2014 AUDI Q3 REVIEW
What’s Hot: It’s an Audi RS model for substantially less than $100k.
What’s Not: But does it really feel like an RS?
X-FACTOR: Sporty without being hardcore, the RS Q3 marries SUV appeal with hot-hatch verve.
Vehicle Style: Luxury performance small SUV
Price: $81,900 (plus on-roads), $87,080 as-tested
Engine/trans: 228kW/420Nm 2.5 petrol turbo 5cyl | 7sp dual-clutch auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.8 l/100km
And it is, without doubt, the most useful car in the RS range.
The mighty RS 6 Avant might have a much larger boot, but it doesn't have RS Q3’s 'command' SUV driving position.
The stumpy RS Q3 has also got a compact footprint that makes it easy to slot into tight parking spaces, and, on road, a softer and more comfortable suspension tune.
In fact, it's quite a bit like its other bro', the SQ5, which is a little larger, slightly faster in a straight line and more fuel efficient, but $7500 more.
Are the two cars a bit too close for comfort when it comes to price? Which would you choose?
Or perhaps you should wait for the slightly cheaper Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG or the pricier Porsche Macan S? Both arrive later this year.
- Cruise control, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and ignition
- Comfort: Sports seats, flat-bottomed steering wheel, and dual-zone climate control with rear air-vents.
- Infotainment: 10-speaker 180W audio system with single-disc DVD player and 20GB on-board music storage. USB and SD card inputs standard. Bluetooth phone and audio streaming
- Luggage capacity: 356 litres seats up, 1261 litres seats down. 60/40 split fold rear seats.
The interior is familiar Q3 fare. It adds though the usual tell-tale signs that you’re in something sporty: a flat-bottomed steering wheel, sports seats, alloy pedals, a black headliner and RS-branded sill plates.
It’s a restrained approach, and some may find it austere for a $90k purchase. Piano black trim isn’t terribly exciting, and you need to plump for the RS performance pack ($5250) before you get carbon-fibre interior bits.
But that chunky wheel is fantastic, and though the seats aren’t as aggressively bolstered as some other RS models, we found them easier to live with day-to-day (especially in getting in and out).
The RS Q3 is a small SUV, so the rear seats are, well, pretty small. There’s enough room for a couple of average-sized adults though, and a pair of air-vents on the back of the centre console will keep them cool.
ON THE ROAD
- 228kW/420Nm 2.5 petrol turbo 5cyl, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Quattro all-wheel drive, front-biased
- MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension
- 365mm front rotors with fixed calipers, 310mm rear rotors with sliding calipers
- 0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds, 8.8 l/100km claimed
Thanks to the miracle of platform-sharing, the RS Q3 lifts the turbocharged 2.5 litre inline five from the TT RS Plus along with its quattro AWD drivetrain.
Power is reduced compared to the low-slung TT RS though, with the RS Q3 producing 228kW and 420Nm rather than 265kW and 465Nm.
Still, that’s enough to catapault the RS Q3 to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds.
That’s a pretty snappy pace for an SUV, and quicker than most other hot hatches on the market.
It’s half a second slower than the cheaper Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG, but hey, apples and oranges.
It’s a muscular powertrain once you get past the initial turbocharger lag, but with the high seating position and the RS Q3’s 1730kg unladen weight it doesn’t quite feel as brisk as you’d expect an RS model to feel.
It grips well in a corner, and the steering is direct but lacks feel (something we're getting used to with modern electric systems).
Pushing too hard into a corner invites understeer, but adopt a slow-in, fast-out strategy and the RS Q3 delivers some rather impressive point-to-point speed.
The AWD system is very front-biased and there’s no tricky rear-differential to help you power out of corners, but staying off the throttle until well past the apex is a winning strategy.
The gearbox is the same seven-speed s-tronic dual-clutch found in the TT RS, and it’s impressively fast - and smooth - through the gears.
In Dynamic mode and with manual shifts enabled, it’ll also hold revs against the redline rather than auto-upshifting.
The sound of the engine is, unfortunately, a bit lacklustre. The characteristic five-cylinder throb is very much evident, but the volume needs to be turned up.
Given how raucous other RS models can be, the RS Q3 definitely needs a louder set of pipes.
Aside from a short stint through Canberra, we didn’t get the opportunity to experience the RS Q3 in a proper urban environment (that will come later), but on the highway it rides nicely.
There’s a bit of jitteriness over high-frequency, small-amplitude corrugations, but considering this is a sports suspension with 25mm less ride height than a standard Q3, it’s more than comfortable enough.
Standard wheels are 19-inch alloys, however opt for the RS performance pack and you get to choose from three designs of 20-inchers.
We can’t vouch for the ride quality of the bigger 20-inch alloys, but they sure do look good under the RS Q3’s flared wheelarches.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars: this model scored 35.15 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, seven airbags (dual fron, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee).
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Is the RS Q3 worthy of the RS badge on its snout? It certainly looks the part, but it perhaps inhabits a half-way zone between Audi’s quick S-badged models and the truly fast RS offerings.
It’s certainly not as hardcore as those other Audi RS rocketships. And while that makes it easier to live with day-to-day, it’s the kind of thing that gets brand purists all hot and bothered.
Us? We like it for what it is. A fast, reasonably practical compact SUV.
Of course, its true test will come when the GLA 45 AMG lands in Australia in April.
With the GLA 45 set to offer more power, more torque, just as many gears and driven wheels AND a pricetag that’s a few grand less than the RS Q3, Audi’s newest RS model could have a real fight on its hands.