2014 AUDI RSQ3 REVIEW
What’s Hot: Compact footprint, great exhaust note, surprising handling.
What’s Not: Something’s missing - doesn’t feel ‘RS’ enough.
X-FACTOR: The bargain way to park an RS - with those four interlocked rings on the nose - in your driveway.
Vehicle Style: Luxury Performance small SUV
Price: $81,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 228kW/420Nm 2.5 petrol turbo 5cyl | 7sp dual-clutch auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.8 l/100km | tested: 12.0 l/100km
There’s really nothing new about the ‘small car, big engine’ way of boosting performance.
This little tacker is also a record low price of entry into the RS range, with plenty of space between it and the next-in-line $139,900 TT RS Plus - with which it shares basic mechanicals (keeping in mind the previous generation RS 3 never made it to these shores).
So does the RS Q3 do the things that it ought to? Or is the internal pressure from the slightly bigger, slightly quicker, and slightly pricier SQ5 simply too strong?
Quality: Inside, the RS version runs with what the standard Q3 models have to offer. There’s a wealth of quality plastics, soft surfaces and clear and concise controls.
But, at the $80k mark it doesn’t feel special. There’s RS badging splashed around the cabin (instrument cluster, door-sills, seats, steering wheel and more) but even the standard seats aren’t much better finished than those of the normal Q3.
The clacky climate controls that haunts all Q3 models needs to go too - it just lacks any kind of premium look or feel.
Those gripes aside, everything feels solid and well built. Panel gaps are tight and it’s obvious that the interior has been engineered with precision.
Comfort: Although the front perches may not be overtly racey, they are comfy enough for backsides of all sizes and easy to climb out of.
There’s also electric adjustment and a tilt-and-reach steering wheel to make the driver’s set-up easy.
In the rear, two adults will fit comfortably and getting in and out is painless - the scalloped headlining affords a little extra space. Three across the rear will have to fight for elbow space though.
Equipment: Standard features in the RS Q3 include dual-zone climate control, proximity key and push-button start, leather trim, powered front seats, pop-up infotainment display plus automatic headlights and wipers.
There’s also rear air-vents, stainless steel RS door scuff-guards, a leather wrapped, flat bottomed, multi-function steering wheel, and cruise control.
Audio comes via a 10-speaker 180W audio system with single-disc DVD player and 20GB on-board music storage. Navigation is also included along with USB and dual SD card inputs plus Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.
Storage: Behind the rear seats there’s a hatchback-like 356 litres of storage, with the 60:40 seats folded that expands to 1261 litres.
In the cabin there’s a deep pocket in each door, open front cup holders, a small tray beneath the centre stack, a compact console, and a decent glovebox.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Revisiting one of the legends of Audi’s past, the RS Q3 runs a 2.5 litre turbocharged in-line five cylinder engine, coupled to Quattro all-wheel-drive.
The engine itself is a detuned version of that featured in the TT RS Plus, and in the Q3 it puts out 228kW and 420Nm. That sounds like a lot of engine in a compact body - but it isn’t frenetic enough to be a handful.
In fact, around town we found the RS Q3 profoundly docile. For commuter shuffling the turbo five shows off its sometimes laggy nature, combined with a seven-speed DSG that carefully meters torque in first gear.
Of course, it you’ve got the space to open it up, the RS Q3 is far more rewarding.
On a roller-coaster-like ribbon of tarmac we were able to see the RS Q3 shine; flowing third and fourth gear corners and plenty of revs on board put this engine in its best light.
The uninterrupted flow of power from the quick-shifting and decisive DSG transmission work perfectly too.
Manual shifts, curiously, provide instant downshifts, but we found that the ‘+’ paddle was slow to react and that half-second difference saw the RS slam into the rev limiter on a few occasions.
The off-beat exhaust warble sounds great, but Audi really needs to turn the volume up. It’s all a bit too polite, but does pop on part-throttle upshifts which is always good fun.
Refinement: Serenity rules inside the cabin. Maybe a little too much.
If the RS Q3 could show a little bit more ‘mongrel’ it might fit its position a little better, but between hushed highway cruising and fuss-free city commuting it’s all just - well - quiet.
Conversely, when being generous with the throttle, the gearbox could get a bit gruff. While most gearshifts are seamless the odd one would slam home loudly and quake through the driveline.
Ride and Handling: Trying to combine the flat cornering of an RS and the taller ride height of a Q3 was always going to be a tough job, but Audi seems to have pulled it off.
The RS Q3 is quick through the bends, with tenacious grip. Prone to understeer if you come in too hot, but able to rocket out of corners if you apply the throttle post-apex.
The ride doesn’t fare so well though. It feels fairly stiff and while it can take a rolling highway dip with ease, it fidgets over smaller bumps and divots.
Braking: Behind the wheels are a set of RS branded calipers, rear discs are ventilated and up front there’s a set of wave-form discs to reduce mass while increasing surface area.
We can’t say for certain how much that helps, but they look the business and pull the hot SUV up quick-smart.
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 front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee).
Three-point seatbelts and adjustable head restraints for all seats, height adjustable front seatbelts with load limiting pretensioners.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Audi does not offer capped price servicing and prices may vary. For full pricing consult your dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG ($79,900) - While we’re yet to turn a wheel in anger on Aussie soil, the GLA 45 promises to be very quick with a massive 265kW on tap.
Inside the interior looks more up-to-the-minute than the Audi, official fuel consumption is better, and Benz’s pencil is sharper with a slightly lower entry price. (see GLA reviews)
Range Rover Evoque Prestige Si4 ($80,440) - This one is more for luxury than outright performance, with just 177kW. The interior is exquisite, and the exterior still turns heads.
You won’t be able to to rocket as hard as an AMG or RS, but there is a segment-first nine-speed auto at least. (see Evoque reviews)
Audi SQ5 ($90,600) - One of Audi’s biggest threats comes from within. The bigger SQ5 is more expensive, but offers a touch more power and a mountain more torque, thanks to its diesel engine.
Being a size larger means more room for crew and cargo, and the interior is more plush throughout. (see Q5 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The RS Q3 caused plenty of controversy during its time in the TMR garage. Among the gripes was the lack of twin exhausts or flared bodywork, the average looking interior, and the pedestrian-looking alloy wheels.
We’re fans of Audi’s in-line five-cylinder engine, but, in this application, the missing kilowatts from the donor TT RS Plus are too noticeable. So is that fabulous sound, there’s a nice growl in there, but not enough of it.
On-road, it's certainly sporty. This thing can really handle, and with a lot more finesse than we were expecting for something that rides so high.
But we’ve spent time in the SQ5. That car does the biggest disservice to its little bro' by being such a complete package with such impressive value and performance.
The pressure will heat up even more with the imminent arrival of Merc’s GLA 45.
The RS Q3 is surely a good fast SUV. And, yes, it's very quick and a fun steer - it just falls a little short of all the expectations embodied in that hallowed Audi RS badge.
Don't get us wrong, we like this car; maybe we approached it with just too much expectation. Best you take a look for yourself.