Driving the 2016 Ford Explorer across the Arizona desert in July gave me plenty of time to think about how far we’ve come in our desire to journey onward.
We were on the road from Phoenix to San Diego. The back of the SUV was packed with furniture and other household items for our son’s new apartment. Somewhere along the way I began to think about the explorers who crossed this barren desert 150 years ago in rickety Conestogas and prairie schooners likewise loaded with goods for their future homes. What would they have thought about the total comfort and luxury of this trip? My Explorer was the Platinum edition loaded with massaging seats and a 500-watt Sony audio system. Unlike the pioneers who huddled under the cover of their canvas, I could pull back the shades on the huge glass sunroofs because the climate control could keep me downright chilly as the miles flew by.
I’m not saying that the Explorer is the ultimate vehicle. After all, most modern cars will make that trek in comfort. But if you’re looking to cross the desert in a full-sized SUV, the Explorer should be on your list to consider.
Ford gave the Explorer a face lift for 2016. The grille and LED headlamps are higher than last year’s model. The front, hood and bumper all look different. The fog lamps are styled to look like the ones used in the new Ford F-150. All in all, it’s a pleasant refresh without getting carried away.
My test car had the highest horsepower engine option with a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 that pumped out 365 horsepower. It was mated with the six-speed transmission. Interesting that six-speeds seem so mundane now that some other SUVs come with eight-speed transmissions. Having said that, I never noticed it lacking in smoothness or performance. The engine I would have liked to tried was the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder. It’s good for 280 horsepower with slightly better fuel mileage. The smaller engine gets 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway compared to the 16 mpg city and 22 mpg on the highway for the bigger version. My trip across the desert averaged almost 21 mpg.
I was reminded of some of the Explorer’s other assets a few hours later on my trip. We passed a pretty nasty accident. Several cars were involved, one of which had been crushed from behind in a rear end collision. Used properly, the features on the Explorer could keep me out of harm’s way. To start with it has adaptive cruise control. Set it, and the car will automatically figure out how fast it should go to keep a safe distance from the car ahead which means no rear end collisions. It also had later keeper assist for those moments when your concentration wains and you begin to drift out of your lane. It gives you a gentle tug to bring you back between the lines. You can also adjust the amount of tugging or turn it off completely. I have to admit that I’ve driven some cars that have slightly better lane keeper assists. Some keep you away from the lane lines completely. With the Explorer, I occasionally found myself hitting the line before it moved me back. Still, it’s an amazing feature that can and will save lives.
Back inside, the Platinum version worked hard to give the interior a great look and feel. When the seat wasn’t massaging me, there were plenty of adjustments. Covered in what Ford calls “Nirvana” leather with micro-perforation it was a far cry from the wooden bench the pioneers used. The most amazing thing was the third row seat in the back. Like most, it could fold down flat to allow more cargo area. The fun part was that at the touch of a button, the seat automatically flipped forward, tilted up, flopped over and then flattened out. Trust me, your kids and grandkids are going to want to see this over and over. Maybe it’s just something that will break someday, but for now it’s darn cool.
The friends I hauled around that weekend enjoyed both the rear seats and, interestingly, the seat belts as well. They liked the fact that the belts were padded. What they didn’t realize is that the belts had an airbag tucked inside. In a crash, they spread the impact over a larger area and reduce the risk of a seat belt injury.
There were plenty of other great features. A front mounted camera to make sure everything is out-of-the-way before you start moving. Active shutters in the grille that close at highway speeds to reduce drag. A tailgate that opens when you swing your foot below the bumper.
Of course all this comes at a price. While the base Explorer starts out at about $31,000, my Platinum edition came in a $55,355. So is it worth spending nearly $25,000 extra for all the goodies? That’s for you to decide. But if you do fork over the extra cash, you won’t feel like you’re not getting your money’s worth.
Just ask the pioneers.
Let’s start with the good stuff. The 2016 Lexus CT200h is one great looking car.
Of course you have to like hatchbacks (which I do). And you have to like the Lexus signature “spindle” grill, which I also do. Frankly, it’s one of the coolest looking hatchbacks you can buy with plenty of luxury inside.
Now the downside. It doesn’t have the power to match its looks. I know it’s a hybrid. I know that I need to dial back my expectations. But I just expected so much more from the car’s aggressive style. I will call it peppy, especially when you have it in the Sport mode. Peppy is good. Unless, of course, you were hopping for fast and apparently I was.
But then, life is all about compromises. If you’re looking for a great looking hatchback with awesome mileage, the CT200h is definitely your car. It pulls 43 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway for a combined number of 42 mpg (which is exactly what I got during my test week). Compared to other hatchbacks, it’s nine mpg better than the Mazda 3 and a full 15 mpg better than the Elantra GT. On the other hand, its Toyota Prius cousin gets a combined number of 52. But then the Prius just not as cool looking. Of course you’ll pay for that mileage. Base price for the CT200h is $31,250 which is a big hike over the competition. Don’t forget that this is what I’ll call a low-end luxury car. Everything is a bit nicer so it’s not a fully direct comparison.
It uses a 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine that is mated to a continuously variable transmission. That’s probably another reason I was disappointed in the performance. CVT transmissions just don’t have the same feel as traditional gearboxes. On the other hand, they’re smoother and generally give better mileage.
Inside, the CT200h likes to remind you it’s a Lexus. It’s not the fanciest of interiors, but it will not let you forget that you’re driving something above the rest. The seats are very comfortable (heated but not cooled). The display looks like it was mounted on the dash as an afterthought, but it worked well. The CT200h uses the Remote Touch control. Personally, I like the way it works but not everyone agrees with me. You’ll have to give it a try to see if you like it. It’s not a huge back seat, but it works. What I really liked was flattening it out and hauling stuff in the large cargo area. That’s why I enjoy hatchbacks.
My test car was the F Sport version. It had the F Sport Luxury package together with the F Sport LED headlights. Throw in the navigation system and a couple of other goodies, and suddenly my little hatchback was $41,860. The F Sport package is cool, but honestly, I’m not sure it’s really worth it. I think I like the style of the CT200h just the way it is.
So it all boils down to what you’re looking for. If great mileage, attractive styling and an upscale interior are tops on your list, then the Lexus CT200h is worth considering. But if you’re all about performance that equals the looks, you might find yourself wanting just a little bit more.
The 2016 Honda Pilot is a little like that girl who used to live down the street from you in junior high school. Although very athletic and smart, she wasn’t the most attractive girl around. She moved away during high school and one day you ran into her on your college campus and were amazed. Still athletic and smart, now she had looks as well. Suddenly, she was the entire package. (OK, before I come off as too sexist, feel free to change “girl” to “guy”. After all there were plenty of geeky dudes in junior high… and I might have been one of them.)
Honda says the 2016 Pilot is all new and they mean it. This isn’t some mild refresh. The Pilot looks different inside and out. It gets a new engine as well from what Honda calls its EarthDreams Technology. Basically, it’s supposed to give as much or more power and be more efficient. In this case, the Pilot has a direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 engine with Variable Cylinder Management. It pumps out 280 horsepower through a nine-speed automatic transmission. (Remember when we thought five-speeds were a big deal?). Even better, it has improved mileage getting 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway. The combined number of 22 mpg is 2 mpg better than the previous model. I managed 23 mpg during my test week.
But enough about the engine. Let’s talk about what you’ll notice first: the looks. The old pilot was, well, sort of boxy. If you loved it, great. But it was definitely an acquired taste. I think people bought it in spite of its looks. I’m not going to say the new Pilot has jumped into super model status, but it’s definitely attractive. Most importantly, it fits in well with the competition in the mid-sized SUV world. You can stand up proudly and say you bought the new Pilot because of its looks.
Of course looks aren’t everything. Honda brags about its Advanced Compatibility Engineering that reduces noise, vibration and harshness enhancements. The Pilot also has a new “3-Bone” structure that Honda says will help prevent injuries during accidents. It directs energy around the passenger cabin in the event of a frontal collision. I told you she was smart.
Inside, the interior has been bumped up a notch as well. It looks and feels better. My test car had heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, captains chair seats in the second row were heated as well. About the only complaint I had was the arm rest on the right side of the driver’s seat. I constantly had to reset its level after unhooking my seat belt. On the other hand, if that’s my biggest complaint, it’s an impressive package overall. The Pilot has a third row seat which is always handy and Honda brags about the amount of space with the seat up as being large enough for a large ice chest. Party time!
One big leap forward is the entertainment and navigation display. It is much better than the previous version from Honda. It is a single monitor on the dash that actually looks like it was part of the design rather than tacked on afterwards. The only thing you have to get used to is the fact that there is no volume dial near the display. You can increase it on the touchscreen or on the steering wheel. I spent plenty of time reaching for the knob that wasn’t there, but I’m sure owners will get over that reasonably soon.
Base price for the Pilot is $31,145. My test car was Elite model that was fully decked out with lots of bells and whistles (lane keeper assist, avoidance collision) and the price came in at slightly over $47,000. That’s not cheap, but it has plenty of value compared to the upper range SUVs like the Acura MDX and the Lexus RX350.
And the best part it that it’s a Honda. Everything is going to work and work well. So if the old Pilot was never on your list because of its geeky looks, it’s time to take a fresh glance at the kid with the killer makeover.
One auction day down, five to go at the 2016 Barrett Jackson collector car auction in Scottsdale.
Tuesday is always entry-level day. It’s not the ultra rare or desirable stuff that will bring bucks on Friday or Saturday. For less than $20,000 you could buy a lot of interesting cars. How about a 1992 Rolls Royce Silver Spirit II sedan for $13,750? Or a 1939 custom Chevy pickup truck selling for $18,700.
But there were three cars that surprised me.
The first is actually two cars from the same maker. A 1979 Volkswagen Super Beetle Convertible and a 1956 Beetle Convertible. The 1956 did huge money, selling for $47,300. It’s a desirable year, and drop-tops always add value. Still, it wasn’t that long ago that Beetles were relatively inexpensive. Even more amazing was the 1979 that sold for $34,100. Traditionally, collectible Beetles were 1967 or earlier. Sure, it was a convertible and it was cute. But $34k was big money. I’m sure we’re going to see plenty of Super Beetles hitting the market very soon.
The next surprise was a 1966 Mustang convertible. It sold for $67,200. The consignor said they had $65,000 in receipts so obviously it was beautifully restored. Still, this wasn’t a GT and it was the first day when folks often hold back. 66 Mustangs aren’t rare, but obviously when they’re done right, people will spend big money.
The final surprise was a car I had never seen at a Barrett Jackson auction. It was a 1994 Toyota Supra Turbo Lift Back. It sold for a solid $31,350. For a lot of kids who grew up in the 90s, this was a muscle car. It will be interesting to see if the Supras and the 300ZXs start showing up and pulling decent prices.
It’s always important to remember that the collector car hobby is always evolving. When I first started attending Barrett Jackson auctions it was pre-war classics that led the way. Model Ts, Model As and their brethren were the norm. Now they’re simply extras. Will the cars from the 40s and 50s begin to fade as their fans age? Does that mean the Japanese tuner cars are not far on the horizon?
As long as the love affair with cars continues, I’m good with whatever crosses the block.
Just about the time that I think Hyundai is going to run out of steam, the folks running the carmaker always seem to find a way to throw more coal into the fire. The 2016 Hyundai Tucson is solid proof that the Korean automaker is only getting hotter.
The previous generation Tucson was an SUV that offered great value. Having said that, I was never a huge fan of its looks. The Tucson wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as some of the other cars in the class, or even other Hyundais. The 2016 model has changed that. All new from front to back, the styling has taken a huge leap forward with what the company calls its Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design theme . I’m not really sure what that means, but it looks great standing next to the compact SUV competition, or by itself. The bolder grill (designed to match the company styling) is a nice touch up front, along with better looking headlights, running lights and turn signals. The old styling looked a little soft to me, the new version has a nice crisp side accent running from front to back angling upwards as it goes.
The 2016 Tucson is bigger in just about every way. The wheelbase is more than an inch longer and the overall length added three inches. Impressively, it was done without adding a lot of weight. The new model is only about 60 pounds heavier than last year’s edition.
You have two engine choices. My test car had the new 1.6 liter turbo four-cylinder. It makes 175 horsepower. While that’s less than the 180 horses that came from last year’s 2.4 cylinder engine, it’s made a big jump in mileage. The turbo delivers 24 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway with a combined number of 26 mpg. That’s a full four mpg better than last year. During my week with the Tucson I managed slightly more than 28 mpg. I found it pretty peppy accelerating away from a stop, although giving gas at higher speed wasn’t quite as satisfying. You have a choice of sport, eco or normal modes depending on what you want to achieve. You can also get a 2.0 liter cylinder that gives a combined 26 mpg, but with 11 fewer horsepower.
I particularly like the interior. It has a clean dash with a nicely integrated display screen. That display is five inches on the base model but eight inches on the Limited model. It definitely makes a difference. The seats were comfortable and everything just felt right. While most of the interior dimensions are slightly larger, for some reason the rear seat leg room was a little less. Still, we went out to dinner with a six-foot three friend of ours in the back seat, and he said it felt fine. That rear seat also has optional heating which is something you rarely see in this price range. Throw in ventilated front seats for those hot summer days, and the interior gets pretty cozy.
One of the most impressive improvements is the list of safety features now available. You can get a Lane Departure Warning system, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross-traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, Backup Warning Sensors and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB). The reality is that most drivers need help and the modern safety systems can really make a difference. If you’re debating about whether they’re worth the extra money, I vote yes.
My test car with the Limited package came in at $32,510. While that didn’t include every safety option, it was still a lot of value for the money. Throw in Hyundai’s five-year/60,000 mile basic warranty and 10 years/100,000 miles on the drivetrain and the price looks even better.
From style to performance, the 2016 Hyundai Tucson is proof that the Korean carmaker is steaming full speed ahead. And everyone else is going to have to work harder to catch up.
Mitsubishi USA did something in 2015 it hadn’t accomplished in seven years. It made a profit. And I think that the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is one of the reasons that happened.
Mitsubishi took a gamble and came out with a significantly updated 2016 model. It was a gamble because the previous model was only two years old. But obviously, there was something that the marketing folks felt was missing. The most obvious change is what Mitsubishi calls its “Dynamic Shield” front design. The carmaker says the concept came from the bumper side protection seen on generations of the Monteros. More importantly, it is a bolder design that looks like it belongs in the 2016 marketplace.
The Outlander is a compact SUV and that is a very competitive segment. So what does it offer to make it unique? How about a third row of seats? While it’s not the only compact SUV with three rows, it’s a small club. Now don’t get too excited about that third row. It’s not very big, and it also cuts into the leg room for the second row. Still, if you need to haul a bigger crowd of little people, the Outlander is a perfectly reasonable option.
You have your choice of two engines with the Outlander. My test car had the 2.4 liter, 166 horsepower four-cylinder motor. I’ll be honest and tell you that 166 is not a lot of power. Having said that, I was actually pleasantly surprised. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t blow me away with acceleration, but (and this may sound like a backhanded compliment), it wasn’t nearly as bad as I would have expected. In fact, before I checked the horsepower, I thought it had more. You do get 25 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway for combined number of 27 mpg which is respectable in this class.
So what about that other engine? It’s a 3.0 liter V6 that pumps out 224 horsepower. Unlike the smaller motor that comes with a continuously variable transmission, this one had a conventional six speed automatic. Interestingly, it only gets a mile less in the combined mileage department (26 mpg). It might be worth the upgrade. Mitsubishi says the improvements with this refresh include better handling with less noise and vibration.
Inside there are changes as well. the new Outlander gets a redesigned steering wheel, as well as a new navigation and display system. I liked the new interface. It was simple and easy to use, although the touch buttons did seem a bit small. I also liked the overall look of the dash. It had a nice clean design that incorporated the display nicely. I’m confused as to why some carmakers are still mounting it on the top of the dash like an afterthought. Mitsubishi also says the new Outlander has better accent trim and seating surface. I can’t say I noticed a huge jump in that department, but it did look nice.
My test car was the SEL model. It stickered at $31,095. That included $5,250 for the SEL Touring package. For that price it adds some important safety features like forward collision mitigation and adaptive cruise control. You also get goodies like a power remote liftgate and folding side mirrors.
Mitsubishi may not be selling as many Outlanders as the competition in the compact SUV category. But let’s call that a good thing. When you pull up to drop off your kids at school or some other event, you won’t look like all the other parents. And you can hold your head up high knowing that you helped Mitsubishi climb just a little higher on the ladder to financial stability.
The 2015 Nissan Pathfinder took a twisted path to arrive at my doorstep.
For those who remember the original Pathfinder, you know it was basically a truck. It was designed to do battle in the rough and ready days in the beginning of the SUV craze. Back then folks wanted them rugged, and the Pathfinder delivered.
That was back in 1985. Ten years later Nissan saw the future and realized that SUV buyers were more likely to spend their time on highways than byways. As a result, the Pathfinder got more of a car style chassis.
A decade later, Nissan switched back to the truck style, body on frame chassis. The big concession to family transportation was a new third row of seating.
Well apparently, going back to that whole truck thing was just a fling. Kind of like the Macarena. Nissan has decided that it’s future really lay in the not too distant past and decided to go back to the civilized world of car based SUVs. The result is a Pathfinder that shares the same basis chassis as the as the Altima and the Maxima. In fact, Nissan is now calling this a CUV which stands for Crossover Utility Vehicle.
I mention that because if you’ve driven a Pathfinder in the past, it’s important to know what you’re getting today. The current generation is made for getting your family around town and driving nicely maintained highways to grandma’s house. I say that because it’s a good thing. Not many people buy SUVs to bounce along bumpy dirt roads. While the Pathfinder can do that, that’s not its goal in life.
I’m a fan of three-row SUVs, so right off the bat the Pathfinder fits my basic requirement. It’s not that I use that third row very much, but when I do there is no replacement. When you don’t need the extra seating, it just folds flat. Why wouldn’t you want it?
The entire Pathfinder range only has one engine choice. You get a 260 horsepower, 3.5 liter V6. To be honest, that’s not a lot of umph compared to the other competitors in this segment. It will get you around, but it won’t wow you. That partially because it’s mated to a continuously variable transmission. That’s good for mileage, but tends to leave you wondering when the power is going to kick in. Speaking of mileage, the Pathfinder gets 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. My week with the car averaged 23 mpg which is right where it’s supposed to be.
Inside the Pathfinder is pleasant. My test car had the captains chairs in the second row which gave it a little more of an upscale feel. It means you lose a seat, but it’s great for families who need to hand stuff from row to row or maneuver in and out of seating. Overall the interior fits into the middle range. Not cheap, but not trying to pretend it’s a luxury car. After all, Nissan has Infiniti if people want to move up the ladder.
While my test car was a 2015, the 2016 Pathfinder starts at just under $30,000. If you want more goodies you can work your way up to the $41,500 Platinum edition.
The mid to full-sized SUV (or CUV) world is a crowded place. I’m not sure that the Pathfinder has anything that makes it stand out. On the other hand, I don’t think it disappoints. It does everything that you’ll want that family hauler to do and you won’t feel that you’re missing out.
So while it may have been a twisted path to get here, heading into the future the Pathfinder is right where it needs to be.
You have to give Chrysler credit. In a world of automotive design where everything seems to blend together, this automaker builds cars that stand out. And the Chrysler 300 is a perfect example. It doesn’t look anything like the competition.
To be honest with you, I haven’t always been a fan of the 300’s looks. But as the body has been refined over time it’s slowly grown on me. Partially because it is so different. It’s a little more block-like with slab sides and a big squared off grill. Interestingly, I think the grill that comes closest to the 300’s looks is the Audi A6. But once you leave the grill, the Audi’s aerodynamic and sleek design, while attractive, looks like a lot of other cars.
I’ve had the opportunity to test two of the 300 models during 2015, the Limited and the 300C Platinum. The sticker on the 300C Platinum model came in at $46,390, while the Limited was a little more restrained at $35,255. While it’s always nice to get the extra features that the Platinum offers, to be honest, I didn’t feel slighted driving the Limited. In fact, my wife commented that she felt the Limited had a nice upscale feel. Some cars just seem too plain without the climbing the options ladder. The 300 isn’t one of those.
All 300s come with the 3.6 liter V6. You have the option of bumping up to the 5.7 liter V8 HEMI (in all but the base model). What’s the difference? The V6 is good for 292 horsepower, while the HEMI will deliver 363. Don’t get me wrong, I love horsepower, but again the less expensive V6 was no slouch. Plenty of cars would love to have that as their base engine. the V6 is good for 19 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, while the HEMI gets 16 mpg/city and 25 mpg/highway.
I took the Limited on a road trip to Las Vegas and enjoyed it the entire way. I was able to get 30 mpg which I found pretty impressive for a car this big. More importantly, it rode like a big highway cruiser which was exactly what I wanted. I was also impressed when I had to pass folks on the two lane highway that the V6 mated to an 8-speed transmission did a great job of moving around traffic.
One of the impressive things about the 300 is that it has a 120 inch wheelbase, which is much longer than its main competitors. However, the longer wheelbase doesn’t mean a longer car. It comes in at 198.2 inches which is shorter than both the Ford Taurus and the Chevrolet Impala. Heck, it’s only three inches longer than the Honda Accord. The longer wheelbase helps make for a more stable ride.
Inside, the 300 has plenty of room. While it doesn’t lead the pack in leg room for the front seat (the Impala let’s long legs live), it does do better in the back seat. In other words, if you need to haul people around, the 300 is a great option. It doesn’t beat the others by a lot, but even an inch or two makes people feel like you actually care if they fit.
I’m a big fan of the Chrysler display and controls. It works well and had no glitches. As with most cars the navigation system is just OK, still not better than my phone. One thing I like is that Chrysler puts the controls for the radio on the back side of the steering wheel. they’re easy to use without having to move your hands and it doesn’t clutter up the front side.
A friend recently asked me if I could recommend a Chrysler 300 as a family car. I quickly said yes, but did voice one small concern. Chrysler has regularly been near the bottom of the J.D. Power & Associates Initial Quality Study. In other words, when the car first arrives it may have some issues. Fortunately, it did appear to get better in 2015, but it’s still something the company needs to address. Having said that, as long as the dealer can fix the issues quickly, the Chrysler 300 is definitely a car worth considering. After all, you get great performance and a car that won’t look like all the others in your neighborhood.
The 2016 Audi Q3 is a great little compact SUV as long as you remember one thing. It’s a little compact SUV.
It certainly doesn’t look small. With styling similar to the larger Q5, it has a very attractive shape. A quick look inside and you’ll find it has plenty of upscale touches. It just doesn’t have a lot of room.
Leg room in the front of the Q3 is 40 inches. That’s at least an inch shorter than most of its competitors in the compact SUV world. But the back seat is where it really comes up short with only 31 inches of leg room. We found this out the hard way when we took a trip to Disneyland with four adults. Even though one was fairly petite, the back seat just wasn’t big enough. Compare that to the Hyundai Tucson with 38 inches or even the Audi’s cousin, the VW Tiguan that has nearly 36 inches. The new Mazda CX-3 is four inches shorter on the outside with more leg room on the inside. Heck, the leg room in the back seat of the current Ford Mustang which is often mocked as only for emergencies or tiny children is only half an inch shorter.
I don’t say this to mock the Q3 (OK,maybe just a little bit…). I just want to make sure that if it’s on your shopping list you don’t intend to haul anyone with anywhere close to adult sized legs in the back seat.
On the other hand, if you’re only planning to use the front row (and you’re not especially tall), the Q3 has a lot to offer. It uses a four-cylinder, 2.0 liter turbocharged engine that delivers 200 horsepower. That’s totally reasonable for this class. If you’re looking for more power, bump up to something bigger. My driving impression was that it moved off the line reasonably well and didn’t leave me begging when it was time to merge onto the freeway. I wasn’t overly impressed with its mileage. The Q3 gets 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway with a combined number of 23 mpg. Choosing the Hyundai Tucson (with less horsepower) or the BMW X1 (with more) will give better mileage.
You get your choice of driving settings ranging from comfort to dynamic. I kept it in comfort most of the time and enjoyed the ride. You also get goodies like speed warnings and a parking aid.
I read some reviews that raved about the display interface, but it didn’t wow me. The controls are on the dash right below the display (which looks like it was glued to the dash as an afterthought). This differs from most Audis that have them on the center console under where your right arm normally rests. That’s not a huge problem because you’re not that far away so it’s an easy reach. I found the controls a little confusing during my week, but I’m sure I’d get used to them over time.
The big thing with German cars these days is a mesh screen under the sunroof. The idea is simple. Why waste all that wonderful sunshine with a solid liner that you’ll likely keep closed. Unfortunately, I live in Phoenix and the thought of leaving a car outside with any additional sun coming through that mesh during summer is a bit much.
My test car tipped the pricing scale at $42,750. That included $35,800 for the base Q3 quattro with Tiptronic transmission, plus the prestige and sport packages.
At this point you’re probably thinking that I hated the Q3. Actually, that’s not the case. I thoroughly enjoyed driving it to and from work every day. It’s an upscale drivers car with great looks. But as with so many cars (and a few other things), make sure you take a good long look to make sure it fits your needs before you get swayed by the beautiful shape.