Hands-on: Audi RS Q3 review
Audi is unleashing more and more Rennsport, or RS models, including a beefed-up version of its baby SUV, the Audi Q3.
Racing in with the Audi RS Q3 name, this model gets a 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, giving you 310PS. That makes this SUV a rocket, with impressive performance on the road of 0-62 in 5.2 seconds. Not something you normally find in an SUV.
At the same time, 2.5-litres doesn't really sound like the crazy engine that a lot of RS models come with. The Audi S Q5 we saw earlier in the year has a 3-litre bi-turbo diesel engine and is fractionally more powerful and judging by the stats, will get you 62mph fractionally faster too.
That might dangle something of a question mark over the RS badge of the RS Q3 for some: it's not ridiculously powerful and it's SUV form is still big and bubbly, rather than low slung and aggressive. But it's still a lot of fun when you slip behind the wheel. Fire up the RS Q3 and you do at least get that wonderful purr.
It makes all sorts of exciting noises with a wonderful exhaust note once you switch over to sports mode. Put your foot down and the 7-speed S Tronic gearbox will race you away with a satisfying roar. Heads will turn, most probably because you're in a compact SUV and leaving most other cars standing.
There are some great booms that come from the back end when you change down, although in sports mode, under braking, the rapid shift down feels a little uncomfortable, a little too raw perhaps, especially compared to the likes of the Audi RS7 Sportback.
As this is a Q3 at heart, this model is again something of a strange proposition. The high ride height means you have that SUV benefit of getting great visibility and it's easy to clamber in and out of. You don't get that firmly-planted-on-the-road handling of many of the RS models, because you're still quite high up.
But that should be expected. If you're after something that drives like a sports car, then Audi has plenty of other RS options for you. This is a SUV that will see you porting your kids to school at breakneck speeds, should you choose, with a happy sports car noise coming out the back, which is a lot of fun.
It's pretty expensive, however, starting at £43,000, compared to the £28,265 of the 2-litre TFSI Quattro Q3 with the S Tronic gearbox. But it's the cheapest of the RS models currently available, regardless of whether you think it's a thoroughbred RS or not.
The interior gives you a fair amount of space and, thanks to the SUV design, it feels light and airy, with good visibility. The interior is very much the same as the Q3, with a few tweaks here and there to reflect the RS branding, but as far as Audi's go, there isn't a huge difference internally across the range.
We did spot that our test model came equipped with the optional hill descent control button (£195), a suggestion that at some point this RS Q3 might be heading offroad.
You'd need to change the tyres, certainly, to give you more offroad grip if you were serious about it, but the four-wheel drive is in place to support you whether that's on wintery roads or muddy fields. But we'd say that the additional RS bodywork on the front that gives it a more muscular look results less practical clearance and how that power would handle on soft terrain is anyone's guess.
But we suspect that the Audi RS Q3 will be more at home in well-heeled suburban streets, where you want a car that lets you see what's going on around you, gives you enough space to sit the kids in the back, while tearing down the M3 followed by that lovely RS opera.