Recently I had the opportunity to spend a long winter weekend with friends in New England’s epicenter of Sailing, Newport Rhode Island. Since we were where hanging out at the elite New York Yacht Club, it seems right to book a luxury car through Priceline’s AutoSlash, which Alamo stated would be a Cadillac or similar.
After a grand welcomed to the top level of PVD Airport’s rental car garage, though by an Alamo competitor, we walked the few steps to the Alamo area and were once again welcomed with the offer of an Audi sedan or SUV as our luxury car.
The choice was the SUV, which turned out to be a Q3. While I have driven both the Q7 and Q5 variants, I have not been in a Q3. Alamo escorted us to the vehicle with a personal walk around offering to help with our luggage. Was this because we were renting a luxury car? Turns out, this is how Alamo is treating every customer who rents from them. Upon our return, again, we received a personalized, by name, welcome and “How was the Q3 for you?” To add to this excellent level of service, an Alamo employee drove us, in our car, directly to the airport terminal. No need to unload and navigate the long walk with our luggage. Big Kudos to Alamo Rental car for that kind of personalized service.
Now about the Audi Q3
The Audi brand name alone is what must classify this as a luxury vehicle for Alamo. As the Q3 rented from them was an un-optioned base model, even with the S-Line nomenclature that appears on it. The $2100 navigation function was not included, which left the center screen a selection of menu options. Having just the Audi logo would have been better than the un-informative sub-menus that were displayed.
The Q3 is the smallest of Audi’s SUV line up, Q5 and Q7 being the larger kin, has a sticker price according to Audi’s website of $32,900 plus $975 destination, taxes registration, and title. Upgrades available are the $2900 Premium Plus package and the $2900 quattro® all-wheel drive that Audi is so well known for.
This rental did not have the paint upgrade ($575 for a standard color, up to $3900 for an exclusive Audi Paint color. Nor the $1000 Audi Sport Package, which includes Audi Drive Select, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles, or 19 inch 5-double spoke offroad design wheels with 255/40 all-season tires. No sport seats, either! Both optional packages require the $1350 Convenience Package, which includes the Audi Advanced Key (front doors and tailgate.) Auto-dimming interior mirror with compass. And a power tailgate and decorative aluminum satellite design inlay on the interior. All those options would have made the Q3 even better than it already is.
While the Q3 is comfortable, it is small. Easier to get in and out of due to the SUV’s height, though rear passenger egress was tight as was rear storage. The standard Xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights were nice to cut through the February fog and rain. While it seems the now standard on most vehicles, a rear-view camera and acoustic parking system did help in backing in and out of tight parking spots.
The Q3 was equipped with a 16-valve Double Overhead Cam turbo-charged fuel injected 2.0 TSFI Engine. This cast-iron engine block with an aluminum head four-cylinder (1,984 cc displacement, 82.5cc bore, and 92.8 stroke) produces 200 horsepower @5100 to 6000 rpms, and 207 lb.-ft torque at 1700-5000 rpm. Mated to a six-speed Tiptronic® automatic transmission. The Q3 has a 0 to 60 mph speed in 8.2 seconds. Which was a bit anemic for Rhode Island’s fast moving I-95 traffic.
Fuel Economy for our short under 100-mile drive, a mix of highway and in-town driving, was unimpressive at 18.63 mpg on premium 91 Octane gasoline. But for a 2-wheel drive and the short driving we did, not amazing. Averaging -20 City 20 Highway 28 estimated with a 16.9 Gallon Tank I did expect better for this small car.
I found the handling of the Q3 was a little numb, which surprised me for an Audi with front MacPherson struts and four-link rear suspension. Unlike the Q5 which is more nimble. The fully galvanized steel unibody with an aluminum hood and tailgate gave the Q3 a feel solid. Running on 235/50R18 all-season tires mounted on 7-inch wide wheels gave it a solid grip on the wet roadways. Steering is tight, and I did not notice the power dropping off with electromechanical power steering when the engine shuts off at stop lights. Braking was fine with the 12.3” front ventilated discs and solid 11.1” rear disc brakes.
Leather seating surfaces were nice, though without reading the website, I might have thought they were faux leather. The 60/40 split folding rear seat made the useable but tight cargo area better (16.7/50.3cu ft, cu ft, rear seatbacks up/folded down.)
Even in the dreary weather, it was nice to have the panoramic sunroof over both the front and rear seats. The three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with tilt and telescope manual adjustment was comfortable to hold onto as was the leather-wrapped shift knob. I always like ambient LED interior lighting, and today you need the power outlets.
I missed pushbutton start on the Q3, for an upscale car having to get the switchblade key out and put back every time seemed so old-fashioned. While our trip did not encounter freezing temperatures having the heated windshield washer nozzles is a great help.
The Audi Concert Single CD player Radio with MP3 capability was confusing to operate, especially while driving. Having the BLUETOOTH® and voice control system did make it easier.
While this Audi made for a great rental vehicle, stylish and well sized, with decent handling. If I were to choose one as a daily driver, having more optional equipment would make me happier. Though after driving the Q5 and the SQ5, I would upgrade to one of them, preferably the SQ5.
This Q3 is made at Audi’s production facility in Spain and has a 4-year/50K Mile Audi New Vehicle Warranty and comes with 12-month / 10K mile no charge first scheduled maintenance.
Queer4Cars is always big on getting deals when we go shopping, for anything. Check with organizations you belong to for their buying service options, from your insurance company or financial institution to the warehouse clubs. When local auto shows happen, always stop by the booth of the brands you are interested in and request them to send you more information. Many times you will get a monetary incentive opportunity to buy a vehicle because of this.
Photos and words by William West Hopper.