A case for slow­ing down and en­joy­ing the ride

The Washington Post Sunday - - CARS - War­ren Brown war­ren.brown@wash­post.com

I put it in “Sport” and left it there. It felt all-around bet­ter in that mode, although “Nor­mal” was in no way of­fen­sive. It’s just that “Sport” ap­peared to move with more au­thor­ity, es­pe­cially on west­bound In­ter­state 66 near the evening rush hour, when some au­thor­ity is needed.

The Audi Q3 Pres­tige for 2016, the sec­ond model year in which the sub­com­pact cross­over-util­ity ve­hi­cle has been on sale in the United States, be­haved well. It was re­spon­sive, steer­ing easily around less-po­lite traf­fic— mo­torists cut­ting in, hog­ging the pass­ing lane, wan­der­ing aim­lessly into ad­join­ing lanes— with lit­tle or no drama.

I liked this one and found­my­self won­der­ing why col­leagues in the automotive media played down its per­for­mance, say­ing that it was nei­ther as fast nor as ag­ile as com­pet­i­tive crossovers such as the Lexus NX 200t, the larger Audi Q5 or the 2016BMWX1.

Per­cep­tion is in the eyes and at­ti­tude of the be­holder, I guess.

I’ve long ago jet­ti­soned my view of public roads, of­ten con­gested with other peo­ple and their fam­i­lies, nearly all of whom ex­pect to get to where they are go­ing alive and with­out in­jury, asmy per­sonal race­tracks. Iwant a ve­hi­cle that moves with au­thor­ity when it has to move. But let’s face it: Egre­gious speed­ing has never got­ten me any­where ex­cept into trou­ble.

I can slow down, es­pe­cially in a nice ve­hi­cle. And the Audi Q3 Pres­tige, on sale over­seas since 2011, is nice.

Fit and fin­ish are ex­cel­lent. The seats are cov­ered with sup­ple leather. The car is well out­fit­ted with op­tions and stan­dard equip­ment— blind-side warn­ing, rearview backup cam­era, park­ing-as­sis­tance tech­nol­ogy, on­board nav­i­ga­tion fea­tur­ing Google map tech­nol­ogy, and one of the best sound sys­tems avail­able in any au­to­mo­bile at any price— a Bose sur­round- sound stereo (465 watts, 10 chan­nels, 14 speak­ers).

The Q3 Pres­tige re­flects the re­al­ity of gov­ern­men­tal pres­sures world­wide— the push for safer, cleaner, more fu­el­ef­fi­cient ve­hi­cles. Iwould have thought, inas­much as it has been around since 2011, dur­ing which time the global automotive mar­ket has been flooded with com­pact cross­over-util­ity mod­els, that Audi would have boosted the Q3’s power a bit. It hasn’t.

Those fa­mil­iar with Audi will find the same rea­son­ably fuel-ef­fi­cient, re­li­able tur­bocharged (forced air) 2-liter in-line four-cylin­der ga­so­line en­gine (200 horse­power, 207 pound-feet of torque) that mo­ti­vates many Audi prod­ucts de­signed more for af­ford­abil­ity than they are for earth-scorch­ing road per­for­mance. And the 2016 Q3 is af­ford­able, in the en­try-level lux­ury sense, although it car­ries a base price $1,200 higher than last year’s model.

Audi’s ar­gu­ment is that it has loaded more stan­dard equip­ment into the 2016 Q3, which also has un­der­gone a mod­est facelift for the newyear. As­sum­ing that Audi keeps the model around for another sea­son or two, as it is likely to do, look for a few­more changes. For ex­am­ple, rare is the pre­mium ve­hi­cle nowa­days that isn’t fully plug-in ready— USB ports, that sort of thing. The Q3 is no­tice­ably and dis­ap­point­ingly lack­ing in such good­ies.

But here, ad­mit­tedly, I am look­ing for some­thing to com­plain about. The truth is that the Q3 is a good car, one that will serve the daily trans­porta­tion needs of most small fam­i­lies quite well. It fits easily into the city with­out hold­ing you hostage at the fuel tank (20 miles per gallon in the city, 29 on the high­way.) But, yes, it does re­quire pre­mium fuel. Still, I like it. It makes sense. And even fully op­tioned— all-wheel drive and ad­vanced elec­tronic safety equip­ment— it is en­joy­able at a price—$42,625— that does not leave me to­tally gasp­ing for breath.


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