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Rental Car Review: Audi Q3

It was either this or a Hyundai Santa Fe for the trip with four colleagues from Charleston airport to our factory in Manning, SC. I felt a little bad to cram everyone and the luggage into the Q3, but not bad enough, as I swiped the keys from the National Rent a Car attendant with a grin on my face.

It's amazing that even after driving for this long, and experiencing so many cars, I'm still so excited to get behind the wheel of anything new that's even remotely interesting.

We get out to the car and I nearly regretted my decision as I couldn't picture how we would possibly fit everyone and their luggage- I knew the Q3 was small but I was surprised with how steeply raked the trunk lid was. I got in the back and there wasn't much room at all... five people, bags, and a two hour ride into the South Carolinian countryside. Should be interesting…

I felt immediately at home behind the wheel. Something about this car just felt right. What was it? On paper the Q3 wasn't ticking any of the boxes, but somehow on the road it just worked. I supposed it could be the familiarity with VW group seating positions and controls considering all the time that I've spent in them since my childhood. It was more than that – steering light and effortless, yet well enough weighted to enable tracking down the long straight South Carolina lanes. The accelerator was easy to modulate, and the engine provided just enough power to bring you up to speed quickly without requiring too much throttle or too many revs so as to disturb the peace the rest of the car was offering. The transmission shifted quickly but lazily enough so that gaps between gears were nearly seamless.

Getting into the Q3, I was in a particular frame of mind. I had just come off 20 or so hours of flying from a weekend trip to the Ligurian coast of Italy. It was 11:45 PM, I arrived into Charleston from Providence, Rhode Island, and had to wake up at 5:45 AM the next day. Certainly not the moment for aggressive driving.

Perhaps that's what it's all about though... finding that perfect car for every moment and mood- with this logic I can really justify a collection 😎.

The next Morning we cruised seamlessly over to Manning, SC. Two hours turned into just over one as we sat between 90 and 100 mph for the whole trip. The Q3 was quiet, composed, and demanded little of me in my fatigued, jet-lagged, and sleep deprived state. We even fit all of my colleagues and our bags with nary a complaint.

I'm embarrassed to admit it but I like the looks of Q3. It's really just like a pumped up hatchback...

After a long day of process mapping I decided to cool off with a drive out into the countryside. It is truly incredible how straight the roads are here. I drove out of Manning for about 35 miles and didn't really turn the steering wheel once.

I was talking to my father along the way about how much I was enjoying the car and how relaxing it was for me to drive. I keep comparing everything back to my 2016 Jetta, which I know doesn't make much sense considering the price tag of the car, but it's amazing to me how much nicer overall this feels. When you think about the underpinnings are they really that different? I suppose enough so...

Just looking at this car from the outside i'm struck by the size of the tires. They're big and square which tells me that the car is going to track down the road very well while the sidewall depth hints at the Q3's excellent bump control.

I drove with the windows up on my way out and the windows as well as the panoramic sunroof down/open on my way back. I greatly appreciated how little buffeting you get in this car with all the windows down. It's like they missed something in the wind tunnel with my 2016 Jetta as well as so many other modern vehicles which are terrible from this respect.

That's the idea of the CUV – waft around the driver and their passengers in total comfort whilst giving everyone an excellent view out over the surroundings. From this perspective I suppose an SUV or any raised vehicle makes a lot of sense in the US market. Our roads are so terrible that it's typically a hassle to drive a car with any sporting intentions. After returning from just a short visit in Italy it really is shocking to see the gap in quality from US to the European roads.

I did a bit of digging and found that the 2018 Q3 is based off the previous generation VW Tiguan. No surprise that I love it then, as I've been smitten with the Tiguan since driving it from Delaware to Cincinnati over the mountains in West Virginia. This car was reminding me of that experience, but with a bit of added luxury.

Four critical items that I forgot to mention:

One. The balance between the armrest shift lever steering wheel, Seat and petals is nearly perfect. I suppose the pedals could be slightly further away from the driver but generally speaking it's quite excellent.

Two. The modulation of the brake pedal is quite effortless. I find this is becoming a bit rare these days with many modern automatic transmissions downshifting as you come to a stop requiring you to balance your braking with the downshifts in order to come to a smooth standstill.

Three.The steering wheel shape and the tactile feel of the leather is just excellent. I often struggle to find the correct position for my hands on the steering wheel- sometimes the 10 and three position is just not right for me but what Audi did on this steering wheel was to add a bit of a notch on the side of the outer edge of the wheel which gives you that needed support.

Four. I'm always shocked by seats which don't seem to have much shape to them. They look so flat, hard like they're not going to do anything for you. Somehow, with that in mind, these seats were incredibly supportive. I think one of the big items here is that head rest is appropriately placed so that one can actually rest their head against it whilst driving.

Why do car manufacturers put head rests so far back so that you'd be looking at the sky if resting against them?

There you have it, folks: a self-proclaimed car nut and manual transmission purest pitching on why you'll like an automatic Audi Q3 CUV.

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