Beetle, Q3 and Jetta GLI. Too much plastic shroud obscuring relevant bits. Asking the sales people is of course as much use as questioning a concrete breeze block wall. And not carrying a forensic kit, who can tell if the block is made of grey cast iron from the old designs, or the new CGI? How the hell VW can even keep straight what edition of 2.0t they put in various vehicles is beyond me, and I suspect them. Why would any outfit with a brain keep manufacturing various "current" and out-of-date variants of an engine whose main commonality is only bore and stroke? Well VW does, but they also made the cheater diesels of two liters with belt-driven cams instead of putting in chain-driven cams as per the gas engines. Just nutz. The paperwork on all variants must keep clerks busy at a game which was stupid to begin with. Anyone who compared a 2015 GTI Mk VII with a Jetta GLI on a test drive like me would have no doubt that the engines were different. The dud one in the Jetta has also made its way into Tiguans and Q3 to this day. Now we have besides the 210/220 hp Gen 3 engine in the GTI/A3, the latest 252 hp version in the latest A4, Q5 and even Q7. It does seem nice, but whether North America got the dual port/direct fuel injection and the advanced cooling system you get in Europe WhoTF knows - it doesn't affect peak power output. It's why I cannot be bothered to buy a VW/Audi product - you don't know what you're getting, they don't tell you and seem to be run like some giant bureaucracy whose left hand hasn't a clue what the right hand is doing. Can you imagine Toyota organizing itself like this? Exactly.

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    • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Aug 23, 2017

      I don't think it is really all that complicated. Which engine in large part depends on where the car is built. As you pointed out, Mexico wasn't ready to build the 2.0t, so they stuck with the 1.8t. The US market won't pay for the absolute wiz-bang latest and greatest anyway. The Jetta is a decent wedge cheaper than the Golf, on a different platform, so not surprised it has the old engine for now. Why spend the money on replacing the motor when they whole platform is due for an update anyway? Once the engine plant is built, you can just keep cranking them out, so I don't blame them for keeping the old designs around to amortize them further. Seems like smart business. The overwhelming majority of people neither know nor care what is under the hood other than in broad generalities.

  • Secret Hi5 Secret Hi5 on Aug 23, 2017

    So are the "Premium" knobs and switches actually different than in the higher trim levels? I find it hard to believe that VAG would go out of its way to do that and save a few pfennige!

  • Mr Imperial Seeing the adjusted-for-inflation amount always makes me sick, I can't believe how much it has gone up in my 40-some-odd trips around the sun. Still fondly remember seeing these and Ford Explorers everywhere.
  • Kyl65759578 👋
  • ToolGuy I appreciate the thoughtful comments from the little people here, and I would like to remind everyone that Ford Motor Company offers a full range of vehicles which are ideal for any driving environment including New York City. The size and weight our of product portfolio has been fully and completely optimized to be friendly to the planet and friendly to pedestrians while consuming the bare minimum of resources from our precious planet (I am of course a lifelong environmentalist). Plus, our performance models will help you move forward and upward by conquering obstacles and limits such as congestion and your fellow humans more quickly at a higher rate of speed. I invite you to learn more at our website.Signed, William Clay Ford Jr.
  • George Hughes What ever happened to the American can-do attitude. I know what, it was coopted by the fossil fuel industry in their effort to protect their racket.
  • 28-Cars-Later "But Assemblyman Phil Ting, the San Franciscan Democrat who wrote the electric school bus legislation, says this is all about the health and wellbeing of Golden State residents. In addition to the normal air pollution stemming from exhaust gasses, he believes children are being exposed to additional carcinogens by just being on a diesel bus."Phil is into real estate, he doesn't know jack sh!t about science or medicine and if media were real it would politely remind him his opinions are not qualified... if it were real. Another question if media were real is why is a very experienced real estate advisor and former tax assessor writing legislation on school busses? If you read the rest of his bio after 2014, his expertise seems to be applied but he gets into more and more things he's not qualified to speak to or legislate on - this isn't to say he isn't capable of doing more but just two years ago Communism™ kept reminding me Dr. Fauxi knew more about medicine than I did and I should die or something. So Uncle Phil just gets a pass with his unqualified opinions?Ting began his career as a real estate  financial adviser at  Arthur Andersen and  CBRE. He also previously served as the executive director of the  Asian Law Caucus, as the president of the Bay Area Assessors Association, and on the board of  Equality California. [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Ting#cite_note-auto-1][1][/url][h3][/h3]In 2005, Ting was appointed San Francisco Assessor-Recorder in 2005 by Mayor  Gavin Newsom, becoming San Francisco’s highest-ranking  Chinese-American official at the time. He was then elected to the post in November 2005, garnering 58 percent of the vote.Ting was re-elected Assessor-Recorder in 2006 and 2010During his first term in the Assembly, Ting authored a law that helped set into motion the transformation of Piers 30-32 into what would become  Chase Center the home of the  Golden State Warriorshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Ting