Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has repeatedly emphasized the importance of SUVs to the brand's success going forward, and with the announcement of the Q3 compact crossover coming to the U.S. market for the 2015 model year, the company is making good on its promise. Just as the Escape-based Lincoln MKC is expected to be volume play for the brand, and Lexus is planning a sub-RX crossover, the Q3 could potentially become one of the brand's bigger sellers.
A Tiguan of a Different Breed
A quick look over the U.S.-spec Q3's vital stats show some striking similarities to another small crossover within the VWAG family, the Volkswagen Tiguan. Like VW's small SUV, the Q3 has a turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 producing 200 hp and 207 lb-ft, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Although the Q3 is offered with a TDI option in Europe, for the time being, this will be the sole powertrain in the U.S. market, with the buyer's choice of front drive or optional Quattro all-wheel drive.
Although the Q3 and Tiguan may share underpinnings and many mechanical components, the two have distinctly different styling, with the Audi having a more rakish D-pillar and rear glass compared with the Tiguan's more upright shape. As has become the Audi trademark lately, the Q3 will have xenon-plus front headlights with LED driving lights and taillights. LEDs are also found on the side mirrors and for the interior lighting. Standard equipment on the Q3 includes leather seating surfaces, heated 12-way power front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and Audi's "advanced key" system.
Optional equipment includes a power-actuated tailgate, a 14-speaker, 465-watt Bose Surround Sound system, and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. The optional Audi MMI system features Google Earth maps, and myAudi Destination feature, which allows the driver to download up to 50 destinations directly to the vehicle.
Special Editions, Quick Update?
Unconfirmed is the hot-rod five-cylinder RS Q3, which adopts much of the running gear of the RS3 in this small crossover. This generation of the Q3 may have a fairly short run in the U.S., as the Tiguan on which it's based has been out since 2009 and the current Q3 has been on sale in Europe since 2011. A new model could come as soon as 2017.
The initial batch of U.S.-bound Q3s will probably come from VWAG's plant in Martorell, Spain, where the Euro-market Q3s are made, or could from Wolfsburg, Germany, where the Tiguan is built. The next-generation Q3 could come from Audi's under-construction plant in San Jose Chiapas, Mexico, where the next-generation Q5 crossover will be built for global export. The 2015 Audi Q3 is expected to go on sale in fall 2014.