AUDI’S CHEAPEST SUV IN RS GUISE - THE RS Q3 - HAS BEEN WORKED OVER, NOW PUMPING OUT A STOVE-HOT 270KW AND MORE DRIVEABILITY INTO THE BARGAIN.
But the power boost, suspension fettling and style upgrade come at a price.
The extra urge in the RS Q3 Performance is definitely noticeable, and it grips like a dog on a rope, but it’s missing that bark that we’ve come to expect from RS models. That said, if you want a sharp-shooting SUV, there’s not much that can touch it.
Vehicle Style: Premium small SUV
Price: $84,216 (plus on-roads), $90,701 (as tested, plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 270kW/465Nm 2.5-litre turbo petrol 5cyl | 7sp dual-clutch
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.6 l/100km | tested: 12.1 l/100km
For a short time, the Audi RS Q3 was the cheapest way to get an RS badged vehicle parked in your driveway (that is until the cheaper RS 3 came along). But then Audi decided that the garden-variety Q3 needed a refresh, and so the Audi Sport wizards took the opportunity to bless it with even more power.
An extra 20kW and 15Nm to be precise, bringing the 0-100kmh time down from 4.8 seconds to 4.4 and lifting the top speed to 270kmh. The price to pay for the extra punch gives the RS Q3 Performance a $2990 premium over the RS Q3, which it now replaces.
It’s arguably the best looking of the Q3 range, owing mostly to the new matte titanium finish applied to the grille surround, complemented by a black honeycomb grille, and the lowered ride height.
It goes harder and drives better. But with the cracking RS 3 coming in a fair whack cheaper, why would you choose the RS Q3 Performance?
- Standard Equipment: Self-parking system and reversing camera, drive select button, heated and dimming mirrors all round, auto headlights, auto wipers, dual-zone climate, heated seats (all electric adjustment), electric tailgate, multifunction wheel,
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour display, DAB+ digital radio, 20GB hard drive storage, voice control, 2x SD card slots, Bluetooth connectivity, Audi Media Interface input, satellite navigation, 10-speaker audio, 180W.
- Cargo Volume: 356 litres minimum, 1261 litres maximum
Opening the doors, there’s instant familiarity with the RS Q3 Performance’s presentation as it’s little different to the regular Q3. Sure, the seats are sports buckets and there’s a few carbon-fibre inserts, but there’s not much to differentiate it from downstream models.
Despite this, like all modern Audis, the materials choices are excellent, and while the layout is a little strange in places (the very low climate controls, for example, and a driving position that is hard to get settled into), you can’t argue with the quality.
Our car was optioned with the RS Performance Pack, which brings with it quilted Nappa leather seats, Bose surround sound, carbon inlays and a load-through facility including a rear-seat ski port.
Missing, however, is a USB port. Sure, there’s Audi’s Media Interface connector, but then you have to fork out for the cable adapter. For a car company as technologically focussed as Audi to overlook this is very strange indeed.
Compounding the confusion is the inclusion of two SD card ports, on display right in the middle of the centre stack. You tell us - given the option of an SD slot or USB port, which would you choose?
Rear passengers have enough room to be comfortable, but three up is a bit of a squeeze. Headroom and footroom is good for all.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 270kW/465Nm turbocharged five-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, all wheel drive
- Brakes: Sports wave-shaped ventilated and drilled front discs (365mm), ventilated and drilled rear discs (310mm).
- Steering: electromechanical power steering, 2.7 turns lock-to-lock, 11.8 metre turning circle
If there’s one engine we fawn over, it’s this 2.5-litre five-pot. With tremendous mid-range grunt, the addition of 20kW and 15Nm to the RS Q3 can really be noticed. It’s a pity, then, that you don’t really get to hear it properly unless you’re outside the car.
Inside, there’s more metallic zing than induction howl, and none of the snap, crackle and pop of other applications of this engine. While it’s nothing but pleasant, we’d love to experience the note in a similar vein to the RS 3. That said, it’s certainly an effective unit, bringing up triple figures in 4.4 seconds.
With the roads around Tawonga Gap teeming with rain (more than once we forded floodways) we had a brilliant opportunity to test the car’s grip levels, stability control system, and the quattro all-wheel-drive setup.
The car’s retuned ESC now allows more freedom when pressing on, and it’s more than happy to shake its tail if you come into a corner a little too hot. There’s enough slip to add a tad of opposite lock, but it will throw out the safety net if you misjudge your abilities. It inspires confidence to push a bit harder, and there’s plenty of smiles as a result.
The 20-inchers are shod in Continental rubber, which proved its worth on more than one occasion, sluicing out water and providing maximum traction in shocking conditions. Even at higher speeds, there was no sign of aquaplaning, while the mountain climb and descent could be hit at eye-watering pace.
If there’s one area the RS Q3 Performance excels at, it’s supplying limpet-like grip. The suspension has been dropped by 20mm, and, with adaptive damping, we found it best in these conditions to leave it in Comfort mode.
Dynamic mode does firm up the handling, but it’s too uncomfortable for almost all conditions, except glass-smooth tarmac.
On the downhill runs, the new, lighter braking system proved its worth, allowing not only stupendous braking, but perfect control as well. Not once did we detect it creeping towards a lock-up, nor was there any fade.
With eight-piston callipers clamping 365mm discs up front, the RS Q3 Performance hauls up brilliantly.
Dynamically, this little SUV is hilarious fun, and in pouring rain it more than holds its own.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - The standard Q3 has received a 5-Star ANCAP rating, with 35.15 out of a possible 37 points awarded.
Safety features: The RS Q3 Performance has the expected suite of passive and dynamic safety features including traction control and stability control which can both be switched off, ABS, EBD, electronic braking assist and six airbags are standard.
Also keeping you on the road is an electronic diff lock combined with Audi’s all-wheel-drive system. For an extra $1990 you can option the Assistance Package which brings active lane assist, high beam assist, hill descent control and hill hold assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Audi offers a three year, unlimited kilometre warranty on all its new cars. A factory extended warranty plan also allows you to extend that for up to four years extra.
Service costs: Audi’s Service Plan for the Q3 (all variants) costs $1590 and covers all scheduled servicing for the first three years.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Scorching small SUVs aren’t exactly dime-a-dozen here, so there’s really only one car which comes close - the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45.
But it’s tiny by comparison and while it may match the RS Q3 Performance in a straight line in the dry, Audi’s quattro system has the edge when conditions deteriorate. The Audi also has much better materials, though it’s a bit plainer in presentation.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If there’s one thing you don’t wish for a car launch event, it’s that the heavens open up and drench the media. Well, that happened, but it also proved invaluable for testing the RS Q3 Performance’s road-holding attributes.
You couldn’t engineer better conditions to demonstrate Audi’s prowess than when the weather turns sour. And here it absolutely shines.
But there are few black marks for the strange ergonomics (the driving position feels like a compromise sometimes) and some lacking 2016 tech.
It’s also not the cheapest machine compared with other, better, Audi RS offerings.
Consider the RS 3, for example. Here you have even more grip, a faster machine, better sound similar room and up-to-date technology. And it costs nearly $7k less. Okay, it’s not an SUV, but when you’re buying an RS model, is that a factor?
There’s no doubt, in the right setting the RS Q3 Performance is a belter. But every other day of the year it doesn’t quite add up as well.