Gabe Nelson
Gabe Nelson
Silicon Valley, Tesla, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda and Mitsubishi

Detroit is the Audi Q3's second coming-out party

The Q3, smaller and cheaper than the Q5, will be one of Audi's biggest launches in years when it goes on sale in the United States this fall.
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Americans have had a long wait for Audi's smallest SUV, the Q3.

The Q3 went on sale in 2011, and at this point it is common enough in Europe and China that non-American guests in Cobo Center might find it a bit uninteresting.

But the Q3, smaller and cheaper than the Q5, will be one of Audi's biggest launches in years when it goes on sale in the United States this fall. That makes its U.S. debut at the Detroit auto show an important coming-out party -- three years in the waiting.

Audi, long known for sedans, is increasingly known for SUVs. Last year the Q5 passed the A4 sedan as its best seller in the United States; sales of the Q5 and Q7 were up a combined 42 percent, delivering more than one-third of Audi's total U.S. sales.

With numbers like these, Audi of America could not help but try its hand in the fast-growing market for compact luxury SUVs such as the BMW X1, even with the Q3 partway through its product cycle. Others are following suit; take a look at the Mercedes-Benz GLA, Lexus NX and Lincoln MKC, just to name a few.

Pricing for the U.S.-spec Q3 has not been announced, but these models seem to be converging at just north of $30,000. The X1, for example, starts at $31,725 with freight.

In the United States, the Q3 will be available only with a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The list of standard features in the Q3 shows a brand trying to make clear that this kind of money still buys a true luxury car. Standard equipment includes a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, heated front seats and an advanced key fob.

At launch, the SUV will be available only with a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard; quattro all-wheel drive will cost extra. The Q3 may be offered with a TDI diesel engine later, but a spokesman says Audi has not made that decision.

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com.

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