Some cars genuinely suck. There is essentially no price at which, for instance, wooden ride quality and inept handling and nonexistent acceleration and uncomfortable seats and disappointingÂ fuel economy are worth the asking price. There are simply far too many decent alternatives for a vehicle such as, oh, I don’t know, the Mitsubishi Mirage.
Some cars, however, only suck in the context of their respective MSRPs. Take the Ford Flex we reviewed recently as an example. Though showing signs of age, itâ€™s still a fine family hauler. But at the $50,000 as-tested price, the Flex is uncompetitive.
Then thereâ€™s this 2017 Audi Q3. PerhapsÂ itâ€™s an acceptable machine at its $33,875 entry price. But optioned up to $44,150, the aged Q3 may be guilty of simply resting upon the laurels of its four-ring badge.
Does the 2017 Audi Q3 suck, or does it onlyÂ suck when it strays out of Single-A ball into the Major Leagues?
In some ways, it just sucks.
â€œRide comfortâ€� is not an applicable phrase. Nothing about the way the Q3 makes its way down the road will ever cause you to think of comfort. Though exacerbated in our test specimen by monstrous 20-inch wheels and their 255/35R20 tires, all Q3s are inhibited by a short 102.5-inch wheelbase.
Inside, other than a pair ofÂ downmarket shift paddles, material quality is of a sufficiently high quality. But the design as a whole screams 2009; 2011 if youâ€™re being kind. Controls arenâ€™t where they ought to be, there are numerous blank switches, the MMI architecture is un-Audi-like, and the seating position is more reminiscent of a bus than a TT.
Worst of all, particularly in a $44,150 Audi, are the refinement issues. The tires hum persistently, always workingÂ to get your attention. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is heard too often and too easily. Wind noise around the A-pillars is excessive.
It feels old. And so it should. The 2017 Audi Q3 represents the third model year for the Q3 in North America, but Q3 production began way back in 2011, and the Q3 rides on a platform that dates back to 2008.
There’s a certain charm, however. The Audi Q3 doesnâ€™t merely feel like little more than an expensive Volkswagen. The interior layout is differentiated by a typical Audi darkness in the cabin, which contrasts with abundant light from the standard panoramic glass roof.
The standard 2.0-liter turbo is always willing, helped by a quick and smooth-shifting six-speed automatic.
Front-facing child seat space is tolerable considering the tidy exterior dimensions. Upgraded Bose audio is impressive.
From some angles, on these stunning 20-inch wheels, the Q3 looks a treat parked downtown on a snowy Friday night.
And in snowy conditions, fitted with Pirelli Sottozero winter rubber, the Audi Q3 proved to be a nimble and accomplished little runabout.
But even the Q3â€™s positive traits are contravenedÂ by correspondingÂ negative traits. Sure, it doesnâ€™t feel exactly like an upmarket Volkswagen, but a new Golf feels more premium.
Even many luxury buyers wonâ€™t feel the need to pay the premium Audi must charge for fitting the panoramic roof as standard equipment.
That willing 2.0-liter turbo doesnâ€™t return the kind of acceleration youâ€™ll find in a Mercedes-Benz GLA or BMW X1.
You can squeeze kids in the back, but the cabin is still snug in every direction, and cargo capacity falls 10 cubic feet shy of the X1.
Those 20-inch wheels that look so good are terrorized by anything other than perfect pavement.
And the Q3â€™s impressive winter-rubber snow performance is now downright common â€” Quattro doesn’t have the same meaning in 2017 than it had in 1987.
You can attempt to ascertain whether the Audi Q3 is a good car in the most general sense of the term. Debate amongst yourselves.
You can argue over the merits of the Audi Q3 as a competitive $44,150 subcompact luxury crossover. Let the debate rage on.
But it’s clear a second test, in a Q3 nearly identical to the Q3 I drove a year ago, produces a firm, undebatable verdict within the confines of another key deliberation: the 2017 Audi Q3 is not a good Audi. Not at $32,750; not at $44,150.
With signs of old age prevalent, disappointing on-road behavior, questionable interior design, and a second-generation Audi Q5 entering showrooms, the 2017 Audi Q3â€™s best before date is now a distant memory.
Timothy Cain is the founder ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcarÂ and on Facebook.