THRUMONT, Md. -- On Maryland's twisty Foxville Road, the blacktop Route 77 which skirts southern boundaries of Catoctin Mountain National Park, we're scooting along in the sensuously styled Q3 2.0T, a compact crossover utility vehicle from Audi of Germany packing a turbo-boosted powertrain and Audi's smart all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction system which in the lingo of Audi is called Quattro.
Tweaked for 2016 with fresh styling applied to prow and tail, the Q3 series consists of a 5-door wagon built on a car's platform and equipped with a front-mounted and transversely-positioned 4-in-line engine that's turbo-charged and connected to standard FrontTrak front-wheel-drive (FWD) traction or the optional Quattro AWD.
The Q3 is drawn in rectangular format with a sloping snout and abbreviated tail linked by a canopy arching over the cabin with low-slung windows and side pillars muted.
On Q3's prow Audi's designers planted a vertical single-frame waterfall-style grille sandwiched between sharp-edged and narrow composite headlamps featuring standard xenon headlights and white LED daytime running lights.
Side panels are chiseled with a character line notched low on each side that seems to swing upward in movement toward the tail. The blunted rump looks clean with wraparound low fascia and left-side pipes with chrome tips.
Beneath the skin, Q3 models use a super-rigid monocoque structure blending lightweight aluminum body panels with a steel frame. And weight-saving aluminum components make the suspension, tuned and tweaked for precise and predictable action, feel light and lively. As a result, Audi's compact CUV delivers the silky-smooth ride quality of a luxury sedan yet also behaves like a sporty car.
The Q3 has a premium passenger compartment with seats for five plus a rear bay for cargo and a wagonload of high-tech electronic controls. Q3's cabin has impressive textures and finishes applied, like standard leather upholstery and heated front seats with 12-way power controls.
Also, a retractable 7-inch MMI high-res display rises from the top center dash and links to a rotary MMI control wheel mounted on the center console.
Q3 trims in two grades: Premium Plus and Prestige.
Q3's entry model Premium Plus contains extensive standard equipment such as 18-inch aluminum wheels, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lamps and LED taillights, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera, the leather upholstery, a dual-zone automatic climate system and expansive panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth streaming audio, efficient white LED interior lighting and a retractable cargo cover.
Q3 Prestige adds LED headlights and dynamic rear turn signals, Audi S line exterior kit and 19-inch alloy wheels.
The 4-in-line engine for Q3 2.0T, displacing 2.0 liters with turbo-charging plus Audi's FSI (fuel straight injection) technology applied, nixes the customary lag in timing for launch -- that annoying lull of a second or more after pushing the accelerator while the turbo-charger spools up before spitting out boosted torque to turn the wheels. It feels vigorous and quick, drawing on the full force of the engine's production of 200 hp at 5100-6000 rpm plus 207 lb-ft of torque at 1700-5000 rpm.
Sole transmission is a 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shift mode. The EPA-estimated fuel economy figures for this powertrain tally to 20/29 mpg city/highway for the FrontTrak FWD edition, or 20/28 mpg city/highway with Quattro AWD equipment.
The Haldex-based Quattro AWD system, using a torsion-sensing center differential with rear-biased torque split, automatically shifts the majority of all engine torque to whichever wheels, front or rear, attain the best bite of traction on slick pavement.
Brakes, with a disc at every wheel, rely on smart electronic links to tame the all-season tires. Anti-lock brake (ABS) controls are standard, along with electronic brake distribution (EBD), plus Audi's electronic stabilization program (ESP) to check slippage and skidding.
Optional tech gear includes a Driver Assistance package with parking system, the Audi MMI Navigation kit, a Bose premium sound system, and more.
Audi's 2016 MSRP chart for the Q3 begins at $33,700 for a Q3 2.0T FrontTrak Premium Plus. The Q3 2.0T Quattro Prestige lists for $40,700.